Published by CMON
# of Players: 2 to 6 players
Ethnos is not your typical CMON game in terms of components. Ethnos is an area majority game that has players collection different race/region cards to play as sets to place tokens on a map. The cards are tarot sized and contain beautiful fantasy artwork. Each card is designed to contain the race, the region and special racial ability for easy reference. CMON took the time to make sure color blind people will be able to tell which cards belong to each region on the board. This is done by color and written text. Each player will have plastic tokens that represent their influence on the map. The tokens are designed to be easily stack-able and will not fall over easily. The map is fairly large and accommodates for each player's tokens being able to be placed on each region. Inside the box is an insert that works to keep everything neat and organized. I still had items move around while transporting the game. The rule book is full of colorful illustrations that help everyone learn the game mechanics. Ethnos is fairly easy to learn and the rules do a great job of explaining any possible questions. While we typically expect miniatures from games by CMON, Ethnos provides components that do the job well and keep the price down to what you would expect to pay for a game of this type.
Ethnos is a card driven area majority game that includes set collection, risk/reward, and bluffing. At the start of the game, victory point tiles will be randomly placed in each of the 6 regions of the board. Each region will have 3 victory point tiles that will be sorted from lowest to highest. At the end of each age, the player with the most tokens in that area will receive that number of victory points. During Age 1, the person with the most tokens will get the victory points listed on the first spot. During Age 2, the player with the most will get victory points based on the second spot and the person with the second most will get the victory points for the first victory point tile. During Age 3, top player will get the third spot victory points, second will get the second and the third would get the first spot points. The first spot will always have the lowest victory point tile and third spot will have the highest.
Once victory point tiles are placed, the players will randomly chose 6 cards from the race set up deck. These 6 races will be the decks that will be shuffled together to form the allies deck. The other races will not be used during this game. Some races will have extra stuff to add during set up and it is all explained in the rules. The start of each Age will have the following set up. Each player will draw a card from the allies deck to form their hand. After everyone has received 1 card, you will flip over double the amount of cards for the number of players playing. For example in a 5 player game, you would flip over 10 cards. These form a face up row of cards that players will be able to pick from. After the cards have been flipped over, you will split the allies deck into two and put 3 dragon cards randomly into half the deck. Shuffle that half of the deck and then place it underneath the other half of the allies deck. Each Age ends when the third dragon is drawn from the allies deck.
So now you are ready to actually play Ethnos. During your turn, you will either recruit an ally card or play a band of allies. To recruit an ally, you will draw one of the face up cards available or draw the top card of the ally deck. If you played Ticket to Ride, this is very similar. Except when you draw a face up card, you do not replace the face up card from the ally deck. If you draw a dragon card, you will reveal it and draw a new card unless it is the third dragon. The other option you have during your turn is to play a band of allies. To do this, you will play a number of cards from your hand that either all match the same region or same race. For example, you can place 3 troll cards of various regions or 4 cards of the same region but different races. When you place a band of allies, you will choose one card to be the band leader. That card tells you which region you will place your token and also what race ability you will use when placing that band. For example if I had all Straton region cards and picked the giant race to be the band leader, I would place my token in Straton and use the giant ability. To place a token in a region, you must play a band of at least 1 more than the number of your tokens in that region. After you have played your band of allies, any cards that are still remaining in your hand must go back to the face up ally card area. This prevents the stocking up on cards strategy that you see in Ticket to Ride and other games. Race abilities range from being able to keep cards after playing a band, to being able to place in any region you choose. Ethnos comes with 12 races, each with their own unique ability.
At the end of an Age, players will discard all remaining cards in their hands. Each region will be scored by who has the most tokens in a given area. You will then score points for each band you played that Age. The amount of points you receive for each band is based on the number of cards that were played in that band. 1 card will give you 0, 2 will give you 1, 3 will give you 3 and so on. After the third Age is scored, the player with the most points wins the game.
Ethnos was a game that came out of nowhere for me this year. I had heard nothing about it or that it even existed till I got to play it. I am glad I did because I really enjoy Ethnos. This is a great light to medium weight area majority game that has rules to fix issues I have with other similar games. Having 12 races that each have their own unique ability and using only 6 of them each game adds to the variety and freshness. Looking at Ethnos on the table, you would not think it is anything special, but the gameplay is so enjoyable. Taking a risk by hoping to draw a card you could really use while worrying about drawing a card that could eventually end up in another player's hand. Ethnos is a great example of knowing when to hold on to your cards and when to play them. I like that you only get to use the ability of one of the cards and it is the one that you are also using to decide region. You may have 4 Halflings in your hand but you want one for the region you don't currently have in your hand. Is it in the deck? Is it in someone's hand? If I draw from the deck, am I gonna draw that third dragon? Will I get another turn before the Age is over? These are the questions that will be going through your head constantly. Do you try and spread out to every region or pick a few to focus on? This goes to show the amount of strategy in Ethnos. There are times when there are either no face up cards or very few and everyone is seeing who is going to play a band and reveal some new face up cards. The tension can be thick, but very fun at the same time. I highly enjoyed Ethnos and want to play it again and again. Ethnos has a spot in my collection and I recommend everyone to give Ethnos a try. Ethnos may look bland on the table, but it is full of fun with no experience required. Ethnos is one of my top sleeper hits of 2017.
+ Easy to learn and teach
+ 12 races each with their own unique ability allows for unique and fresh games every time
+ Where victory point tiles are placed is gonna change up your strategy
+ Color Blind Friendly
+ Lots of risk and reward/ tense decision making
+ Plays in around an hour
- Looks kind of bland on the table
- Luck of card draws may put off some