Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: Enjoy Your Stay at Epic Resort

Epic Resort posterWhere do warriors and rangers go after an epic campaign? An Epic Resort, of course. In this upcoming board game, you’ll compete to build the most relaxing experience for battle-weary heroes and heroines. Ben Harkins of Floodgate Games (also the creators of the time-travel game Legacy: Gears of Time) just launched his fourth Kickstarter campaign for this board game.

At a glance: Epic Resort is for 2 to 4 players (with a potential 5th player variant in the works), ages 12 and up, and takes about 30 minutes per player. The pledge amount to get the game is $40, with an expected retail price of around $50. The game combines elements of worker placement, resource management, and deck-building.

For parents: the game does include some references to fantasy violence (there are monsters that attack the resorts frequently) and some references to alcohol (like the Mixologist worker or the Dayworker shown holding a wine bottle and glass), but nothing especially notable. However, the game is fairly involved—while it is not too difficult to learn, it has a good amount of depth and may be best with more experienced players, or at least those who are up for a long game.

Epic Resort
A 4-player game of Epic Resort takes a LOT of table space. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components

I got a chance to play an early unfinished prototype of Epic Resort, so the artwork is unfinished and the final component list is subject to change. However, here’s a rough idea of what will come in the game:

  • 50 Tourist markers
  • 12 Hero Health markers
  • Other markers for locks, damage, flair, and gold
  • 30 Oversized Attractions cards, plus 8 starting Attraction cards
  • 52 starting Worker cards (13 per player)
  • 58 Worker cards
  • 58 Dock cards (Heroes, Tourists, and Attack cards), plus 1 Season Pass Holder Tourist card
  • 28 Monster cards
  • 1 Harbormaster card

The version I used had a large card to track resources (Flair and Gold) but it’s likely the final version will just use tokens of some sort instead. The artwork that’s done so far, by Jacqui Davis (Belle of the Ball, Euphoria) and Mark Hansen, looks great and is a lot of fun—a Paladin in bermuda shorts, a Ranger in a bikini—and the various attractions you can add to your resort are pretty fun.

The oversized Attractions cards are a little big for my taste—it does show off the artwork, but they take up a lot of table space. In a 4-player game, you’ll have six of them in the center, available to be purchased, plus each player can have up to three of them. So that’s 18 huge cards on the table already, not to mention up to 8 cards in the Dock, 11 cards in the Worker Draft area, several decks and discard piles, and some piles of tokens. Oh, and room for your snacks and drinks.

How to Play

The goal of the game is to score the most points by having the most epic resort, of course. You score points for Attractions you’ve built and Heroes that get fully rested at your resort, and fewer points for those Heroes that came to your resort but didn’t quite get the R&R they needed.

Epic Resort
It’s just a beach and a tiki hut right now, but some day this will be an epic resort. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

I won’t get into all of the details of setup, but here’s the general idea:

Each player starts with a small deck of workers: 7 Apprentices, 3 Street Performers, and 3 Lazy Peons. You have a humble resort with two attractions: just a Beach and a Tiki Hut, with two tourists each. The starting player gets the Harbormaster card.

The Worker Draft Area is where the deck-building comes in. You have nine stacks of workers here; the Dayworker, Journeyman, and Guildmaster stacks are always used, but the other six can be randomly selected from the other sets. (Eventually there may also be Street Performers and Apprentices placed into this area from your starting decks.)

The Dock is where you’ll get visitors to your resort—Tourists and Heroes—and also where Monster attacks happen. The Dock consists of a number of face-up cards in a row, and the rest of the Dock deck is placed to one end. The Monster Deck is made up of three levels of monsters and is placed nearby.

The Attractions are what you’ll use to build up your resort and attract people. There are three tiers of Attractions, and you’ll lay them out so that two of each tier are showing.

Epic Resort set up
The center shows the setup for a four-player game. Each player has their own resort and their own Worker draw and discard pile. (prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Each round, or “season,” has the following phases:

  1. Get to Work—send Workers to staff your Attractions
  2. Actions—Hire, Build, Attract
  3. A Ship Arrives—refill the Dock, fend off Attacks
  4. Clean-Up—prepare for the next season (or end the game if the Monster deck is empty)

During the Get to Work phase, each player draws five cards from their own Worker deck, and can then assign them to Attractions. Workers have little meeple icons showing how much work they can do, and each Attraction has a number of icons showing how much work it takes to staff it. For each required worker that you don’t have, one tourist will leave that attraction. After you’ve placed all your workers and removed the requisite tourists, then you can see how much Flair and Gold each attraction earns. The fewer tourists there are, the more Flair you earn (because tourists like to avoid the crowds). However, you get more Gold for having more tourists, because they’re all spending money.

