Do you like Teamwork? Do you like Deception? Well it is right there in the title of Emergence, so you know what you are in store for. I recently got this game to the table and now it is time to talk about it.
Assimilation is mandatory after the jump…
Emergence: A Game of Teamwork and Deception (hereby known as just Emergence) takes place in a world where the computers have won. AI has taken over. But there is a small band of augmented Humans alive and they are trying to gather enough knowledge to come back from the brink of extinction and do away with the AI.
There are more AI than Humans so the end objectives are adjusted for each side. The first end game condition is obtaining a certain level of knowledge in their neat box. The range depends on the number of players but the AI must achieve 20-40 while the Humans must acquire 10-20. The other end game trigger is there being zero data cubes in the city (on the board). If such a situation happens, the game ends and the Humans win.
A city is set up (one design is included in the book but you can look up more on their website), all the necessary cubes are placed, and deal out allegiance cards randomly that dictate if you are an agent of the AI trying to find out the other group, the augment Humans. The player with the leader token makes sure everyone is ready to decide whether they are choosing the Electromechanical or Biomechanical action marker for the turn and then counts down. When the countdown is over, everyone will have secretly chosen a side. This affects what actions you can do on your turn.
One by one, players move one space through the city (you must do this) and then take one action (you make skip this). These actions include:
- Gathering/replenishing data cubes from the board
- Extra movement
- Changing data cubes to knowledge
- Assimilating knowledge
- “Attacking” your neighbor
After the action is completed, the next player goes until everyone has gone. Leader token is passed to the left and the game keeps on going.
Now I mentioned those two options everyone secretly decides since it plays a pretty significant part of the gameplay. If you choose the Electromechanical side (Blue Gear), you can only harvest/replenish cubes on blue tiles while Biomechanical side (Green Brain) let’s you harvest/replenish only on green tiles. These two sides also dictate if you can move into the same space as someone and if you can “attack” other players.
“Attack” actions in this game can be devastating. They require the player to spend Knowledge. There is Spying (looking at someone’s identity), Hacking (taking all their cubes), and Terminate (take everything from them, they go back to start). Thematically, the last one doesn’t fully make sense but I wouldn’t remove that from the game. Its inclusion creates a tension whenever someone comes close to you and has a lot of Knowledge in their possession. This is also when the two colors of action come into play since you can only Hack/Terminate someone of a different color and Spy on someone with the same color. Definitely creates a lot suspense when deciding and looking at everyone’s results.
The game has a very clean look. It fits the vibe of AI has taken over with everything being so polished and sleek. Upon closer inspection, all the tiles tell you what actions they let you do with symbols. You probably wouldn’t pick up on it before reading/knowing the rules but it serves as a great reminder. Case in point, there are two red tiles* in the game that aren’t mentioned (nor used in the city example) and we aren’t sure if it let’s you take the boost action of moving an extra space or a double action or what exactly. Best bet is on a double move but it would be nice to know in the rules itself instead of having to look it up online.
*It actually allows you to teleport from one red to another.
The insert for this box is other worldly. Everything has its own spot and it is nicely laid out (besides the token trough, but there is room for them and then some). Couldn’t ask for a nicer insert for a game. It even has grooves for the instructions!
Deception games are so popular right now. Almost every game is trying to add that feature into their latest product. My first play with this one, I will say I felt it was a little underwhelming. Was it the way I played or was it bad strategy on the other team? The first chance I got, I “attacked” my neighbor with the Spy action to see what side they were on to help me clear up confusion. After all, I was a responsible AI player making sure who is friend and foe. Once the first round of assimilation (scoring of knowledge in the neat little box) happened, it was clear who was AI and who wasn’t. This isn’t a case of bad deception but perhaps bad planning on the other team.
It feels like it could be quite easy for the Humans to win with the right strategy in mind which is good because you want the team with fewer players to be more powerful and something to be afraid of. In one turn, the Humans got halfway to victory. This made the game pretty close (40-10), but it is clear that the Humans need to always have knowledge on hand in case someone triggers assimilation. That way they can contribute and cause more suspension.
Emergence can come across as a bit abstract. That isn’t a bad thing but the theme can feel a bit light. The easy to play nature is great and extends to the teaching aspect as well. I enjoyed playing the game and finding enough knowledge to root out the remainder of humanity. Death to humans.
Publisher: Self-published (Kickstarter)
Genre: Resource Management/Deduction/Teamwork
Player Count: 3-6
Duration: 60+ minutes
Disclaimer: This game was given to the NonTraditional Board Games MeetUp group to play.