We're Getting the Band Back Together! A Double-Take Review of Ethnos!

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The realm of Ethnos is facing a new era. The six kingdoms have been left vacant and the twelve tribes have been scattered, and it's up to you (the players) to gather and band them together to reclaim the land. At least that's what we get from the back of the box. Ethnos is a set-collection card game with an area-control scoring mechanism for 2-6 players that plays in about 45-60 minutes. 

So is Ethnos a Giant hit, or is it just trying to Troll us...?


The Components

Ehtnos is mainly a card game but there are a few other goodies in the box. Here's a run down on what $39.95 will get ya.

  • Main Game board
  • 6 Orc Horde boards
  • 1 Double-Sided Merfolk board
  • 1 Double-Sided Giant token
  • 6 Troll tokens
  • 18 Glory tokens
  • 3 Dragon cards
  • 156 Control markers (26 per color)
  • 12 Setup cards (each has one Tribe on it)
  • 12 Tribe decks (12 cards for 11 of the Tribes and 24 for the Halflings)

The Setup

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You shuffle those Setup cards and then randomly pick six of them. Depending on which Tribes you've chosen, you might gather some of those extra boards and/or tokens. 

Then you take all of the selected Tribe decks and shuffle them together well. Then you cut that deck into thirds and shuffle a Dragon card into each of those before stacking them up again.

Place the Glory tokens randomly into each of the six areas on the game board, and each player will take a set of tokens, and draw one card. Finally you turn up cards equal to twice the player count and place them in a line.

 

The Gameplay

On a player's turn he or she has two options:

  1. Recruit an Ally (take a face up card or draw blind from the deck)
  2. Play a Band of Allies from their hand
  3. That's it! I said there are only two options!
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That seems really simple, right? Well it is. Let's talk a little bit about the strategy of how and why you do the things you do. Let's start with the Tribe decks. Each deck consists of a single race you would expect to see in a fantasy realm (Orcs, Halflings, Giants etc.) in 6 different colors. So when you play a Band they can be either all of the same Tribe, or all of the same color. Whichever card is placed on the top is considered the Leader of that band, and you can use its special ability.

Once you play a Band of cards you place a marker on the kingdom that matches the color of your Leader. (You always have to play a Band that's at least one bigger than the number of markers you have there. So if you have two markers in a kingdom, you have to play a band of at least three cards to place another one there.) 

Once you play a Band, you have to discard every other card in your hand faceup to the draw line. There's a lot of tension here, as you decide when to play a Band, knowing you'll have to discard other cards and potentially giving some to your opponents. 

After all three of the Dragon cards come out of the deck the age ends and you score points. Each of the six kingdoms will grant points to the players who control them, and these points are determined by those Glory tokens we placed out at the beginning of the game. You also score points for each Band you played during that age--the bigger the Band, the more the points!

Some of the Tribe abilities include:

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Centaurs: Immediately play another Band if you can and want to--before discarding cards. 

Elves: You can keep a number of cards in your hand equal to the size of the Band you just played. 

Minotaurs: You need one fewer cards in your Band than normal to place a Control marker. 

Skeletons: They're wild cards when you're playing a Band, but they're brittle, so they die at the end of the Age--before you score VPs. 

Once you've played three Ages, you score the final time and the player with the most points wins!


The Verdict

Jeremiah--Reading through that game description might make Ethnos sound like it's fiddly, and cumbersome, and sluggish. Believe me, it is none of those things! This game clicks right along, is packed with fun, tense decisions to make, and is tons of fun.

If there's one thing I'll knock on, it's the artwork and general aesthetics. The board, the cards, everything is pretty darn utilitarian, and a bit bland. Regardless this game stands on its own.

Firestone--I really like John Howe's artwork, but holy COW is that board boring. "It's an exciting land struggle with magical and mythical creatures! And the land they're fighting over?! Well, it's um...less magical. Kind of plain. Not evocative. Sorry." That's certainly not enough to keep me from playing this, but I felt it was an odd aesthetic decision.

Jeremiah--You'll notice for the first 2, 3, or more rounds of turns it's a lot of people just drawing card after card after card. The turns go really quickly, and at first players are just trying to fill up their hands to decide what Band they want to play, or what color/Tribe they're trying to collect. It's not bad by any means, just be ready for it, it feels weird the first age, but by the time you're into the second age everyone has caught on and the game begins to flow.

Firestone--This feels like a old school board game. Simple but interesting decisions. Area control. Set collection. It's like Ticket to Ride had a baby with Small World. 

Jeremiah--I always enjoy a game that gives you multiple setup configurations which helps the replay value. And because of the stripped-down turn mechanics the amount of downtime in between turns (even in a 5 or 6 player game) is minimal, and the area control mechanics make for some great jockeying moments!

Firestone--There are many configurations here, and the mix makes for unique situations. I like games with replay value, and that's here, for sure. And I agree with Jeremiah: This accommodates higher player counts very well. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Ethnos is a fun, elegantly designed game that's not just a casual gamers hit--even my most discerning gamer friends love it! Just a few minutes into my first game had me hooked, and ready to teach this one to everyone who is even mildly interested in gaming! Another great offering from CMON!

Firestone's Final Verdict--I love the simple, engaging gameplay, and the mix of unique Tribes in every game. Now let's see more Tribes, CMON!


Can't read?? No problem! You can listen to this episode of That's How I Roll to hear Jeremiah's Drive-By Review of Ethnos!


Thanks so much for reading! Have you played Ethnos? We'd love to hear your thoughts on it! Just comment below or email us by clicking the contact button up top!