Theme: Sentient Robots are easy to manufacture, but they're still difficult to program. Your task is to build up a functioning network of Sentient Robots and to bring in investors from several different categories.
How to Play
On a player's turn, they'll have two options. They can place their agent (and any number of assistants) above one of the cards in the center row so that they can take that card and add it to their network. Or, players can play their pass chip and reset all of the cards in the row.
Taking a card from the center row is how you build up your network and you will be collecting four cards during each of the three rounds of the game. At the top of the card, you find there are "+" "-" and/or "=" symbols on each of the top left and right corners. These symbols show how you'll be affecting the dice that are flanking the card once placed. It's pretty easy to see that if you have a 2 and the card has a "+", you'll need to change it to a 3. In this game, if you increase a 6 it will turn into a 1 and if you decrease a 1 it will turn into a six.
Each of the cards that you take will have an objective that needs to be met and the victory points you'll receive if you are able to accomplish the goal. As an example, an information (blue) card may say that the dice flanking the card must be a 5. On this card, you'll get 2 points if one die is a 5 and you'll get 7 points if both are 5. This isn't scored until the end of the round so you'll need to make sure that your values are where they're supposed to be once the round ends. If you have the perfect value and you don't want to change the die value, you can allocate an assistant to cover the =/- sign so that it will not manipulate that die. You can do this for each of the symbols on the card if you wish, but assistants are very valuable in another way as well.
If you find that none of the cards would work for your system, you can use your position chip to reset the row of cards. This will put your token into the next round slot and lock in the turn order. If you pass early, you will be going last in the next round. One advantage at being at the top of the turn stack is it is a tie breaker for area control of the investor tokens.
While programming your network to run effectively is highly important, it's also important to be working on gaining a majority control in each of the fields above the cards taken in the round. When taking a card, players will be placing their agent and any number of assistants. When the round ends, whoever has majority control next to the investor tokens will take that token while second place will take the 1 victory point chip. If there is a tie, whoever has the most agents will win the token. If there's still a tie, whoever is highest on the turn order track will win the token.
These tokens are used at the end of the game for scoring the robot cards that you've acquired over the course of the game. Each token scores one point for each of the cards in your collection matching that investor category. So if I have 3 military tokens and 4 military cards, I will score 3x4=12 points. The player with the most points wins!
Difficulty to Teach / Learn: Thanks to the limited number of choices and places to score points, the game is pretty easy to teach and learn. This is definitely a game that will click for all the players especially after one round of play.
Art: The art is gorgeous in this game. It reminds me of art you'd find from a PC game with similarities to games like Portal and Overwatch. Each faction type has one art design that is used on it and this helps to distinguish the card types from each other.
Components: Everything is of really nice quality. The custom dice are nicely made and look nice and futuristic with their design. The cards are of nice quality. We did have issues with the cards being of an odd size and maybe being a little big to handle for shuffling. Luckily, you don't need to shuffle too often and the larger cards look great on the table.
One of the issues I had during the game was that there are several colors that are near a purple color and I had a hard time distinguishing between them at times during the game. The card art helps to keep things separate and easily distinguishable. I also had a bit of issue with the purple and maroon dice and the colors shown on the player board. Once the dice are settled in though, there isn't much issue with their colors.
Theme: The theme is a really cool one especially since I'm really into the sci-fi setting with sentient robots that can assist with making the world an even better place. The theme doesn't really flow into the gameplay for us and we soon were just collecting colors and looking for symbols.
Scalability: We played at 2 and 4 players. The 2 player game really felt nice and quick especially once both players understood what was going on. There's almost more of a chance that the card you want next will still be there after your opponent's turn. The game is still a lot of fun at 4 players. It's probably a bit tougher and longer due to more players taking cards from the pool and possibly making you have to rethink your strategy. There's also more opportunities for the card row to be wiped so don't get too attached to the cards. We feel it scales really well and we enjoyed plays at both the 2 and 4 player counts.
Overall Game Thoughts: We really liked how there's not much player downtime in the 2 player game as you're able to start preparing your turn as soon as the other player places their agents. I love the puzzle nature of trying to make sure things fit throughout your system so you can maximize your points on the turn while also doing your best to score majority on the investor tokens that align well with cards you've already put into your system. We are very happy to have picked this one up and glad to have it in our collection. Renegade games has hit another home run with Sentient.