A global crisis is at hand. We’ve damaged our planet so badly that it can no longer support our growing population. Humanity is on the brink of extinction and the world leaders must do something! Their only choice? Depopulate the Earth. This is the premise behind the new board game, Tomorrow, from Conquistador Games. Players must successfully reduce the earth’s population before the clock runs out. How much fun is this grim-themed game of negotiation and betrayal? Read on to find out!
Tomorrow is an Area Control and Negotiation game for 4-6 players that takes about 90 minutes. Tomorrow plays best with 5-6 players.
Each player takes on the role of a world superpower and must successfully use their actions each turn to help depopulate the earth. Tomorrow is not a game for the lighthearted. Players will be launching military attacks and biological weapons at other countries around the globe. Tomorrow is both a cooperative and competitive game. Players must work together to successfully depopulate the earth before time runs out, but once that’s accomplished, the player with the most political capital (PC) is the winner. If at the end of the 9th turn the doom tracker hasn’t reached the final space, everybody loses and humanity is doomed. Sorry.
If I was handing out ratings stars based solely on components, Tomorrow would easily be a 5 star game. Tomorrow is absolutely gorgeous with its graphic design, components, and artwork. Graphic Designer Heiko Günther could really become my new favorite game artist. The rule book, the cards, the board, everything is skillfully done, I’m hard pressed to find a single complaint with the components of the game. Even the box cover, in all its minimalist glory, perfectly fits the theme of the game. The stark black box with the foreboding danger logos on it really brings it all home.
Once inside the box, I love that the pawns for the game are bright and colorful against the stark, grey-toned world map. Add that to the fact that these pawns are just a little too big for their map spaces brings together the fact that the world population needs to be decreased. Also, the cards (both action, event and strategy) really help give players the feeling that they are sitting in a bunker somewhere underground, deciding the fate of humanity.
Tomorrow has quickly become one of my favorite board games (components-wise) that doesn’t involve sculpted miniatures. Bravo to Conquistador Games for having a sexy box of cardboard and pieces. They have really set the bar high for future games.
How to Play:
So yes, I love how the game looks, but how do you play it? Before you start playing, you will need to setup the game’s various draw piles and fill each country with their respective pawns, and then each player then selects a nation to control (or you can go random draw). Each player takes their corresponding nation’s action cards, nation’s tokens, and then draws 3 biological weapon cards. Once, these steps are complete you’re ready to play. The game turns are broken down into following 5 phases.
1. Event – Draw an event card and play it.
2. Cyberspace – The owner of the Cyberspace card (China owns it at the start of the game) can choose 1 of 3 options: 1. Determine turn order for the round (that responsibility normally belongs to the European Union player), 2. Draw a strategy Card, & 3. Steal a strategy card from another player.
3. Action Selection – Each player choose 2 of their action cards to play that round. These are placed face down in front of them.
4. Action Resolution – The European Union player determines turn order. They select one country and that player gets to play one of their action cards (or pass). The E.U. player then selects the next player to go and so on. After each player has played one of their cards, the phase repeats with the same order and everyone plays their second card.
5. Refresh – Players reset exhausted markers. This is simply a cleanup phase.
Every nation has a standard set of 5 action cards and 1 unique card:
Biological: This action lets you launch a biological weapon or draw new biological cards. This is the best way to remove population from the Earth and also has a potential to spread to nearby countries.
Nukes: What you might expect. Players can spend a nuke token to bomb a country. However, nukes are actually bad for the globe and this causes the doom tracker to move in the wrong direction.
Cyber: Try and take control of cyberspace. You guess red or yellow and if you guess right, you gain control of the cyberspace card. If you are wrong, the player retains it.
Military: Allows you to invade a minor power (not another player’s country). Controlling minor powers can get you strategy cards and VPs at the end of the game.
Espionage: Cancel out another player’s action. This is played out of turn as a response.
Special: Each player has a different special action card based on which country they are playing.
The game ends as soon as the doom tracker hits the happy face at the end of the track. At this point, the players add up their political capital (points for collect pawns you’ve eliminated, having your own pawns still alive, controlling minor powers, strategy cards, etc…) and the player with the most PC is the winner. If the game went through all 9 rounds and the doom tracker didn’t reach the end space, everybody loses and humanity is doomed.
Before we dive into the game experience, let’s get the theme of the game out-of-the-way first. Some people have expressed no desire to play Tomorrow because they consider the theme too gruesome or morbid. To those people, I say you are being silly. Yes, Tomorrow has a grim theme, but it’s put together so artfully, that it just works so well and doesn’t have a crass or gloomly feel at all. The ascetics and design choices make the game fit it’s over all theme perfectly. And let’s be honest, it’s really not much worse than many other games that people have no issues playing. In Downfall of Pompeii, players are literally tossing people in a volcano. There are also countless war games out there where people cause all kinds of havoc with their armies. In Cash N’ Guns or Bang! you are shooting your friends. So for people harping on the theme being too dark, I’d say you are overreacting and remember it’s a game!
