Gray Eminence Kickstarter Preview



Quick
Look: Gray Eminence


Gray
Eminence

Designer: Ren Multamäki
Publisher: Dragon
Dawn Products
Year
Published:
 2020
No.
of Players:
 3–5
Ages: 15+
Playing
Time: 
60–90 Minutes
Find
more info on BoardGameGeek.com
Review
Geopolitical
conditions are constantly changing and the ability to take advantage of those
changes is why you are leading your organization. You’re not the only one
acting on the reactions of the government leaders, so you consider your options
carefully. You make the calls to put plans into motion. Now, sit back, relax,
and watch how events unfold.
Gray
Eminence puts you in control of an organization operating in the shadows to
manipulate world events for your own advantage. You’re not the only puppet
master in this theater. This leads to cooperatively play, but not necessarily
for positive results for the entire group.
We
sat down with three players to see how the drama unfolded.
Gray
Eminence is a slightly twisted presentation of our own reality. You are working
to complete personal mission objectives, private and public, to earn victory
points. The publicly known missions are based on the character you are playing.
You can also earn victory points from resources you are holding, but they are
few (four total points available to all players).
This
is a complex game and has more of a learning curve to get into the game. Allow
for extra time with the first time you sit down with this game. There is a lot
here to digest. In our group, we have a player who likes to digest the rules of
these types of complex games and then bring them to everyone else after they
have worked through it a time or two. Gray Eminence is a great candidate for
this strategy of teaching the game to new players.
Once
we got into and worked through the questions we had when first learning, we
liked the complexity. It is not like some strategy games where you have
multiple routes to earning the victory points needed, it is complex in the way
you are working with and against the other players at the same time. In fact,
there are conditions when every player loses and the game wins.
The
age ranking is appropriate because of the multiple layers of mechanics, the difference in each of the phases and what needs to be played, the negotiations
required between the players, the manipulation the players have to consider
during gameplay, and the resulting conversation that may arise when playing
through the scenario because of the real-life human conditions represented.
I
was impressed with the amount of research included in the scenarios we were
presented in the prototype. I know they are working on additional scenarios,
but even with the limited number we have, or even one, there is enough variability
in the characters, factions, events, tweets, actions, and objectives to allow
for replaying with vastly different outcomes.
Central Games Mat
Setup
Choose
a scenario to play and decide if you are going to play either five or eight
rounds. Read the scenario information aloud so everyone is in understanding.
Discussion is a large portion of the game, so remember to talk out any point of
interest that arises from the scenario or other aspects of the game during play.
From
the information on the scenario card, create the decks that will be used during
your game. The decks are created from master decks based on information on the
scenario card you are playing. Simply put scenarios limited in scope, like the
European scenario, use cards only applicable to that area.
Players
have a Gray Eminence card. These are the character cards that have the public
objectives for earning victory points. There is also color commentary that
allows for some role-playing and understanding of the viewpoint of the
character and how that may influence gameplay from their perspective. They
also give the player their starting resources.
Players
draw three Victory cards, which contain the private missions for victory points,
and choose two to keep. These are only revealed when the victory condition is
met, or when required to by other game circumstances.
Each player should have a small box, cup, etc., to store their personal resources
outside of the view of other players.
Randomly
place player markers on the Visibility Track. This determines turn order when
needed. The level of visibility to the public allows for different play
options.
Player Game Mat
Gameplay
Gray
Eminence is played in either five or eight rounds, depending on how long you
want to play. While we were learning the game we limited ourselves to five
rounds. Each round is divided into nine phases, these are also described on the
front of the player mats for reference.
Phase
One: Refresh
Players
draw four action cards. Players with more than eight action cards discard down
to eight, keeping the cards of their choosing. Players can also refresh
factions that were utilized in earlier rounds.
Phase
Two: Event
Draw
an event card and read it. The players then discuss how they each feel the event should be resolved.
Phase
Three: Bidding
Players
