A CIVILIZATION CARD GAME: GUNS & STEEL
GUNS & STEEL is a strategy deck building card game designed by Jesse Li and published by Pegasus Spiele. It is for 2-4 Players aged 12+ and can take from 45 minutes to well above the hour to play. Actually my statement there is a little incorrect because GUNS & STEEL is actually two strategy card games; one with a NEW WORLD theme and the other themed within the RENAISSANCE. New players are advised to start off by playing the NEW WORLD themed game before moving on to the Renaissance and eventually to a version where the card decks are combined - hey! that makes it three strategy card games in one box - it just keeps getting better.
Whichever theme you choose to play you will need to use the Civilization cards of which there are 20; 4 sets of 5 cards per set in player identification colours. The cards in each 5 card set are numbered C01-C05 but unless you know where to look for the numbers or you have 20-20 eagle-eye vision you will have a tough time finding these numbers; they are hiding in plain site. Strain your eyes (or use a magnifying glass) and look at the far right of the central card description banner - in fact the majority of the cards are similarly numbered.
For the New World theme you also require the New World deck of cards:- 25 Civilization cards (which do not include the start-up Player sets) and 10 Wonder (Wonders of the World) cards W01 through to W10. For this theme the Wonders in play are: Great Pyramids,Hanging Gardens, Angkor Wat, Great Mosque of Djenné, Taj Mahal, Himeji-jõ, Eiffel Tower, Manhattan Project, International Space Station and Apollo Project. The Civilization cards are Horse x7, Black Powder x6, Oil x5, Earth x4 and Space x3. For the Renaissance theme there are an exact similar number of Wonders and Civilization cards but they are all different cards. ALL Civilization cards are dual purpose with one side showing a Resource and the flip side showing Technology. Both sides are used in play, the Resource sides are spent to pay the Purchase cost of a required Technology. Technology cards are of three distinct types; Civil - Green - these improve production and may make additional Resources available during the turn they are played. Tactics - Blue - allow you to play additional Attack cards and Activate Attack cards in your display, and Attack - Red - Attack you opponents with a Military Force. When attacked you may respond with cards out of turn as long as they are showing the "Respond" icon which are diametrically opposed black and white arrows.
The WONDER cards can be won by completing the necessary task (as shown on the Wonder card itself) required for each; Wonders give extra Victory Points at the end of the game. Wonders can be taken by an opponent during play if the circumstances are correct to allow it to happen. Although you pass the Wonder card over to the new owner you should read into the theme that it is only military control that has changed - the Wonder hasn't actually been moved. The Portrait side of the Wonder's cards is noted in the Rules as the non-coloured side and it shows the task - what must be collected - that requires completion to control it. The reverse side of the Wonders cards is the Landscape side which shows some beautiful artwork depicting the named Wonder.
Both (all three) of the games are Set-up in the same way. The Civilization cards are laid out as a Pyramid with the 7 Horses on the base row so that it is built of 7, 6, 5, 4 and 3 Space cards at the top. Down one side of the Pyramid you randomly place one of the 2 Wonders cards for each of the Ages - Horse, Black Powder, Oil, Earth and Space. Finally, depending on the number of players and who has been chosen as the Start Player, some of the players are allowed to lay out in front of them one of their cards as a Resource.
The game play is in Turns with each player completing all four phases of their Turn before the next player, in clockwise order, takes their Turn. The Phases are: Resource, Technology, Purchase and End of Turn. The same Phases are used for both game Themes, Renaissance and New World, in fact the majority of the Rules remain the same with the Rules booklet offering special boxes where the two sets of rules differ. The main differences between New World and Renaissance, apart from the different card deck and Wonders for the Pyramid are the use of Glory Tokens (small wooden blocks in Red, White, Purple and Yellow colours) and the Victory Point tracker card and marker that each player has.
When I first saw the GUNS & STEEL box I thought it was going to be an expansion for the COAL BARON game that came out a couple of years back and has since been revised as a card game. This is because of the box colouring and the style of text used for the game title. I mention this incase someone thinks the same as I did and picks it up without actually checking the text on it - like if you had just popped into your local games store and were in a bit of a hurry and went by the style. Mind you if you did buy this by accident you certainly wouldn't be rushing to take it back, it's that good!
The Rules booklet makes everything clear, even though there are a couple of grammatical errors which only a pain-in-the-butt-clever-bugger like me would even notice, with illustrations and examples where needed, and the illustrations from named artists, YLAR, mango and GUOXY are absolutely beautiful. Clever and thoughtful yet not complicated or complex, this is a gem for core board games players.