OK, now that we discussed the theme, lets talk about the game experience. My short opinion is that Tomorrow is a good game that also requires the right group of people to play. I say this because a good portion of Tomorrow is spent in negotiation and the “metagame”. If your group is more of the Stephan “I love math problems” Feld persuasion, then Tomorrow is not going to be the game for you. In Tomorrow, you will be making deals with your fellow players and, probably, breaking them.
Yes, you will be stabbing your friends in the back. There are many hard decisions during the game that will have to be made. Eventually, you will run out of neutral countries to bully and it will be time to smack down the large nations of your fellow players. And let’s be honest, sometimes that’s really fun. That “friend” that’s been talking smack for a few weeks in other games? Yeah, you can give him his “come-uppins” and watch his expression when you launch your Valkyridae biological weapon at his nation.
That’s one of the great aspects about Tomorrow, it has a very high amount of player interaction. This is not a game where you will be keeping your head down and placing your workers. This game is all about negotiating with, and sometimes, attacking your neighbors. In order to win, players have to lower the doom tracker. To do that, they have to eliminate population pawns. Keeping your own pawns alive helps get you VPs at the end of the game. So what does all that mean? Deals, negation, allies, and eventually, some good ole fashioned backstabbery! (that’s totally a word). Eventually those colored pawns on your country will start looking very tempting (they are worth VPs to anyone who can collect them) even to your most stalwart of allies. For fans of games like Diplomacy, Lifeboats, or Intrigue, you will really enjoy Tomorrow.
But as much as I enjoy playing Tomorrow, it does have some things that I would wish to change. First, the cyberspace card. I really don’t like the 50/50 mechanic of taking control of it. It doesn’t really fit thematically into the game and the 50/50 aspect seems like a copout. Worse, you can’t reset your cyberspace marker until the next round. So if one player guesses wrong, the next player to try to take it will know exactly which marker you chose. I just feel like they could have come up with a more creative mechanic for controlling this powerful card.
Second, I’m not a huge fan of the power of the nukes. I get that nukes are bad and cause the doom tracker to reverse. Actually, I’m a fan of that mechanic. This makes launching the nuke a frustration and anger ploy. Basically, someone has pushed you to the brink and you can’t stand them anymore. So even though it hurts you (you lose VPs for doing it) and the game overall (doom tracker moves back), you’re going to do it anyway to teach them a lesson. The problem is that the nuke only kills 1 pawn +1 for every 5. Since no one is going to waste a nuke on a neutral territory, you are looking at, best case, killing 2 pawns. So, it really does not seem worth using since it costs you points (and the person you hit). I feel like it should have been much more dramatic effect. Because that’s what the nuke is in Tomorrow. It’s a dramatic statement that you are sick of someone’s BS. And when you launch it and you kill 1-2 pawns. The result of using a nuke, just really falls flat. I would rather that player to know I’m sacrificing VPs and potentially the game just to screw them over and expect killing a higher number of pawns.
But other than those 2 gripes, I really do enjoy Tomorrow. Game designer Dirk Knemeyer did a great job of creating all 6 of the variable player powers and they really fit with the countries that they represent. Between the USA having the CDC and the Russians having their closed borders, each player power is both unique and thematically appropriate. It makes me want to try Tomorrow again and again just to see how each country plays out. Tomorrow can play very differently based on which country you control. With Russia and their closed borders, you want to keep your head down and try to avoid losing your 3 measly pawns. With the European Union, you will quickly become everyone’s buddy because you get to set the turn order.
Finally, I should point out that the player count starts at 4 players (4-6). I do wish there was a 2 player variant. With a minimum of 4 players, it makes Tomorrow a littler harder to get to the table because you might not always have that many people around. However the easy to learn rules will help you get going quickly when you can pull this one out. I just think some 2 players rules could have been fun. I’d love to be able to take on the role of the USA and square off against the upstart Arab Caliphate.
Hard decisions, negation, betrayal, player interaction…Tomorrow has all these things in spades. But, as I said earlier, you really want a group who enjoys these types of games. This is a game that’s more about social interaction than tactics and strategy. The tactical minis player or the die-hard euro player probably isn’t going to enjoy their time with Tomorrow. But for people who love the game within the game, or just really want to try something different, Tomorrow with be a lot of fun. Fans of The Resistance, Diplomacy or Battlestar Galactica would be wise to check this one out. Just make sure everyone has a thick skin, because feelings will be hurt. Hey, no one ever said handling global crises was easy!
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $60
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A dark but fun game with some amazing components. However the game suffers from a few questionable game mechanics.
• Minimum 4 player count makes it harder to get to the table
• A few questionable game mechanics that could be better