make a blind bid of resources to choose where they are on the Visibility Track.
All resources bid are placed in the Bid Pool.
Whoever
wins the bid can place their marker anywhere on the Visibility Track, In the
Public Eye, in the Gray Eminence, or In the Shadows. In descending order of the
bids the remaining players then get to place their marker. After determining
play order, players are gain a benefit from their placement.
The player acting in the Public Eye gains a faction and money or influence.
Players
in the Gray Eminence gain one resource (money, influence, or power) and have
the option at playing a fourth card in the next phase for no cost.
The
player In The Shadows can take a faction from another player. This move can be
prevented by paying resources or showing a private Victory condition to the
player In The Shadows. They also can take one resource from the Bid Pool.
Characters
Phase
Four: Programming
Players
choose to play three or four action cards and place them in the appropriate
locations for the Common Good, Personal Gain, Discard, and the Optional space
that can be for the Common Good or Personal Gain. Players who are in the Grey
Eminence of the Visibility Track can make this optional play for free, other
players must pay one resource.
Phase
Five: Presidential Response
Each
event card has keywords identified as hashtags (#). There are eighteen hashtags
used in the game. Draw a Tweet card to put into play. If it has a matching
hashtag, the political powers are satisfied with their response and no further
cards are drawn. If there is no matching hashtag, draw again. There can be up to
four Tweets played. Each Tweet has some impact, usually to the resources in the
Bid Pool.
Phase
Six: Action (in player order)
Players
make a final determination of how their Programmed Action Cards are played—they
can change their location of Common Good, Personal Gain, etc. Players still
have to play one card to each of the three main areas, and have the option of
playing a fourth card.
Personal
Gain cards are resolved as they are played. The Common Good is completed in
the next phase.
At
this time Factions that want to be used by a player are identified and their
effects are done. The card is turned around on the edge of the Player’s Mat to
show what the cost for refreshing the Faction is.
Scenarios
Phase
7: Resolution (common event)
Randomly
select the order of the Action Cards played for the common good and resolve them
in order of play. After the cards are completed the players discuss how to best
resolve the Event based on the different conditions identified on the Event
Card.
If
an Event can be resolved in some manner, the players must do so. If no
condition can be met to resolve the Event, the unresolved effects are
completed.
Phase
8: Trading
Negotiations
are held between the players. Any type of trade can be made. Any deals made are
binding to the players.
Phase
Nine: Victory Points
Players
may choose to complete one Victory Condition, public or private. Victory
conditions can only be met one time during the game unless stated otherwise.
Players
completing a private Victory Condition draw two additional Victory Cards and
keep one for continued play and the other is discarded.
Events
Theme
and Mechanics
The theme of Gray Eminence plays up many events that are happening in our current global
geopolitical situation. I know some people I would choose not to play this game
with because of the depictions made. I also know others who will thoroughly
enjoy the thematic elements because of their personal interests.
Multiple
mechanics are employed during the phases of play as described in the phases
above.
Factions
Artwork
and Components
We
are playing a prototype. I already know there are changes planned for the
components I have to include additional artwork among other alterations.
Victories
The
Good
  • Complexity
    of play
  • Required
    social discussion for resolution of events
  • Hidden
    agendas for each player

Tweets
Final
Thoughts
It
took us a couple of rounds to get fully into the play of Gray Eminence. Once we
we were getting a better understanding of the flow of the game, the events,
negotiations and planning for both a public good and private agenda provide
multiple layers of strategy to be employed.
The
issues are dramatized but come from current events. It is not all based on
trying to manipulate and gain control of the world. It is about how to best
move your character’s agenda based on the goals they have.
Actions
Players
Who Like
  • Complex
    strategy
  • Negotiations
  • Cooperative/competitive
    games
  • Geopolitical
    unrest


Check out Gray Eminence on

          


About the Author

Daniel Yocom does geeky things by night because his day job won’t let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He’s written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines along with short stories after extensive research. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join in the geeky fun at guildmastergaming@blogspot.com.


See Daniel’s reviews HERE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *