I got the game, learned it, and played it the same day. Then again later that day. Then again later that day. Then three times the next day. And twice the day after that.
Theme and What is it?
Players work to build up the first continent in the way that will reward them the most. Water tiles, desert tiles, and grassland tiles will get placed onto the growing mass. Mountains spring up on all forms of land tiles. Forests crop up in grasslands or on mountainous desert tiles.
And animals! Oh the variety of animals that can begin to populate the land, sea, and everything in between. There are 14 different animals all with their own specific habitat requirements. Some require grasslands, deserts, ocean, mountains, or forests to be on their location.
Animals also usually are placed away from other animals. Unless the habitats are so crammed with life that they have to coexist. Or coexist for as long as it takes a predator card to get used and gobble up some of the other life on the continent.
Each turn, the harbinger (current first player) draws an element tile out of a bag and everyone either places one of their cubes on a matching element in their card tableau or spins their player aid card.
If anyone finishes covering all the elements on a card, they call “Ecos!” in true bingo style to let the other players know they will be changing the environment. Then in player order from the harbinger all ecos effects are executed and changes are made.
Most cards add new things to the expanding environment with down red arrows. But some cards with a red border strip instead allow for removing parts of the environment or allow predators to munch on their fellow wildlife.
Spinning the player aid instead of using cards in front of them is how players get more resource cubes to work with and is a primary way that new cards get played. When a wild element tile is drawn all of the use of it is executed then the tiles are placed back into the bag and the harbinger changes to the next player.
Ecos has a simple but elegant look in the pieces. It has an engine building feel with the tension of all players having unique cards but sharing the same central board. The central board determines how so much of the engine building is rewarded and everyone has an equal chance to contribute or ruin things for the other players.
It is important to pay attention to each card others play that has variable scoring for the board state so that you disrupt when you can and don’t accidentally help that much.
Game Build Quality
I have never had a problem with an AEG game before. But this time I have to admit I had a problem with one of the coolest parts of the game. Ecos comes with some assembly required on its amazing storage containers for sorted animal tiles and for the tracking cubes.
They are excellent in concept and when working properly. But my copy came with a production error not cutting deep enough grooves for the pieces to slot together.
In the above image you can see the correct width of a cut on the left and the score mark that didn’t get cut all the way on the right. The cardboard that is supposed to slide into the gap is propped in the background so you can see how impossible it would be currently.
I had to do a thing that still makes me cringe just thinking about it. I took a razor blade to it to cut along the score mark and extend the gaps. Some of it went well but some of it tore off or was bent from my initial attempts to assemble before I realized how bad it was.
There will be an addition to this review in the future! I sent in a customer service request to see if they would replace the damaged components since they were nonfunctional to start with. I did not mention that I was a reviewer to do anything that might bias them towards an uncharacteristic handling of the request.
We will see how long it takes to get a response and hopefully free replacements. I will update when I get further information! It isn’t every day we get to test and review customer service but I expect it to turn out well.
EDIT: It took just under 2 weeks, but customer service has responded to my request for replacement parts. They are replacing the assembled parts for me at no charge. There have been a lot of comments from others with the game and so far no one else has had a problem with pieces being cut poorly. This is a really good sign since you can expect to have no problems with your copy.
If you do end up being in the vast minority with me, it will take a few weeks but get fixed. I am pleased with my customer service experience. Especially since the game has been completely functional in the time lapse. I have had far less responsiveness with far greater issues from other companies before.
Ecos has great animal imagery and clearly distinguishable element tiles. The only question we have is what are some better ways to call the element images. The sun, water, grass, rosemary sprig, antelope, and wild are all clear. But some of the players have taken to calling the circular images a single boob or a Total Recall triple boob. Caviar eggs and a target perhaps? Up for suggestions on better names that will stick.
Ecos has a fast paced action most of the game as we draw elements and make fast decisions based on what element we pulled. Occasionally an ecos call will result in gaining more resources that will cascade into finishing other cards or playing cards mid turn with even more elements to place. These can be mildly crunchy but only serve to satisfy the serious strategy gamers. More casual players will not find it hard to do something satisfying without the need to over analyze. It falls into my perfect storm of simplicity vs strategery. Yes, I said strategery. It is that kind of day.
Age Range & Weight
14+ is being overly cautious. I think 12 would be more accurate to other games age ratings. There are a few things for players to learn about where tiles and tokens can be placed and the vocabulary necessary. Understanding that adjacent means next to OR occupying the same tile is an important concept. A habitat is any region that continues to be connected by chaining adjacency. It is not very difficult overall.
Ecos: First Continent got a lot of buzz before and during Essen Spiel 2019. I looked up the basics of the mechanics and pieces on BGG to see how excited I should be. Several of my friends were really excited and my wife was all in on it. I didn’t readily see the appeal. It didn’t look bad but didn’t stand out as a game of the year kind of material. I was the only one that didn’t watch a playthrough video when checking my interest.
I got the game, learned it, and played it the same day. Then again later that day. Then again later that day. Then three times the next day. And twice the day after that. Not a game day has gone by without playing it at least once. And it will be probably around 100 plays before I start to veto playing it each gameday.
I cannot give a stronger recommendation than that. There are a lot of games I truly enjoy playing that come out 2-3 times at first then once a month or less afterwords. This is accessible enough and offers enough gameplay to all types of players that it can get played into the ground. Buy this. Buy it NOW.
There’s a lot of reasons not to leave your house right now.......
Ecos: First Continent - Alderac Entertainment Group - Review
If anyone finishes covering all the elements on a card, they call "Ecos!" in true bingo style to let the other players know they will be changing the environment. Then in player order from the harbinger all ecos effects are executed and changes are made.