Friday, 27 May 2011


Plays: 2Px2

I referred to Gheos as triangular Carcassonne when I spoke to my wife Michelle, because of the tile laying aspect. However these two are very different games. In fact, she got confused when I said triangular Carcassonne. She remembers Gheos as the "Epoch game". So now I feel stupid for associating Gheos with Carcassonne.

The Game

Box cover - "I'd move mountains for you".

In Gheos, players are gods creating and shaping continents. They create civilisations, which in turn worship them and give them glory (a.k.a. victory points). As continents merge, civilisations meet and fight; as continents split, civilisations migrate to wherever has more farmland.

Players do not control or own any civilisation, and only invests in them by having followers in them. The number of followers you have greatly affects scoring. There are only 5 followers for each of the 6 civilisations, so you need to be quick in grabbing them.

On your turn, you pick one tile to place from your hand size of two. The tile can be placed to extend the map, or it can replace an existing tile. Unlike Carcassonne, here, all 3 sides are land sides, so all tiles can fit anywhere. The difference between the tiles are in how the land sections are divided by seas, and the distribution of the various icons. If you replace a tile, you can cause war (one civilisation exterminating another) or migration (one civilisation's continent shrinking or changing). These effects can be huge, and you must sacrifice one follower to do these.

Start tile, cubes (followers / worshippers), discs (civilisation markers), and victory points.

There are 3 ways of scoring points.

  1. When you place a tile with a temple, you score points based on matching icons on the same continent.
  2. When an Epoch tile is drawn, everyone's followers score for them based on pyramids in the followers' civilisations. Having access to pyramids is something you need to be constantly aware of, because you don't know when an Epoch tile will be drawn. Up to 8 Epoch tiles will be scored, depending on the number of players.
  3. When you decide to play one of your three wealth scoring chips. Your followers score based on wealth icons in their civilisations. This is something under your control, and you have to decide what the best timing is. Do you wait for "your" civilisations to get richer so that you'll score more? Do you score now before these civilisations get split up by other players, or get completely destroyed by another civilisation?

The game ends when a certain number of Epoch tiles have been drawn. Highest score wins.

Early game. The coloured disks mark the civilisations. That tile with a star is the starting tile.

The Play

I played some two-player games against Michelle. It struck me that this is very much a stock holding game like many train games. In Gheos you don't own any of the 6 civilisations, and instead you own followers in those civilisations, which is basically how you "invest" in these civilisations. If you have more followers in a civilisation than others, you want it to do well. You make it conquer other civilisations, you try to add pyramids and wealth to it, you try to protect it from nasty actions by other players. So, indirectly it is "your" civilisation, but you have to remember when you grow this civilisation you are also helping others who have a stake in it. Every turn you have the choice to pick one follower for free, and you have to pick wisely.

Comparing this and the next photo will show how the game state can change.

Red, green and blue civilisations have not changed much. Yellow has been split up, and the people has migrated to the northern half which has more grain. Black has grown tremendously, taking over some of the pyramids that used to be owned by Yellow. White has shrunk a lot too. It used to be militarily strong (4 swords compared to 1 sword of Black). If I remember correctly it too was split up, and then the shunned half was gobbled up by Black.

During our games we were constantly looking for opportunities for clever moves to help or hinder the civilisations. Since we had two tiles in hand, there was more flexibility and it was possible to plan for longer term, e.g. holding a good tile to be played at a more opportune time. In the first game we found that the wealth scoring chips seemed to be much more powerful than the other ways of scoring. In the second game, after we had learned some tricks, we were able to better prevent each other from making such big scoring actions. Still, wealth scoring is probably the most important scoring compared to the others. It is important to build up for it and time it well.

Bluffing came into play in our game. There was one humble red civilisation that Michelle started but never bothered to nurture or to gain more followers in. I thought she must have given up on it, and never bothered with it. Later to my surprise she suddenly made some big moves to strengthen that civilisation and also quickly picked up more followers. She had been planning to do this all along.

Pyramids (used for Epoch scoring) have an important feature - tiles with Pyramids cannot be replaced. So they form a kind of protection for some civilisations, and at the same time can restrict a civilisation which wants to expand. This is interesting. It provides some stability amidst the chaos of crazy gods shifting earth willy-nilly.

Both games were quite close. Coincidentally I won both at 99pts.

The Thoughts

Gheos was a pleasant surprise. It looks simple, but it has many possibilities for smart moves. The board situation is ever changing, and you do see the rise and fall of civilisations over just a few quick turns of placing and replacing tiles. It can get nasty, e.g. when "your" mightly civilisation is suddenly split and the inhabitants move to a smaller continent, and then they are subsequently wiped out by another civilisation which now has more military might.

Timing your scoring is very important. You need to gauge when the best time is to use your three wealth scoring chips. There can be much tension especially towards end game. You don't know exactly when the game will end (it depends on when the last Epoch tile is drawn), so if you still have wealth scoring chips, you better use them up before it's too late. Often you are forced to prioritise - there are multiple civilisations that you want to grow or to destroy, there are both offensive and defensive moves that you'd like to make. Juicy decisions.

There is luck in the tile draw. Sometimes you have the perfect plan in mind and you are just waiting for the right tile to turn up. Despite the luck element, I find that you still have many options in the game and many opportunities for clever play.

The game is quite quick and simple, but it has the feeling of an investment game - you decide which civilisations you want to invest in, and then you help them to grow. You need to be aware of where the interests of the other players are, and you need to be aware of everyone's "stock holdings". This reminds me of Chicago Express, but I think I prefer Gheos more, because there is some randomness in the tile draws. Chicage Express is a perfect information game with no randomness (other than crazy players). In Gheos you have crazy gods saying to man "Oops" or "Sorry man, nothing personal".

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