Justin Baumgartner
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I really liked the first Manhattan Project, but my play group tends to dislike 3+ player games with directly disruptive mechanics so when I saw Energy Empire on Kickstarter, I backed it immediately.

There are two things apparent as soon as you open the box: the components are amazing and so is the rulebook. Once you start to dig into the game though it starts to become one of the harder games to really decide how to feel about it.

Probably the most important thing to consider is that there are a lot of subtle strategies that will make it difficult to play with a group of people who have varied experience with the game. New players will likely get stomped by experienced ones, so if you have a widely rotating group of players where a couple people will get to play far more often this might be a game to avoid. That being said, my current suspicion is that this is going to be one of the best worker placement games for competitive people, period. If you like competitive board games (Terra Mystica is probably the best example of this I know of) then this is probably a must-own.

I rate games in certain categories from low (1) to high (10). These ratings allow you to make your own determination on whether this is a game for you. I also avoid gameplay overview, I suggest checking out some of the professional reviewers (I like Rahdo) for those.

Theme: 7/10 - Theme is strong but not immersive
Complexity: 8/10 - This game is pretty different than other worker placement games, and there is a lot happening with the board.
Stress: 6/10 - The stress level of this game is really hard to pin down for me. The way you can stack energy underneath a worker to take a space previously taken is a nice function so that proper planning means you can always take the action you need, but there is so much going on that really adds to the stress level in ways I don't normally see in this genre.
Components: 9/10 - Highly successful kickstarter games tend to have great components, and these are among the best.
Length: 5/10 - The pace of this game is really great. It does take 90-120 minutes with newish players, but I bet it would get faster with veterans.
Accessibility: 3/10 - I could still be wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure that experienced players are going to wipe the floor with new ones. While the gameplay is relatively easy to explain, some of the intricacies of strategy are no immediately apparent.

The other element to my reviews is through breaking down the types of gamers I've encountered and making a statement based on their point of view.

The Tactical Gamer: This is me, and I prefer games that give me the ability to outplay my opponent through clever maneuvering and variable objectives. Energy Empire has exactly that in spades, from being able to influence the game speed to having shifting strategies based on achievement tiles to timing certain moves for when it will be inconvenient for your opponent. Tactical seems to be the name of the game, and this gamer will never turn this game down and will often suggest it.

The Race Runner: This person tends to prefer games where you are making constant forward progress, utilizing each turn to it's maximum effectiveness. Between the structures that give victory points and the UN track, I think this gamer type would probably enjoy this game and would usually play it and sometimes suggest it.

The Theme Junky: A gamer who prizes theme and prefers games where the complexity of the mechanics doesn't break their immersion. There is a surprising amount of theme to Energy Empire, with the pollution and Global Impact cards front and center. There is enough theme here for the Theme Junky to rarely turn it down and maybe even suggest it from time to time.

The Strategist: Strategists tend to like to develop a big metagame strategy early in the game and then work to execute it as well as possible. There are some long-term strategies that can certainly be played, with minor adjustments through the game. The variable starting countries totally play right into this gamer's wheelhouse, so I'd be surprised to see a Strategist turn down a play of Energy Empire and would probably suggest it.

The Casual Gamer: Casual gamers prefer games that aren't complex and have enough variability to make them feel competitive even if they lack knowledge of the game in comparison to other people. Energy Empire will crush this gamer's soul and then spit on it for good measure. Okay, maybe a bit melodramatic there, but I'd expect a Casual Gamer to turn this game down more often than not.

The Social Gamer: Social gamers prefer games that are easy to teach, highly replayable, and naturally generate interaction with other people. Similar to the Casual Gamer, EE doesn't lend itself to a general light-hearted fun time, so while a Social Gamer rarely turns down any game people want to play they probably wouldn't suggest this one.
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Luke Laurie
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Santa Maria
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Thank you so much for the thoughtful and honest write up of Energy Empire! I particularly enjoyed how you broke down the possible perspectives of different types of players!
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Sean Killelea
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I played this the other day and really enjoyed it. We played a 4-player game with 3 of us having never played before.

I agree that this game will reward those with more experience to a point. The guy who taught the game clearly had some insight into aspects of the game that he was able to leverage into his strategy and ended up winning. That being said, he only won by 4 points and other players were able to come up with some strategies on the fly to be competitive. There are enough ways to score points that there seems to be multiple paths to victory.

