Xidit was not initially on my list of games to try, but Andrew was manning the tables at Asmodee so we sat down for a demo to get the full Asmodee Andrew experience.
One thing’s for certain – the game is bright and colorful and fun to look at. It’s also a movement-programming-slash-area-majority euro game. Each round, players use personal dials to plan 6 actions ahead of time. The actions are simple – movement, activating a location, or delaying. Movement is dictated by the color of the path leading out of the city. Activating a location can either net the player a unit, if they’re in a city, or attack an enemy if they’re on a space with an enemy. The attack also requires a set of specific units which the player must spend.
When a monster is destroyed, the attacking player earns rewards, and can choose two of the 3 options – either gold, towers, or area influence.
The game is 12 rounds long, but every 4 rounds is an extra “scoring”-ish round. Players compare units of each color and the player(s) with the most of a color earn rewards – again, back to placing towers, adding influence markers, or earning gold.
The endgame scoring is fairly unique. Rather than scoring your total points between controlling lands, building towers, and stocking up gold, you compare one type at a time, starting with the land control. Whoever has the least is eliminated. So, you may have a boatload of gold, but if someone else controls more of the board, you will get eliminated before your gold even counts. So you definitely have to balance the three ways of scoring points.
Xidit was less complex than I expected – and with all the icons on the board, it may be perceived as a heavier euro. But in fact I think it’s very family friendly and the learning curve isn’t too bad.
Despite the programming element being pretty straightforward, you still have to be careful. I definitely managed to miss a step and ended up spinning across the land in a completely different direction than I intended, and instead of killing a monster I ended up in an empty space doing nothing. Whoops! I found it humorous, sort of like Gravwell when another player gets just to the wrong side of you before you move, but with the sort of game it is I could see someone getting frustrated at making a big mistake.
Still, the fact that you have to program 6 actions ahead of time adds some tension to the table, because you can never be too sure what the other players will do, and if they’ll get somewhere just before you do and steal your thunder.
As you get more experience, there are ways to look ahead and see what’s coming, so you might guess that another player will kill a monster on the board and instead head to the space where a new monster will appear, since you can see that coming, which will help balance the competition over time. Of course you never know if another player is thinking the same thing, so it’s always guess, guess, read your opponent, guess. Anyways, I enjoyed it, and perhaps someday if I get the opportunity I will introduce it to my family.
When the second Seasons expansion, Path of Destiny, came out there was a teaser for Lords of Xidit in the back of the rulebook. The art style immediately identified it as being set in the Seasons universe. There was also the neat anagram of Dixit which appeared to be a fun little nod to Libellud. We’d later learn that Xidit was a retheme of Himalaya, an older release from Season’s designer Regis Bonnessee. For whatever reason it dropped off my radar, probably when I learned that it utilized area control which isn’t my favorite mechanic. But as fate would have it I was destined to play Lords of Xidit and when I showed up to learn Asmodee’s new releases before Gen Con it was the first game that I tried. It would then go on to be the game that I demoed for three days straight and in that time I have grown to really appreciate the design.
I’d like to revisit my very first play for a moment. Lords of Xidit is a programming game so you may not accomplish the things that you set out to do on your turn since you need to anticipate what the other players are going to do and plan accordingly. As a result I ended up wandering around and collecting almost exclusively archers (green units) because I did not pay very close attention to what everyone else was doing. I killed almost no monsters and then the game was over and I lost. I didn’t dislike the game but I did feel like I wasn’t really grasping the strategy. I was playing with Giancarlo (of Bored to Death) who was doing about as poorly as me and he commented that it felt like “all luck and randomness”. It certainly can appear that way at first, especially when playing with five players. Fortunately, as it turns out, Lords of Xidit is far from random.
You see, the actions in the game are driven by player choices rather than some randomizing element such as dice or cards. But that doesn’t prevent programming games from becoming chaotic and unpredictable. What I found, however, was that Lords of Xidit is much more forgiving than other programming games that I’ve encountered. One of the things that makes programming games unpredictable is the ability to alter other players’ conditions early on in a set of commands. Perhaps your character gets moved one spot to the side and now your whole turn works against you. This can’t happen in Xidit, your character will execute all the actions you’ve given him exactly how you’ve told him to do it. Things may not turn out as well as you had hoped (such as recruitting the wrong unit or getting to a monster too late) but he will do what he was told without interference. As a result I found the game to be less frustrating than other programming games because I felt more in control. There is still a lot of the charm of genre such as the big reveal when you get to see whether you outguessed your opponent correctly and pulled off something exceedingly clever.
Where Lords of Xidit distinguishes itself is the very unique and clever player elimination mechanic used at the end of the game. The three categories vary from completely open (Influence) to partial open (Reputation) to hidden (Wealth). The idea that you don’t need to be the best at anything but merely not the worst keeps the game tense all the way up until final scoring. I could go on and on but I’m going to need to save something for my review so I’ll simply say that Lords of Xidit does an excellent job of reestablishing one of Regis’ older designs in a beautiful new package.
Needless to say I have been very impressed with Lords of Xidit and it is without a doubt my favorite programming game for it’s distinctly euro feel. It grew on me over the course of my three days of teaching it and I spent most of that time simply watching other people play and enjoy it (and then go buy it). Expect a review coming up in the next couple of weeks.