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Overseers Review

Quick Look: Overseers

Designer: Guan Chih Huang
Artist: Studio Amatiz
Publisher: ThunderGryph Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 3-6
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 30 min.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


tl;dr: Drafting-centered gameplay with a nice element of constantly varying player powers. Art and theme are a little suspect.

Getting to the Game: Overseers fits nicely into a smallish box, and includes some pieces that aren't strictly necessary, so it's more portable than you'd think. The deck of drafting cards changes based on player count, so you'll need to sort that out at the beginning. Everyone also gets one of the Overseer cards, which has a unique player ability. Make one random person the leader for the first round, and then deal everyone 6 cards. Let the drafting begin.

The drafting flavor of the day here is sets. You're looking to maximize your score based on Traits (colors). Some cards are worth more than others, and two of the traits are worth big points only if you can collect more than one of them. With six cards in each starting hand, even in a game of three players, by the time you know what's in the pool, you're likely too late to change your strategy. The best cards won't wheel back to you in the lower player counts, and with more players, cards won't wheel at all. Once everyone has drafted 5 cards, the cool part starts. Each player arranges their cards in a tower, with three face-up cards on top, and the remaining two cards face-down on the bottom. Once everyone shows, the players vote simultaneously on who they think has the highest score. The voted player either agrees with the group or denies the accusation, and then all cards are turned up, totaled, and score coins are handed out. Whoever scored the lowest in the round becomes the leader next round, and you play two more. Simple, right? Well.... kinda.

Playing the Game: Overseers plays very nicely on the table, but there's some hiccups to overcome. The first thing you'll notice is that the larger Overseer player cards all have a number or symbol in the corner. This tells you when that particular player power is used. Each of the game's phases has a number, so if you're in the matching phase, you can use your power. This only feels weird the first round or two. After you get a feel for the game's flow, it becomes intuitive. ThunderGryph has helpfully included player cards that have the phases and which Overseers activate when on them, which is really a nice aid.

The other hitch here is that while how I described the game order above is strictly correct, it was a little simplified. When a player is voted on as having the highest score, they do indeed have the option to admit or deny. My issue is that "Admitting" isn't really the right word. The player doesn't know for a fact they have the highest score for two reasons. First, they only have as much information as anyone else does, so they can't know definitively that they have the highest score. They certainly know what their score is, but they clearly don't know what anyone else's score is. This is exacerbated by the second reason: there are two Overseers who directly affect the score of cards both face-up and face-down. Suyin's ability gives each "Anger" (red) card an additional 2 points, whether the card is up or down. If the accused player sees that someone else has Suyin's Overseer card, but sees no Anger cards face-up, they have a decision to make. Is that player hiding them face-down so no one knows they have them? Or did they get very unlucky in drafting? If the player to Suyin's left was playing smart, they wouldn't pass any Anger to them, so maybe they did a good job? All of this headspace is relevant because if the accused player "Admits" they're in the lead, they must sacrifice TWO of their five cards, of their choosing. If they deny and they were wrong and they do in fact have the highest score, they have to discard the two cards that give them the most points. If they were right to deny and another player has a higher score, then they get to choose a card from the discard pile. The possible point swing in this case is HUGE, and could be game-breaking based on too-little information.


That said, it's an interesting challenge, and one that by the end of our first game had people changing their mind on the complexity. One of my group, after the first round was over, wasn't sure they really liked it, and thought the Overseers were either broken-good, or irrelevant. She thought the drafting part was fun, but there were too many choices to make between the game's six different traits. By the end of the first game, with the Overseers changing every round, and people getting more acclimated to the mechanics, she admitted that she judged too early. The standout bluffing aspect is also just purely fantastic. Since each player gets to choose which cards they show and which ones they keep hidden, you have no one to blame but yourself when you get accused, and the voting is simultaneous, so even your whining and protestations will do you no good here. My ultimate recommendation is that you give Overseers a full game or two at least to get used to the minutiae before you pass final judgement. That is, if you haven't been turned off completely by the art..

Artwork and Components: Studio Amatiz does the art for Overseers, and if you click through that link, you'll see that it's very on-brand for them. One of my players noted that "it's not waifu, but it's adjacent. It's right next door." I agree. The art is sexy, but not overt. It is, however, certainly jarring. I'm only vaguely aware of eastern culture, and I'm by no means an expert, so it's possible and even likely that I'm speaking out of turn. It felt to me like the suggestion of 14+ for age on the game box is too young for the art style. As you can see below, it's not sexual in nature, but it's definitely suggestive. Your taste for that may vary, but I will say this: the art that's here, is very well done.

The components are similarly good, and after several plays, the cards haven't bowed or warped. The oversized Overseer cards are nicely made, and the wooden voting and extra-large (accused? leader?) tokens feel excellent. My main gripe with the components is with the scoring coins. The colors tend to be too similar to distinguish, and because they're copies of actual yuan, there's a hole in the middle which has to be punched out of every. single. one. 


The Good: Drafting gameplay is fun and fast, by far my personal favorite mechanic. Overseer abilities bring depth to an overall simple affair. Production quality is good.

The Bad: Art is awkward, theme is tacked-on, and the scoring coins are annoying.

Score: In 30 minutes or so, you get a fun drafting experience along with some cool player powers, poker-like risk taking and bluffing, and a pretty table presence. At $30 or so with the new printing on the way, it's perhaps slightly overpriced for what's here. But, I'm a big fan of drafting and if you also love that mechanic, then give this one a shot. I'm giving Overseers a score of Worth a Long Look.


About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
Overseers Review Overseers Review Reviewed by The Madjai on July 31, 2018 Rating: 5

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