Hands On: Entropy Preview

 

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Greetings faithful readers. Boy, do I have a saucy hands-on preview to share with you today! Fresh from their triumphant debut release, Rise to Power, the dynamic duo from Rule and Make have wasted little time and already have their follow up game primed for a lively Kickstarter campaign. Entropy is Allen Chang and Alistair Kearney’s latest card game creation and holy-cardboard-crack is it a doozy! Once again I had the privilege of sitting down with Allen to sample his latest prototype. Herein lie my impressions:

Initial Impressions

Cataclysm! Four parallel worlds have collided and fragmented. The pieces are now floating about randomly (in a shuffled deck) and it is up to the player to find his/her world shards and reassemble his/her reality before it disappears forever! Well I guess those are pretty high stakes but, thankfully, Armageddon can be avoided in a mere 10-20 minutes by defeating your buddies in a game of Entropy. Hooray!

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That’s a sweet looking deck of cards!

 

It is immediately apparent that this game is streamlined and elegant. It is a fuel-efficient, zero-emission, carbon-fibre encased hybrid and the masses have been invited to take it for a ride. The entire product comes in a poker-sized deck of colourful cards, is easy to set up and very easy on the eye! Dear readers, I can confidently report that Allen’s prototype has all the hallmarks of a quality product made by professionals with a new-found confidence and swagger.

Artwork and Gameworld

Entropy already features a fully complete set of artwork by Mike Yakovlev, an up-and-coming artist with an impressive looking catalogue of contributions to video, games and music. The art style is inspired by classical science-fiction genres (In particular I was reminded of the fanciful and gritty Dune franchise). Bold compositions and an attention to detail are the characteristics of a set of illustrations that emphasise the idiosyncrasies of the various stricken realms. I particularly liked the ‘panoramas’—that pink crystal world is psychedelic man!

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Ooooh. Shiny!

With Entropy, Rule and Make have again exhibited an infectious brand of creativity. In fact, the final product promises to be something of a multimedia experience featuring a full-length novella by Leith Vance and even a soundtrack with music composed by Tristan Mathis. You, dear reader, have to admit that this expansive commitment to content creation is bloody brilliant! Typically it’s mainstream media behemoths such as films and video games that spawn spin-off tabletop products. But, with the advent of Kickstarter, small developers like Rule and Make have turned the tables and are now offering up delightful and unique ‘stretch goals’ for you and I, the noble and deserving gaming consumer to enjoy!

Brief Rules Description

This game is simple! This game is fast! This game is fun! At the beginning of each round, each player selects from one of 5 hidden action cards. The actions are then revealed simultaneously. If a player’s action is the same as an opponent’s then they ‘clash’ and cancel each other out. However if an action doesn’t clash then it ‘resolves’ in an order according to a set order of priority. Each round ends after 4 actions have been played. Easy!

Ok, ok, there’s a bit more. The goal in playing these actions is to assemble your specific panorama that is made up of 4 fragment cards. Once a player has found a fragment they can ‘lock’ it in. You must choose from your small assortment of actions to successfully lock in a fragment which is then placed ‘face-up’ to the right of your character card. Fragments that you control but haven’t locked in are turned ‘face-down’ to the left of your character card. Players must hunt down the right fragments from these face-down cards, the discard pile and the central randomised deck dubbed, ‘The Nexus’. If it sounds complicated don’t stress. Just do what the action card says man; you’ll get it in a jiffy!

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Action cards! Numbers indicate priority.

 

Test Game

As part of the demonstration I participated in a 4-player game with 2 buddies from my playgroup (Nick and Cristian) and Tristan (the game’s aforementioned, illustrious soundtrack composer). We each selected a character and prepared to battle for homeworld ascendancy with Allen acting as the neutral observer. My character was ‘Kintriel,’ who had a special action card called ‘Militant’.

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Occupation: Ultimate Badass!

 

Round 1

Each player started with a ‘shrouded fragment’ (face-down) to the left of their character cards. I checked my secret fragment and saw that it belonged to Tristan’s homeworld.

I needed to start looking for my fragments so I used my ‘Beacon’ card to reveal Cristian’s shrouded fragment (to see if it belonged to me). Unfortunately it was a ‘Wild Card’ (it can substitute as a fragment for any player). Cristian gleefully placed the Wild Card to the right of his character card and ‘locked it in.’ (The win condition is to be the first to assemble 4 homeworld fragments in the locked zone).

After that setback, Cristian and I battled to fish out fragments from the discard pile using our ‘Eye of the Storm’ cards. Meanwhile Tristan managed to flip 2 of his fragments in one go! After the end of round 1 the score was Tristan 2, Cristian 2, Nick 1 and me 1.

Round 2

Round 2 began with a stroke of luck for Tristan as one of his fragments was flipped over as the starting card in the discard pile. In a state of alarm, the rest of us colluded to figure out how to prevent Tristan from grabbing the crucial piece. Tristan first attempted to grab the fragment with Eye of the Storm. I anticipated this and played my own Eye to cancel it out. Tristan then played his special character card, ‘Deceptive’, which allowed him to copy an action card already played this round (the cancelled Eye of the Storm). Cristian correctly guessed Tristan’s plan and played his own special ability to clash with Tristan’s play again (much to his annoyance).

Although Cristian, Nick and I were pleased with our devious scheming, the schadenfreude was short lived. Nick accidentally clashed with Tristan’s harmless Beacon card which triggered a ‘poor-me’ game rule. If 3 of your actions are blocked in a round then you automatically get to search the Nexus for one of your fragments and lock it in. Tristan grabbed the Nexus but, unfortunately for him, his last remaining fragment was not in the deck (if you recall it was my starting shrouded fragment)!

After a frenetic round of blocking and swapping, the scores remained the same.

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Left to right: Cristian, Tristan and Nick vie for dominance

 

 

Round 3

Tristan knew that one of his precious fragments had to be face-down in one of the other players’ zones. Using guesswork and elimination he decided that it had to be in Nick’s zone. He used the Telekinesis action to swap Nick’s shrouded fragment with one his own. Except Tristan had guessed wrong! His missing fragment was still under my control!

Tristan then used the Deceptive action to copy the spent Telekinesis action. Convinced that Nick was the guilty party he swapped for Nick’s other face-down fragment. Needless to say, his efforts were in vain. I must admit it was difficult to suppress an evil cackle at that point! Scores after Round 3: Tristan 2, Nick 2, Cristian 2 and me 1.

Round 4

Although on paper I was coming last, I had quietly assembled 2 of my fragments in my shrouded zone. I plucked a card off the nexus; a Wild card! All I needed to do was play Beacon on myself to reveal 3 fragments at once and win the game on the spot. I had to move quickly and tried to sneak in my Beacon (after Cristian and Tristan had already played theirs earlier in the round). Alas! Nick unwittingly foiled my game winning play by blocking my Beacon with his! Scores after Round 4: Nick 3, Tristan 2, Cristian 2 and me 2.

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Action cards (Vertical means it was cancelled due to a clash). Note the shrouded fragments. It’s a mystery!

 

Round 5

At this point the Nexus had been depleted to nothing. All the fragments were in play, either locked in or shrouded. With Nick in the lead we had to tread carefully to prevent him from winning. He tried to play Beacon on himself but Tristan blocked it with his own. With play deadlocked, Cristian had to play his own Beacon and decided to reveal one of Nick’s face-down cards (he was convinced it belonged to him). Once again the gambit failed (Nick’s secret cards are never what you thing they are)! The revealed card was a Wild, of course. Nick locked it in completing his set of 4 to win the game!

Conclusion

I enjoyed Entropy. It was fun to learn and entertaining to play. The emphasis on interactivity and fast-paced action really works here and I’m sure this game will find a diverse and enthusiastic audience. I encourage you, dear reader, to jump on this Kickstarter train and ride it all the way to gaming nirvana. Not only will you be supporting our own talented Aussie game design scene but you’ll be the proud owner of a wicked little card game that will provide hours of fun for you and your buddies. Check it out!

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Thanks to Allen for demo. Back his cool game readers!!

 

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