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Subject: Thebes: My Early Impressions rss

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mike christiansen
United States
Beaverton
Oregon
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Preface to my early review: I consider a review early if it is done before at least 5 plays. Some games require more plays before a thorough review can be done. I will avoid conclusions, and stick to impressions. I encourage discussion on my impressions. In most cases I have not assigned a score to any games I’m doing an early review of. I will give an initial score, but this will most likely change after more plays. I also will not go in depth in the rules unless it pertains to my impressions.

The Game:

Thebes is a game of research and archaeology. In the game players move around Europe, Africa, and the Middle East on an abstract map. The European part of the map is used for doing research and gathering tools to help in your archaeological digs. The resource used to gather these tools and knowledge is time. Each action the player does costs them time and the game is limited to between 2-3 years. The players get points for finding artifacts, and knowledge is figured in the end game scoring.

The time mechanic is very cool and logical. You have to balance time vs. reward as you decide how much of your limited resource you spend. Once you have spent time acquiring research you travel to the dig sites and decide how much time you spend digging. This decides how many times you get to draw randomly out of a bag of dirt and artifacts.

We found that the game plays very quick after you have the feel of it. The gameplay is simple and fun. The game has a heavy luck mechanic, but there are ways to sway luck more in your favor as you acquire tools and assistance to give you more draws and research. In our last game my friend and I were in a virtual dead heat with me ahead by a few points. We both spent our remaining 10 weeks digging in areas with approximately the same amount of artifacts left in them. I drew 10 times and came up with nothing. He drew 8 times and got 14 points out of it. He ended up winning by 11 points. I of course didn’t like losing this way, but it didn’t ruin the fun for me.

The Bits:

This game is beautiful. I don’t normally like games that have English as their second language, but it seriously adds to the antique feel of the game. The games board laid out smartly and the art is well done. The superstar of the game bits is the wheel that each player receives. It lets you know how many draws you get from the bags based on how much knowledge you have and how many weeks you are willing to spend digging.

I am mostly color blind and the colors in this game are very muted which makes them tough to discern sometimes. The game designers included pictures and symbols on most of the cards that helped me tell their differences. I am very thankful that this design decision was made.

The box the game comes in is unnecessarily large, but it’s attractive so I don’t mind too much. The plastic organizing insert is so empty when you store the game, I wondered if I was missing parts.

My impressions:

I like Thebes. It’s a fun, easy game for even non gamers to pick up. I question how long I will enjoy the game due to its luck factor. Losing once due to luck on the last draw is one thing, but consistent bad luck could ruin some people’s fun. I feel that smarter people than me could probably house rule the game a bit to mitigate some the luck. Perhaps only putting back half of the dirt after a dig or making a card that allows you to permanently sacrifice knowledge of a color to look for a specific artifact.

One of mechanics that’s coolest about this game is the time factor. You decide your own down time. If you don’t want to spend a lot time doing one thing, then take what’s available to you close to your location. You will go more often, but you won’t the get the big knowledge cards.

The game is short enough to get multiple games in or play it with another game. I like that too. My group of 4 played 1 game of Wasabi and 2 games of Thebes in 4.5 hours.

I am a firm prescriber to the Fun:Time ratio being a determining factor in whether I recommend a game or not. I can put up with some sloppy mechanics (which this game does not have so far) and a high luck factor if the game is fun enough and if the time investment is low enough. An example of this is Power Grid. I think Power Grid is brilliant, but the fun: time ratio is too low for me to enjoy it.

Verdict:

The Fun:Time Ratio for this game so far is very favorable. I look forward to playing more games of Thebes and using it as a gateway game to gain some new gaming friends.
My initial score of Thebes is an 8.
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simon thornton
United Kingdom
Liverpool
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Great review thanks. This is a superb gateway game. Sterile eurogamers will bang on about the luck element but one thing everyone forgets is luck generates tension and excitement.In my last game I did a 2 week dig which enabled me too make 1 pull from the bag. I pulled a '6' , Cue cheers by me and groans from the other (usualy non gaming) players. One of the other players went on a 8 week dig pulled 6 chits and found nothing. Cue hoots of hilarity around the table. We all thouroughly enjoyed it despite this.

Yes you can 'play' the perfect game and still lose but you will have fun doing it.
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Wade Broadhead
United States
Pueblo
Colorado
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Simon you are invited to my game group anytime: well said!
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jonathan schleyer
United States
Manhattan Beach
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I also totally agree that even if you lose this game is still a lot of fun. It makes for a very social afternoon.
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Guy Riessen
United States
Sebastopol
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Use Thebes as a gateway with new, or light gamers. Or when one or more people are too tired to think strategy. Works great for those times. For gamers, Tinners Trail still has the luck-tension, but the better startegizer and player able to better make use of tactical opportunities *will* win the game.
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