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HOPE Review


Quick Look:


Designer: Olivier Grégoire
Artist: Marcelo Bastos
Publisher: Morning
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com



Review:

HOPE is humanity’s last hope. With the universe regressing, pioneers of HOPE must terraform planets in order to stabilize galaxies, which in turn will help counter the ongoing Regression. Travel through various dimensions to save the universe. But beware, a traitor may be in your midst, trying to speed up the universe’s decay and ultimate oblivion. Will you survive the universal apocalypse, or lead it to ultimate destruction? Read on for my thoughts on HOPE, the board game of interdimensional exploration and decimation.



Rules and Setup:

Setup:
Although the game may look a tad complicated upon first glance, the rules themselves aren’t too difficult, and setup is pretty easy. To set up, simply unfold the board and place the Earth tile in the center. Then, place all galaxy tiles on the board to create the universe. Everyone takes a cockpit, a character, their color ship, pioneers, and levers (the levers are placed in the cockpit, which then show which movement actions are available on your turn).

The technology cards are placed on the technology board, and three cards are laid out on the top row (the three empty spaces below act as the discard piles). The Regression marker goes on the first space of the regression track, and you’re ready to play.

Rules
The rules are simple. On each player’s turn, they move, place pioneers on planets (if able/desired), discard/draw cards, and move the regression marker along its track. Once the regression marker reaches the end of the track, everybody loses.

The amount of spaces the regression marker moves is determined by the number of regression icons visible on the technology board. So, if there were four regression symbols visible, the regression marker would move four spaces on its track. If it crosses the pioneer track (and, likewise, a visible regression icon on that track), then the monolith on the board moves four spaces (the same as the regression marker) clockwise along the outer edge of the universe, removing from play the galaxy on which it resided before moving. In this manner the monolith may reach the Earth tile, and if the Earth tile is removed from the game, the players all lose.

The technology board. The bottom row of cards shows one regression symbol,
and the top row shows one as well. Because the first pile of bonus tokens is
depleted, another regression symbol is visible. With 3 symbols visible, the
regression marker would move three spaces.

In this 2-player game, the regression token was very close to
reaching the end. But, Yellow and Black pulled off a victory!
The game ends as a victory to all players (yay!) if the pioneer track reaches the end before the regression marker. To fill up the pioneer track, as soon as a galaxy is stabilized (i.e. all planets have a pioneer on them), that galaxy is flipped over (using the handy-dandy suction cup flag for tiles in the middle of the board that require thin, dagger-like fingernails to get under and flip) and all pioneers on that galaxy are placed along the pioneer track. To find the winner of all winners, count the number of each players’ pioneers on the pioneer track, plus the level of your character and technology track (found on your cockpit board). The player with the highest total emerges victorious and should be doted upon (at least until the next Regression).

Gameplay:
The gameplay itself is surprisingly simple. At first glance at the board, I thought I was in for a doozy of a time, what will all the dimensions, tokens, cards, and whatnot. But it actually doesn’t take long to grasp. The difficulty (so to speak) comes in wrapping your mind around the directions you can travel on a certain dimension, then jumping to a new dimension and crossing your eyes to see your new path all over again. But, like any game, play it a time or two and it will become second nature.

The first phase of a turn is the movement phase. Movement consists of either travelling away from or towards the center of gravity of that color’s dimension (as indicated by its corresponding colored icon on the board), left/right along a connected series of your current dimension’s color, or polarizing, which allows you to place your ship on a different dimension in your current galaxy, thus letting you travel in different parts of the universe.

Once you move, you must move the lever down on your cockpit board to show that particular movement has been used. As such, that movement may not be used again until the movement levers are reset. This is done by adjusting polarization (as a move action). So, instead of moving to a new tile, your ship will simple move to a new dimension on your current tile. Then, reset your movement levers, and on your next turn, the universe is yours to explore!

Mr. Prodigy has all levers in the top (active) position, so he can take any movement he wants.
He has yet to upgrade (by spending medals), so he is still level 1 on both technology and rank.

The tile on the left shows a water drop (or Yoshi egg,
as I like to call it), so a card with the same icon must
be discarded in order to play a pioneer on one of the
planets. The tile on the right shows what a tile might look
like after  it is stabilized.
When you move, you may place a settler on a planet (or planets, if you have enough cards) of your dimension by discarding a technology card (or a joker or two of the same cards to act as a joker) that matches the galaxy you’re in. Placing pioneers on galaxies on the edge of the universe or on other galaxies already hosting one or more pioneers of other players will award you medals, which can be used for upgrades. When all planets of a galaxy have a pioneer on them, that galaxy is flipped over and a bonus token from the first pile of tokens on the technology board is placed face-up on the center of that newly flipped (stabilized) galaxy. All pioneers from that galaxy are transferred to the pioneer track (the center row; not the one that looks like a waveform—that one is for the regression marker).

When playing cards to place pioneers, you must choose one of the discard piles to discard to. Once the discards happen, you add the card above that discard pile to your hand. If you choose not to place a pioneer on your turn, simply draw technology cards up to your hand limit.

After your turn, count the amount of regression markers visible on the technology board (on all cards, even in the discard pile, and visible icons revealed from bonus token piles being used up). This number is how many spaces you will move the regression marker on its track. (I have already gone over the in’s and out’s of this in the Rules and Setup section, so please browse that section for more information.)

