Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 14+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 60 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Worker Placement & Area Control
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- All alien technology is worth fighting for
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
When the aliens came, none could stand against them. We fought back, and for a time, it seemed like all was lost. Then, one day, they left. All that remained was a broken planet and too few of the human race. But from the ashes, new factions arose. The land might be burning, but so were the hearts of those who wanted to survive and survival meant controlling that which almost killed us all.
Gnosis Conflict, designed by Anthony Gallo and to be published by Hitmouse Productions, will reportedly be comprised of 32 Unit cards, 4 Faction Ability cards, 42 Enhancement cards, 32 Unit tokens, 20 Mine tokens, 30 Damage/Respawn tokens, 7 Tech tokens 8 Grenade tokens, 7 Mitosis tokens, 4 RC Car Bomb tokens, 1 Drone token, 20 generic counters, 3 Salvage tokens, 6 Salvage Bonus tokens, 12 Faction tokens, 1 standard ten-sided die, 1 Combat tracker, and 16 Terrain plates (12 double-sided environmental pieces and 4 faction/cloning facilities). As this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the component quality. The provided artwork and illustrations by Tom Kirrane Martinez, and Erin Rosenzweig keep the game firmly planted in the thematic dystopian future.
There are 3 different ways to play Gnosis Conflict (although I’m sure creative people could come up with a few more). The way the game is played will determine the overall objective and influence how the game is set up. Before you begin, players must collectively decide what type of game they want to play.
- King of the Hill: Players gain points for controlling certain locations at the end of each round. The first player to obtain a specific number of points wins the game.
- Arena: Players battle it out in a confined space, earning points each time they remove an opponent’s piece from the game. The first player to remove a specific number of opponent pieces wins.
- Capture the Flag: Scattered about the landscape are specific pieces of Salvage that must be picked up and returned to the player’s faction facility. The first to capture and control 4 Salvage tokens wins the game.
Each game type emphasis a specific type of game play. King of the Hill centers around area control, Arena challenges a player take risks while maneuvering, and Capture the Flag puts a great deal of focus on strategic and tactical movement while the players run and gun.
After the game type has been decided, the game can be set up.
Barren and Broken
After the game type has been decided, all that remains is setting up the game for play. First, let each player select a faction. Factions determine not only the Units the player will use during the game, but also suggests specific tactics and strategies that should be used. Each Faction card also lists a special faction ability that gives the player a slight upper hand, but never enough to turn the tide of war. Hand to the player their selected Faction card and all the Unit cards that belong to that faction.
While each faction is different, they share the same types of stats.
- Unit Cost: The total number of points the Unit is worth. This value is used when building an army.
- Hit Points (HP), Defense, and Armor: The most important stats in the game when it comes to combat. HP determines how many hits the unit can take before they fall, Defense determines how hard the Unit is to hit, and Armor reduces any damage taken by half.
- Accuracy and Movement: Accuracy is a bonus to hit an enemy target and Movement determines how quickly the unit can traverse the terrain.
- Respawn: In the future, death isn’t permanent, but it’s still a pain in the butt. A unit’s respawn value determines how many rounds it must sit out when it’s taken down. Once the number of rounds has passed, they can jump back into the battle.
- Unit Abilities: Each unit has unique stats that sets them apart. The Abilities section of a unit lists the specific attacks used, special bonuses, and additional abilities.
Second, and after each player has been given all their cards, each player decides how they want to build their army. Each player, by default, will have an army comprised of units that have a total unit cost of 8 points.
Third, create an Enhancement deck of at least 5 cards. Specific faction cards can be used or generic cards (non-faction specific). Players should take their time here. A hastily built Enhancement deck won’t do the player any good on the battlefield. After the decks are created, they are shuffled and placed face-down. Each player draws 1 card by default, but some units allow the player to draw additional Enhancement cards right from the start.
Fourth, each player rolls the die to determine who will go first. The Terrain plates are shuffled and the first player randomly deals out a specific number to each player. The number dealt is determined by the number of players. For example, each player is dealt 4 Terrain plates in a 2-player game and each player is dealt 9 Terrain plates in a 4-player game. Starting with the first player, each person places 1 of their Terrain plates down to create a 2×2, 2×3, or 3×3 terrain pattern. A small number of terrain placement rules apply.
Fifth, each player (in turn order sequence) now places their Faction/Closing facility plate to the grid. This is the player’s starting point and base of operations. Then players place their Unit tokens on their base.
Sixth, set aside the remaining tokens into pools to make them easy to quickly grab and organize.
That’s it for game set up. Let the battle begin!
Eyes Open, Head Down, and Don’t Stop Shooting
Gnosis Conflict is played in rounds and turns with no set number of rounds per game. A typical player’s turn is summarized here.
Step 1: Activate a Unit
The player can activate any Unit they like as long as that specific Unit has not already been activated this round. The Unit card is tipped so as to visually signify that it has been activated. If the player has any Unit with a Respawn token on it, they remove 1 token at this time (the Unit is that much closer to being put back in the game).
Since each player builds their own army, it’s possible that one or more players will have fewer or greater Units. If the player has no more Units to activate during the round, they simply pass, but continue to remove Respawn tokens.
Step 2: Take Free Action
Some Units have a Free Action listed on them. If they do, they can be taken at this time.
Step 3: Move
The player can now move their Unit (if they want to). Movement is noted on the Unit card. The number value indicates the number of spaces the Unit token can be moved across the Terrain plate. Only 1 Unit can occupy a terrain space at a time, but friendly units can move through spaces occupied by other friendly units. Each player’s base is considered “1 space”.
Terrain is pockmarked with twisted metal and craters. Some terrain will cost the player more movement to get through and some terrain cannot be moved through at all. But, thanks to the damage, there is a lot of natural concealment, allowing Units to move across the battlefield with some protection, as well as finding spots that give them a tactical advantage in combat.
Step 4: Use Ability
The player now activates their Unit’s ability (again, if they want to) or interacts with the terrain space on which they currently are placed. Most of the time, this means the player attacks another opponent.
Attacks are made by rolling the die, adding bonuses, and then comparing the total to the target’s Defense rating. If the hit connects, the target takes damage minus the reduction of the total provided by their armor. Ranged combat allows the player to hit their opponent from a distance, but the target must be within range in order for the attack to be worthwhile.
If a Unit ever attempts to flee or moves away from another Unit with ranged attack, the attacker is awarded 1 free attack action, but only if it’s a ranged attack. Yes, in war, it’s perfectly OK to shoot an enemy in the back. Even more so when they are running away.
Step 5: Resolve Terrain
As combat continues, things will blow up. This means the Terrain plates will change. Changes are made as needed and tokens are shuffled about to help keep track of what dangers lay in the battlefield.
There are special tokens on the battlefield known as “Salvage”. These are the remains of alien technology that no one really understands but everyone wants to get their hands on. When a player controls it, a random effect will occur. Possible outcomes include a giant explosion to sudden and irreversible mutations that increase the Unit’s overall ability to kick ass, but only as long as they stay with the Salvage token.
This completes the player’s turn. The next player now takes their turn. The round ends when all players have activated their units. At the end of the round, all players reset their Units to active.
Death, Dying, and Respawning Over and Over Again
In the future, each soldier is a clone of a clone of a clone. There is no end to the number of forces the player can send into the battlefield, but creating soldiers takes time. When a Unit takes damage equal to or greater than their HP, they Unit token is flipped over to reveal the mess that remains. A Respawn token is then placed on the Unit card. Before they can be brought back into play, the Respawn token must be removed, which counts as 1 Activation without actually activating the Unit for that turn.
Once the Unit is respawned, the token is taken from the Terrain plate and placed on the player’s base. The Unit is now free to enter combat again.
A player can avoid losing their Units by returning them to their base. While located on their base Terrain plate, they can heal a Unit. It’s also necessary to return to the player’s base to defend it.
Victory Over All
The game continues until the victory condition has been met. The victory condition is determined by the game type agreed upon by the players before the Terrain plates were placed and armies built.
The Child Geeks had no problem learning how to play the game and jumped right in. Gnosis Conflict was designed to be a “war game for beginners”, but don’t let that fool you. What that really means is that the game introduced more and more complicated game play gradually and gave the players the ability to customize their gaming experience. This meant that the more skilled Child Geeks were able to play a very intense game of area control while the younger Child Geeks got to enjoy running around shooting at each other for giggles. According to one Child Geek, “I really like this game. The different factions are fun to play with – I like the mutants the best – and combat is really quick.” Quick and dirty. Players get hit a lot in this game, making the respawn ability tremendously popular. As one Child Geek put it, “If it weren’t for the respawn, I’d hate this game. As it is, I only mildly dislike it, but that’s not enough for me to not enjoy it.” When all the games were over, the Child Geeks all voted to approve Gnosis Conflict.
The Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game, finding it to be easy to learn and easy to modify. According to one Parent Geek, “I like how the rules are written and you can add different aspects of the game in and out as you like. It makes the game very easy to approach and to enjoy.” Another Parent Geek said, “One thing I hate about games that focus on combat is that they put so much on the player to continually consider. Not the case for this game. I can make it easy or I can make it hard. It’s like a video game setting.” The only thing the Parent Geeks didn’t like was lack of more factions and game types. They wanted to see team play, for example. However, none of them thought that lack of additional rules was a bad thing in the end. Enjoyed by their families and their friends, the Parent Geeks had no problem approving Gnosis Conflict.
The Gamer Geeks had a good time and the most popular quote of the gaming sessions comes from them, “The best part of this game is that it doesn’t suck.” The Gamer Geeks found the game open to a lot of new rules, tactics, strategies, and most importantly, kept them challenged. As one Gamer Geek put it, “Play with the right person and you’ll have one hell of a battle on your hands.” Another Gamer Geek said, “This game reminds me a bit of FRAG, but with a lot more intelligent game play behind it. I think it would do well with new players and old school veterans like myself.” The Gamer Geeks didn’t consider Gnosis Conflict a “big game”, by any means, but did consider it a game they would gladly play at their gaming tables. They praised Gnosis Conflict for making a complicated game easy to approach without dumbing it down.
I very much enjoy Wargames, but greatly dislike the amount of time it takes to learn how to play them well. There are lots of different ways to go about playing Wargames, and that makes it difficult to learn how best to approach different situations and scenarios if you don’t play the game a lot. I know players who do and they are no fun to play with. Like playing tackle football with a rhinoceros. Luckily, Gnosis Conflict is the type of Wargame that you can play once and pretty much know everything there is about it. Factions are well-balanced, what a player can and cannot do is limited to simple actions and cards, and the objective of the game is very clear. Heck, its’ the first thing you decide on at the very start! This makes everything, from army building to army commanding, a simple logical step in the game play. As a result, players never get lost. Frustrated, sure, since things can always go wrong, but that’s the nature of war.
I was very pleased to see that the game itself allowed players to go as deep as the liked with the game play. For example, Child Geeks often just ran across the terrain as quickly as possible, while Gamer Geeks ducked and moved between structures. Both types of game play, tactical and risky, were easily accommodated. A serious gamer found as much pleasure on their side of the table as the inexperienced player found on theirs. No small feat for a board game.
Thanks in part to the game’s light rules (and we didn’t cover all of them in this review), the game is ripe for deeper rule sets, but not up to new interpretation. One of the real strengths of the game is the way the rules are written. They are very clear about what can and cannot happen. This sets a standard which can be very limiting, but in this case, does nothing more than create a very clear view how the game is played. Whenever we came across a situation where the rules didn’t cover it exactly, there was enough rules to make a fair decision that everyone agreed with. I would be very surprised if owners of this game don’t have a small notebook of House Rules because the game is very easy to modify to personal specifications.
There are a lot of Wargames out there to play, but few offer players an experience that caters to beginners and experts. Gnosis Conflict is the type of Wargame you can grow with. Introduce more complicated rules, invent your own, and create new factions to command. The game is light, but plays deep. If you enjoy Wargames, you’ll find Gnosis Conflict to be a solid addition for lighter plays and if you want to learn how to play Wargames, Gnosis Conflict is an excellent first experience. Do play this game when time permits.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.