Before I begin, I was sent a copy of this game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. You can check out my video review below, and get your own copy here.
I suspect if I go back through all my articles I would find a slow rise in my interest in 4x games. Mostly I credit Streamline Matt for this, cause he loves them. I mean really loves them. Dude loves them so much he started asking me if I could reach out to publishers of upcoming KS games and see if I could preview them just so he could play them early.
Now, me being the most excellent friend that I am (do not fact check that please), I started playing these games with him…and slowly but surely, I started to develop an appreciation for them, culminating in my absolute love of Fractal and Uprising: Curse of the Last Emperor.
Now that is plenty good and all that, but I stand by my main criticism of 4X games. No matter how tight the ruleset, no matter how well you know the rules, they are long. You are not getting out of there in under 2 hours, and probably closer to 3. Now Warpgate is billed as a 4X game that you can play in an hour. So I had to try this out.
In Warpgate 1-4 (or 6 with the expansion) each player is given a race to play. Each race board is double sided, with different faction powers, and a different starting card that is shuffled into your combat deck. The game board grows or shrinks depending on the number of players, but in general you will have your own starting Warpgate, which is yours, and is always yours, then there will be a smattering of planets across the galaxy. Your goal will be to earn the most points through completing objectives, upgrading your tech, upgrading your combat decks, securing trade routes, and exploring planets (with that module active).
This is done through card play, each round you will have 4 turns to play cards. But here is the catch, as you play each card they will get stronger and stronger. You see each card as a variable (x) on it. The first card you play each round x=1. The second card x=2 and so on.
These cards will allow you to explore new planets, trade between planets, invade systems controlled by your opponents, colonize, and fully settle systems across the galaxy. Sending your research drone to a new planet will collect a new technology that will both give you points and make you stronger in some way. Colonizing a sector will grant you objectives that, if achieved, will grant you more end game points.
Combat is both dynamic and simple. You will both draw two cards from your combat deck. You select one card to play and you both reveal. You then multiply the number of ships you have by the multiplier on the card. Whomever has the higher number wins, and the loser must retreat. However, the twist is that the cards also have specific text on them that changes the results before one side retreats. They may cancel the other card’s text, or they may blow up some of their, or your ships, or they may even upgrade your race.
Once one of the decks runs out, the game will end and whomever has the most points wins.
So what do I think?
The size of the box and the speed of the game. It just does not get better than that. I also adore the simplicity of the game mechanics, and how when you start to put it all together it combines into something with a bit of meat on its bones. However, the coup de gras is clearly the card play, and how the multipliers work. It feels unique to me and makes every round a fun new experience.
Strong artwork, and solid components,but they are not something you are going to write home about. Some of the sizes of the pieces do not really match up with their function on the board. For example your research drones are far larger than your ships, but it does not play a far larger point in the game.
As much as I love the speed of this 4x style game, it is really only a taste of 4x. You are not going to walk away from the table feeling like you have had a full 4x experience. Rather it is more of an appetizer, something to slake your thirst for a bit. Sometimes that is all you want, but if you are looking for the whole shebang, this is not it. While, I understand the designers belief that you should not play with the exploration module out of the box, it is just odd that I have to go somewhere to download the rules to do it when I am ready.
Bringing it all together
Warpgate has all the trappings of a 4x game in a small box, with a quick play time. The cardplay mechanics are unique and delightful. The artwork and components are more than sufficient to the task of bringing the game to life. While you certainly are getting all of your “x”’s here, you are not going to get the full multi hour deep experience that you will find in most 4x games, as this one is just far to fast of a play to really let you dive in deep. Sometimes that is what you are looking for and with the size of the box this is a great one to have on the shelf.
I prefer to use use my exes in my drunken complaints and my other “x”’s in my board games not in overlong articles.
* Spectacularly small box and short play time for a 4x style game
* Very clever card mechanics with the way the multipliers work
* Solid art and components
* Not going to give you the full feel of a 2-3 hour 4x game
* Great option for those days you wanna taste of 4x, but do not have the time or the desire to dive deep