Even though it’s a genre that I enjoy, there’s no denying that the post-apocalypse concept is becoming a bit tired across both board and videogames alike. Zombies, mutants, aliens — whatever the threat is, we’ve seen it all before. But what would you think if a game took a more hopeful view of the decline of mankind? What if a game like Paris: New Eden, came along and asked: “how do we rebuild?”
OK, that’s a fairly grand opening for a relatively light dice drafting and tableau-building game, but honestly, I don’t know why so many games assume that violence should be the staple of all post-apocalypse interactions between people. Paris: New Eden does acknowledge this by having ammunition and fighters as resources, but primarily — I think — it’s about building a community.
As is often the case, Paris: New Eden is a game that simply requires players to score the most points. Up to four players can participate, and each will receive their own player board that represents their enclave. Depending on the player count, there will be a set number of open spaces on that board, each of which will accommodate a single die that will be drafted from the mainboard.
In addition, players will eventually build out their enclave by adding survivor tokens and building cards that may come with more survivors and/or provisions of some kind. These survivors and buildings will be collected over four phases of drafting that represent the seasons in a year, each of which brings its own challenges and, of course, opportunities (to score points).
There are two phases to each of these seasons, the first of which is a dice drafting round in which the players take dice from the onboard locations. Each location allows the player to pick one survivor dice, and to take one action specific to that location — at The Tower, the player will flip over one of the three objective tokens to “disable” it for that season. At The Railway Station, they’ll take a survivor token and so on.
There are a few interesting things about how dice are drafted in Paris: New Eden, including the fact that when a die is taken, it isn’t rolled — the side it is facing at the start of the round must be retained. Also, the number of dice placed onto each space is determined by player count and will always be the same, and every single die will be drafted in every single round, it’s really just a question of who takes which die when, and who activates the specific action spaces earliest to gain the most benefit for them.
During the second phase of each season, the players will undertake a second draft, this time in relation to five sets of three cards that represent buildings. Broadly speaking, the building cards correspond to the five main survivor types (with the sixth survivor type that doesn’t feature a set of building cards being wild).
Buildings will essentially be bid on by the players simply counting the number of matching survivors they have showing on the dice and tokens drafted in the previous phase. The players then choose the building they wish to take from that category in order of who had the highest bid. This is the moment where wild survivors can be added into the mix, but only if the player using them has at least one survivor matching the building being bid on. Oddly, the number of buildings is the same whether the player count is two, three or four, meaning that in a four-player game, the weakest player in each category will not get a building.
As each set of building cards is claimed, the dice (including any used wild ones) are returned to the supply ready for the next season, whilst any survivor tokens are flipped from their “dice side” to their ordinary side and are then added to the player’s enclave. The total number of survivors printed on building cards and tokens flipped in this way is the population of each enclave, and many of the survivors count towards secret victory point cards either chosen at the beginning of the game or drafted from The Bridge location during the first phase.
There are a few nuances to the building draft that make it more interesting than it otherwise might be, although I have to admit to liking the basic mechanic of drafting dice that support whatever building type you favour. The baseball bat token taken from The City Centre location allows the player to win ties, for example. Whilst there are up to fifteen cards to be drafted, the fact that the bidding is predetermined (except for the use of wilds) basically means that the pace of drafting is very fast.
Once the final building has been claimed, the season ends with a clean-up phase that involves resetting the objectives at The Tower with those of the next season, re-rolling and placing the dice and so on. Before this happens though, the players will check if they have enough equipped survivors to achieve the one remaining objective from the previous season, and if they do then they will score points as shown.
They will also feed their enclave, scoring more points if they are able to meet the demand (with no penalty if not). To be honest, the manual is not clear whether one or all players can score The Tower objective, but I take it that anyone who meets the requirements can, since it wouldn’t make sense if this was a “one-off” bonus that, for example, went to the first person to have the prerequisites in turn order or something like that.
After the fourth season concludes, the players add the points that have been scored throughout the game to those on any secret objectives that have been fulfilled to determine the overall winner. Each game lasts about forty-five minutes to an hour, and it can run over a little bit with four players if a couple of them are inexperienced in the game. This is mostly due to the building draft, which as I mentioned earlier is quick, but only once you actually understand the symbols and the purpose of the game.
The mix of mechanics and a fair number of choices to make at each stage of the game make Paris: New Eden heavier than a traditional gateway game, yet still it has a simplicity to it that makes it feel fairly light. Players can get bogged down in the number of decisions during the dice draft and then again when choosing buildings, but once the symbology becomes familiar and everyone understands what they are doing, the pace really does pick up.
The game has a distinctive look and a superb art design as penned by Agnes Ripoche. Whilst the colour palette is generally slightly moody, there is a natural vibrancy to it that underpins the thematic suggestion that Paris has been overtaken by lush vegetation. Green is, therefore, the main colour, but the people who inhabit this imaginary world wear red, blue, purple and yellow in a way that reminds me of the kinds of colours that exist in nature — IE flowers. It’s understated but meaningful.
Whilst it looks great and has easygoing competitiveness to it that is simple to teach and learn, it’s hard to know exactly where Paris: New Eden will fit in your collection. Whilst dice have a heavy role to play, there’s no luck as such, and the drafting elements are lighter and less strategic than most since they are either turn-based for the first phase or somewhat pre-determined for the second, so it’s not a dice chucker. The fact that there are multiple ways to score also adds to the need to think strategically.
With those things in mind, my feeling is that Paris: New Eden will really suit players who want to look into games that are slightly more complex than the classic gateway games. Alternatively, if your collection is generally heavier, this could be the relatively brief warm-up game that gets everyone in the mood for the next thing. In effect, it could be the lightest or the heaviest game in your collection, depending on which angle you’re coming from.
Whatever you use it for, Paris: New Eden is an enjoyable experience whenever it hits the table, although it doesn’t tend to leaver players talking about it for hours afterwards, regaling each other with losses and triumphs. It’s good looking, easy to live with and generally enjoyable, and as such if the theme appeals to you, I suggest you check it out at the very least.
You can purchase Paris: New Eden on Meeple’s Corner.