Gameday First Play – A Study in Emerald
Holmes meets Cthulhu.
Mythotopia in the 1900’s.
A Study in Emerald is a game for two to five players based on the award-winning short story of the same name by Neil Gaiman. In this stylistic mash-up of Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft, the worst has already happened and the world is now ruled by the Old Ones. However, a secret war is being fought to free mankind from their servitude. The game A Study in Emerald fleshes out this core idea by including historical figures from the late nineteenth century, most being persons involved in the anarchist movement of the time.
Working as a Restorationist Agent against those Loyal to our Ancient overseers is pretty fun. Although the Agents for either side are so good, no one really knows which side we are on.
We get to travel the world, although it costs us a lot of money to do so.
We recruit new Agents by influencing them to join us, although we’re never quite sure if they’re a double agent or not! We can also pick up knowledge and new skills.
Influencing cities around the world will give us some control and help our cause. But, we can’t leave them, they can be taken from us as easily as we gained them.
It can seem like a lot of hard work, but we do have fun. We occasionally gather enough fire-power to bring down an old one, but of course those evil Loyalists will hear about it and work out which side we’re on.
Then again, if they come for us we can kill them too 😉
At the end of the battle, the best performing Agent on the winning side will be the one to gain all the praise.
So I mentioned the connection to Mythotopia and it’s by the same designer so it’s understandable. But it is VERY similar…
Its psuedo-deck builder where deck building is the main mechanic but area control is such a large part of it it doesn’t feel like a ‘deck building game’.
Cards are the main part of the game though. You start with a basic deck and gather new cards to use later.
The symbols on the top of cards are the bits you use the most, unless you get a card with an action on it.
The cubes let you place influence on cards and cities in order to take control of them. At the start of your turn if you have the most influence in it you can claim it. Those influence cubes are sent to ‘Limbo’.
The cube icons can be used to get that many cubes back from limbo to your supply.
The Gold coins let you travel point-to point around the board. They also let you buy more cubes to add to your supply at a 2:1 rate.
Bombs let you blow up Cities, Ancient Ones and other Agents.
The best part is the end game scoring…
In a 5 player game you’ll have a 3/2 split across the 2 factions, but you don’t know which way that is.
After final scoring, the player in last place not only can’t win, but also stops ANYONE on their team winning as they get eliminated. This means as well as playing the game to be in first place, you’re trying to help your team not be in last place… assuming you know who they are 🙂
I enjoyed this game a lot and I love the theme. The agent cards have familiar names like Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler and the deduction and scoring make the game one to enjoy.
While I think it’s a very good game I won’t be buying it, it’s far too similar to Mythotopia which I also like a lot.