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Sure we want to stop the world from ending, I just want to profit from it as well

Jeff Goldbloom delivering the line “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” is one of those movie moments that has more truth to it than it deserves.  There are many of these lessons dotted through many forms of entertainment, but the overall lesson tends to be people don’t learn from their mistakes.

I feel there is a similar jab in the premise of The Grid: AI Awakens, a new game currently on Kickstarter.

The idea is simple – you play as one of four scientists that are looking to control the technology that makes up self-aware Artificial Intelligence.  This is done through hand management and control of a modular board system and looks quite intriguing.

There is another aspect that elevates The Grid: AI Awakens in my eyes though.  The AI that the technology is set to control is already in existence and has decided that it wants to be in control of its own destiny.  This means that in every player count, you are not only playing against your opponents but an aggressive AI player as well.

The Grid AI Awakens Components and Layout
The Grid: AI Awakens. This is a four player game all set up, but no two games will play exactly the same.

The Grid: AI Awakens is an interesting blend of cooperative competitiveness.  On one hand, you are playing against the other scientists basically for victory points.  You need to work out your opponents’ objectives and work out what to block and what to let by.

But the AI of the game is itself a player, so you might have to make suboptimal moves in terms of your own score in order to block the AI from winning, otherwise, everyone loses.

It looks like there are a lot of things happening in The Grid: AI Awakens, but from what I have been able to see it seems to be in fairly self-contained steps.  Once you get the flow of the game, I think it will be very straightforward to play overall.

For example, the first mechanic that gets eye rolls from some of my board game group is Hidden Objectives, kind of like Dead of Winter.  Unlike Dead of Winter though there is no ‘betrayal’ mechanic, so the stress of ‘Do I trust them or not’ isn’t there.  You simply trust no-one, because everyone is out for themselves.

There is also what on the surface appears to be a high level of ‘Take That’ mechanics.  Just because you research a technology doesn’t mean that it’s yours forever.  Players can ‘out research’ you, which can lead to a tug of way.  But the threat of the AI means these situations can’t play out too long, otherwise the AI takes control of the Grid and wins.

The Grid AI Awakens Secret Missions
The Secret Mission cards - the points your opponents know if you have or not

And for people that can plan around a random player, there are also Contingency cards.  These add another level of randomness and difficulty to the game, but again if you look at them in isolation, it’s a standard ‘draw card do text’ item.

Contingency cards will be one of three types.

  • Events – these are instant situations that can help or hinder players
  • Powers – generally single-use benefits for the player on a future turn of their choosing (such as extra actions or increase card draw)
  • Traits – these become a permanent ability upgrade for the player
The Grid AI Awakens Contingency Cards
So you think you can plan a nice safe road? Like any reasearch, things happen on the way that can help or hinder

All these layers are on top of the player mechanics that I haven’t even described yet, as well as the AI Attacks (or the Game’s turn).   As I said, it looks like a whole lot is going on!

But if you play through the process, each step is very limited, and I think will help in lowering Analysis Paralysis type drawing out of a turn.  Becuase the game state will change so much from player turn to player turn, sitting and evaluating highest potential scoring accurately is all but impossible.  You can’t just ‘wing it’ either though, or the other players will have your measure pretty quickly.

Normally I would describe player rounds and general game rules, but in this case, I am not going to.  This is partly because the Rules are not up on the Kickstarter page, so I am looking at the overview they have provided.  Everything seems straightforward enough gameplay wise, so I have already backed The Grid.

The other reason is Dan King, the Game Boy Geek himself has done a preview of The Grid: AI Awakens and does a great job walking you through the prototype version of the game.  I have linked to the video (which is also on the Kickstarter page) at the end of the page.

The Grid: AI Awakens is looking to me as a game that will benefit from being taught rather than learning from written rules.  The basic steps do look straightforward, but I have a feeling there are going to be interaction subtleties that the rulebook must nail first go for players to get the most enjoyment from the game.

I have backed the AI Master tier for USD$40 as it comes with the 5-6 player expansion pack.  To be honest, I don’t think I would want to play The Grid: AI Awakens with that many people, but I will need to play the game to be certain.  What the expansion does give me I am fairly sure are two extra scientists, so there can be another level of randomisation of the game where some player powers won’t be involved in every game.

If all this sounds interesting, check out the Kickstarter Page and The Game Boy Geek’s video preview.  Hopefully, soon there will also be more information on Board Game Geek as well.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Author JohnHQLD
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