Embark – Tasty Minstrel Games – Review

Embark - Tasty Minstrel Games - Review 1

"Three new islands have been discovered... Explore, mine, or colonize these islands to ultimately become their master."

Embark - Tasty Minstrel Games - Review 2

Theme and What is it?

Three new islands have been discovered.  Board your voyagers and set sail to take control of these islands.  Explore, mine, or colonize these islands to ultimately become their master.

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Gameplay Mechanics

Goal

Acquire ore, explore the islands, and build farms to acquire the most Victory Points at the end of the sixth round.

Setup

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Randomly select Island boards and place in the center of game area and place Key/Unlock tokens on these boards.  Shuffle the Boat deck then draw 6 cards placed beneath the slots at the bottom of the Island boards. Place the number of Ore tokens indicated in their slots at the top of the Island board.

Place the Farm and Victory Point tokens nearby.

Shuffle the Talent cards and reveal a number of cards equal to the number of players +2.  The players choose which Talent card they will use for the game. The remaining cards go back in the box.

Players assemble their Player Screen and Board and take the voyager cubes associated with the color on the Player Board/Screen.

Turns

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This game is played in 6 rounds with each round consisting of the following stages: Allocation, Boarding, Landing, and Island.

During the Allocation Stage, players take 5 voyager cubes plus any left over in their pub and assign them in secret to the various boats, indicated by lettered spaces on their Player Board.  When all of the players are done, they remove their Player Screens and place the voyager cubes below each of the assigned boats.

During the Boarding Stage, starting with the first player, players take a voyager cube from below a Boat and assign it to any job space on it (Colonist, Explorer, Miner, Captain, Warrior) until all cubes are assigned or all available slots on Boats have been filled.

During the Landing Stage, the Boats are unloaded in alphabetical order and from front of the Boat to the back.  Any Boats without all of their job spaces filled are not unloaded at this time. Once a Boat is unloaded, it is discarded and a new Boat from the Boat deck is put in its place.

During the Island Stage, Victory Points are scored for explorers and completed farms, and Ore tokens are acquired.

After the sixth round, the end of game actions are performed and final Victory Points are tallied.

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Initial Impressions

My boys and I really got into this game.  It took us a round to pick up the mechanics but it flew from there.  Getting to the sixth round went way faster than we’d hoped and so we had to play again.

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Game Build Quality

The components are heavy cardboard screens and tokens, wooden cubes, and playing cards.  All of good quality in line with TMG’s other games with similar components.

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Artistic Direction

The box cover art hearkens Harbour while the rest of the artwork within the game simple, functional, and thematic on the playable surfaces.  The backs of the playing cards though sport more intricate designs of nautical themes that are more impressive.

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Fun Factor

The biggest part of the fun was in the first two stages we thought because that is where you can read what the others’ strategies are going to be.  The mechanics do evoke the thematic elements but aren’t overly complex like other games centered around a more realistic portrayal of the theme.

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Age Range & Weight

Age range is 14+ yet the complexity of the rules doesn’t necessarily support that and younger players can get something out of the game.  To really understand and strategize does take time and thought in which players with more experience could easily outplay others.

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Conclusions

My boys and I really like the game.  It In it you can’t really rely on any one strategy (only farms, mining, etc.) but have to do a little bit of everything.  You need to pay attention to what the other players are doing so you can plan on how to thwart what they are doing while still achieving your goals.  

This is a game that can go really fast or take a long time depending on how much time players put into thinking ahead during the first two stages. Given the relatively low complexity and quick gameplay, I’d use it as a starter game to a longer game night or in the mix of the other mid-length games.

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