Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gheos - Every 100 Games Series

My 2,600th game played since March of 2006 was Gheos and so it gets the honor, or maybe just the bad luck, of being a review of mine. I first played Gheos several years ago, enjoyed it, but never played it again. Then at GenCon 2010 I was able to trade an unplayed copy of Hunting Party for it and since then I’ve played it about a dozen times. I really like it!

Game Summary
The easiest way for me to describe Gheos to a gamer would be if took Acquire and Carcassonne, squished them together, threw in just a pinch of meanness, then you’d have Gheos. In it you are playing the roles of gods creating land masses, starting civilizations, getting followers in those civilizations and then using war and immigration to destroy and move those civilizations. You have 3 scoring chips that you can use throughout the game to score points, there are epoch tiles that get pulled from the bag which also score points, and you can also score points by placing certain tiles. The game then ends when either all players have used all their scoring chips or the last epoch tile has been drawn. There is one final scoring after that and the person with the most points takes the victory.

The Three Things I Like Most About This Game
First, it is really mean. You can cause a war or immigration and completely wipe out your opponents followers. People tend to get attached for some reason to the civilizations they start and then when you come in and destroy their puny followers, sometimes even from two different civilizations, it causes them to weep in anguish. Okay, maybe it isn’t all that bad, but it makes for some great fun when you place the tile that causes the red civilization to get destroyed and pay to do it with a red follower.

Second, the stock aspect of the game gives me enjoyment. The very limited amount of 5 followers per civilization makes each follower extremely important. Put that along with only being able to get one follower a turn, unless you are able to start a great civilization with lots of wheat symbols and it makes them even more important. Trying to diversify yourself, so that you won’t lose everything should a war or immigration not go your way, but also trying to be hand in hand with your opponents so that they won’t hurt you provides some great tension.

Third, the push your luck aspect of the epoch tiles adds tension to the game. You never know when they will come out and all 8 in a four player game could potentially come out in a row, so trying to balance using your 3 scoring chips for the most points possible becomes very important. It is horrible to use them too early and only score 5 or 6 points per chip, but it is even worse not to get the chance to use them at all, because the last epoch tile comes out. This is even more magnified since you can only use 1 scoring chip per turn.

Final Thoughts
Gheos has a permanent place in my game collection. Partially because it fits that niche between Acquire and Carcassonne as a tile laying and stock game that no other game I own does and partially because of the absolute meanness of the game. That meanness though is something you should be careful about if you are trying to pick this up on the secondary market (I don’t think it is in print right now) for a friendly game. So for that reason this might be a better game for your game group than it will be for your family gathering. Gheos is one of my top 25 favorite games of all time, which at the writing of this review, is saying something since I’ve played over 475 games. So, if you haven’t yet, be sure to go out and give this game a try if you can find it.

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