I had a good time playing the game and feel like the other new players did as well.
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Justin Baumgartner
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SKilly wrote:
I played this the other day and really enjoyed it. We played a 4-player game with 3 of us having never played before.

I agree that this game will reward those with more experience to a point. The guy who taught the game clearly had some insight into aspects of the game that he was able to leverage into his strategy and ended up winning. That being said, he only won by 4 points and other players were able to come up with some strategies on the fly to be competitive. There are enough ways to score points that there seems to be multiple paths to victory.

I had a good time playing the game and feel like the other new players did as well.


I suspect that the gains and losses will be real subtle, and the reasons why someone wins won't be obvious.

It's definitely a fun game, but there seems to be an element of "I don't know why I lost" at risk here. This isn't a fault of the game unless your game group composition has people in it that hate games that have that characteristic. Games that are highly rated that have the same characteristic are Twilight Struggle, Agricola, and Race for the Galaxy. All three of those games are highly regarded for good reason too.

You do touch on something that I probably didn't highlight enough, which is that there are so many viable paths to victory. That is a key component of a competitive game, but it also makes it really hard to min/max.

My goal isn't to discourage new players from the game, because there has to be a ceiling somewhere and they will eventually catch up to their more experienced friends. If you identify with any of the more "serious" gamer types, the time spent learning EE is worth it.
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Justin Baumgartner
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I've created a GeekList that I'll update as I feel the need to that goes a little more into depth about the different Gamer Types I reference:

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/217444/gamer-types
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Jonathan Davis
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Your review is helpful! I particularly find the "Stress" rating to be an interesting contribution to your typical review structure. This is an important point to discuss in gaming. Maybe gamers want something that isn't a "breeze" and puts them "under the gun" so to speak.

However, your rating scale isn't quite clear. What exactly is a medium "5" score for Length? Does that mean "just right", "medium in length", "average for the genre"...? Something to think about.

I haven't played a lot in this genre but it seems like it might be a good fit for my wife and our rotating players. You've intrigued me to investigate further!
 
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Justin Baumgartner
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Thank you! Like every reviewer I'm biased towards the games that I like, and my review structure is designed to help people choose games that fit the people that they play with.

You are right, the "Length" rating is pretty vague, and in my more recent reviews I've changed that to "Pace" because of this. The '5' rating here is more like "Just Right", as it doesn't feel rushed, nor does it feel like it drags out. In Energy Empire in particular it is a generally good feeling pace but some turns will take longer (if the decision is particularly hard or a previous player did something unexpected) and others really short (the Generate rounds where you reclaim your workers are very short) leaving it uneven but still forward-moving.

I think Energy Empire has a nice mix of engine building alongside worker placement, and I often suggest it as a good intro purchase to either of those genres. At the very least, if players tend to like one aspect more than the other you'll have a great reference point on your next game purchase. For instance, if players really love the buildings that they can acquire to do more on their turn I might suggest something like Terraforming Mars or Race for the Galaxy, while on the other hand if they like taking their workers and choosing where to put them I might suggest a worker placement game like Viticulture: Essential Edition or Caverna.
 
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Clayton Weaver
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I don't think the game is too punishing towards newer players. The 'stress' of Energy Empire's mechanics pushes newer players in the right direction.

The two mistakes I see newer players make (in my small sample size) is that they are too aggressive on the U.N. track and/or they go after extra workers when they aren't overrun with Cash. The latter is mostly a habit created by playing other worker placement games that value workers over everything.

I find that experience helps you take actions that will prepare you for the board state changing. Even then there will be many things out of your control so its not guarantee of victory.

Its also a possibility that I'm not all that great at the game. I'm not ruling that out.

 
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Justin Baumgartner
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Clayton7 wrote:

The two mistakes I see newer players make (in my small sample size) is that they are too aggressive on the U.N. track and/or they go after extra workers when they aren't overrun with Cash. The latter is mostly a habit created by playing other worker placement games that value workers over everything.


This in particular I think has been pretty accurate for myself as well. Since every nation has a built-in engine for the UN track I think a lot of players use that as an easy basis for designing their gameplan and probably overdo it, and your point about workers is spot on.
 
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