Like any good sci-fi plot, Gen7 starts out in the future. You and numerous others are aboard a colonist ship on your way to find a new home planet. You’ve never seen Earth and you will never see your destination, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have things to do. There’s a ship to maintain and, of course, things always go wrong.
How To Play
Gen7 is a fully resettable legacy-style campaign game that lasts seven episodes. Each episode is heavily driven by the story that unfolds in a Choose Your Own Adventure style book. What starts with a story about being the seventh generation on a colonist ship will end in one of eight wildly different ways depending on your choices both within and after an episode. The game is mostly cooperative, though each player has their own personal objectives to complete.
At its core, Gen7 is a dice placement game. Each has some D6’s (colonists), a D10 (an officer), and a D12 (a robot). While you only start off with three colonists and your officer, you can acquire more colonists from the Recovery Room, allowing you to have more workers for the remainder of the game. Your robot, however, goes back to the Robotics area after each round.
There are three main types of areas to place dice in. First are the labs: Chem Lab, Recycling Lab, and Science Lab, all of which give you resources of their respective type. Each lab has its own rules for seating, i.e., requirements for how dice are placed and consequently the number of resources received.
The second main area includes the Data Center, Manufacturing Center, and the Medical Center. The latter allows you to place a colonist in the aforementioned Recovery Room for use next round. The Data and Manufacturing Centers gain you Schema and File cards, respectively. Schema Cards are one-time use action cards. File cards gain you a permanent benefit, like collecting more resources in a lab or earning more points for completing Critical Tasks. You can also complete Operations Tasks – personal tasks that require a certain number of resources and earn you Merit Points – in the Center of a matching color.
Speaking of Critical Tasks, this is the third type of area you can use your dice. Each round, Critical Tasks come out, requiring players to coordinate their dice efficiently in order to avoid damaging the ship’s systems at the end of each round. Critical Tasks require a certain sequence or number on the dice to complete. (This is where Robots come in handy as they can sometimes cover two of a Critical Task’s seats by themselves.)
While these are the main areas on the board, keep in mind I haven’t mentioned every single area to place a die. As the game progresses, more boards are added, allowing different actions to be performed. Also, the number of rounds is not specified for a given episode in its setup. Without getting too specific, this number tends to be the same for most episodes, making each one around 60-90 minutes in length.
One last thing: Crossroads cards. Whenever a player places their Officer die, a Crossroads card is read if that player meets the condition. For example, a Crossroads card may indicate that the Officer had to be played in the Biosphere Division. If not, it’s cycled to the bottom of the deck unread. If satisfied, a small vignette is read and the active player chooses an outcome.
Open the pod bay doors please, HAL.
As you may have gathered from above, nothing in Gen7 is particularly complex. In fact, the core mechanics are rather simple. However, the game quickly begins to trip over itself from as early as the first episode, leaving very few redeeming qualities in the whole experience.
First, the rulebook is terrible. I usually avoid bashing on something not specific to gameplay, but the rulebook was such a hindrance to actually playing the game that I feel it necessary to mention. While it’s understandable that legacy/campaign games cannot always dole out all the specifics up front, the rules provide very little framework for the later unraveling of episodes and changes. New rules are handled via the story book and separate cards, which end up sprawled across the table. It’s incredibly difficult to keep track of everything, even for experienced gamers.
Regardless of having to blunder through the rules, Gen7 offered very little fun over the course of its seven episodes. Each game felt tedious and repetitive with no real sense of progression outside of the story (which was greatly disconnected from the mechanics). Turns were often scripted, getting your extra dice first, then dealing with Critical Tasks, then doing whatever else you could to fulfill Operations Tasks and Personal Objectives. And by the way, the relatively few Personal Objectives in the game get reshuffled each episode meaning you often get stuck seeing the same ones each episode.
Looking over the visual chaos of the modular boards, it was hard to tell what was important. There was no real sense of tension, which is greatly at odds with the story telling you how dire things are getting. As the campaign progresses, the game keeps throwing more things to vie for your attention and dice, but with minimal compensation. Based on your personal performance each episode, you do gain Officer Ranks/Perks, but they hardly feel exciting. You can also fall behind others if, for whatever reason (be it poor performance or sometimes just lack of opportunities), you don’t earn as many Merit Points. The minor catch-up mechanic in place to help push everyone along is not enough to overcome the feeling of just plain old sucking.
By the end of the seventh episode, you’re only marginally more powerful than you were in the first. It’s no wonder that you dread opening new envelopes – something that is supposed to be exciting in legacy games and get you pumped for the next game. With new boards, rules, and tokens to wrangle, the required maintenance detracts from being immersed in the game. Without new elements to lure you into the next episode, you’re left with the story to entice you forward.
And as for that story, it’s generally well-written and compelling enough, albeit a little bit reliant on familiar sci-fi tropes. Where things start to fall apart is in the integration of the Crossroads cards and character relationships. Crossroads cards never reliably trigger and, when they do, they hardly relate to the overarching storyline. Each player has a relationship with a different character, which is somewhat explored through Crossroad cards. Some of these ancillary storylines develop whereas others don’t. This creates more of a disjointed sense of the world than a cohesive one. Even the cooperative nature of the game comes up short as who does what on most turns hardly matters. The camaraderie of working together is frequently lost in the minutia.
Ultimately, all the pieces of Gen7 – the mechanics, the campaign, and the story – end up scattered. The large box seems to offer so much promise, but by the end of the game, you’re left with only disappointment as you go through the motions.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Asmodee USA for providing a copy of Gen7 for this review.