Cool, let’s talk about Entropy. Another Kickstarter card game (I do really enjoy those), Entropy is brought to you by Rule & Make, who also made Rise to Power, a cool little game about building out a power grid (no, not that Power Grid) to power the future. But that’s not what this game is about.
This game takes place after your world kind of … exploded, I guess? Collided? Smooshed? (There was a companion novella, which I should really get around to reading, but I think smooshed is the technical term.) You now find yourself stranded in between universes in a place called the Nexus, where fragments of your world are floating around waiting to be caught and reassembled. You’re not alone in your attempts to rebuild your universe, as other players are also stranded. However, only one of you gets to leave. Will you be able to restore your universe and return home, or will you remain trapped in the Nexus forever? Only one way to find out…
This is pretty easy. You’ll notice that you have five characters (not counting The Ronin, which is kind of an expansion, tbh), each with a symbol on them (see below), and a bunch of cards numbered 1-6, like so:
Give everyone a character and give them a set of cards 2-6 (only 2-5 if you’re playing with two players). Then give each player a 1 card matching their character’s symbol. Next, you’re going to want to shuffle the fragments of the universes matching the characters’ symbols into the Nexus, but before you do, take a minute and admire just how incredible the artwork is:
It’s phenomenal. You’ll also want to add in a few Wild Fragments, which are the fragment cards that don’t have a symbol on them.
- For a 2-player game, use only 1 Wild Fragment.
- For a 3-player game, use 2 Wild Fragments.
- For more, use 3 Wild Fragments.
You should also shuffle in the Vortex Fragment, which is, well, unpleasant. Also set aside the Anchor so that it’s reachable by all players, then deal each player one card face-down. Have them look at the card you just dealt them and place it to the left of their character card. Once your setup looks like this, you’re ready to begin:
So, you want to go home, and so does everyone else. You do so by revealing and locking fragments of your reality, and once you’ve completed your reality (a four-card panorama), you can go home! Note that I’ll be using some game-specific terminology, which is outlined below:
In this game, I use shrouded to refer to cards that are face-down (as the upside-down card on the left side of my Advaranau character are). If a card is face-up (but isn’t your reality) it’s considered to be revealed, as Mary’s face-up card is on the left side of my character. Cards are considered locked when they are revealed and of your reality (as the two cards are on the right side of my card). Note that shrouded and revealed cards go on the left, whereas locked cards go on the right. For convenience (and by the rules), I also put revealed Wild Fragments on the right side, just to make counting easier so that you know when someone is getting close.
Shrouded, Revealed, Locked. First to lock 4 cards wins. Easy, right?
Cool. Let’s make it more difficult. Remember those action cards I mentioned earlier? They didn’t stop being a thing or anything. Aside from the 1s, there are 5 action cards available:
- 2: Beacon. Reveal all of your shrouded cards instantly or force another player of your choice to reveal a card of your reality, if they have one. Pretty useful.
- 3: Telekinesis. Discard a shrouded or revealed fragment from any player or take a revealed fragment from any player. Note you cannot discard or move locked fragments, since they’re … locked. You can always take Wild Fragments unless otherwise stated.
- 4: Eye of the Storm. Either draw two fragments, shroud one, and discard the other, or take a card of your choice from the discard pile. If it’s your reality, it moves from the discard pile to your area and is instantly locked. That’s pretty handy.
- 5: Phase Shift. Take the Anchor from the center or steal it from another player. Why do you want the Anchor? Keep reading.
- 6: Portal. Swap any fragment of yours with a card from the discard pile or the top card of the deck. If you swap a revealed fragment with the top of the deck, it goes back face-down (like the other cards in the deck). If you swap a shrouded fragment with a card in the discard pile, it comes into your play area revealed (and locked, if it’s yours) and the other fragment is revealed into the discard pile.
The other 1 cards let you do a variety of things, like draw cards from the deck in certain circumstances, repeat actions you’ve already taken this turn, or place one of your fragments on top of the deck. They’re neat, so I won’t spoil the surprise other than featuring them in pictures in this post.
So, on your turn, you’re going to choose and play one of these cards. However, to make things interesting, everyone will choose and play a card simultaneously. You make your choices, they make theirs. Then, reveal. (Just like 7 Wonders). However, if you played the same card as another player and you do not have the Anchor, you have a Temporal Clash! This means that you two (or more!) collide and none of you get to perform an action that turn. Sucks to suck, I’m told. However, if you have the Anchor, return the Anchor to the center. The other player(s) clash, but you do not. Handy! Player actions resolve in numerical order, so 1->6. If at any point the discard pile becomes empty, discard the top card of the Nexus deck so that the discard pile always has at least one card in it. After a turn, you do not take played action cards back into your hand. Instead, display them like so:
It’s helpful to show how you played action cards on your turn both so you can see how many Temporal Clashes you had and you can see which cards your opponents have played, showing you how what options they have. Each round consists of four of these turns. At the end of the round, shuffle the discard pile into the deck. Now, check the cards. If you have been incredibly unlucky and had three or four Temporal Clashes, you participate in what’s called Fracture Event. This means that the top three cards of the Nexus deck are flipped, and you can take one of them and lock it, if it’s your reality fragment. So say Kintriel, Jessup, and Cenec are in a fracture event and three cards are revealed, one from Kintriel’s, one from Jessup’s, and a Wild Fragment. Unlucky Cenec! Kintriel and Jessup gain fragments (and gain them locked), but Cenec does not. As you might surmise, Wild Fragments are considered to belong to nobody for a Fracture Event. Everyone then takes their action cards back into their hand and a new round begins. As far as I know, you do not return the Anchor to the Nexus between rounds. If you managed to keep it, it’s still yours. First player to fix their fractured reality wins!
