Last night, I finally got Rex: Final Days of an Empire to the table. We played a six player game, so every faction was used and the game was reasonably busy. This was a game I had been wanting to play for a while, and I was happy to strike another game off the unplayed shelf of shame and misery.
The game is based on the old Avalon Hill Dune game, but is instead themed around Twilight Imperium.
In terms of gameplay, Rex looks quite complex and seems to have a lot of pieces – it is a Fantasy Flight title, after all. When you actually get into it, it’s quite straightforward and does not take long to pick up. As with many games, once you get the hang of the turn structure and how the various phases work, everything just kind of falls into place.
I would need to play a few more times to really get my head around the fine detail and develop an informed opinion, but it was interesting to see how each of the factions played differently and interacted with one another. The dreadnoughts that patrol the board are also an interesting factor, clearing out excess units and influence, forcing mobility and preventing over-entrenchment. The system of enforced alliances is good for people who don’t like all the fluidity and backstabbing in games like A Game of Thrones. People are still free to make informal alliances, but by locking players into formal agreements, your deals matter and, since this can only be adjusted when a certain card is drawn, you don’t know how long you will be tied to another player.
The game we played went well, with strongholds – the main objectives of the game – changing hands a few times over the course of the game. The first couple of turns were a bit slow, as we were very much learning the game as we went, and we were using the maximum number of players. We all agreed that the different factions did not seen particularly balanced, and that each play’s power affected the game in very different ways, but I suppose that the balance here would come from alliances. The availability of influence – currency – to different factions was one of the major issues that we faced. We found the combat to quite similar to that of Cosmic Encounter, though a little less unpredictable, with each player’s combat total consisting of the units they wished to commit, the value of their leader and any attack or defence cards. Another feature similar to Cosmic Encounter was the use of the casualty pool, from which dead units can later be reclaimed.
We did not quite have time to finish the game, but the players had split into two alliances, one of which would have likely won in the next turn, having largely wiped the opposing alliance from the board. Sadly, I was in the latter alliance. I’d like to get some more games in, preferably using different factions to see the game from different points of view.
Overall, I was impressed by Rex and look forward to getting it back on the table. I like the similarities to Cosmic Encounter and the alliances system, but am not yet used to the range of strategy cards and the best way to capitalise on the map – we kind of bunched units together for most of the game.