In the Actions phase, each player (starting with the Harbormaster) takes one action at a time. You can hire new workers by training Workers from your hand (not the ones that are currently staffing an Attraction)—you place the trainee in the Worker Draft area, pay the necessary Gold, and then take the newly-trained worker into your hand. This also locks that type—so if you train a Squire, then nobody else can train a Squire this season. Some of the Workers provide more units of work for staffing specific types of Attractions, and others provide special Discard abilities that come in handy.

To build an Attraction, you just pay the amount of gold listed on the Attraction and take that card. Each resort has three spaces to build, so eventually you’ll be building on top of existing Attractions, in which case you must build something of a higher tier. When you build up, any tourists who are there are discarded, though Heroes stick around.

The Dock
The Dock has Heroes and Tourists who want to come see your resort. (prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

To attract visitors, you spend Flair. If you attract Tourists, you take the number of tourist markers indicated and place them on any single attraction, and then discard the card. Some types of tourists add bonus cubes for specific types of attractions—for instance, the Foodies like food, and the Culture Vultures like fancy places. If you attract a Hero, you take the card and place it in front of one of your Attractions—only one Hero per Attraction. The hero gets a health marker and comes to your resort with the amount of health that’s filled in on the card—they’ll have to rest up to reach full health.

During the Actions phase you may also use “Discard” abilities on your Worker cards for free. Attractions also have abilities that may be used once per season if they are fully staffed, and then you put a lock marker on the Attraction to show you’ve already used that ability.

Finally, the first player that passes takes the Harbormaster card. If the current Harbormaster passes first, then a Gold is added to the card from the supply, and when card changes hands the new Harbormaster takes any gold on the card as well.

When the Ship Arrives, you discard the last card from the Dock, if any, and then refill the Dock. If any Attack cards are drawn, they’re resolved immediately and then you draw a new card to replace the Attack card. For an Attack (or the dreaded Double Attack), you draw Monster cards, which tell you which resort they’ll attack, either the player with the most Heroes or the most Tourists. The Attack card also indicates which Attraction they’ll attack at that resort.

If there’s a Hero there, you can choose to have the Hero dodge to a different Attraction (if there’s room), or stay and fight off the monster. Fighting costs the Hero a health, but protects your tourists as long as the Hero is strong enough. If there’s no Hero, then the Monster destroys some tourists. If there are no tourists, then the Monster puts damage on your Attraction. Finally, each Monster has its own particular abilities—Dragons eat extra tourists, Pirates do extra damage, Two-Headed Giants attack two Attractions instead of one, and so forth. As you might expect, the Monsters get bigger and nastier as the game progresses. Remember those Lazy Peons you start with? You can feed them to Monsters to avoid attacks—but once they’re eaten, they’re out of the game. The rest of the time they just take up valuable space in your hand.

Finally, once all the attacks are resolved and the Dock is filled, you Clean Up for the next season. All Workers at your resort and left in your hand are discarded, and any lock markers (on your Attractions and on Worker Draft piles) are discarded. Any Heroes that have full health are moved to your scoring pile—they’re rested and happy!—and for each Hero that gets scored, you discard the top Monster card. Any remaining Heroes at the resorts now gain one health. Leftover Flair is discarded, but you keep any Gold you still have.

If the Monster deck is empty, the game ends. Otherwise, you start a new season.

At the end of the game, you get points for all the Attractions you have (even the ones that have been built over): they’re worth their tier level. Fully rested Heroes in your scoring stack are also worth their face value in points. Finally, any Heroes that are still at your resort are worth 1 point. The player with the most points wins.

Epic Resort
A Warlord and a Warrior are visiting this nicely upgraded resort. (prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Verdict

First things first: despite the light-hearted theme, Epic Resort is a pretty hefty game. The combination of worker placement, deck-building, and resource management is pretty good, but may be a little overwhelming to players who aren’t familiar with those individual genres. I think the “30 minutes per player” is a pretty good estimate for the length of the game, so that also gives you an idea that it’s not a quick casual game. It’s not that it’s difficult to learn, but it does take time to play.

