Note: This review pertains to the First Edition of Epic Resort.
Brushing a pile of broken glass into the refuse bin, you couldn’t help but reflect on the old adventuring truism that wherever heroes go, trouble is sure to follow. You knew that creating a tropical getaway for the world’s best and most daring adventurers came with certain risks, but you were willing to take that chance you said, since even heroes need occasional vacation time…
Surveying the latest damage, you see that you’ve lost four casks of ale to a ricocheted dwarven hammer, two members of the serving staff were stuck on the roof of the main building, the performance stage was on fire, and three unconscious hydra heads were leaning out of the hot tub.
Yep. Just another day in paradise.
When the dungeon looted and the bad guys defeated, it’s only natural for adventuring heroes to want to kick back a bit. As proprietors of fancy island resorts, players offer precisely that, competing to have the nicest locale with the most fully-rested heroes. This should be easy, but no. Instead, monsters frequently try to crash the party, so players will also have to contend with dragons and ogres plundering the tiki huts while helpless tourists flee for their lives. So…how much rest are these heroes going to actually get?
To secure the claim of the best adventuring resort, Epic Resort revolves around resource management and deck optimization. The game comes with numerous card stacks and tokens, and although setup is straightforward, it requires a fair amount of table space.
To start, each player sets up their resort. Initially, this consists of two Attractions, a Tiki Hut and a Beach, with space for a third, each with a couple Tourists. Attractions generate Gold and Flair, the game’s two main resources. Better Attractions can be purchased later which provide room for more Tourists, generate more resources, and are worth more VP, but they also require more Workers to prevent Tourists from leaving. Snobby tourists, these.
At the beginning of the game, players also receive a starting deck of entry-level Worker Cards. Players can upgrade these Workers into more useful staff via a handful of randomly-chosen Worker Decks.
Finally, before disembarking, the Dock is established, revealing Tourist and Hero Cards which form the row of parties interested to come ashore.
The game takes place over a series of rounds, each broken into three main phases. In Epic Resort, the person who last went on vacation is the starting player.
During Phase I, players simultaneously draw Worker Cards from their deck and staffs Workers at Attractions. For each Worker symbol missing from an Attraction’s Worker requirements, a Tourist leaves. Then based on the Tourists remaining at each location, players gain Flair (used to attract Tourists & Heroes) and / or Gold (used to upgrade Workers & Attractions).
In Phase II, players take turns improving their resort by purchasing one of four items:
- A Tourist Card from the Dock, adding that many Tourists to their Attraction(s).
- A Hero Card from the Dock, adding it to a heroless Attraction.
- Upgrading a Worker Card, removing an existing Worker in their hand from the game and taking its replacement.
- Upgrading an Attraction, placing it atop one of their three resort slots.
Additionally, many Workers and Attractions also provide special abilities as free actions. Players continue taking actions until everyone passes, with the first player passing immediately becoming the new starting player.
Phase III marks the end of the current season. Here, a ship arrives and the Dock is replenished by revealing new Tourists and Heroes, though it may also contain stowaways in the form of Monsters. Whenever an Attack Card is revealed, the topmost card of the Monster Deck attacks a resort as indicated. Some Monsters attack resorts with the most Gold; others just want to nom tasty Tourists. Regardless, the defender attempts to fend off the attack, including asking their heroic guests to intervene.
Once the Dock is restocked, any Heroes in full health depart the island, taking a Monster Card with them. All remaining Heroes gain one health.
When the Monster Deck is empty, the game is over. Otherwise, a new round begins. When the game ends, players count up the VP values of their Heroes and Attractions that weren’t destroyed. The player with the most VP has provided the best vacation for their adventurers and will go on to be featured in Dungeon Delving Quarterly.
Everyone else should invest in some kind of security. Any security, really. Those monsters just waltzed right in.
Be Your Own Travel Guide
The moment the first Tourists step off the Dock, the race is on to be the best manager possible, enticing intrepid rangers, haughty clerics, and boisterous warlords to your resort.
Will you do that by showing off tranquil spa pools, death-defying ziplines, or some really, really good food? You’re also making room for that new roller coaster you’re installing, and well, something has to go. Maybe it was a good thing your tiki hut burned down after all…
This flavor permeates almost every corner of Epic Resort as it deftly integrates its tropical getaway setting with its gameplay. This alone is laudable. For instance, rather than simply upgrading your Workers by adding them to a ballooning staff, you instead slowly replace generic and less efficient underlings with more competent and qualified ones better befitting your establishment. Grab a Valet to cater to your Heroes, or opt for an Accountant to pad your Gold coffers. And the layabouts become Monster fodder.
Yet the game actually goes one step further, injecting a larger-than-life atmosphere that keeps the game lighthearted and not overly serious.
In a word, the theme of Epic Resort is about fun. And theme is everywhere. It’s like being at a Sandals that had a piranha tour and weekly pirate raids.
There is one thematic caveat, however: although the game treats visiting Heroes as celebrities (and many likely are), resources are fueled off Tourists, and there are almost twice as many Tourist Cards as Heroes. Thus the game functions far more around them than the VIPs, which seems odd. That said, this is more like a missed opportunity for more flavor than an substantive issue, and there is still plenty of whimsy to be had by Immersionists in this game.
Especially if you start making up stories about the on-goings of your resort.
Making The Perfect Cocktail
This spirited atmosphere is reinforced via the game’s two major mechanics. Firstly, Epic Resort uses an interesting “deck optimization” approach. It behaves like a traditional Deckbuilder, but as you are always removing one card from your hand to attain another, your deck never has more than 13 cards. In fact, if you feed your three Lazy Peons to Monsters (they deserve it), that number can drop as low as 10. This avoids worrying about or contending with deck engines, and although Architects aren’t going to be bowled over by this mechanic per se, they will appreciate that it keeps the focus on building your resort instead.
Secondly, the game does a masterful job at playing one resource against the other. Altering your resort’s Tourists numbers up and down every round to manage your income of Gold and Flair is at once elegant, flavorful, and clever. Both of these resources are heavily used in the game, but as you raise one level at your Attraction, the other falls, forcing players to make strategic choices not only in the current round but the rounds ahead.
The beauty to Epic Resort though is the synergy between these two mechanics. The game combines them together in an impressive way that simultaneously creates a limited number of actions but also provides room for moderate strategy without becoming cumbersome. Whether it’s focusing on luring in Heroes or investing heavily in constructing Attractions for the special abilities and VP they provide, this is one destination Tacticians won’t mind checking out.
On the other hand, Epic Resort is not an idyllic place for Daredevils or Strikers. For all of its carefree personae, this game revolves around making calculated decisions on resources and how to spend them, which will make Daredevils feel as if they were, well, stranded on an island. This is about running the resort after all, not staying at it. Similarly, between the lack of direct conflict in the game beyond snatching items first and the uncontrollable randomness of the Monsters (who they attack, the degree of their attack, when they end of the game, etc.), Strikers will want to make alternate travel plans.
The Long Voyage Home
Vacations can be wonderful experiences, allowing time away from your normal routine and letting you seek out whatever degree of adventure or relaxation you wish. Whether you want to be poolside with a good book, trekking through an African safari, or traipsing around an old New England town, vacations are largely what you make of them. As Epic Resort encapsulates, even daring heroes need a break now and then.
Of course, vacations can also become frustrating, anxiety-riddled events. From lost luggage to a dragon burning down your bungalow, trips don’t always go smoothly. It’s not uncommon, for instance, that after traveling with people in close quarters for a lengthy period of time, fatigue and frayed nerves signal that you’re ready for the trip to be over.
This sort of fatigue is also an issue in Epic Resort. Besides the physical fatigue of the game’s subpar card quality, there is the larger issue of player fatigue. Mechanically speaking, this is the game’s only real problem, but it is an inescapable one.
Essentially, Epic Resort is engaging for a while, but the game length is slightly too long for what is being asked of you. Since the game ends once the Monster Deck is empty, this is only accomplished by getting and scoring a Hero or if an Attack Card is drawn, and both are dependent on them randomly showing up on the Dock.
Yet the probability of an Attack Card being revealed is only 20% per card.
While this creates some fun-filled tension on rounds where numerous Heroes show up or multiple Monsters attack, it’s equally likely to have entire rounds when only Tourist Cards appear. This is more favorable early in the game when players are building up their resorts, but the longer the game goes, the more you want Attacks to happen, if nothing more than to move the game along. There is a dynamic endpoint to Epic Resort – further evidence of it being very well interconnected – but it skates past that point for another 3-6 rounds.
As it is, in four player games almost every Attack Card has to be revealed and almost every Hero has to be scored to end on a single time through the Dock Deck – which usually doesn’t happen. Moreover, although the Monster numbers scale down fewer players, it doesn’t remove the underlying issue that Epic Resort runs 30-40 minutes past the game’s pinnacle of competition and strategic planning.
We found that the easiest solution to this is either play with the number of Monster Cards equal to the player size below yours (i.e. use the 3-player numbers for a 4-player game), or have a Monster attack every round even if no Attack Cards are revealed. Epic Resort was never going to be an easy sell for Socializers to begin with due to its length and lack of player interaction, but for most others, this helps tighten the game up while bringing the play time in line to where it seemingly wants to be.
Epic Resort strives very hard to live up to its namesake, and to a decent extent, it succeeds. This game invites players to partake in a moderate-level challenge in creating the ultimate respite for the adventurer on the go. With a delightful premise, lively artwork, and easy to understand mechanics, Epic Resort manages to be widely accessible and maintains a relaxed tone throughout the game while retaining solid resource management strategies. Like most resorts, though, not everything is as pristine as it seems. With a thin and disappointing card stock, and players forced to overstay several rounds longer than is ideal, the game is slightly less epic than it could be. Nevertheless, even if Epic Resort has some room for renovation, it still proves a worthwhile destination for heroes and normal people alike to set sail for.
Just watch out for pirates and stray fireballs en route.
Epic Resort is a product of Floodgate Games.
Cardboard Republic Snapshot Scoring (Based on scale of 5):
Rules Clarity: 4.5
Replay Value: 3
Physical Quality: 3
Overall Score: 3.5