So I played this:
yesterday. For six hours. That felt like two hours.
Earth Reborn is a board game for 2 players, set in a post apocalyptic future (like all games), with zombies (zombies!). One player takes the side of the remnants of the U.S. best and brightest, and the other player controls occultists and the aforementioned zombies. It is played in a sequence of scenarios, with each scenario having its own goal and setup.
Earth Reborn does something quite special and – as my worthy opponent pointed out – “video gamey”. Each scenario in the game introduces new rules. The first scenario is just a matter of running around and hitting each other with fists. As scenarios go by, the game adds weapons, special items, special abilities, torture, and so on. I think it is interesting that each scenario is basically a tutorial for the “full game”, that includes the last scenario as well as a random map generator (in a board game!) and a 3/4 player variant. This kind of progression allows the game to be much more complex than other games, and introduces everything in a nice manner. Still, I foresee the problem that new players would have problem playing with more experienced ones, as the experienced player would not like to play the basic scenarios. Even so, the rules so far seem quite easy to explain (a person is a so much better teacher than a rulebook), so a newbie could conceivably jump a few scenarios in at least.
While I have barely scratched the surface of the game, there is one mechanic I absolutely love in this game, and that is the Duel. A Duel is basically a way for the non-active player to wrest control from the other player, and allow her to do an interruption, moving her units during the other player’s turn. Each action in the game costs CP, command points, but they can also be used in the Duel. When the non-active player announces that she wishes to interrupt the other player, both bid a secret amount of CP. If the challenging player bids more than the opponent, she may move her unit during the opponents turn, which can be extremely vital. Even though the challenger does not win the duel, it can be worth it anyway, as the opponent has to discard precious CP to ensure that they remain in control. The amount of bluffing, second-guessing and resource management required to master the Duel mechanic is very satisfying. It also eliminates the feeling that there is nothing to do on your turn, and you always watch your opponent closely.
I might return to look at this game later, when I have played it some more. Just “learning” the game and playing through the scenarios will take quite some time, and I already really like it. It reminds me of old-school tactical games such as X-COM, which is always a good sign.