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Gentes Review from Tasty Minstrel Games


Quick Look: Gentes

Designer:  Stefan Risthaus
Artists: Harald Lieske
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 1 to 4
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 90 Minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Review:
Gentes is an excellent medium-weight game that proves easy to teach and offers a surprising amount of strategy. This game utilizes an action point mechanism in which players take turns pulling action tokens off the central board until they have exhausted their available action points. Through these actions, players will train priests, soldiers, merchants, artisans, noblemen, and scholars; build Eastern Mediterranean cities and monuments; and, most importantly, score victory points!


Setup
Gentes features a double-sided board that makes setup a breeze. Designated locations for the various action tiles are printed on the board, allowing you to recruit other players to help with setup while you sort and shuffle the three civilization decks. The first player token is given to the player who last destroyed a civilization. Players draft civilization cards and prepare their personal player boards, adjusting any number of your six population cubes (or meeples if you're playing with the deluxified edition) to reflect a total population of four. Players collect coins worth 20 in value, place hourglass and lock tokens on their time track in the spaces printed on the board, and place their scoring tokens by the scoring track. Civilization cards from the first era deck are dealt to the eight spaces at the bottom of the central game board. Place the round tracker on the first of six spaces and you're ready to start the game!


Gameplay: 
Gentes is played over 6 rounds. Players take a variable number of turns each round, selecting action tokens or activating card effects until their time track can no longer accommodate tokens. Each round is divided into two phases. The Heyday Phase is the time for players to select actions until all have passed. During the Decline Phase, action tokens are returned to the board, time tokens are removed from players' boards, and benefits generated on constructed cards and/or buildings placed on the central board are collected. Turn order changes only in the event that a new player claims the designated action token, providing them with the first-player token and two coins.

At its core, this game is about constructing cards. These cards provide a variety of benefits: victory points, population advancements, Decline Phase bonuses, and action-specific bonuses (e.g. limiting the time spent on an action, paying the exact cost for an action rather than potentially overpaying as required by the action token selected, etc.). Additionally, bonus victory points can be scored by constructing cards with matching symbols (located in the top right corners of cards from the first two eras). Constructing cards is all about satisfying the population requirements (bottom left of the cards). As such, it is wise to pursue cards with similar population requirements that will allow you to construct as often as possible. Once all players have passed at the end of the sixth round, end-game scoring occurs. The player with the most points wins!

Examples of cards from Eras 1, 2, and 3.

Artwork and Components: 
The artwork is minimal and dull; however, I imagine that this was a stylistic choice given then the game's theme (i.e. time period). The graphic design is clean and functional. The components provided with the retail edition of the game are solid and the cards have a nice linen finish. The deluxified edition replaces all cardboard action tokens with chunky wooden tokens, population markers on each player's board (i.e. cubes) are replaced with miniature versions of the extra-large meeples used on the central board's population track, and coins are upgraded to metal coins.

The Good:
When looking for new games, I tend to favor board game mechanisms over theme. The strongest element of Gentes is the time mechanism. Action tokens typically have a printed cost in coins and time tokens (less coins = more time). When an action token is selected, it is placed on your time track at the top of the player board along with a number of time tokens, consuming available action points you have for the round. This creates an interesting sequential puzzle for you each round.  You are also permitted to condense two time tokens into one space on your time track, rotating the token 180 degrees. This can only be done at the moment in which more than one time token needs to be placed on your track. While this can be an excellent way to optimize your turns in one round, these rotated tokens are not removed during the Decline Phase; rather, they are rotated once more and remain in play for the duration of the next round. Constructing era cards is another excellent way the game allows you to further expand your possible action point potential. Many cards provide additional action spaces or bonus effects that limit the cost associated with their respective actions.

Examples of action tokens: Top token = pay four coins, gain one time token, and gain any one population or two population total between the far left two spaces. Bottom token = pay 8 coins, gain one time token, and gain any one population or two population total from any space(s).

Critical Feedback:
There's something tedious about the process of returning the action tokens to the board during each Decline Phase. While moving the action tokens to your player board provides a visual reminder of your remaining action points, I feel like the time tokens could have been utilized in a third way (possibly placed on their side?) for this purpose. Since the actions are printed on the central board, I imagine you could just place cubes of your color on the action space to show that it's been claimed. Simply swiping up all of your cubes during clean-up would be faster than looking for the correct positions of every action token previously claimed. 

Final Thoughts:
Gentes is an excellent medium-weight game that proves easy to teach and offers a surprising amount of strategy. The simplicity of Gentes' core mechanisms ensures that turns move quickly and that the game does not overstay its welcome. As is, Gentes is a solid game that could easily accommodate additional expansions. Our deluxified copy was accompanied by a variety of new city tiles that improve the game's replay value. There are some interesting design ideas at play here and I look forward to seeing how this game ages overtime. 

Recommended for Players Who Enjoy: 
Coimbra, Heaven & Ale, and Gugong.


Check out Gentes and Tasty Minstrel Games on:
             















Shawn C. Hilliard, Ed.D. is a school psychologist, graphic designer, and board game enthusiast from Delaware. Shawn runs a board game design summer camp for kids and often shares his love for the hobby with family, friends, students, and fellow educators. In his free time, Shawn also creates custom laser-cut projects and blogs about various board games, movies, and comics he encounters each month.


See Shawn's reviews HERE.
Gentes Review from Tasty Minstrel Games Gentes Review from Tasty Minstrel Games Reviewed by Shawn on April 23, 2020 Rating: 5

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