After playing it a few times I think it is time to give my opinion about Endless Winter. This is a review for the solo of the game. I’ve only played it multiplayer one time so take any comparisons with a grain of salt. I also haven’t played any of the expansions so I will not dive into those in this review. I did use the “advanced” setup with the rest module included because I heard from multiple people that this is the best way to play the game and since I already played it online before I didn’t feel the need to exclude anything for ease of play.
What is Endless Winter?
Endless Winter: Paleoamericans is a euro-style game that combines worker placement and deck building in an ice age setting with art from The Mico. Players will guide the development of their tribes across several generations. Over the course of the game, tribes migrate and settle new lands, establish cultural traditions, hunt paleolithic animals, and build everlasting megalithic structures.
How to play
Each player (and the bot) starts the game with some workers and a chief, this chief also has an asymmetric power card. You also receive some huts and villages, megaliths, a starting deck and some starting resources (these are different for each player and determined by drawing a card). Everything goes onto your player board on the appropriate spaces.
To start your turn you can play a culture card. These cards can be bought throughout the game and let you do an action. After playing your culture card you can place a worker on one of the four action tracks on the main board. If you are the first person on this track you will get a bonus action that is only available to you. If you use your chief and the action matches the chief card you can also do your chiefs special action.
When performing your actions you will use labour points to be able to perform the action. These labour points come from your tribe cards and/or from using your food supply.
Each of the tracks on the board interact with different systems: one track helps you get new, more powerful tribe cards; one track helps you get culture cards; one track helps you move camps around on a side board; one track helps you get animal cards. There is a lot more to these actions and a bunch of minor side actions you can do but for the sake of keeping this review below novel length I’ll keep it to this.
Lastly you will put down cards face down for your eclipse pile. These cards will be activated during the eclipse phase and will determine who goes first next round and will give you special eclipse actions to perform.
Look and feel
The first thing to get out of the way is that this game is an absolute tablehog! I don’t have any of the playmats and I’m kind of glad for that because this way I can arrange the pieces in a way that makes sense on my table. The box, however, is great! I have the big box and everything fits in nicely with individual trays for the player with everything you need in there. Since I mainly will be playing solo I’ve prepped one of these player trays to be the solo bots tray. It holds all the pieces the bot needs and the cards that it uses to determine its actions. So when I want to play I grab one tray for myself and the bot tray and I can setup pretty quickly that way.
Besides being an intimidating presence on the table because of its size, the game is also impressively beautiful. I’m a big fan of anything ice age and related so that’s already a win for me but the art is great and really fits the theme. The components are also nice. The chief miniatures look great and the wash highlights all the tiny details on them. Player components are mostly screen printed wood (unless you bought the resin pack, which I regret not buying). The player boards are double layered which I great for keeping the components where they need to be.
How do you play Endless Winter solo?
As far as I can compare the solo game feels pretty similar to the multiplayer experience. In the solo game, you set up pieces for yourself and a bot, and the bot gets a shuffled deck of cards that are programmatic instructions of what it’ll do on its turns, and it works off of a set of priorities that simplify the decisions the solo player must make to run the bot.
Although it isn’t a really aggressive game, part of the fun and challenge lies in the order in which actions are taken. For example, if you are the first to take a certain action that round you will get a bonus action. This can be really powerful and cause you to rethink your strategy when someone else gets there first. The bot does a good job of emulating this experience. It often happens that it gets somewhere first and I’ll adjust my actions for my turn to get better benefits. It can also block spaces on the map board or with megaliths so you can’t forget about it and just play your own game.
Luckily the bot also plays fairly easily and it’s not the hardest I’ve encountered to control. Every card has programmatic instructions of what it’ll do and an extra player aid helps determine edge cases. After the first few plays I haven’t had to look at the rulebook anymore when controlling the bot, mainly because the iconography is pretty clear.
The biggest downside to the bot and solo play in general is that there’s only one. When I played the game multiplayer there where a lot more tense situations because 3 players took turns and blocked things before I had my turn. Sometimes this also caused me to take a certain action simply to block another player from doing it. With just one bot opponent you will get blocked a lot less and thus the game gets a little less tense.
What I think of the game
Learning the rules of the game took me a while because there are a lot of different actions and places to perform them. But once you understand the main gameplay flow it’s pretty doable.
When a game has a lot of options the rulebook will not be able to tell you how to play the best way. I love it when a game wants you to adapt to its circumstances. Your cards and resources will determine the most logical actions to take. And during the first few games it feels like you’re simply reacting to these circumstances but with more plays you will be able to plan ahead.
We’ve seen a lot of worker placement, deck building games recently and people are starting to get over it a bit, or so it seems. But Endless Winter doesn’t feel like a standard game that’s just cashing in on the hype. The main attraction is how the worker placement and the deck building interact with each other. Because you need your cards to power the actions you take with your workers and you don’t draw cards between every placement. So you need to divide your labour points in a way that will give you the best use for them, while also sometimes going for a big hit and using a bunch at once to score advantageously.
And then there’s the eclipse phase, where you can turn those cards into great actions and a good starting position for the next round. But then you can’t use them now and you want to! This interconnection between your actions and your cards is something I’ve seen before in games like Lost Ruins of Arnak, where you can also play cards for their action or use the symbol on them as payment to do a different action. But with Endless Winter it works better. It’s hard to explain why but in LROA the action or the symbol almost never truly compete with each other. If the action is any good I use it, if it isn’t (for the situation) I simply use it for the symbol. But in Endless Winter you always need labour points and you always want nice eclipse actions and you definitely want to use your action track to its fullest extent. But you can’t have it all so you have to make choices.
So even though there are a ton of boards, and actions, and types of cards and just so much to do, the game will immediately make clear that you will need to make choices based on what you have and how you can optimize your hand. This ensures (for me at least) that the game never feels overwhelming or like there’s “too much stuff”, there is enough stuff to make you question your every action but not so much that nothing seems not worth it.
Endless Winter offers a lot of what I like in a game. There’s deckbuilding, worker placement, strategic playing, multiple routes to victory and an easy to run bot. And there’s also beautiful artwork, a great box and much more fun to explore with the expansions.