Eko – Dude Games – Review

"It’s a tactical game that is surprisingly deep and every move can make a huge difference to how the game plays out"

Theme and What is it?

For such an abstract game, Eko has a very sad and foreboding story line. The Emperor Eko has passed away after several lifetimes and baring 4 children. Upon his death the children become greedy and try to conquer the planet to become the new Emperor. Eko’s spirit is infuriated and curses the children to wage war for all eternity fighting the same battles over and over without there ever being a winner

This is where we take up the mantle of one of the children of Eko and wage war across the desert waste land of millennia of war.

Gameplay Mechanics

Eko uses a disc system to represent the units and Emperor pieces on the board. The discs are randomly scattered across the player board at the beginning of the game making every game feel completely different. This makes a refreshing change from the current mini obsession going around thanks to the likes of Kickstarter.

Players then have a couple of options: move/attack or construct. Each tile can stack on top of each other making the stack of tiles stronger up to a maximum of 4 tiles. These stacks then move around the board either fighting enemies or disassembling to become the foundation of construction. 

You can build houses, towers or castles depending on the area you are building on or how many tiles you have to use to build. Example: sacrifice 1 tile to build a house, then sacrifice 2 tiles to replace the house with a tower etc.

However, as you build and conquer the other children of Eko are trying to do the same by replacing your buildings with their own and killing wherever possible.

The first player to reach 12 points through building or capturing an opponent’s emperor wins. Oh, you can also win by wiping out all of the other opponent’s tiles… in a 2-player game that can be pretty manageable… in a 3 or 4 player game it can be a bit more challenging.  

Initial Impressions

The story line I penned out above really has nothing to do with the game. Tt really just gives the box some flavour and some justification to the art work. The game itself is a very abstract design and could probably have had any kind of scenario pinned to it. I didn’t find myself getting swept away with the mythos while playing the game.

However, thankfully the storyline doesn’t dictate the gameplay, as soon as you take your first action you understand exactly what you have to do to win… getting there is a different story. In a 2-player game it can be like playing cat and mouse trying to over power and out build the opponent… but around the corner there could be a single disc waiting to sacrifice itself and throwing itself at your overpowered stack of 4 discs including your emperor meaning you’ve lost your most powerful piece and a powerful stack.

Those kinds of plays can make or break your game and it can be bitter sweet… Sweet for the player that just handed out a beating… bitter for the player who just realised they were now way behind.

This could turn some players off as the “combat” aspect of this game is thick and unavoidable. You have to be prepared to confront the enemy head on while still focusing on building up your empire. It’s a balancing act.

Game Build Quality

The discs that represent the armies and emperors feel nice and heavy and the art variation for each faction works really well. 

The different buildings are a nice touch too. They almost feel Japanese in nature but just unique enough to feel alien.

The game board tiles are very well done with all the varying hex types to depict different area’s across the board. The designers also provided a few different shaped tiles to mix things up for future games which probably wasn’t required but very much appreciated.

There isn’t anything specifically special about the player boards but they show everything you need to know and each Child of Eko is represented beautiful with their own art. Not strictly necessary for such an abstract game. 

Artistic Direction

Luky (Lucy Mazel) has taken, what is, a fairly bleak story line and made it beautiful with her interpretation of the planet and the emperor’s children who fight over it. Each Child of Eko has its own design represented on the player board and for all it might not change the way the faction fights it does add a bit of flavour.

Heck I even like the text font… how often do you say that about board game art?

Fun Factor

I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun this game was. At first glance, the abstract nature of the game and the fairly plain look of the pieces would normally turn me away from a game like this. However, a couple of turns in and I realised this was something a bit different. 

It’s a tactical game that is surprisingly deep and every move can make a huge difference to how the game plays out. I was feeling all high and mighty about capturing my opponents Emperor but all I did was make them super aggressive and forced them with every turn. I found myself struggling to build as I was constantly trying to build up stacks to defend the onslaught.

I could see this game playing out in multiple ways but you have to be prepared to face defeat as one wrong move will lose you the planet. 

Age Range & Weight

The game is advertised for 10+ and I would agree. This may seem like a simple game at first glance and when first explaining it but it can take a lot of concentration that some younger kids might not have. Don’t get me wrong, if you have kids that will sit and strategizes as much as an adult then please give it a go. I’m sure they’ll love it. 

Conclusions

Eko is a surprisingly rich and tactical game. Seemingly simple actions turn into an epic power struggle that could be fought to the last unit (disc). “Discs”, this could be a deal breaker for some. The armies are represented in an abstract format using discs instead of the more popular mini’s or some other lump of plastic that’s become the norm these days. I personally don’t mind it and find the discs quite fun to use but I can see it from both perspectives.

This is also a very “combat” heavy game. I’m trying to use the term combat loosely because there are no dice to roll or cards to power up your units… the size of your stack dictates your strength and even the highest stack can be taken down by a single unit. If you don’t like a confrontational game then this will not be for you. If you like a strategically abstract game filled with deep power struggles then this is one to try.