Recommend
27 
 Thumb up
 Hide
8 Posts

Gheos» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Under Cerulean Skies rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Sheamus Parkes
United States
Carmel
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Gheos is a relatively new game that is most often described in it's relationships to other games. When viewed on it's own, it's a quick civilization game where players act as gods and convert followers of the civilizations created. There's a lot more to it than that, but it all plays well under an hour. I've been happy with the purchase and decided to share my thoughts.

Description

Players take on the role of gods and try to convert followers of rich civilizations. On your turn, you:
1. Play a tile. The tiles are unique, but all tile sides are identical, so a tile can be placed anywhere.
2. Convert a follower. You can start a new civilization on the board or invest in one already created.

When you play a tile, you can cause:
1. Migration - Shrink a civilization's board presence by splitting up it's continent (Possibly killing it.)
2. War - Merge two occupied continents together and kill the weaker civilization.
If a civilization is killed, all players must return all of the followers of that civilization to the supply.

Civilizations pay their patron gods through the wealth of their continents. They pay out for cups and pyramids in particular. The timing of cup scoring is controlled by the players while the timing of pyramid scoring is triggered through a random Epoch tile draw.

The game ends when enough Epoch tiles are drawn or all players have used all of their cup scoring opportunities.

Comparisons
Just to get this part out of the way, here are at least the common comparisons to other games:

1. Carcassonne - You are laying tiles to form a landscape and placing wooden pieces on them. Unlike Carc, there is very direct conflict and a deeper rules set.
2. T&E - You are laying tiles to create civilizations and then watching their power ebb and flow. Unlike T&E, Gheos is a much more chaotic affair and the "board" fluctuates at a *much* faster rate. Also, even more so than T&E, multiple players can easily have investments in a single civilization.
3. Acquire - Converting followers in a civilization is very similar to purchasing stocks in a company. Scoring in Gheos is easily explained as each of your "stocks" paying dividends based on their current cup and pyramid pricing. Unlike Acquire, the actual board is a much more fluid affair instead of a drab grid. Also, if someone kills off a civilization, your followers are lost without being able to recoup your investment.
4. Ra - The drawing of Epoch tiles feels very similar to the drawing of the Ra tiles. They serve as an internal game clock to give you a random yet definite game end. The rest of the games are drastically different, but this component is very similar.

Review Criteria

1. Analysis Paralysis / Downtime

And right of the bat, we come to a hiccup in Gheos. All tiles have identical sides, so there is no worry about matching up roads or cities; any tile can be placed next to any other tile. To compound this, almost any tile can also be replaced in Gheos. (The rules mention actually removing tiles; it's much easier to just stack the replacement on top of the old.) This means that on your turn, you have an absolutely astounding number of possible tile placements. Unlike basic Carcassonne, you are given a hand of two tiles so you can do some planning during other players' turns. On the downside though, the board can fluctuate greatly in between your turns, so it's not really possible to plan multiple turns at a time.

Having said all of this, I have never experienced a game of Gheos lasting longer than an hour. I find that if you convince people to stop looking at all the places they could stick their tile, and instead get them to answer:

A. Can I add value to the civilizations I am invested in?
B. Can I devastate civilizations others are more heavily invested in?

The game play goes much faster. If you approach your turn just deciding what civilization to hurt or help, the decision tree becomes manageable. Even though, if you are solidly AP+, you might not enjoy this game.

2. Multiplayer Solitaire / Player Interaction / (Competitive / Casual)

And here's where we quickly break away from Carcassonne. Gheos is definitely not multiplayer solitaire. You can easily migrate a civilization right into the ocean and kill all of their followers. I usually advise new players to never invest too heavily in a single civilization, because I will gladly kill that civilization at the earliest opportunity. Due to this cut throat nature, Gheos doesn't always go over well with the highly casual crowd.

On top of the basic rules, a general metagame usually forms during a game of Gheos. If multiple players invest in a civilization, they will have a shared interest in it prospering. Table talk and informal alliances are not uncommon at all.

