Review By: Chris Globus
I really wanted to like this game more than I did. The presentation is excellent, with a small box with a magnet closure, great box art, solid components, and evocative card art. It has familiar mechanics and fast game play. The theme is of assembling mercenary Crews to complete Contracts. Unfortunately, it fell flat.
During setup, each player gets three Contract cards. Each Contract has a victory point value, from one hundred to eight hundred, at the bottom, and the required number and colors of Character cards to complete it, of which there are five. The player chooses between one and three of these initial contracts to fulfill, and the remainder are returned to the box. The first player is the player who dealt, and I always like to see new ways in which a first player is chosen, rather than the standard random choice via die roll (The first player token is wooden with engraved art).
The game works through a drafting mechanic. Each player has a hand of fifteen cards, out of which they choose two to add to their Crew face-down, setting their remaining hand aside to be passed later. Alternatively, a player can draw two Contracts from that deck and keep one, rather than playing Crew members from their hand.
The player selects one of their Crew, including previously played Crew members, to perform the action listed on the card in turn order. These actions range from swapping Crew with other players, Wounding Crew, preventing Crew from being Wounded, and so on.
After all actions are complete, if a Contract can be completed by a player, they reveal the Crew in their Crew area required, gather those Crew and the Contract, and set them aside, out of play until scoring.
The players then pass their hand and the first player token to the left, and play continues (There are Crew actions that can reverse passing direction). You continue this way until at least one player has one or zero cards left to pass. Play ends that round. Add up your contract points, subtract half the point of any uncompleted contracts, and you have your winner.
The card art is a Steampunk/Magic mashup, which works, despite the disparate elements. Those familiar with anime may notice the three-word cadence in the title of the game, which is common in anime, and that styling may be what pulls this all together. The Contracts have evocative titles with the same wonderful art to match. There is also a unique symbol for each color, making it more inclusive for colorblind players.
In the box, there is a carboard folding stand to hold the Contracts. Maybe this was a Kickstarter stretch goal, but it wasn’t mentioned at all in the rules, and it wasn’t clear what to do with it.
A more serious issue rests in the clarity of certain rules. When you play your Crew member’s action, as noted above, you reveal your card, and afterword the chosen card is placed face down again. Certain Crew actions can cause a Crew member to be turned face up. What is unclear is what happens to a Crew member who is in a face up state and then chosen. The rules have direct opposition to each other on this point.
The most serious issue is that I never felt invested. I didn’t care, and I didn’t particularly feel like I was assembling a mercenary squad, I was just playing cards.
This isn’t a bad game, other than that rule issue. It’s just not a great game. It hovers between filler and time killer. It looks better than many games in that category, and if you need something for that space in your collection, it’s worth a look. It plays quickly, is safe for work, and the mechanics are easy to grasp for new players. For me, with an established collection, this is a Pass. It just isn’t strong enough to replace something else
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