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Icaion Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look:

Designer: Martino Chiacchiera and Marta Ciaccasassi
Artist: Travis Anderson

Publisher: Tabula Games
Year Published: 2020
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 90-120 minutes

Find more info on Icaion on Board Game Geek.

WARNING: This is a preview of ICAION. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

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TL;DR: This review is for two games: Icaion, and Mysthea: The Fall, a cooperative gaming experience created by combining Icaion with components from Mythsea.



I found Icaion to be a game that you keep playing long after the game is over as it offers so many in-game choices that you cant help but go back through the game in your mind and consider what you would have done differently, and more importantly, what you will do differently the next time you play it. Thematically and strategically rich, Icaion does take some time for new players to grasp the Qoam (currency) requirements for certain actions, but once they do, the game flows smoothly and a lot quicker than you would think. My copy was a prototype copy, but if Icaion matches the production value of its predecessor, Mythsea, you will have a game that not only offers a better experience than most dudes-on-a-map-type games, but looks better, too.

As for the second title in this review, Mysthea: The Fall, I have played other games that combine with one another to make a new game (e.g. Century: Sand to Sea), but Mysthea: The Fall, is the first that I have played that takes two competitive titles and creates a cooperative experience. This change makes the new game feel less like playing two different games simultaneously, and more like a completely new gaming experience. Since the pieces come from what will presumably be a beautiful Icaion game, and the already stunning Mysthea, Mysthea: The Fall will have an incredible table presence and will make a for a unique cooperative experience within the Mysthea world.

If you have Mysthea already, I would strongly recommend adding Icaion to your collection. It can easily stand on its own merits, but the fact that it can be combined with Mysthea to create a unique cooperative experience makes this Icaion a must for Mysthea fans.

***
Since this review is for two games, I will group both games under each heading, but designate each by their title in order to hopefully decrease the likelihood of confusion. 

There's a lot to go over, so let's get started.

Review:

Overviews:

Icaion (from the publisher):
Icaion is an Engine Territory Building, Resource Management eurogame for 2 to 4 players designed by Martino Chiacchiera and Marta Ciaccasassi.

In Icaion you become a Seeker, an expert adventurer, sent out by the Organization to hunt for treasures, Qoam, relics and artifacts from ancient times.

Mythsea: The Fall (from the publisher)
Mysthea: The Fall is a cooperative territorial defense game for 2-4 players by Martino Chiacchiera and Marta Ciaccasassi. In this title, a cataclysm has hit Mysthea, making the five floating islands to fall down on the lands of Icaion.

The two civilizations finally meet for the first time and are immediately forced to cooperate to stop the advance of frenzied creatures, attracted by the giant crystal inside the City.

Gameplay: 

Note: Due to the weight of the games and the fact that I am trying to squeeze two reviews into one, I am only going to give a very high-level explanation of the basic game play, i.e. phases and turn options. If you wish for more details on the rules, I'd encourage you to follow the Icaion Kickstarter campaign.


Icaion: 
In Icaion, players are attempting to retrieve Qoam, the game's currency. Qoam is required in some form or fashion for most actions. However while players are moving around the board to retrieve Qoam, the Colossus is also on the move spreading parasites and destruction to all in its path.

Icaion takes place over three years, and each year is divided into three phases.

Blue Qoam (top) in the inner regions of the city. The artifacts (diamond shape pieces to the left) add instant and end game scoring.
Phase 1: Beginning of the year
During this phase, a Colossal card is added to the deck of region cards, a number of shards equal to the number of players is added to the Colossus miniature, and finally, the player with the emergency power supply labeled "1" is set as the first player.

Phase 2: During the year
To begin phase two, the first player draws the top card from the face-down event deck and places it on the first available space on the event board. When it is placed, Qoam is also placed in the same regions on the game board. If the space has a parasite icon, parasites are added as well.

If a Colossal card is drawn, the players satisfy the conditions on the card (e.g. adding parasites, moving around the board, doing damage to players) and place it on the first available space on the event board.

Colossal cards on the Event Board
Once the card is drawn, players take their turns. On a player's turn they must first either move or set up camp. The base movement for a player is two spaces, and are free. If a player decides to set up camp, they must pay a blue Qoam. After this decision, they must perform one of the following standard actions:

Extract - Retrieve Qoam from adjacent regions. Players are limited not by the number of Qoam they can hold, but by the available spaces for storing Qoam. Players can add more spaces for storing Qoam, increase their strength, and increase their movement ability by...

Deploy(ing) a machine - Machines help you gather more Qoam during the extract phase, provide the player curio cards, or give bonus points throughout the game. They can be destroyed if too many parasites are in the same region. When machines are deployed, the offer bonuses depending on which row they were removed from. There are deploying rules that I will cover below.

Eradicate parasites - Pay one gray Qoam to remove a number of parasites equal to a players strength.

Investigate the Colossus - If you are in an adjacent region to the Colossus, you can retrieve a shard. Players can pay up to the number on the shard in pink Qoam for immediate victory points and permanent possession of the shard. Shards offer points in themselves, but can also multiply points of apparatuses.

Retrieve an apparatus - If a player is within one of the five inner regions of the game board, they can retrieve an apparatus. Apparatuses provide immediate and end-game scoring bonuses based on factors such as the number of certain machine deployed.

Install an apparatus - Installing an apparatus allows the player to retrieve additional apparatus and also the ability to connect shards (see, Investigate the Colossus) to double the end-game points it provides. And finally,

Keep watch - This is effectively doing nothing.

Overview of the individual player boards. There are specific slots for character cards, artifacts, and emergency power supply. The boards also house any non-deployed machinery, collected shards, and Qoam.

Once a player takes a standard action, they can then do a special action. The first involves using their emergency power supply. Using the emergency power supply, players can overcharge machinery grants additional Qoam, draw two curio cards, or perform an additional movement and standard action.

The second special action is to play a curio card. Curio cards can add one time bonuses, or upgrade bonuses used for the remainder of the game. The cost of green Qoam is found on the top of each curio card.

Examples of Curio cards.
Phase 3: End of year
Once the fifth region is revealed, all players take one last turn and score points for that round, i.e. bonus points for eradicating the most, or second most, parasites. The region cards are shuffled with the first Colossal card and an additional Colossal card is added, and play continues as roughly outlined above until the end of the third year. At the end of the third year, players will add points from shards and installed apparatuses. The player with the most points wins.

Once the fifth region is placed, players take one more turn and then the year is over.

Mysthea: The Fall 
The worlds of Mysthea and Icaion are colliding (literally) so the champions of Mysthea and the seekers of Icaion must join forces to defend their planet. Setup for this game will require cards and components from Mysthea and Icaion.

Various Champion miniatures from Mysthea.
In Mysthea: The Fall, players are attempting to claim all of the shards from the Colossus (with each player having claimed at least one) before the the city defense points drop to 0, 5 or more enemies are besieging city slots, an island hold no enemies in its regions, or all of one player's machines are destroyed. All players win or lose together.

Player are turns are divided into two phases: Day and Night.

Day Phase:
During the Day phase, players may first activate a machine (placed during setup and utilized in game for specific bonuses) and/or use a relic (allows players to use character specific powers), then they can take up to three of the following actions on their turn (performing the same action multiple times is allowed):

Move - Players can move two spaces if this is the first action, and then one space in every subsequent action on that turn.

Collect - Players take one Qoam of each adjacent region type from the common pool. Players can never hold more than 6 Qoam.

Deposit - If a player is within the inner cities on the game board, they can deposit Qoam. Deposited Qoam are communal and be spent on any players' turn.

Attack Enemies - Players can spend Qoam to attack enemies (golems, troops, parasites). Players choose a region hosting enemies and play a Qoam of the same type to reveal a command card. They can pay additional Qoam to reveal up to three cards. If the value of the cards is higher than the strength of the enemies, the player successfully attacks the enemies and returns them to a Mysthea Island.

