Note: our group started a 6-player game but only made it to the second epoch. Judging from the pace at the time, I’d say we made it through half of the game. However, the game was starting to drag on and everyone was at their limit. If we ever play this again, I will update my thoughts on the game. I will also be staying away from the components. There is plenty of discussion going around and the game has probably received enough flak for it.
Emergence Event is a space exploration game for 2 to 4 players, and up to 6 players with the Awakened expansion. Players will play the role of captains who are trying to explore the galaxy and overcome any challenges it may hold. The captains have different strengths and weaknesses so players will have to play accordingly.
Overview: Conquer the Galaxy
Looking at the content of the box, Emergence Event looked amazing; a modular board, asymmetric captains, different tech trees. What looked like a deep, complex game turned out to be disappointingly simple. The problem is the incredibly dull mechanic: target numbers. All those stats on the player sheets? A sham! You would think a race with high Diplomacy would play differently than one with high Tactics. Nope. Encounter cards will tell you what skills to use and a number range it must be at in order to succeed. If your base stat isn’t high enough, you can play cards from your hand to increase the check. You succeed if your number is within the range, taking one damage card for every point under the max. Once you complete the encounter, you get some reward that ultimately makes it easier to complete even more encounters. As the game goes on, skill checks become harder (multiple stats/higher skill level) but in the end, it boils down to a bit of mental math. Draw back to your hand limit and repeat each turn – not exactly fun to do for hours.
There isn’t much else to the gameplay. You have a deck of cards but there isn’t much card management going on. Some cards are slightly more powerful than others but there is no consequence on playing more cards than needed just to bump up the skill check to the maximum target. If anything, you would be in a worse position for holding onto a card and taking damage. Damage cards take up space in your hand or deck and when no more can be given out, players will lose victory points for every pair of damage cards they have. Just play the card, the deck is small enough that you’ll get it back in no time. The negative power of the captain cards I thought were completely unnecessary. The captain cards generally have pretty useful positive effects, ones that you want to make use of during the turn. But for whatever reason, a quick take that was tacked on. I’m all for conflict in games but this didn’t feel right.
Looking past all that, Emergence Event does offer some interesting ideas. The game is all about space exploration and I really liked their take on it. Players do not start with any personal missions. Instead, you have Discovery Encounters scattered across the galaxy and the Act I of each story line is up for grabs. Completing the Act I will start a quest to find Act II and Act III which will spawn randomly as galaxy tiles are revealed. This ties in nicely with the time track. For every movement that player makes, the time track will go up by one. At the end of the first and second epoch, open space encounters become more difficult. And at the end of the third, the game ends. The whole point of the game is to travel to all these Discovery Encounters, stopping at different locations on the way. This creates a nice sense of urgency as players are trying to travel faster than their opponents.
Emergence Event nailed it in terms of theme but the game itself was mediocre. Charting out my path was satisfying but my enjoyment abruptly ends there. When I play games, whether I win or lose, I feel like I achieved something in the end. I got no sense of accomplishment here. Maybe it’s because we didn’t finish the game? I don’t know, I don’t see how another hour or so of meeting target numbers would do it for me. For a game with such simple gameplay, it goes on far too long. Perhaps my view on the game would have been a lot different had the game played in 30 minutes instead.