Button Shy Games has a stellar track record with me, packing A LOT of game into tiny packages that can fit in your pocket. To be transparent up front, I am a huge fan of their game line! When I got the opportunity to play an review their newest game, I jumped at the chance. Plus, the game was designed by one of my favorite designers – Daniel Solis.
Anthelion: Conclave of Power places the player as either the the Dynasty or Liberation, fighting to recruit the best folks in the galaxy to join their conclave! The first player to gain enough power in their conclave wins the game. At its core, Anthelion is a two player tactical card game which seems simple on its surface but I have found it to provide a pretty thinky experience. Every choice matters as each side tries to move different characters from the starting neutral and rogue planet into their own territory. But it’s not that simple! To do so, players will have to choose wisely the actions they take to block their opponents from recruiting influential folks to their conclave.
Anthelion is built off of the Push/Pull system, first introduced in an earlier Button Shy release – Avignon: A Clash of Popes. At it’s simplest form, the players are pushing cards (moving cards towards their opponents) or pulling cards (moving cards towards their own conclave) – and that’s it. What it does spectacularly is build off those core actions in interesting ways. For example, one character has the ability to push them forward 1 or 2 spaces and pull a non-Dynasty character the same amount of spaces. Each turn, starting with the Liberation, the active player is able to take two actions, called Petitions. Each character on the board has, for the most part, a unique petition action and each planet on the board has generic petitions. There are also two Petitions, one on the Liberation home planet and the other on the Dynasty home planet, that are unique for each player and only that player can use it. All are a variation on pushing, pulling, and ejecting (discarding a character to replace it with another from the top of the deck). Some characters have ongoing effects that impact gameplay when they are out on the different locations and when characters enter a player’s conclave, that player gains their Resource. Mostly, Resources are good for players who control the character, but a couple of them may benefit your opponent – so watch out!
The one aspect of the game I found a bit wonky is the rule where a player cannot take actions on their turn to completely undo the last turn of their opponent. In a Push/Pull game, I completely understand why this rule exists. There is almost always a way to completely undo an opponents last turn and this could cause a complete stalemate between adversaries. But in game often the best option completely undos an opponents last turn even if it is a little bit different. It will be a little bit difficult to explain in writing but I will try my best. Say my opponent pulls Character A towards them one space for their first action and then for their second action uses a petition to pull/push any Liberation character to Character A’s location and chooses Character B. Then on my turn, I use Character C’s petition to push C two spaces to pull Character A two spaces. For my second action I use the petition to push/pull a Liberation character to Character A’s location and choose Character B. — While this does not exactly undo my opponents turn, it does… and more. However, I have found with more plays, I am less likely to think about how to undo my opponent’s last turn and more likely to think about how do I block my opponents goal. And that is what this game really is about – tactfully blocking your opponent while trying to position characters to enter your conclave.
I really enjoyed Anthelion: Conclave of Power. I have a soft spot for unique two player games that are well balanced and Anthelion hits that sweet spot. It is simple enough to teach and pick up relatively easily, but with each game played, the depth of tactics becomes more and more apparent. I would recommend this for anyone looking for a highly tactical two player game on the shorter side. Once again, Button Shy hits the mark, using a limited amount of components to make a game that packs a punch. Back it now on Kickstarter or find more information out here!