Oh, one last thing: The Vortex Fragment.
This is the only card in the game that can shroud locked fragments. Handle with care. On the plus side, it lets you essentially lock your wild fragments, which is nice. This card is optional unless you’re playing with the Ronin, but I usually throw it in anyways because a little bit of chaos never hurt anyone.
Player Count Differences
The only real difference is that 2-player lacks the Portal, and 6-player forces you to include the Ronin. Personally, I’d say it’s a bit like Coup (in more ways than one) in that I prefer it at the 3-5 level, not at 2 or 6.
2 players makes it mostly about trying to out-bluff your opponent so you don’t Clash every time. At 6 players, it’s too chaotic (too many Clashes) to get much of anything done. It places a lot of importance on who can get the anchor.
- Try not to get ahead early. This is honestly similar to Coup and Catan in that regard, in my opinion. It usually means you’ll be targeted pretty heavily.
- Your character ability usually suggests a certain course of action. Try it. If your character ability helps you control the Anchor, it’s probably useful for you to strategize around blocking other characters. If your ability lets you repeat actions, try using that to beat other players to the punch if necessary. If you’re not using your character’s ability you’re probably going to have some trouble.
- Be mindful of what cards other players have played and can still play. If everyone else has played a 4, you know that you can play a 4 with impunity. Naturally, if someone needs to play a 3 to win, it becomes a standoff between you two of trying to out-think the other so that you can block them. For this reason, it’s usually polite to read out everyone’s character abilities at the beginning of the game to prevent confusion.
- Temporal Clashes aren’t terrible. If you get two, you might as well go for the Fracture Event, so you should actually try to clash with someone. Plus, it blocks another player from doing something, so that’s usually a bonus.
- Don’t fear the Vortex. If you can play it when your stuff is already shrouded, great, but if not, just go for it. Note that if you reveal it into the discard pile, it still activates. Gotta love it. Besides, the Ronin can control it, I hear …
- You get to see everyone’s played Action Card before you resolve their effects. Use the extra information to your advantage. This might let you be clever with your actions to either Beacon your cards that your opponent might try to discard with Telekinesis or discard a card with Telekinesis that they were going to Portal, wasting their turn. They’ll probably try to get even, but do unto others, right?
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Oh, my God. The art. This is probably my favorite game art (definitely up there with Vye and Mottainai, which are pretty in a very different way, and Lanterns, which is just very beautifully colored). Obvious other favorites are the Dixit / Mysterium family, but this game is just, wow. Really great.
- Short, light, and fun. Generally what you’d expect from a nice little card game, but it’s light enough to throw in a backpack and take somewhere while you wait. The Kickstarter version even has its own little Nexus board! Adorable.
- Well-designed. Everything looks great, plays well, and the components are nice. This was a really well-run Kickstarter, and I was pretty impressed. I also got a sweet coin (which is surprisingly difficult to photograph well) for backing it, which is just … awesome. Not really a pro for why you should buy the game, but it’s definitely a reason I like it.
- Interesting simultaneous play mechanic. I’ve played simultaneous play games before (hi, 7 Wonders! And Roll for the Galaxy), but this idea of blocking both players for playing the same thing really adds a fun layer of bluffing to it. Do I play 4 because I know you’ll play 5? Or do I play 5 and try and Clash with you?
- Nice catch-up mechanic via the Fracture Event. I have seen games with a few rounds where one person Clashed at least three times each time and ended up getting lucky via the Fracture Events. It helps a lot since you’re not really getting to play anything on your turns.
- As with any simultaneous play game, you will run into a bottleneck problem at some point. You will have some players agonizing over which cards to play, and it will slow down the game, similar to 7 Wonders. It’s sort of a direct issue of simultaneous play games, so it happens.
- Can feel very random. Very random. There’s a lot going on, it’s pretty chaotic, and it’s hard to necessarily feel in control of everything happening in the game. That’s fair, but it’s still pretty fun.
- Pretty often that one player will just get ganged up on. That’s kind of how you prevent one person from winning, but it can suck for that player. That’s generally why you want to hold on to the Anchor — it lets you prevent yourself getting totally screwed.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
I really like this game, and I honestly think a nontrivial amount of it is the art. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool game with a cool mechanic and it’s a lot of fun to play, but the art is just amazing. I think the backstory and theme are pretty cool as well, and it’s a game I like to show off a lot as being part of my collection. All those things considered, it’s still a really fun game to play. It’s a short, light card game with some options to play really complex mind games, since you can screw over yourself and multiple opponents if you manage to do really well. Or use the Anchor to get out effortlessly and leave them trapped picking up the pieces.
All in all, try it out! It’s worth it.