Players rule as patriarchs of a wondrous world where dinosaurs are beasts of burden and the design aesthetic hearkens back to Ancient Rome. No, this isn’t Dinotopia®.
Uchronia starts with two separate decks of cards and a player boards for each player. One deck consists of building cards which are laid out in a row of five awaiting construction by the players. The other cards operate as a combination of actions, bonuses (also known as Activities), and resources. Despite the multiple uses, these are referred to as Resource cards These cards are dealt to players’ hands and one card is discarded to a central play area called the “Forum”.
On a turn, players may either use a card in their hand to take an action by placing the card on their player board, or draw replacement cards and possibly take an action that is a duplicate of another player’s already played card. There are five card types and so there are five possible actions. The five types also have a different associated resource indicated on the card. The rulebook explains what these resources are but the images on the cards display them as colored bricks.
The complexity of Uchronia lies in the types of actions available, explained in text and with icons on the player board. A player may take the “Production” action, taking a card as a resource from the Forum and placing it beneath their player board. A player may complete an “Explore” action by placing a card from their hand as a resource to the area below their player board. Using the “Construction” action either moves a building card from the card row to the incomplete building space to the left of their player board or the player may move a resource to the building to work on constructing it. A “Trade” action allows a player to move a resource card from below their player board and change it to an “Activity” which sits above their player board. Finally, a “Draconians” action allows players to steal resources from other players if they correctly guess a player has a certain resource type in their hand and the stealing player reveals one of their own cards which matches the card being stolen.
The overall goal of Uchronia is to achieve a set number of victory points. Activities from the Trade action mentioned earlier grant additional uses of each of the actions and provide points if the player has the most cards of a particular type. Additional points are collected from constructing buildings. At the end of a round where one player has enough points, the game is over.
- The card and player board quality is adequate but the cards and boards are very curved (maybe warped) once unpacked from the box. This may be unique with the play copy purchased.
- The rulebook is complete and direct. It tries to help players to learn the game, but only a game or two will completely illuminate the flow of play.
- The icons are cryptic until you learn what Activities and areas of the player board are trying to do. Sometimes the extra text on the player board gets in the way of simply illuminating the flow of play.
- The art for the cards is flat and uninteresting without any real implementation of the dinosaur theme concept. Only the building cards have distinct art and each feels so bland as to remain unmemorable.
- The names of game areas and gameplay mechanisms overly complicates play when explaining what each action does. The “Draconians” and “Trade” actions in particular are difficult to explain because what they do doesn’t coincide with how the gameplay is affected by the actions themselves.
- The flow of play is difficult to understand upon initial play but will reveal itself during a few turns.
- Play is often competitive as players race for points but also feels limited by the building cards present in the card row. There are very limited ways to remove unneeded cards.
- Players will be engaged by engine building combining just the right building cards (with special abilities) but again there is no way to manage the card row to get the cards you could really use.
- The back-and-forth competition for majorities and extra points is extremely engaging and helps propel this out of multi-player solitaire.
- Players who don’t care for theme will find interesting mechanisms to chew on but feel distance by the limitations of the system and play options.
- Buildings to be completed never require multiple types of resources and so the completion of buildings, one of the main objectives, feels lackluster.
- There is some complexity and depth to play that presents itself once the understanding of game mechanisms sets in. But this takes a couple of games.
- Once play is completely comprehended, it comes across as a simple resource collection and building game that unnecessarily complicates itself.
- The theme is woefully absent. It almost feels like a bait-and-switch given how lovely and evocative the box cover art is. Never is there a real feeling of building an ancient city with dinosaurs. Given the type of theme, this is a big miss.
- The action/resource cards work well for players who could care less about theme. This feels like a missed opportunity to indicate which colors represent which resources instead of just colored bricks.
- Shuffling the large number of cards in the game is quite annoying. With a smaller number of cards that cycle, the same game result could be acheived.
Uchronia could fill a spot in a collection looking for a medium to heavier card game. It feels like a more interactive, complex version of Splendor or New York. On the whole due to the bland implementation of theme, it can act as a stand-in for most any tableau-building card game with minimal theme. As such, those looking for thematic engagement, as the box art might suggest, should look elsewhere.
Scores for Uchronia
Presentation - 65
Gameplay - 75
Fun - 50
Complex card play drives interesting gameplay with a non-developed theme that ultimately falls flat.