Review: Gentes

Gentes is designed by Stefan Risthaus and published by Tasty Minstrel Games.

Gentes is ostensibly a civilization themed game. Let me tell you a secret, it’s not.

How To Play:

Gentes is divided into three eras, with each era consisting of two rounds. Each round involves two phases: the heyday phase and the decline phase.

In the heyday phase, players are performing the bulk of their actions. To take an action, the active player must have an available empty space on their personal time track. The player then pays the cost displayed on the action tile and finally, they must place the required number of hourglass tokens the action tile demands onto the next empty space of their personal time track. One clever rule is if a player selects an action tile which has 2 or more hourglasses shown on it, they may choose to put them in separate empty spaces or onto the same empty space. The penalty for the latter action is that one of the hourglass tokens will remain on your time track during the next round, which means you’ll be able to take one less action.

Actions consist of training your people, building a city on the shared game board, taking or playing civilization cards, receiving gold, grabbing the first player tile, and more.

The heyday phase ends when all players have run out of empty spaces on their time track. Then the decline phase begins.

During the decline phase, players will reset their boards, perform other maintenance, and resolve civilization card effects that have the moon icon. This phase can generally be done simultaneously which helps to speed up the game. Final scoring occurs at the end of the decline phase in the 6th round. The player with the most victory points win!

Is It For Me?

The Importance of Civilization Cards: After the first play of Gentes, it quickly became clear that the heart of the game is in the cards. While performing other actions will give you points, obtaining the right civilization cards will win you the game. The cards also have synergy symbols that will give you bonus points if you play cards with matching symbols. Buying cards that work well with each other is an interesting puzzle.

The Intriguing Puzzle of the Time Mechanic: Figuring out whether to place one or two hourglass tokens into one spot was a delicious struggle between taking more actions now or later. It’s also a relatively new mechanic that I haven’t really seen in games before.

Art Style: The character art in Gentes is unique and has a different style from other euro games. However, the board is drab and the symbology could have been better.

Seemingly Complex Rules: Gentes was a bear to teach. For a relatively mid-weight euro game, the rules explanation was too long. There’s so much symbology in the game and not all of it is intuitive. Also, there didn’t seem to be any cohesion between the mechanics, making it even more difficult to teach.

The Futility of Building Cities: There are one too many actions you can take in Gentes. However, the most egregious was the navigator action, where a player builds a city. While building a city can net a player rewards, it was not enough to offset how expensive the action was, in both time and gold. But more importantly, it almost felt kind of irrelevant in the end.

Issues with Replayability: The game has pretty similar arc in every play. There’s no variable set up and while there are a lot of cards for each era, most of them do the same thing – they give you points or extra actions. Additionally, because the cards are so important in Gentes, players usually see all the cards in every game. So there’s no newness in subsequent games and it begins to feel same-y.

Table-Takes

Here are what some of my friends had to say about the game:

  • “There were too many conflicting goals.”
  •  “There is no synergy in the Era 3 cards, why did I build that up?!”
  • “The final scoring is meh.”
  • “Too many rules.”

Beneeta’s Rating: 6 out of 10. This game was aggressively average. The difficulty in teaching, limited replayability, and a field crowded with mid-weight euro games – Gentes does not stand out.

Gentes is designed by Stefan Risthaus and published by Tasty Minstrel Games.