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Quick Look: Project : Eos Rise
Designer: JAMES BAKER
Publisher: FLIPSIDE GAMES, Random World Games
Year Published: 2021
The honest truth is that I really can never can opt out of any opportunity to try a new 4x game.
Project : Eos Rise is one of those games I saw a while ago during its crowdfunding, and I am happy that they were able to send me a copy to evaluate. I will cut straight to the chase in saying that Project: Eos Rise (P:ER for short from now on) is, however, not what one may typically expect from the standard space-themed 4x game.
The most obvious reason for this is P:ER is strictly cooperative. That’s right, no duking it out to be king or queen of the galaxy, this is just a fight for survival in the cold recesses of space.
Until now, Uprising : Curse of the Last Emperor and (perhaps, though it is a bit of a stretch) The Dwarves are the only 4x games in my collection that could be considered cooperative. In general, there is a bit of scarcity in terms of cooperative 4x games, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, as I love the adrenaline rush that such experiences often provide. So P:ER’s entrance into the foray is not at all an unwelcome experience.
However, it can still take some time to wrap my mind around such games. Even with me owning and being very familiar with the aforementioned Uprising and Dwarves games, I was caught off guard by just how new this “Cooperative 4x” theme truly is, because P:ER is radically different than my previous two experiences in the genre.
In summary, P:ER is about survival. A calamity is about to strike Earth, and you need to vacate it in search of another inhabitable planet, pronto. Rather than just wandering aimlessly through space, however, you do somewhat have a sense of direction, having noted mysterious signals emanating from space (called FRBs in this game). If you can manage to move through space and collect enough of these FRB signals, you can perhaps manage to piece together the information contained within them and derive a meaningful bit of information as to where the closest safe planet to occupy is. Otherwise, you are doomed to extinction.
The path to finding a new home is not easy, as you quickly discover that other extra-terrestrial forces do not want you on their block. As soon as you leave Earth, you find that other ships will attempt to obstruct your journey, either through direct confrontation or waylaying efforts to obtain FRB’s by blocking your ship.
This is the fundamental story and theme of the game.
Now for a summary on the gameplay itself…
P:ER has quite a few surprising aspects in its arsenal. Perhaps the strongest point in its favor is its use of asymmetrical roles for each of the game’s 1-4 players. It should be noted that even if you play this game solo, all 4 roles are always required, meaning depending on player count, some players may need to double up on their roles:
The game’s primary player roles are : Commander, Engineer, Pilot, and Combat Specialist.
Each have their own distinct roles and abilities to play, with more unlocked as the game progresses. More on this later.
The gameplay itself is an interplay between worker placement and dice-chucking. Interestingly, a combination of using a D20 and D6 is used in many instances, most notably for random placement of enemies and items during the game, and this “rolling for locations” definitely contributes to a sense of something new, as I haven’t encountered this a whole lot in other games.
Another key component of P:ER is the act of decision making ; there is a lot to consider each round, and being limited to just 7 rounds or so makes it a tight crunch to meet the game’s objectives, as enemies will start popping up like crazy in short order.
While combat is partially dice based, it is usually a simplified d6 roll that determines whether or not an enemy hits you (or if you hit an enemy by matching up symbols to their respective cards). One thing that is appreciated over games such as TI is the fact that you roll just once for each enemy type, not for each individual ship that is attacking you, so this definitely helps the sense of game flow.
Moreover there are multiple ways to acquire the essential FRB’s to achieve victory. While you may find them randomly scattered across the galaxy on occasion, other times you can accept Contracts that require you to deliver goods here and there ; the act of taking on these missions often can and does provide you with valuable Intel that gradually leads up to the accrual of enough information to ferret out an FRB location.
Now the actual review, starting with the positives.
First things first, the size of the box. I thought last year that Nexum Galaxy would forever remain my smallest full-fledged 4x in a box.
I was wrong. While Eos Rise is not any smaller, nor is it any bigger either, making it a relative equal in size that I can just as easily take it on a vacation. As of now, these are the only two 4x games in my collection that I would ever dare take on a flight to play while in Asia again…
The game manual is overall well written. The comic that serves as the intro and ending for the game is exceedingly well done and sets the stage for the game’s “story” in a fashion that elicits the theme quite well.
The components are also overall very good, consisting of good wooden meeples, card stocks, and board. Although I do have some reservations in this area which I shall describe later…
One thing that the game is quite remarkable for is its use of role playing, and this is really a kicker, because usually this only happens of games of Twilight Imperium. The fact that each player is taking on a very specific role also means they have very specific responsibilities and decisions that are solely their own, and this affects the entire course of the game. I like how the game itself encourages each player to have the final say in each action they take, even though working as a team is essential. The pilot for example will always determine which way your ship flies, for example, while the Engineer always gets the executive decision over what new rooms to build on the Eos (your ship) and how to assign damage to it.
Moreover, as the Engineer for example, you can elect to be the Scotty of your ship, while someone else is Worf as the Combat Specialist. The opportunities for taking on an alternate persona in this area really shine.
Strategies are varied enough to be interesting. It is always relevant determining priorities each turn cycle, such as whether to stand your ground or move away, to invest in more weapons of war, defense, or maneuverability, or upgrading your hull or ability to manage the stress of your respective crew mates. It is a constant give and take, as again, with just 7 rounds, there is not enough time to bolster every potential capability in the game. It is your constant job to determine what you are capable of pulling off, and what is beyond the realm of possibility or likelihood.
There is a good sense of leveling up and character progression.
The difficulty and learning curve is very manageable. While not the most complex game in my collection, nor is it a bereft of depth. I’d rate this at about 3 out of 5 in terms of its learning curve.
Eos Rise is also one of the most solo-able games I have ever played. This is particularly noteworthy for two reasons :
- I am not usually a solo gamer (I really had to restrain myself from playing during the day when we had left the game out overnight on at least one occasion)
- Despite having 4 roles to manage simultaneously, it actually rather surprisingly wasn’t overwhelming doing so.
As an old-time video game aficionado, in some ways, I feel like I am playing a more modern version of Galaga with the aesthetics possessed by the swarms of wooden Meeple ships that often pursue you. Pew, pew, pew!
Even though the game claims to be more than two hours, it does feel like it progresses pretty quickly, which is always a good indication of enjoyment.
A point to be considered : You will not always win. Such is often the nature of this type of cooperative game, though, and this is not a bad thing from our perspective, as we always love the challenge of seeing if we can pull off a difficult win. Nevertheless, if you are not prepared to accept a Kobayashi Maru type scenario, this game may not be for you.
Now for any points of contention we had with the game?
One of the things we quickly discovered is that we didn’t feel we had enough star wooden trackers. One particular Misison goal required us to put a marker down until each time we utilized one of our Stress management powers until we had done so 8 times for example. Not a problem on its own per se, but then we had another contract pop up that required us to tally up and count the number of specific enemy ships we had destroyed (again, 8 or so), and we quickly found ourselves with a shortage of official means of tracking progress with these goals.
Another problem we had was with the colors and shapes of ships. The Meeples for each ship type look a bit too similar to each other for our liking, so anything that could help us distinguish between them a bit better would have been nice. And since each of the 3 enemy ship types are blindly drawn from a bag when placed, there is no reason the ships couldn’t be color coded in the future to make identification a bit easier.
Also, Enemy ship cards should have names on their back in our opinion. They each have a distinct name that isn’t necessarily the easiest to remember, so when asked to draw a Galagat type ship for example, the back of the card could easily say “Galagat” on its back so we knew what deck to draw from more easily.
Now, Overall the production quality of P:ER is much better than Space Empires 4x, but in some ways it nevertheless brought up a small sour reminder of something that turned me off with SPACE EMPIRES 4X, namely with the small cardboard punch outs, which are a tad on the small side, and sometimes difficult to stack and/or see. Not a huge deal in this case, as there are not nearly as many of these tokens in use at one time as there were with Space Empires, but it did stand out to me.
Lastly, the question that rears itself to me is that can Project : Eos Rise really be called a 4x? ( i.e., does it really contain Exploration, Extermination, Expansion and Exploitation in abundant capacity?).
I would make the case that it meets these criteria only with Extermination and Exploitation. Exploration and Expanse feel a bit limited and restricted, with Exploration (if it may be called that) only happening once per round/stage with a unique event that depends on what colored quadrant of the board you are in at the end of a round, or with Expansion perhaps only happening if and when you decide to make a mining station, which again, may not happen at all depending on your goals and play styles. So this is something to consider.
However, there is an Away Missions card deck that serves as an expansion and adds sufficient exploration. I did receive this with the review copy of Eos Rise I received, so am unsure if this is purchased separately or not, but if just addressing the base game without this expansion, then yes, I would say it only caters to 2/4 of the x’s. The Away Missions pack successfully makes it 3/4 x’s.
The bottom line is, even though we feel like Project : Eos Rise didn’t quite live up to two of the X’s, it nevertheless remained an enjoyable experience for my group. I certainly will not hesitate to bring this on my next overseas trip, because even though it may not present the bling and over-the-top nature of some of the other games I own, it remains valuable for being both one of the rare cooperative “4x” games that are out there as well as one that can easily fit in a small bag, which can be essential for gamers on the go.
It is quite recommended in these contexts, and while not quite the epitome of the 4x experience for me, it would nevertheless be one of the only options that perfectly fit the bill for small, cooperative strategy games.
Final Score : 7.9 / 10
After reading Jazz’s review, if this sounds like a game for you at the time of this posting Project EOS Rise Is available for purchase. (And currently on sale as well!) Check it out and get yours HERE.
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Jazz Paladin- Reviewer
Jazz Paladin is an eccentric at heart — When he is not learning to make exotic new foods at home, such as Queso Fresco cheese and Oaxacan molé, he is busy collecting vintage saxophones, harps, and other music-related paraphernalia. An avid music enthusiast, when he is not pining over the latest board games that are yet-to-be-released, his is probably hard at work making jazzy renditions of classic/retro video game music tunes as Jazz Paladin on Spotify and other digital music services.