In a 2-player setting, Gheos is at it's dirtiest. If either player gets more followers in any civilization, then it's in the other player's best interest to see it killed. I find that with 2 players, the board doesn't expand very much with the tiles stacking high through replacements. If you're favorite 2-player game is Lost Cities, then Gheos probably isn't a good fit.

3. Skill / Luck / (Competitive / Casual)

It's true you draw tiles from a bag, but I still find Gheos not to be a luck driven affair. Some people complain about the tile draws, but I still believe pretty much any hand of 2 tiles can accomplish almost anything you desire. New players often just often have their heart set on a certain tile instead of playing what they have. In the last game I taught, the two players with experience came out comfortably on top. If that's not a sign of some skill involved, I don't know what is. I have had newbies win a game or two as well, but that was generally when they were encouraged to gang up on the experienced player.

Of course there are the Epoch tiles. The same people that complain about Ra tiles are going to complain about Epoch tiles. That's just the way it is. I personally think it's a great mechanic in both games that adds tension through uncertainty. As long as you don't let one player get a monopoly on Pyramids, then the Epoch tiles do not benefit any one player too greatly (Epoch tiles give points for Pyramids). Of course, if you're in the lead, you just keep rooting for the Epoch tiles to keep flowing just to end the game.

I don't want to get into a big "randomness vs. chaos" debate here, but I will say that Gheos has a very high level of Chaos. A single turn can cause large shifts in the landscape. This can cause a bit of a rub to many gamers. It often just isn't possible to plan multiple turns in advance. The competitive gamers will often enjoy the direct player interaction, but be driven away by the high level of chaos. The casual players will enjoy the fluctuating board, but might be put off by the screwage. I personally enjoy both aspects and find that many other players do as well.

4. Runaway Leader / Effective Elimination / Catch-Up Mechanics / Score Obfuscation

In this aspect Gheos is a very interesting beast. I think the oddest part of Gheos is the scoring distribution. First of all, the push-your-luck game end can cause high variability in final scores. I've seen winning scores in the 30s and winning scores in the 80s. Also, your points tend to come in large chunks of variable sizes. During the course of the game, you might score around 15 points 2-3 times and around 5 points 7-8 times. Your score doesn't follow a fluid progression from 0 to 80.

We play with victory points quasi-open. You can stack your victory point chits, but you have to make change a lot and people can easily judge the size of your stack. So you don't know what each player's exact score is, but you have an idea of who's potentially leading.

It the games I have played, I have never seen a real runaway leader. In fact, almost all second place finishers have been at least within 10 points of first. I've also seen multiple games come down to a mere point or two. Some beginners think that if a player gets majority control of a super powerful civilization, then there is no way to beat them. I usually help them out and show how one or two well placed migrations will split the leader's civilization down to meritocracy. There really is no way to have a "safe" civilization in Gheos.

Now, this does mean that there are bash-the-leader capabilities in Gheos. I still find that these whack the leader symptoms don't come out in full force with Gheos. In a game like Taluva, you may have to team up just to do everything possible to stop a player from winning. In Gheos, you just adjust your strategy to benefit yourself a little less and hurt the leader a little more.

Now, there can however be some Effective Elimination. Over the course of a game of Gheos, your personal supply of followers should be growing at a steady rate. You only lose followers during wars and migrations, and you should gain at least 1 follower every turn. Some players can plan poorly and invest too heavily in a single civilization. If that civilization dies, then they will be left with a much lower number of followers than the other players. It's quite common for a single player to only have half the number of followers as everyone else towards the end game. Generally, that player just won't be able to catch up since they won't be gaining the same quantity of dividends as the other players. I have seen some real killer moves to bring them back in the running, but they aren't overly common.

5. Fiddliness / Elegance

I consider Gheos to earn the dubious title of "elegant". The rules are very well laid out and the game play has a very unique and fluid feel about it. The rules do a good job of getting out of the way and letting you live the life of the gods. You can visually see how the civilizations you care about are fairing on their world that is your tabletop.

There are only a few things that could send the "fiddly" label towards Gheos:

A. They included *just* enough victory point chits to make a four player game work. During the course of a game, you are going to be making a lot of change. With 2 and 3 player games, this goes away. You could just make the point totals open information and record them on paper, but I much prefer the score obfuscation.

B. There is no tile bag included, and triangle tiles do not make for great shuffling and stacking. I highly recommend acquiring a draw bag before attempting to play Gheos. Now, it ZMan's defense, I believe the limited victory point chits and lack of a bag are the main reason this game is so affordable.

C. The rules mention removing tiles you want to replace, but this can be cumbersome if the original tile is already surrounded. We always just stack the tiles and it works fine. In a 2-player game, you may get some tall stacks, but you can just discard some of the middle tiles easily.

These are really only minor complaints though. You really shouldn't be shuffling many bits on your turn. Also, after the first game, you shouldn't ever need to reference the rules again. I'll state again that the rules and the bits step aside and let you just play the game. The symbols on the tiles are clear and easy to distinguish. The pictures on the symbols even make thematic sense. Sword symbols assist a civilization during war. Wheat symbols feed a civilization and control where a civilization migrates. The Epoch tiles have large pictures of pyramids that remind you that they score pyramids.

6. Theme / Enjoyment

I personally find the theme very well done. It's not a simulation by any means, but the mechanics do match the theme. Sure, I compare converting followers to taking stocks, but those civilizations have little lives on the board so you can see how the fates will treat them. The symbols on the tiles also make thematic sense. I think the biggest positive I can give is that if you use the theme to explain the mechanics, they do a great job of helping people remember the rules.

Having said that, certain people will point out that Gheos is an abstract. And yes, it does include victory points being given for civilizations having "cups" and it does have some "gamey" rules such as not being able to replace pyramid tiles.

I also find Gheos to be highly enjoyable. Killing off civilizations and watching the other players moan is just bliss at times. Also, the palpable tension when there's only one more Epoch tile waiting to be drawn to end the game is great fun. The whole game wraps up in less than an hour and generally begs to be played again.

The only thing that can hurt my enjoyment is the occasional player that just cannot decide where to place his tile. A player with a bad case of Analysis Paralysis can just kill any tension created by the game.

7. Tactical / Strategic

For the most part, Gheos is a highly tactical game. On your turn, you make the best use of the tiles and board presence you already have. Generally, you don't want to assume that anything will be the same for your next turn. However, this does mean that you can have a very large impact on the board in each and every one of your turns. Very few games let you affect so many civilizations and players with a single move.

And there are some long term decisions. Trying to judge how long the game will last and deciding when to use your scoring opportunities is a difficult but pleasing process. Still though, if you are wanting to set up a long term strategy and watch it play out to completion, this is not the game for you.

8. Age and Player Ranges

The rules are very well laid out and understandable, if you have some Eurogame experience. Some of the concepts are bit abstract though, so I wouldn't try the game with anyone younger than a teenager.

The game plays well with any number of players, but I find the 2 player experience to be noticeably different. There is more control, but there is also more confrontation. For my own tastes, the more players the merrier.


Conclusion

I find Gheos to be a highly enjoyable game. It packs a whole lot of punch into a very short playing time. Certain people may be turned off by specific aspects of the game. Competitive analytical people may dislike the high level of chaos, but I encourage them to see how much tension and excitement it can add to each turn. Casual people may be turned off by the screwage, but I encourage them to diversify for protection and show them the joy of tossing helpless civilizations to their doom. I believe all of the design choices in Gheos were made for a purpose, and if you see what they add instead of what they take away, you too will enjoy this gem of a game. It also has a very affordable price tag, so I recommend giving it a try if you get a chance.
18 
 Thumb up
0.10
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
United States
Howell
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Do you really feel Carcassonne is multi-player solitaire?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sheamus Parkes
United States
Carmel
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
stormseeker75 wrote:
Do you really feel Carcassonne is multi-player solitaire?


Nope. In my opinion, both Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride have as much player interaction as the current players desire.

If you want to steal farms or sabotage cities, then you can. If you prefer to just see who can make the biggest city, then you can.

If you want to see just how many players you can block out of Chicago, you can. If you want to see just how many tickets everyone can finish, you can.


As for Gheos, I think it's much more on the screwage side. I suppose you could play it never replacing a tile and never killing a single civilization, but I don't think the game encourages that. In particular, I think you have to have the screwage or you would have bad runaway leaders. If all players just took followers in "their" civilization, then the player who drew more cups and pyramids would probably be the winner. When played with some screwage, it doesn't really matter who draws what, it comes down more to who makes the killer moves.


(Now, all that analysis aside, I actual prefer Carcassonne when played as multi-player solitaire. It's rather refreshing after a hard day's work. To each their own though.)
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sheamus Parkes
United States
Carmel
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
stormseeker75 wrote:
Do you really feel Carcassonne is multi-player solitaire?


How about this simpler reply:

The rules of Gheos have 2-3 pages specifically on war. Carcassonne doesn't.

However, as stated above, all players are free to play any game in any style they want.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Harmon
United States
Novato
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Nice review :-) I appreciate the comparisons, but I've got a question. How do you think it compares to Taluva?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sheamus Parkes
United States
Carmel
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
thesedarkdice wrote:
Nice review :-) I appreciate the comparisons, but I've got a question. How do you think it compares to Taluva?


Thnx for the comment.

As far as Taluva goes, there are some similarities, but they don't run as deep as the other comparisons I made above.

In both Taluva and Gheos, you've got the whole "lay a tile then place some wood" game play going. Also, the tiles are roughly triangle shaped in both Gheos and Taluva.

Both games give some room for really ingenious plays, but I think Gheos takes the edge there. Gheos is a bit more tactical. With one play you can migrate a civilization to obscurity, start a new civilization from their ashes, and then score the bounty from that new civilization. In Taluva, the biggest surprise might be smashing some huts.

Taluva is probably better for long term strategy though. You definitely have more ability to come up with a plan and follow through with it. The board is going to change between your turns, but not greatly.


In the end though, my biggest problem with Taluva was the kingmaker issues. Most of my Taluva games came down to "stop the leader". I really don't like this kind of game play, and it turned me off heavily to Taluva. Also, Taluva has some really annoying turn order bias. It's too easy to get handed towers by the player that went right before you. These things just add up to an un-enjoyable experience for me. In fact, I haven't even gone back to try Attika because I hear it shares many traits with Taluva (Same designer, same style.)

In Gheos, there is a little leader bashing, but it's not the outright "stop the leader from winning immediately" found in Taluva. I also find after playing a few games of Gheos, it's not hard to damage someone else while furthering your own goals at the same time. That seems much more improbable to achieve in Taluva. I believe the whole "civilization investing" layer is what adds the needed depth to Gheos. Taluva just has nothing that compares.


In Taluva's defense, I think everyone will agree that Taluva just looks cooler. Those tiles are really gorgeous.


So in summary my biggest complaint probably comes back to Score Obfuscation.

Score Obfuscation: In Taluva, it's open knowledge and it's reasonably easy to asses current board positions. In Gheos, VPs are hidden *and* it's hard to asses the relative strength of the current board position. Due to this, Taluva developes a "prevent the winner" metagame and Gheos doesn't.

Also, I love the push-your-luck game end in Gheos. Taluva just doesn't generate the same level of tension at all.


To each their own though. I like Gheos more than the average geek obviously, so your mileage may vary.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sheamus Parkes
United States
Carmel
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
thesedarkdice wrote:
Nice review :-) I appreciate the comparisons, but I've got a question. How do you think it compares to Taluva?


I also forgot to mention:

I do think Taluva and Gheos share one more aspect pretty closesly: In both games you can do pretty much any move with any tile. There's very little puzzle aspect in either game, unlike Carcassonne.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian Gee
Canada
St Catharines
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Very useful review, thank you!
Just read your Terra Prime review as well, 2 very nice reviews, I will have to check the rest of your contributions.

Keep up the good work!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.