At Gen Con 50, one of the games on Tim’s list to demo was Immortals designed by Mike Elliott and published by Queen Games. Prior to sitting down at the demo table, I didn’t really know that much about the game and was really unsure what to expect as I only knew that it used a cube tower and was a “Dudes on a Map” design.
For those that aren’t really familiar with Queen Games, they make really good games that typically take on some really interesting themes and use cool mechanics. Some of the Queen Games that I either own or have played are Lancaster, World Monuments, Batavia and others. One of their line of games uses a cube tower that is used to determine the outcome of battles. Their two previous games using this cube tower were Wallenstein (2002) that dealt with the Thirty Years War and Shogun (2006) focused on feudal Japan and the time of the Samurai. So, for their third game in this series using the cube tower, Queen has decided to focus on a fantasy themed setting, which is totally fine by me.
This cube tower is typically used to resolve battles. The idea is really very simple and pretty cool. Rather than rolling dice, with modifiers, they have found this new form of randomness. When a battle occurs, players simply pick up all of the attacking and defending cubes and drop them into a contraption that is similar to a dice tower, with the exception that this tower has several internal levels, including ledges, nooks and crannies, where some of the cubes dropped in will inevitably get stuck on and not come out the other end. Imagine that you are attacking with 4 of your green cubes and you are attacking 3 red cubes. You would pick up all 7 of the cubes, drop them in and determine the winner by the amount that drop out. If 2 green survive the tower along with 2 red cubes, the green player would win the battle although they would have to remove 2 cubes that are eliminated as would the red player. The left over green cubes would simply be placed into the region where the battle occurred. Any cubes of other colors that had been stuck in the tower from previous battles that came out do not factor into the battle but will be saved to be added to the next battle and dropped into the cube tower. So you can see that if some of your colored cubes get stuck in the tower, they actually might come out later in one of your battles to help you out. This really adds some crazy randomness to the game but I didn’t mind at all because it was such a cool mechanic. One neat part of the combat is that when you lose pieces in one realm, they go into the limbo section for the opposite realm and await their chance to be deployed.
Other than the cube tower, what is the goal of the game? As players, you control two different fantasy races each game and are embroiled in the eternal cycle of war between the Light Realm and the Dark Realm in the World of Twilight. The goal is to consolidate your power on the maps, both having a presence in the Light Realm and the Dark Realm, to control and make efficient use of the different areas and their resources (inhabitants, gold, energy). The player who does this balancing act the best, will be crowned the winner and emperor of the Realms.
The player’s setup is determined by the various races (I played the demo as the Humans and the Necromancers) that you use so each game will start differently, as you not only have 2 different races to use, but each of those races control a different group of territories. These races also differentiate themselves with a specific special ability and by having different building costs. The game appears that it will take a long time to play (I would say at least 2-3 hours) and I say that because we played for only 30 minutes and only got through not even one full turn. A lot of this was because we were learning but the game will take some time as you have many actions to take each round and combat does take a bit to gather up those cubes and drop them in the tower
The part that I really liked, aside from the cube tower, was that each round players have to program the actions that they wish to take using their Region cards, which are split cards that show both the light and dark side of a specific area, or Conflict cards, which only show either a light or dark side area. Each card that you place down in spaces on your player board (shown in the picture below) will allow you to perform that action in the specified area. The action part of the spaces allow you to obtain various resources including energy and gold, move troops around in order to reinforce your positions from the appropriate dead area, build buildings such as portals and capitals, and attack of course. You will also get to select up to two magical actions as part of programming as shown on your Magic cards. I will say that I liked the spells as they were a little more user friendly as they don’t require you to have a matching Region or Combat card to be used.
The actual play is pretty simple and easy to pick up. On their turn, each player is allowed to choose one of the programmed actions on their player board and carry it out. The only kicker is that as others take their turns, you may no longer be able to do actions that you programmed, as the troops you were going to move were killed, or the territory you thought you owned and wanted to recruit into is now controlled by another player. So, you have to be flexible and don’t get frustrated as things will change each turn. Each round, players score points for regions controlled, with bonus points if they control at least 3 of the 5 regions in a similar colored area, and points for buildings controlled.
Summary and Final Thoughts
When playing this game, you must make sure that you check your feelings at the door as you will be attacked multiple times each round. If your group is conflict averse, and members easily get upset over someone messing up their plans, I would say it is best to take a pass on this one. We enjoyed the game and really would like to play a full game. The game is very pretty to look at with all of those colors and the maps are really well done. I loved the programming, the uncertainty of whether you will be allowed to enact your carefully chosen actions and the cube tower (the one shown in the pictures above is not what will come with the game!). It is just so fun and very unique! I regret that I didn’t buy the game at Gen Con but it was on the first day and I was trying to hold onto my money for later spending. Definitely a game that I will try to pick up soon.