Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 17 June 2021

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Ecos: New Horizon

Game: Ecos: New Horizon

Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group

Designer:  John D. Clair

Year: 2021

Ecos: First Continent
is a game we've loved, ever since we discovered it at a board game convention (remember those?!) almost two years ago. It works using a bingo-style mechanism where all players play simultaneously and meshes this with a tile laying game where all players are working together on the same central landscape. It's got a lovely puzzly optimisation feel and you're constantly participating in the game, expanding the landscape and adding, removing or moving the different animals around the map to boost your point scoring.
New Horizon is the first expansion for Ecos: First Continent. It adds a handful of new animal tokens, two new starting decks and a new type of card that encourages you to build certain patterns with the landscape tiles, ultimately creating a multi-layer landscape in the centre of the table.
To briefly explain how Ecos is played, each player starts with a deck of cards - either one of the starter decks, or a deck that you draft at the beginning of the game. You have three cards which start in your tableau, face up on the table and can add more throughout the game. One player takes n the roll of the 'bingo-caller' drawing the lovely chunky tiles from the bag. Each tile contains a symbol and all players can mark off that symbol if it appears on one of their face up cards, using a cube. If you complete a card, then you shout 'Ecos' and get to activate that card. Card activations sometimes give basic points, but more often they allow you to add either terrain or animals to the board and this might affect how many points you get, for example you might get two points per ocean tile you place next to. If you ever don't want to use a tile that is drawn from the bag, you can work towards gaining more cubes, adding more cards to your tableau or drawing new cards into your hand instead. It's a race to reach 60 or 80 points (depending on the length of game you choose).

New Horizon does not fundamentally change any of those core mechanisms. Most of the content is more of the same - some new cards, including two new starting decks that use different animal tokens. The big addition is in the terrain objectives. One of your starting cards will now be an objective that asks you to create a certain layout using terrain tiles, trees and mountains. Once you've built them, there will be a small reward and then an ongoing benefit when you or other players interact with that terrain.
What most of the new terrain cards have in common is that they're really rather hard to achieve. Most take a good number of tiles, in a very specific pattern, and even with just two players its hard to avoid having your pattern spoiled by another player with nothing but good intentions. I really can't imagine how much harder it is to achieve these cards in higher player count games. The flip side to this is that if you do manage to complete one of the terrain cards, it probably gets triggered for scoring far more often with more players. With two players they are a lot of hard work for very little reward. I love having in-game objectives to work towards, but Ecos already has so many of those that I generally feel it might be best to ignore the terrain cards, which is a shame when they're the biggest part of this expansion.

Looking at the other new addition, with the two new starter decks, it's certainly fun to have some more animals in the game and figure out how they interact and what the right style of play is to work with each deck. I definitely found one of the new decks far easier to play with though, so generally would prefer to mix and match the deck with the leaf symbols with one of our other favourites from the base game. The pre-built decks alone had plenty of content for me to explore in the base game, and to have some fresh content in this area was good, however, I'm sure other experienced players of Ecos still have plenty to explore by drafting their own starting decks.
Overall I found New Horizon to be an underwhelming expansion and it's actually one that we've chosen not to keep. Ecos: First Continent stands alone as a very elegant game and this expansion lessened its appeal. The base game has huge amounts of variety already, so I'm not sure who is the audience for this expansion, so for the Yellow Meeple, it's a 4/10.

Ecos: New Horizon was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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