Gnome Tribes Playtest Report

So a few weeks ago these two games from Tilsit show up at the store. Most of the Tilsit games I’ve seen are longish strategy games, up to 5 hours in average play time, and many of them hue pretty closely to the conquest mold: you have a big map of territories, you have units that travel across them and kick each other’s asses, et cetera. I’ve been calling this kind of game “Risk-like” just so people know what I’m talking about, although few of them are like Risk. One of the two games I had my eye on was Space Pigs, which actually looks not very Risk-like at all. It looks more like Starfarers or Cosmic Encounter. It does involve hunting for the secret recipe for beer, however, so it might be worth a look. The other was Gnome Tribes – more directly Risk-like, which is what I’m into right now, and cheaper, so it came home with me.

If anyone from Tilsit is reading, here’s a little tip for y’all: hire a native English speaker to edit your English rules. There are so many vaguenesses and confusing phrasings in this game that they finally accumulated to the point where we had to stop. It’s a real shame, because we were having a good time and the game is definitely promising. But we were convinced that the game would go for four hours, rather than the 2 hours advertised, the way we were playing – and that while we were having a decent time, that kind of length is more than the game as it was going could support. Trouble is, the game doesn’t end until four turns after the last card is drawn (at which point you randomly determine the win conditions – awesome!), and there are so many costs and obstacles to making a successful card draw that consuming the deck was taking forever. Once everyone has a few cards, it makes more sense to try and steal them from each other instead. We couldn’t find anything in the rules that clearly stated that weapon cards and bonus cards were one use only – or indeed, that clearly stated how exactly you’re supposed to use them. We figure the game will be much more fun once we try it with single-use weapons. There are also errors: the first page of rules tells you that two fives, one 1, and three zeroes add up to 15. “Maybe gnomes count funny!” was the enthusiastic response in our play group.

So, again, it’s a decently fun game that shipped broken, and invites hacking. Publishers, listen up: shipping a game with major problems really only works when it’s a PC game and people can download patches. Okay?