Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de

Ecos - First Continent


John D. Clair

Alderac Entertainment Group

No. of Players:



G@mebox author Lutz Wildt writes about the game:

Legend has it that Bingo is very popular in old people's homes. A "classic" bag building game. The requirements for the players are not very high, the game speed can be mastered even at a higher age and when a card slowly fills up, the game becomes more or less exciting. Which person will be the first to call "Bingo"? And presicesly this basic principle of Bingo can also be found in Ecos: First Continent. Tokens with varying values are drawn one after the other. Players may mark matching element symbols on their cards with energy cubes. As soon as all shown element symbols on a card are covered, the corresponding player shouts "ECO" and wins. Well, at least almost!

From here on the similarities with Bingo come to an end, and Ecos: First Continent just really starts. Each player has several cards in front of him, which show different element symbols to cover at the edge of each card. Sometimes four elements are necessary to complete a card, sometimes only two. Once a card has been completed, the player "wins" the execution of an effect shown on the card. These card effects expand Ecos: The First Continent in comparison to Bingo significantly.

However, there are several other elements that greatly enhance the game compared to Bingo. In Ecos we find a modular game board which is made up of several hexagonal map tiles, which represent the landscape types grassland, water and desert. At the beginning of the game there are only four tiles on the table (two water, a grassland and a desert landscape). By completing game cards, more map tiles can be added or exchanged. In addition, the various effects allow a variety of different animals, trees and even mountains to find their way into the constantly growing and changing First Continent.


On the one hand this looks very good due to the very high quality of the game material, on the other hand a larger and more differentiated game board is created step by step. This development can be influenced by the players according to their own ideas and goals, given by the effects of their cards. The goal of the game is, of course, to get as many victory points as possible, which also depends on the effects of the game cards. The effects of the cards vary a lot. Both in the number of effects to be executed as well as in their characteristics. Sometimes you are only allowed to play a single landscape tile, while another card allows the player to place animals, move them around the board and get victory points for a certain number of animals adjacent to each other in a group of the same genus.

As already mentioned, the basic gameplay is very near to Bingo. There is a harbinger, who draws new game pieces from a bag. Different primeval symbols can be picked. All players mark a matching open spot on their face-up cards with energy cubes until all open spots with cubes on an active playing card have been covered. When a playing card is fulfilled, the player concerned calls "ECO" and carries out the action or actions of the card in the order indicated there. It is possible that this will allow the player to complete other cards owned again. If several players have completed game cards at the same time (and called “ECO”), they are executed in clockwise order starting with the harbinger. A following player may also choose not to execute his card effect. If, for example, a card effect of the previously executed move is unfavourable for his own possible move, the player can use the energy cube he used to complete the card differently. In this way, he can bring the effect of his card to full fruition at a later date.


I particularly like the fact that the cards available to the player can be reused more or less often. If the energy cube spots are completely covered and the effect has been used, the card can be reused depending on the number of use icons symbolised by leaves before it has to be discarded. Turning the card around will show this, so that the other players can see how long this card can remain in play. Thus, very powerful cards will be removed from the game after some time to prevent imbalance. At the beginning of the game, a player has only seven energy cubes, a starting hand consisting of 12 cards (three of which are placed face up) and a dial token. This dial token lists the possible symbols in the bag, since not all symbols occur equally frequently. Furthermore, the dial token offers the possibility to use a drawn element that you can't or don't want to use by turning the token ninety degrees clockwise. After the second rotation, effects can also be triggered by turning the token back to the start position. If the dial token has been turned twice, you can draw an additional card, if it was already turned three times, you can either get an additional energy cube or play a card. This is the only way to play a card next to some card effects. By playing cards and collecting the additional energy cubes you keep the engine of the game running, as the cards have a limited lifespan as mentioned before. So, the players have to think carefully about how to use the elements in order to have as many options as possible. As soon as the harbinger draws a wild element token, all players are free to choose which symbol to use and the next player becomes the new harbinger. All elements drawn up to that point are returned to the bag and the game continues as long as no player has exceeded 80 points and wins the game.


In the first rounds, Ecos runs very simultaneously, because every player can use the elements drawn by the harbinger or use his dial token. In the course of the game the first continent expands more and more, develops in flora and fauna and at the same time more and more energy cubes are available to the players. This means that in faster and faster intervals and very often at the same time cards are completed, and the game tends to stuck a little bit from time to time, because a player must perform all card effects first, complete more cards and so on. And all other players has to wait for that. On the other hand, the game gets more and more exciting, because a higher number of points can be collected with just one move in the late phase of the game, and the target score of at least 80 points can be reached very quickly then.


So in summary, I think that Ecos: First Continent is a very entertaining game, as players don't have to wait for their next move, and each element pulled out of the bag can be used by all players in different ways. Despite the very simple gameplay and the straightforward rules, the many playing cards with the different card effects result in a high game depth. This certainly gives rise to many tactical possibilities that cannot be seen at first glance. In my opinion, the different game mechanics work together very well. The number of different playing cards alone makes you expect varied games. In the various test game rounds with very different numer of players, it turned out that the given sets of starting cards are very helpful to create a good balance of power. However, there is also the possibility to choose your starting cards via a draft procedure. This increases the replayability of Ecos: First Continent, especially for experienced players. By the way, the game material is of very high quality, as known from AEG. The bag and the wooden game pieces stand out especially. But I also liked the idea of including some storage containers with lids for the smaller energy cubes and the cardboard animal tokens. This is very practical and looks better than the standard plastic bags!

I can well imagine that in the near future, another round of old men will put their Bingo game on the table to once again witness the development of the first continent. “ECO”!!!

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