Tabletop Review: Overseers

By Heidi Yi Hughes on

About Heidi Yi Hughes

Heidi rolls a natural twenty for stealth and no longer exists on this plane of existence. Pick up a cat and search for her on the Twitter-plane @PandaBumHah.

 

I spent hours trying to cook up a cleverly worded introductory sentence to keep your interest, dear reader. While I held the card displaying one of the many Overseers you can play in Greenbrier Game’s newest drafting card game, I realized that I was holding clickbait in the palm of my hand. So let your eyes scroll down below and draft the following beauties to make up your winning team.

Okay, I can see your raised eyebrows:

“Woah, Heidi! Making us blush and cross our legs with the introduction of the article? You realize this is supposed to be a game review and not a presentation of the latest cast additions for the new season of Orange is the New Black? We worship your words of wisdom, but you are starting off this article in a terribly weak way. We loved your review of Dragoon, but this is making us shake our heads in despair. Are you diseased?”

Thank you for your concern, but I am feeling well (other than the seeping bug bite on my shin that seems to exponentially increase in size nearly every day, but you don’t actually care about that now do you…?). These ladies are examples of the stunning artwork you will find in Overseers, a drafting and bluffing card game for 3 to 6 players by Greenbrier Games.  

A mysterious Goddess has sent a group of Overseers to Earth to maintain balance for humankind’s survival. This is accomplished by manipulating and bending human virtues and vices. However, each Overseer has their own definition of what exactly “balance” means. Thus, these Overseers are stuck in a never ending battle with each other to defend our earth, leaving humankind wondering “Why the heck did this Goddess send so many bickering Overseers?”  

Overseers last three rounds and the player with the highest number of victory points at the end wins. Each player is dealt a hand of trait cards. Trait cards are the human virtues that are worth victory points for winning the game. There are different types of traits that are worth different values of victory points, and some of these trait cards can stack for added value. Next, each player is randomly assigned a character card. These characters have abilities that can come into play during the different phases of the game. For example, the following card makes certain trait cards worth more points:

Other characters can influence later phases of the game. In the next phase, players will choose one Trait card they would like to keep and then pass the rest of the hand to the next player. This is repeated until 5 out of the 6 cards have been selected and the remaining cards are placed in the discard pile.

“But Heidi! This sounds just like Sushi Go!. It embarrasses us to point this out because normally your sage wisdom is sought out by powerful entities, including the very Goddess who sent these Overseers to Earth… but do you have your games mixed up?”

I am impressed by your gaming senses that clearly tingle when in the presence of pick-and-pass gameplay, dear reader! Indeed, this phase of the game utilizes a well-designed mechanic made popular by Sushi Go!. In fact, the point system of the cards is very similar to Sushi Go! cards in that some cards can stack in value. Clearly Sushi Go! illustrates what happens when the Overseers dine at a sushi restaurant together.  

Players then arrange their cards so that three cards are revealed and two remain hidden. The players must then discuss which player they think has the highest score. After accusing each other of trying to win the game, the players vote. The player who receives the most votes must then either admit to thinking they have the most victory points, resulting in the player discarding two cards of their choice or the player denies the accusation. The cards are then revealed. If the player denies having the highest number of victory points but actually does, they must discard the two cards that grant them the highest score. If that player does not have the highest number of victory points, they can choose a card of their choice from the discard pile. Character skills are used, points are scored, and this process repeats two more rounds. In the end, the player with the highest number of victory points wins (but regardless of which Overseer wins, humanity will always lose).

The components in Overseers are stunning. It is clear that the artwork for every card was carefully thought out and no details were left behind. Theme is very important to me to enjoy a game, and though the story itself seems a bit like a sticker slapped on because it needed to be there, the artwork is enough to feed my imagination. The voting tokens are solid, and the scoring tokens are well made cardboard components. But the star of the show is the reference card. Much like the cards seen in Coup, the reference card details each stage of the game, providing a nice summary so that the players do not need to constantly reference the rulebook. Furthermore, it details how many of each Trait card there are in play. Though having this information doesn’t drastically influence your strategy, it is nice to not have to remember which card is worth the most points.

Overall, the game presents a novel and creative idea of marrying the choose-and-pass mechanic from Sushi Go! with the deductive and bluffing mechanics of Coup. To the best of my knowledge, this feat has not been attempted before, and it is an idea that I hope is utilized in future games. The number of players determines the number of Trait cards that are in play. In our playtest, we found that this game played well with 5-6 people because nearly all of the cards are in play at one time. Contrastingly, a game of 3 players resulted in there always being at least 7 cards in the discard pile at the start of each round, thus causing us to count cards while passing our decks around in the drafting phase. However, when there are 5-6 players, the discard pile contains 0-2 cards thus allowing the players to focus more on what cards would benefit them and what cards are disappearing from the decks. Okay, I see you raising your eyebrows again. What is it this time?

“The article thus far was flowing towards its satisfying conclusion like a collection of rivers emptying into the ocean, but now it feels as if you just stopped that flow by installing a dam. Even when the entire deck of cards is out on the table, players still need to count cards! You contradict yourself, yet we shall wait for your witty comeback for you are our board game cult leader!”  

Ah, you must let me finish without interrupting me (for I do not know how much longer I have on this earth. This bite on my shin can only grow so large before it consumes me…). Yes, in these types of games, there is a bit of card counting involved. However, typically players already know what the total number of card types are and are counting how many cards are left in the game. In the 3 person game, the total number of each card type is unknown because 7 cards are placed in the discard pile before drafting even begins. That makes it more difficult for deduction during the accusation phase of this game. In the 5-6 person game, the game starts with 0-2 cards in the discard pile thus making it easier to make deductions about the hidden cards during the accusation phase.

In summary, Overseers introduces a novel and creative mechanic that plays well with 5-6 people. Please check out Greenbrier Games and follow them on Twitter @GreenBrierGames. Keep an eye out for their next Kickstarter or find them at the next gaming convention.

This game will be available to play at GeeklyCon 2017! Tweet @PandaBumHah if you are interested in playing.

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