Attack Monsters: If a player is adjacent to an Mysthea Island, they can attack a monster. Like attacking enemies, players spend Qoam to reveal command cards. If the strength from the revealed command cards is greater than or equal to the monster's strength, the monster is defeated.

Some of the monsters of Mysthea.
Investigate the Colossus - If a player is adjacent to the Colossus, they can investigate and attempt to remove a shard.  Players must spend two of the same Qoam for every point listed on the pulled shard in order to successfully retrieve it.

Night Phase:
During the night phase, a card from the event deck is revealed. If it is a region card, an assault (if it is the first of the region to be revealed) or an invasion (if it is the second of a region to be revealed) takes place. Assaults and invasions require moving enemies closer to the city and possibly the city losing defense points. If a storm card is revealed, a monster is added to its island. And if the Columbus is revealed it releases parasites, attacks the city, and moves. Once the drawn card's conditions are resolved, the players continue starting again with the day phase until the winning condition, or one of the losing conditions, occurs.

 ***
Again, there's a lot more to the rules in both of the games, but to keep this review from being 15,000 words of rules, I tried to just hit the highlights. So please consider this a very general overview rather than a step-by-step of how to play either game.

Theme:

Icaion and Mysthea: The Fall
Both games take place in the same Mysthea universe, and can most easily be pictured by thinking of Mysthea floating over Icaion.

But to simply say that both games use this other-worldly fantasy theme would not do it justice. There is obviously a great deal of thought into the thematic elements of both games. The monsters, Colossus, parasites, golems, etc., all add life in their respective games and when they are considered along side the playable characters, it creates a story that elevates the game play.

The islands from Mysthea, fit perfectly on the crater spaces in Icaion.
But the thematic elements shine the brightest when combined in Mysthea: The Fall and you see different elements combined to create a game experience that is unlike either Mysthea or Icaion.

Mechanisms:

Icaion and Mysthea: The Fall 
Both games have variable player powers and use action point allowance. Icaion is more of an area control game of sorts, while Mysthea: The Fall is fully cooperative.

Artwork and Components: 

Icaion: My review copy of Icaion is a prototype and did not include any final art or miniatures. However, I did see some renderings and, if those are accurate, and when you consider the components for Mysthea, I have no doubt that this will be a highly detailed, fantastic-looking game with incredible table presence.

Golems from Mysthea.

Mysthea: The Fall

I only have half of the final components, but Mysthea is absolutely stunning. The art, components, presentation, table presence, all of it, is easily in my top five of all time. Travis Anderson is going to be an artist I start following.

Artwork example from The Art of Mysthea, a hardback companion to Mysthea.
The Good:

Icaion:

It's different than Mysthea -  Icaion takes place in the same universe and you can see the similarities in art and production, but this isn't as simple as expanding the universe (though it does). Icaion is a stand-alone game and even if taken solely for what it is away from the Mysthea Universe, it can stand on its own. Mysthea isn't propping this title up by any means. If anything, it reminded me more of a non-combative Scythe if I had to compare it to something.

A closer look at the region cards on the Event Board.
Though it lacks player vs. player conflict, it still has it in its own way - If you recall from the instruction overview, I mention there was something about machine placement that I would mention later. Here's the later and I love the machine deployment restrictions. In short, there are three types of machines and when you place one of your machines, it cannot match the player color or type of another machine already existing in the region (essentially one player machine per region, and a region can only have one of each type). This may sound like simply another rule, but it adds so much in terms of strategy. Three players can effectively box another player out of a region completely. And, in the two player version, the players take turns deploying a third color's machines onto the board during set-up, again allowing players to limit where their opponents can put future machinery. The placement rules seem arbitrary until you see them in play and realize how much of a challenge they add to the game.

It's a game you keep playing after the game is over Icaion offers so many in-game choices that you can't help but go back through the game in your mind and consider what you would have done differently, and more importantly, what you will do differently the next time you play it. It's a game that begs to be played again, even right after you just played it.

