Inca Empire Review
Another game that crossed my gaming table was Inca Empire.
In Inca Empire, each of the player takes on the role of an Incan leader attempting to gain the most victory points. They can do this by building roads that connect their center of power to cities, temples, garrisons, etc. They can also do this by building the previously mentioned buildings and by conquering neighboring cities. Specifically, there will be different "phases" of the game that will occur within each "round" of the game, which will occur within the "era"s of the game. (Lost yet? It's not as confusing as it sounds.) Essentially, there will be parts of the game where each player will get new workers based on what civilizations they've conquered and what they have build (workers are the currency in the game), there will be times that players will play star cards (I have no idea what the actual term was but these are cards that affect the players abilities to build stuff), and there will be times when the players build roads and either build buildings or conquer peaceful neighbors. At the end of a prescribed number of these phases, the players will get extra points for buildings that their civilization connects to. This will continue through the different "eras" of the game, and at the end of the game, whoever has the most victory will win.
Now for the pros. The main thing that I liked about Inca Empire how the star cards worked. There was a 2x2 grid where each player's color was a divider between two quadrants (so that each player's color was adjacent to two quadrants and not adjacent to the other two quadrants). Each player was allowed to play a star card in turn order on one of the quadrants that had not yet received a card (face down). Once all 4 quadrants had received cards, they were all flipped over, and the cards in the 2 quadrants adjacent to your color affected you for the rest of that round. This worked really well, because you had to decide whether to help yourself and one of your opponents or whether to mess up two of your opponents. Since you only were allowed to play one card, you knew that playing a card on your opponents would probably cause you to have bad cards played back at you since that may be the only quadrant they would be allowed to play in. Also, trying to play detrimental cards against an opponent you shared a quadrant with could also significantly impact your own play. This is a new mechanic to me, and I really enjoyed this part of the game.
The second major pro for Inca Empire is that the game is balanced very well among the players. We played with 4 players, and the game was a pretty consistent see-saw battle between the different players on who was in what place. This is a difficult balance to master in games, so I am glad that Inca Empire was able to achieve it.
The next element of the game that I don't know if I consider a pro or a con is the amount of road building. You were able to score a lot of points in Inca Empire based on connecting to various buildings through your roads. This means that the main thing you are doing is building roads. However, there are certain star cards that allow players to build roads on the same path as your roads, thus preventing you from truly being able to block anyone's path. The roads aspect of the game is neat in that you are able to score victory points by connecting to what the other players have done, but is also frustrating because it seems like everything winds up being connected, so you basically wonder to yourself why you bothered having to build roads in the first place.
Now for the first major con: Inca Empire was very long and repetitive. There were not very many different things that you could do on your turn, so you wound up performing the same actions over and over. Each turn, you would look around to see where you should best place your roads. That was one of the main elements and this element became boring after doing it 10 times. Unfortunately, I think that shortening the game (removing rounds) would skew the balance of the game, so I don't really see a way around this.
The second major con in Inca Empire was that it was very difficult to quickly see what was going on in the game. The pieces are very small and clustered all over the board because of the sheer number of roads and the symbols on the star cards are not very intuitive, so you must really concentrate and double check things to see what is going on. I much prefer being able to quickly see how I am doing in a game, and what different things are affecting my ability to play.
Overall, I give Inca Empire a 6.5/10. I could play the game again, but due to the length of time it takes, and the repetitiveness of it, I probably will not. If you enjoy road building games, then this would be one to check out because the pros that I mentioned truly are good things, but overall there are a lot of other games out there that I would rather play instead.