Gremlins, Inc. – Early Preview

I am happy to report that Gremlins, Inc. is not a cheap cash-in on the ’80s hit film series Gremlins! Instead, it is more related to the phrase “there’s a gremlin in the works” that we sometimes use to describe a technical glitch.

Gremlins, Inc. is a steampunk themed, turn-based tactical board game where cards are used to perform actions and move around the board. Gremlins often come with their share of humor and misfortune, and these elements are captured so eloquently in this game. With the promise of innovative and tactical gameplay, I couldn’t wait to get started!

Is Gremlins, Inc. the future of digital board games? Read on to find out…

Use-cards-to-move-to-locations

Use cards to move your player icon around the board. There are both harmful and helpful spaces that you can land on. You can also trigger a card effect if you land on an icon that shares the same symbol.

Gameplay

The current Early Access build of Gremlins, Inc. is a fully functional gameplay experience. Though the game is currently part of the Steam Early Access program, all of the key gameplay mechanics are present, and all of the critical bugs have been thoroughly exterminated.

The game will remain in Early Access until Spring of 2016. The developers don’t foresee much change except for the inclusion of a much tighter user interface and a more in-depth single-player mode that will cater to those who aren’t so multiplayer-orientated.

The basics of the game can be picked up in the simple tutorial — the developers plan to change this into a full set of stand-alone missions that’ll give you a much more thorough guide than is currently offered. Graphically, the steampunk theme works incredibly well and is well represented by the user interface, card design, and gameplay mechanics.

Players will always have six cards in their hands that are replenished the moment they are used or discarded. To move on your turn, you use a card in your hand to move that many spaces — though it is never that simple in a world full of Gremlins!

The board layout has plenty of pitfalls, misfortunes, and risks on each of the spaces you can land on. Additionally, player movement is only permitted in the direction of the arrows on the board. This restriction may lead you away from where you wanted to go or force you to land on a less than desirable space.

Mulligan

You can choose to mulligan your entire opening hand if you like. This is a helpful way to diversify the available cards for movement and potential effects that you can use against unsuspecting opponents.

Gameplay Continued…

Card management becomes a crucial aspect of the game because of the board restrictions. However, cards are also your path to earning the necessary Victory Points (VP) required to win the game. To play the card for its action, you need to land on a space that shares the same symbol in its lower right corner.

A different border type resembling a house indicates the main spaces on the board where VP can be earned. You don’t need to land on these with an exact roll to trigger a card from your hand when you land on them. You do, however, have to pay their cost if they have one to gain their benefits.

Not all cards are good, and some will even have harmful effects if you choose to use them to move or activate their action. All players share the same decks and these are reshuffled to form a new deck when there are no more cards left to draw.

Undergoing-a-Police-search

Land on a Police icon and you can either let your Gremlin be searched for evidence or bribe the Police to leave you alone. Taking the risk and then rolling a 1 will land you in jail for an indeterminate amount of time. Don’t worry though as being in jail can be beneficial!

Misfortunes also play a huge part in the mechanics of the game when you land on them or take on the Risk spaces by not purchasing insurance. These are always negative and will often see you lose one of your many in-game resources or send you directly to jail.

The game mechanics remind me a little of Monopoly, but without the poor design and snowball gameplay that plagues the family favorite. This game is also less likely to ruin friendships or cause family disputes as to who should be the banker (because we all know they slip themselves a few extra notes when nobody is looking!).

Gremlins, Inc. is a thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience. The new and innovative approach to the traditional board game should pique your interest. The inclusion of being able to use your cards in multiple ways gives the game a huge arsenal of diverse strategies that players can employ and enjoy as they watch the effects unfold on their unsuspecting victims!

Resolving-a-Player-Conflict

Landing on the same space as another player will result in a conflict. The way to resolve this is through a bidding war where the winner will pay their bid to the bank, and the loser goes to jail!

Features

The single-player features of Gremlins, Inc. are limited at this time with a few challenges laid out that can be completed relatively quickly. You can gain Steam Achievements from completing the scenarios within set parameters, if you love unlocking and collecting those (and I do!).

The multiplayer offering is more or less complete, catering to up to six players at once. Players can change the win condition of the game to suit their desires, but the winner is always decided by Victory Points (time limit, round limit, or achieving a VP number).

If you don’t fancy playing against real people, you can set up a multiplayer game using bots instead, but their current A.I. is fairly dumb. The A.I. will be improved before the end of the Early Access as will the single-player scenario bots.

Ladders and weekend tournaments exist so that you can test your skills against other players. There are already players who have logged hundreds of games (win or lose) and have given their feedback as to what works and what doesn’t. Card balancing is likely to occur throughout the life of the game as combos and strategies become more apparent — a wise decision for any digital card game.

Join-a-multiplayer-game

The multiplayer lobby always has more than a few open games at any given time. This is encouraging to see during an Early Access period and is a testament to the game’s current popularity, which will only increase when the game is on full release.

One of the best statistics I saw in the ladder is the inclusion of a quit percentage. Shaming people who rage-quit all too often is something that needs to be in more games, in my opinion!

The game currently has most of what is necessary for a complete experience. The Gremlinopedia gives you the info you need on all of the game’s cards. Some sound effects are missing, as is the majority of the in-game soundtrack. Neither of these distracts from the gameplay though so it is a non-issue at this stage.

The game works on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems currently, with a recommended resolution of 1920×1080 to see all the detail contained on the board. Scaling down is possible, and the developers are keen to support lower resolutions, but this is a work in progress.

Winning-the-game

The win condition will always involve Victory Points. However, this can be limited by the number you need, the player with the most at the end of a chosen number of rounds, or via an imposed deadline.

First Impressions

Gremlins, Inc. has rewritten the guidebook on how to make an appealing digital board game. The balance of the game swings so quickly from one turn to another, with all players having equal opportunity to win at all times. Sure, some luck is involved in drawing the right cards, but you are in total control of how you move as well as if and when you want to trigger some of the game’s mechanics.

Gremlins and steampunk appear to go hand-in-hand, and the current aesthetics of the game are extraordinarily appealing despite the limited color palette. None of the mechanics seem out of place — as is the case with some games where they try to cover up glaring gameplay flaws!

The developers are keen to get as much player feedback as they can to improve the user interface, balance cards, and increase your overall enjoyment. There are a few minor bugs such as overlapping text and icons, but these are the kinds of things the developers want to hear about!

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself onto Steam and start playing Gremlins, Inc. right away if it appeals to you at all! What (mis)fortunes await your Gremlin on their way to the top?

For more screenshots from the Early Access version, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.

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