It must be said that I don’t often go in for abstracts. I’m a theme boy. I like stories and imagery, something that I can really get my teeth into, but once in a while a game pops up on my radar that I end up enjoying. Epigo from Masquerade Games is my current abstract of choice, one that combines the two pillars of the genre; simple rules and plenty of options. It’s not the prettiest game to look at by any stretch of the imagination but the game itself is really rather entertaining.
Either two or four may play, though the basic game recommends a couple of players to get to grips with how it all works before trying anything more convoluted. Counters, known in the game as Epigons, are lined up face down across from each other across the centre of the board, then flipped to reveal the numbers 1 to 7. An eighth tile, marked with an X, is removed from the board an will take no place in the game.
Now play can begin. Each player is also give a stack of Order tokens, again numbered up to seven, but these have the addition of arrows. At the start of each turn, the players must choose three of these Orders and place them in a small stack. Once both sides have chosen the three Epigons that they’ll move for that turn, the top Orders are revealed simultaneously. Whoever has the highest number moves their piece first (showing the same number as your opponent simply cancels both of your moves), and it’s here where the arrows on the Orders are important. You see, it’s not just a matter of stacking them any way you like – you can only attempt to move the selected Epigon in the direction denoted.
This is where the more interesting aspects of the game come into play. It takes a while for the skill to develop, but if you want to do well in Epigo you must learn how to read your opponent and foil their plans while at the same time advancing your own. Moving into a space that could potentially block the other player’s next move is immensely satisfying – you get a real feeling of one-upmanship when you manage to pull it off – and it can prove very useful as a single piece can only move another single. Epigons are captured when pushed off the board, and the first person to get three is the winner, meaning that games don’t take too long.
Or they shouldn’t, at least. With only having a maximum of three moves at your disposal during each turn, you’d hope that you’d be able to rattle off a fair few games in next to no time. However, set Epigo down in front of someone who has even a minor case of the APs and you could well be in there for the duration. It’s a problem similar to a multiplayer game of RoboRally; you’re trying your best to do what you want to do but have to take into consideration the potential moves of your enemies. It’s the kind of play that could make a brain burst…
Settle in for a session with someone who doesn’t have a propensity for paralysis and you’re looking at a very enjoyable experience which is only expanded by the inclusion of over twenty variants straight out of the box (admittedly including the four-player format). These range from different set-ups to entirely new ways to play, introducing extra rules and paths to victory. The team at Masquerade have done their very best to ensure that anyone who picks Epigo up gets good value for money and continue to support the game with even more extras on their site. There’s even rules for three players should you be looking for them.
All told, Epigo has really quite impressed me. When I initially cracked open the box I was far from impressed; it doesn’t look like much when you open it up but giving it a well-deserved chance will reveal a surprisingly complex game. Even if you have an attitude similar to mine, one that highly values theme in a game, I’d strongly advise you still give it a try – it could be the game that unveils a whole new world of play.
Epigo, designed by Chris Gosselin and Chris Kreuter, was originally released through Masquerade Games in 2011. Only two or four players can get involved and games should take you around fifteen to thirty minutes. If your interest has been piqued, Gameslore can sort you out a copy for £19 – seriously, give it a shot. It’ll be a revelation.