Theme and What is it?
Quest for Gaia is a galactic empire building game focusing heavily on player interaction. For those familiar with the 4X genre (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate), this will be a familiar style of gameplay with some totally new mechanics. You can gain victory points through research, politics, star exploration, area control, and successful combat. The balance between first player, first discovery phase, and how players position themselves on the space boards is carefully crafted.
When one player gets an early advantage, everyone else has enough power at their disposal to shift the balance of power back and bring the game to a close race. There is no way to halt a player’s progress enough for “kingmaking” to be a problem but there is enough that anyone falling behind will find themselves with easy opportunities for points while the leader gets denied obvious point opportunities.
In Quest for Gaia, players get one major action and a few minor actions each round. The major actions are placed on the main board in worker placement style locking out others from taking that same action. Minor actions are where most of the board control change with players upgrading their planets, engaging in combat, moving around the galaxy, and building more fighters and carrier ships.
Players can earn points by achieving tier III research levels either by paying for research or using espionage to copy from someone else’s advancements. Players can either invest in controlling the political influence votes or simply by convincing other players that they are the best or alternative choice for chancellor. The chancellor goes first during the action rounds and gains a 2 point bonus. But the chancellor gets last pick during the discovery phase.
Quest for Gaia seems like exactly what I expect to see in a 4X genre game. You will use all four of the primary phases during play. The addition of a politics phase with both victory points, turn order, and special draft priority on the line was the part I most wanted to explore. It turns out; The way the star charts work and the importance of controlling Gaia is also critical to the game.
Who would have guessed that searching for Gaia would be important in Quest for Gaia? Players cannot “see” the planet hidden in the nebula until they have found 3 unique star charts to plot out its exact position. Once they have done so, they can take battle with others who have found Gaia to take advantage of controlling this exceptionally powerful planet.
Game Build Quality
The copy I have been using is just a prototype so I cannot give a good review of the component quality. The fighter cubes, 3D printed carrier ships, and 3D printed monsters are impressive for a prototype. I am very hopeful for how the monster models and carrier ships will turn out in the final production. The Kickstarter page will surely show what to expect in the final product.
The planets are well illustrated and the card iconography is great. But the real greatness in the artwork for Quest for Gaia is in the default races. Each of them is a great depiction of these fantastic fictional races. It also makes me want to draw my own horrifying creatures whenever I make a customized race to play.
My favorite parts about Quest for Gaia are how the politics phases impact the game, the ability to craft your own unique race, and the covenant action. Politics at the start of the game seems nice but not super important. As the game progresses, having enough influence to make sure the 2 chancellor points go to someone unimportant or to yourself is critical.
Quest for Gaia comes with a guide for creating a custom race. There are so many routes players can explore by linking positive and negative racial traits to have a very different play experience each time.
Depending on if players make their general racial goals known it could come out that some players directly conflict in their goals and lower the chance either wins. It also means one well-done race could stomp everyone. The amount of interaction between players makes it possible for even a particularly effective race to lose.
The covenant action allows a player to draw cards from the covenant deck and execute one or more of them. These actions could be peace treaties, a declaration of war, or giving another player your major/minor actions for points. They are easy points to pick up but will influence how you play the next round or two severely. Some players were afraid of interacting with this deck. Don’t be.
Normally you don’t get to choose who you are doing these actions with but if you draw your own colored card, you can pick which player to use it on. Giving a few extra actions to someone in last for points not only helps you get ahead but brings everyone back into the race for the endgame. Early in the game they can be a bit of a risk, but as time progresses they become more and more viable as a first picked major action. This is a mechanism I have never seen before and really enjoy.
Age Range & Weight
12+ seems a fair rating for a game like this. Heavy and mostly negative player interaction can always be a reason to keep children away from a 4X style game. But there are always those that not only can handle being hurt but get a thrill from knocking their opponents back equally hard.
Overall, Quest for Gaia is a rather difficult to learn game with a lot of moving parts. I recommend new players do a short game with default races before engaging in a longer game. This will make sure you ease into the system and can make rational decisions in the second play.
Quest for Gaia is launching on Kickstarter 9/23/19! Don’t miss the opportunity to get unique promotional materials and early bird specials! Quest for Gaia is at its best with 4 or 5 players as there is so much room for player interaction, politics, revenge, and for all the different routes of technological advancement to be achieved.
There is a whole galaxy to be explored and a very special planet you will want to be the first to occupy. I know that I am heading for Gaia in every game I play. What about you? Will you venture out from your homeworld to see most of what the galaxy has to offer?
SNEAK PEEK SUNDAY - Quest for Gaia - Open Door Games - Preview
Quest for Gaia is launching on Kickstarter 9/23/19! Don't miss the opportunity to get unique promotional materials and early bird specials!