Saturday, March 05, 2011

A Diabolical and Delicious Trip to Charon (Inc.) A Review

I just love the games that are so simple that it literally takes five minutes to review the rules, but complex enough to have the depth and challenge associated with those rules. Charon Inc. is both of those and more. . .as a bonus, it contains a subtle screw your neighbor quality that is deliciously hidden in the layers.

Name: Charon, Inc.

Designer: Emanuele Ornella

Publisher(s): Gryphon Games

Price: Varies. . .you should be able to score this for $25-$35

Number of Players: 2-5

Playtime: 30-45 Minutes

Objective: Outpoint your rivals by building the best set of buildings

Charon Inc. is essentially a resource gathering and building game, where you place miners on various quadrants of the moon in order to capture the proper number of gems/materials to build outpost buildings. This game is simple but the depth of play is incredibly strong.

The Game
In the setup phase you get a hand of cards and each card is an outpost building with a set value of points. Each building is available for each player, but you may only build a building once. For example you can only build the 10 value building once, but others can also build that. The buildings take various combinations of resources to build and this is where the game really gets interesting.

Next, the board is seeded with different colored materials and you have to beat your opponents to these. This is done by strategically placing your miners. In a rock-paper-scissors type of game, you have three options for placement. . .in a quadrant, which trumps middle and corner of quadrant. You may ask, why not just jump for the quadrants you want, well, that’s the beauty of the game and the chess match that lies within. Players can accumulate miner placement whereas they could have three edge pieces to your one in the middle which overrides the trump. It’s diabolical elegance at its best here on the moon of Charon. It's diabolical because if you play your miners wrong, you can easily get out-placed, out-gunned and out built. Sometimes you have to cut your losses to cutoff the leader. Or, simply change plans as competitors attack your placements.

Here is your playground. Feel free to play dirty--trust me, you'll need to. . .

After placement, one of your miners is left behind in the “Hub,” which grants you a special power like being able to change a placement, get a wildcard gem or keep extra gems each turn.

Keys to Victory
The victory conditions of this game are simple: acquire the highest value of buildings and you win. Ultimately, this game is won and loss in the placement stage and really remembering what gems you need. The first time I played this game, I kept losing track of what I needed and ended up tossing gems back (you can only keep two each round—unless you grab the warehouse special power that gives you a bank of six). In recent plays, I had to keep it running in my head like a jingle: “Two black, two blue, three yellow. . .” This allowed me to stay focused and accomplish my goals.

The Final Verdict
This game is incredible for what it is. I mean you have to love games that you can jump right into, but take a bit of time to understand and much more time to master. For the hour or less long game category, Charon, Inc. is rocketing up the charts!

Final Grade: A++

Pros: Easy to learn, hard to master. Very, very interactive. Lots of depth in strategy.

Cons: Harsh learning curve. Seriously, you’ll likely crash and burn the first time out. . . but that’s ok.

Recommendation: Buy, buy, buy. . .seriously highest recommendation


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