When I asked Ryan Laukat at SaltCon why his latest expansion wasn’t entitled Eight-Minute Empire: Legends: Lost Lands — a fair question in my estimation, seeing as how it’s only compatible with Legends and not the original Eight-Minute Empire — he responded that when he considered it, his wife shot it down as too long. Too wordy.
Fair enough. You don’t want people taking longer to say the title than it takes to play the game, after all.
On the other hand, Eight-Minute Empire has becoming steadily more time-consuming with each iteration. While the original never wrapped up in a mere eight minutes, it could still be completed fairly easily in maybe ten. Or twelve, or fifteen. Probably twenty. Then Legends came along and added another ten minutes.
Not that I’m complaining. I thought the original was excellent, and the sequel is still one of my favorite filler games. And anyway, shortness is no indicator of quality, no matter how many people pretend it’s so.
Still, the alliterative titling was in danger of becoming even more inaccurate with Lost Lands, especially with its laundry list of features in mind. Components for two more players! New leaders! More cards! More stuff to plop onto the map! A big double-sided board! For every addition that sounded interesting, there was another that sounded like it would just add clutter to what was otherwise such a tidy experience. Sort of like having a favorite reading nook where the afternoon sun washes across you like warm buttermilk, then bragging about the brand new mahogany bookcase complete with rolling ladder that you’re going to install next week. Sure, that sounds nice, but how much are you giving up to have it?
Lost Lands insists that it can keep its six-player game from dragging thanks to its new mode of play. Much like every drafting game made between the dawn of time and this very second, now everyone is dealt a hand of cards and simultaneously selects one to use that round. The trick is that the order you’re given your hand of cards is of utmost importance (make sure to tell everyone not to rearrange anything), because while the first card is free, each subsequent card costs a little more. Once you’ve picked a card and taken its action, you add a new card onto the back of the hand and pass it on.
It’s an interesting take on the tried-and-true drafting system, and it succeeds at keeping the pace of play a little faster, especially when you’ve got a sizable group put together. However, while faster, it isn’t quite as fun as the original system, leading to jarring moments of quiet while everyone mulls over their cards, and completely eliminating the collective groans that rose from the table whenever someone purchased a much-desired ally from the original shifting card offer. Worse, the Eight-Minute system has always been highly reliant on turn order. It wasn’t ever just a game about picking the best card for you, but about picking the best card in reaction to the moves your opponents recently made while also denying them points-scoring sets. What this new system gains in speed, it loses in clear strategy as any chance at reactive play goes out the window.
It might sound like I don’t recommend Lost Lands, but that’s not at all the case. While its additional mode can’t replace the purity and depth of the original, and while the big map boards don’t capture my imagination the way a more regular-sized islands would have, the real draw is in how it expands the original game. And I’m not only talking about the two extra players, though that’s great too.
It’s the cards. Just as with the original game, it’s the beautifully illustrated cards that make the game so compelling. And the new additions are superb, pulling the game in new directions while still reinforcing old strategies.
There are some that give you new ways to gain points, like how the Cursed Hag makes cards with the elixir symbol worthwhile even if you don’t score the bonus by having the most of them at the end of the game, or how the Hogman makes controlled islands even more valuable, or how many of the new cards are adorned with banner symbols so the Princess and Mountain Bridge can award points and gold for collecting them. And for those who love to gain their points by collecting sets, the Shapeshifter fits into any set of your choosing. Meanwhile, the Ancient Chimera lets you move a pair of armies when the game ends, giving you one last chance to rearrange your forces before scoring. And for those who were frustrated by the original game’s immovable cities, the Night Worm can wipe them off the board while the Arcane Earth-Shifter walks them all over the place. There’s even a University that gives you cash when someone else builds a city, just to be a dick.
Between the new cards, new leaders, and a couple other minor additions (leader armies, the open seas token), and ignoring the new drafting style, Lost Lands adds plenty of excellent new toys for fans of Eight-Minute Empire: Legends.
Posted on June 10, 2015, in Board Game and tagged Eight-Minute Empire, Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, Eight-Minute Empire: Lost Lands, Red Raven Games, Ryan Laukat, The Fruits of Kickstarter. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.