Theme and Mechanics:


The theme of a universe on the brink of collapse is incorporated well into the mechanics. After each turn, the regression marker moves forward, and every now and again the monolith on the universe board will move accordingly and remove a galaxy from play, bringing the game that much closer to ending.

When discarding cards (i.e. playing cards to place pioneers), the discard pile you choose to use determines which card you will receive at the end of your turn (as mentioned in the above section). That adds a neat twist to the game, as you may want a particular card, but you don’t want to cover up a technology card without a regression icon with one that does (because that will speed up the Regression). It’s a neat mechanic, and I’m glad it exists in this game.

The way movement on the three dimensions works is something I’ve never seen in a game before, and I love it. It’s like Q-Bert on steroids. (Which game, ironically, I just played at the nickel arcade the other day.) The balance between regression marker moving towards the end and the pioneer track doing the same is strong, as each game I played has been stressfully close. Because the pioneer track is so much shorter than the regression track, I thought for sure the players wouldn’t be worried about the regression track at all. In the words of old Ben Kenobi, “I was wrong.” It’s a close race, and those trying to wrack up more points (via pioneers on the pioneer track) before ending the game could put the whole human population at risk of becoming extinct!

Artwork and Components:

So much for my go-to color...

The first visual that I remember from this game’s Kickstarter campaign was the board. The psychedelic pattern of the universe’s three dimensions is mesmerizing. Playing on that board is even more intense, but in a good way. I think the movement among dimensions is a lot of fun, and really, it doesn’t take too long to get a good grip on it.

The components probably could have been made better. Don’t get me wrong, the tiles are good quality, and the cards are what you’d expect them to be, but the plastic ships and pioneers just feel cheap. This was evidenced by the base of the green ship (my go-to player color of all colors!) having snapped off before I even opened the bag it came in. (I may have shed a tear or two…)

Likewise, the pioneers, while valiant and brave, came to me having looked like they had already participated in a few too many missions. Some were bowed, like they’d spent their entire lives hunch-backed in their garden. Most were fine, but there were some anomalies.

Also, the rulebook stated that each color had 25 pioneers. Counting mine, each color only had 24 (and I counted a few times just to make sure). Now, this isn’t a huge, game-breaking deal, but in a two-player game, the pioneers threaten to become exhausted from one’s supply. We never did run out, but it did make me nervous. (Not that one extra pioneer would make a huge difference, but the comfort of having that option was taken from me.)

The Good:

This suction-flag has been voted MVP each and every game.

Great use of a 2D board using three-dimensional mechanics. The travel on three dimensions is fun and unique.

The flag with the suction base is amazing. If I had to flip a middle tile without its aid, I would probably destroy the entire board trying to get at it (I suffer from Large Fingers and No Nails syndrome). My wife wants to keep it out for other games that require flipping tiles in the middle of the board. It's awesome.

The rules are simple in that it doesn’t take long to jump into playing, but there are enough decisions that each action must be fully considered to ensure each turn is spent in the most productive way possible.

The theme is fun and works well with the mechanics.

The box insert is nice.

The Bad:

The box was, in theory, a great ideal. Getting it open, in practicality, is a game all of its own.

As mentioned above, the quality of the ships and pioneers could be better (RIP green ship).

The box looks super cool. The insert slides out, rather than lifting the top of the box to reveal it. While great in concept and as eye candy (it really is pleasing to behold), it’s rather difficult to open. Sure, they included a little hole in the outer box where you can push the insert out, but that has yet to help me get it out without risking an overly-bent box in the process.

The rulebook. *sigh* As an editor, a part of my soul died while reading through the rules. The rulebook was a wee bit confusing, and I had to study it like one of my old textbooks in order to understand some particular points of the game.

For instance, one of the paragraphs in the setup section, under step two (page 6), mentioned putting a total of nine bonus tokens on the technology board. It said to see page 10 for adjusting difficulty level. That didn’t exist on page 10. However, on page 18 (under Variants), it says to put on a total of 16 bonus tokens for a normal game. That’s a big difference, and one that should have been caught by one of the three (3) proofreaders that went over it. (While I am aware that proofreaders aren’t necessarily responsible for finding and fixing inconsistencies—that’s the copyeditor’s job—the designer/publisher should have recognized something didn’t quite add up. Also, I suspect the proofreaders may have been tasked with finding such inconsistencies as well.)

Final Thoughts:
HOPE is fun without any variations. Add a traitor and
you've got yourself a much more competitive experience.
I like HOPE. It’s fun, gets my brain thinking in a few more dimensions than I usually work in, and looks awesome. Despite the component and rulebook issues, the gameplay itself is streamlined and engaging. The inclusion of Bug Cards for an expansion, as well as the option to add a traitor among the players, really gives HOPE that replayability that everyone loves so much. The board looks awesome and the variable difficulty can help keep things fresh. Overall it’s a fun, well-designed game. 

Players Who Like:

Those who like cooperative or semi-cooperative games, especially in a sci-fi setting, would most likely enjoy HOPE. Fans of Q-Bert may like it as well, if for no other reason than to play on the board that brings back that old school nostalgia. And, of course, those who enjoy saving the universe and moving spaceships from A to B (I fall into this category as well) would get a kick out of HOPE.

Check out HOPE on:

           


About the Author:



Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding game designer. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

HOPE Review HOPE Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on April 12, 2018 Rating: 5

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