That said, if you’re looking for a game that has some weight to it, Epic Resort is pretty fun and presents some nice challenges. You do have to make some tough decisions about how to use the cards in your hand: sending an Apprentice to staff an Attraction may keep the tourists from leaving, thus earning you more Gold, but then you can’t send that Apprentice to be trained. Or you can save the Apprentices in your hand so you can train them into better Workers; your empty Attractions won’t get you much Gold but you’ll have a lot of Flair for bringing in new tourists or Heroes.

Epic Resort Heroes
A couple of Heroes: The Priest (who can’t dodge attacks) and the Warlord (who brings an entourage of tourists with him).

When you get attacked, you also have to decide whether to have your Heroes defend those helpless tourists—you get more points when they’re fully rested, but losing all the tourists at a well-attended Attraction will cost you valuable income for the next round. On the other hand, if you don’t think you’ll have enough Workers to staff that Attraction in the next season, then those tourists will be leaving anyway so maybe you let the Monster eat up the tourists and the Berzerker can catch some more Zs.

I haven’t played it enough times to figure out any optimal strategies, and with all the variables I think it could take a bit of playing around before I come up with something successful—but that’s not even taking into account the different Workers that you can include in the game.

Even with everything going on, I think the flow of the game is pretty easy to pick up. There is some downtime if people spend a lot of time deciding what to do, since each time it’s your turn you can choose between hiring, building, or attracting—and keep in mind that “hiring” is basically like a traditional deck-building game, where you then decide which Worker you want to hire. Players prone to analysis paralysis will bog the game down, in which case I suggest a timer of some sort. The other bit of downtime is if you pass and become Harbormaster, in which case you’ll sit and wait until the other players finish out all of their actions and pass.

Epic Resort workers
Artwork for a few of the workers: the Apprentice, the Lazy Peon, and the Accountant.

There’s a good mix of luck and strategy. You never know for certain whether there will be an attack (or multiple attacks) each season, but you do know that attacks target the player with the most tourists or the most Heroes, and that can affect your decision to attract even more tourists or Heroes. If you have a couple of Lazy Peons to throw to the Monsters, or perhaps a Squire to increase the defense value of your Hero, then you can afford to bring in those tourists and risk an attack. If not, well, maybe you just let your resort empty out a little bit this round. Of course, the other piece of strategy here is that the more Tourists and Heroes you attract from the Dock, the more cards you’ll have to flip and the more likely there will be an attack of some sort.

The other element of luck, of course, is inherent in deck-building games. You put certain cards into your deck, but you’re never guaranteed when they’ll actually show up—but the more you purge unwanted cards, the better your chances of getting the ones you want. The difference here is that almost every time you add a card to your deck, you’re removing another one—you’re not really hiring new workers, but retraining them. You can hire the Apprentices and Street Performers that have been returned to the Worker Draft area, but in general your deck doesn’t grow as much as it would in a typical deck-building game.

The locking of Worker stacks is an interesting concept that doesn’t normally show up in deck-building games, but fits the worker-placement genre: once you’ve taken a particular slot, then nobody else can take it that round. And the attracting of visitors is a bit like drafting—if there’s a Hero out there that you really want, then you need to make sure to get it now, or ensure that none of the other players will be able to afford it. A lot of the game’s strategy comes in being able to predict which cards other players are interested in and using your early actions to compete for them, saving the less-desired actions for later in the round.

Epic Resort Monsters
A few of the Monsters: the Vengeful Banshee, Pirate, and Ghastly Apparition.

I enjoyed my stay at Epic Resort and give it four out of five stars on Yelp. The atmosphere is fantastic and you never know who might show up for a piranha tour or a spin on the Slaughter Coaster. The service can be a bit weak—sometimes nobody shows up to work at all. Oh, and this one time while I was staying there a dragon came and ate my entire family. That was terrible.

Seriously, though, Epic Resort is a nicely done game and I’m excited to see how it’ll all look once the artwork is completed. It’s not quite as much of a brain-twister as Legacy: Gears of Time, but it still has a good deal to think about while you’re playing. I’d recommend it for people who already have some familiarity with both worker placement and deck-building, because otherwise it may be a little daunting.

For more information, visit the Epic Resort Kickstarter page.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a demo prototype of this game for review.

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Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.