It feels light for a heavy game - There is a learning curve (mainly which color Qoam allows you to do what action), but once you pick up on the phases and turn actions, it plays pretty smooth and surprisingly quick.

It mitigates the luck factor - There is a luck aspect to Icaion, specifically when the Colossus cards are revealed, but since players know how many cards are in the deck, including the number of Colossus cards, they can intelligently push their luck and move to an area that the think the Colossus is going to be on the next turn.

Going full Nostradamus - I fully expect Icaion to have the same production quality as Mysthea, so I'll go ahead and say that this game is going to look great. The art is fantastic and the miniatures (assuming they are of the same quality as Mysthea) are full of rich detail. 

As for Mysthea: The Fall...

It's not Mysthea or Icaion - While Mysthea: The Fall takes place in the same universe and uses the same components and characters, it is a completely different experience. Many times when two games are joined to create a different game, it feels like you are just playing two games simultaneously. That is not the case with Mysthea: The Fall. It takes two competitive games and turns them into a singular cooperative experience that is completely different than its parts.

It can be tough - It has been my experience that most cooperative games are fairly easy (Pandemic series notwithstanding). That has not been my experience with Mysthea: The Fall. This cooperative game is challenging at least, and times flat-out hard. There are modes of challenge ranging from easy to hard, but even as the game reaches a higher difficulty level, it never became any less enjoyable.

It's going to look good - I hate to keep going back to this well, but Mysthea is a good looking game. Icaion will most likely be a good looking game. Put them together and you have another good looking game.

Some of the miniatures and in-box presentation with Mysthea.

The Meh:

Icaion: There are a few things that weren't bad, per se, but there were some things that stood out in my plays.

First, it can start slow, like for a game that ends in the 80-90 point range, you end the first year 4-2. I had a game start so slow that we went back through the rules just to make sure we were playing it right. The in-game scoring is dwarfed by the end-game scoring. This isn't necessarily bad, but if you start off with just a few points, don't worry.

Close-up on an installed artifact. Artifacts, especially when paired with collected shards, can score a lot of points at the end of the game.

Next, there is a learning curve with this game and it can be a long one. I spent as much time referencing the rules during game play as I did reading the rules preparing to teach it. That being said, once you figure out what Qoam pays for what action, it moves a lot faster, but I wouldn't throw this game at your friend that loves Splendor and is looking for something new.

Finally, it can be a table hog--a beautiful table hog, but a table hog nonetheless. There is the game board, and the event board, and the individual player boards, and the decks, and communal piles of Qoam, and parasites, and so on, etc. You'll want to have plenty of rook and leave plenty of time for setup and tear-down. 

Mysthea: The Fall 
The big thing about this one is a problem that most cooperative games share and that is it is susceptible to quarterbacking. If you have a player that seems to think they know better than everyone else in the group when it comes time for a player to make a decision, either forbade them from talking or just stick to playing Icaion.

Final Thoughts:

Icaion and Mysthea: The Fall:
If you have and enjoyed Mysthea, Icaion should be at the top of your list. Though familiar in theme and look, it is distinctively different in play, and the fact that you can combine it with Mysthea to create a completely different cooperative experience is a big plus. It's not very often that you can buy one game that has two vastly different gaming experiences.

And while I have reiterated several times about the look (and presumed look) of Icaion and Mysthea: The Fall, this game is more than just your run-of-the-mill miniature game with lipstick. The gameplay, while slow starting at times, is fluid and leaves you wanting to come back for more. 

Players Who Like:
Mysthea, miniatures games, cooperative games, Scythe.


Check out Icaion on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/276090/icaion   https://tabula.games/   https://www.facebook.com/tabulagames/   https://twitter.com/tabulagames     https://www.instagram.com/tabula_games/   

On KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends June 11, 2019.



Nick Shipley - Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. Nick lives in Oklahoma.

See Nick's reviews HERE.
Icaion Kickstarter Preview Icaion Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Nick Shipley on May 21, 2019 Rating: 5

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