Guns & Steel Renaissance
- Designer: Jesse Li
- Publisher: Moaideas Game Design
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 12+
- Time: 40-70 minutes
- Times Played: 2, with preview copy provided by Moaideas Game Design
Guns & Steel: Renaissance is a standalone expansion for Guns & Steel, providing new cards and new mechanisms that can be played by itself, or combined with the base game to provide a rich and dynamic adventure throughout history. I got a chance to play the original version last year, and it was an intriguing and deep game which came in a surprisingly small package. In a deck of only 55 cards, players vie to build civilization by balancing the advances of technology and science with the power of their military. The new version of the game provides a new set of civilization cards for the game as well as a few new mechanics. While the game can be played with the original game, we have only played it standalone, and this review will focus on that way of playing the game.
As I mentioned, the deck is quite small – only 45 civilization cards and 10 Wonder cards. Each Civilization card is double sided – one side for Development and one side for Resources. There are 3 types of Developments: Civil (green cards – most help you gain resources), Attack (Red cards – they let you attack opponents), Tactic (blue cards – give special abilities / responses for attacks).
The cards are double sided – and it is important to remember that you can freely look at both sides of your cards in your hand, but once a card is on the table, it may not be flipped over unless you are instructed to do so (either by Depleting or Replenishing).
To set up the game, the cards are separated by Age (Horse, Gunpowder, Oil, Earth and Space) – and a pyramid is made out of the civilization cards. One Wonder card per Age is also chosen based on the leftmost development icon in each row. Each player gets an identical starting hand and 5 glory tokens in their color.
Here’s the overview of a player’s turn during the game – each player goes thru all four phases on his turn and then the next player goes…
1 -Resource Phase –
Play a card from your hand face-down as a resource card.
2 – Development Phase –
Play a card from your hand face-up as a development card. You may choose to activate the card’s effect at this time – and this is the only time that you can use the effect from this card until you play it from your hand again. If you activate the card, you must do all parts of the effect that you can.
If the card causes you to attack, you must attack all opponents. You attack strength is equal to your visible military strength on the face up cards in front of you. Your opponents can then reply by playing cards with a response icon from their hands AND/OR depleting resource cards in front of them and flipping those cards over to reveal more military icons. Once everyone’s military strength is set, then you can resolve the card’s effect.
3 – Purchase Phase –
You can buy a civilization card from the supply pyramid by depleting resource cards in front of you or using other gained resources (i.e. from card effects in the Development phase). The cost for each card is printed on the bottom right of the card. If there are cards still underneath and connected to the card you buy, you must spend one extra resource per every connected card underneath. If you need to change resources, there is a chart on the player aid that shows you what resources can be turned into which new type.
4 – End of Turn Phase –
If you have 0 or 1 card in hand, you retrieve cards to hand. If you have 2 or more cards in hand: Do nothing. Then, Check if you can place glory cubes on a wonder. Look at all the Wonder cards, and see if you have met any of the cube placement requirements; though, you can only place ONE token per turn. If all your tokens are placed, you can move one token from another card. Then, look at the cards and see if you have the number of tokens needed to collect that card. If so, place it in front of you and return all other glory tokens to the other players.
The game ends when all of the wonders are taken, or when all space age cards have been bought, or when a player has 15 VP tokens. At this point, whoever has the most VP wins – player calculate their points:
- Points on wonder cards
- Points on civilization cards on the table in front of you or in your hand
- 1 point per culture token you currently have
My thoughts on the game
This is an interesting expansion to an already interesting game. The changes here are the addition of culture tokens (in the original game, you only got points on the cards) as well as the new rules with Wonder cards. The cards are compatible with the original version, but again, we have only played the new Guns & Steel Renaissance cards as a complete set.
Like the original Guns & Steel (and Mr. LI’s other quick civilization builder, Flow of History) – there is a lot of game packed into a small deck. The deck here is even smaller than Flow of History – there are 45 Civilization cards, but 20 of these are earmarked for starting hands – thus, the pyramid of cards in the game is only 25 cards! Unlike the other two games though, not every card is used in the game – there are two wonder cards for each Age, and only one per Age is used in the game.
Guns & Steel Renaissance places a premium on clever card play. You must always be aware of the abilities of your cards to get the best effect. There are plenty of synergistic combinations that can be found. You also need to be aware of which abilities you are turning face down when you play a card as a resource as you will generally not be able to use this action until you pick up your cards (when you have 0 or 1 cards left in your hand).
Timing is key to smart game play. First, some actions, especially Attacks, are very dependent on the board situation. You’d like to have as much strength as possible on your tableau – perhaps from previous attack actions played or perhaps on cards that were initially played as resources but then depleted into the face up side with the attack icons on it. Also, playing the cards when your opponents do not have much defense on the board is as important. If you’re the one being attacked, you should pay careful attention to when you choose to play your response cards. There may even be times when you choose to play response cards – even if you can’t win the battle – if this allows you to then recycle your cards faster.
With the very limited choice in cards, you do need to choose wisely. You might only get to add six or seven cards to your deck, so getting cards that work together well is paramount. The actions on the cards do tend to get better as you move up through the Ages; however, you will also be tempted to play these cards down as resources because they are the easiest way to get the high level resources you need to buy cards in the end game.
You might also choose cards in order to meet the criteria for some of the Wonder cards. With winning scores sometimes in the high teens to low twenties, getting a Wonder worth 4-6 VP can be a big part of your total. There is a nice racing element to placing the cubes on the Wonder cards, and the scoring requirements of some of them make it impossible to place a cube on them every turn. That being said, I have also seen players take advantage of the 1VP per unplaced token rule to ensure a guaranteed 5VP at the end of the game while letting the other players vie for the Wonder cards.
We were familiar with the game system overall from the first version of the game released in 2015. The two new wrinkles in the rules (the collection of CT tokens and the race to place markers on the Wonder cards) were easy to absorb. The games finish well under an hour, and the progression of the cards does give a decent feel of building a civilization. The size of the game (large) in the size of the box (nearly pocket sized) makes this a prized commodity in my game collection. If you do not have the original Guns & Steel, this would be a strong recommendation from me. If you already have Guns & Steel, the additional two rules make it different enough that I’m happy to have both in my collection. (Admittedly, I was given the sweet bookcase edition that was available on Kickstarter that neatly gives you both small boxes in a nice sturdy sleeve!)
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor