Publisher: Synapses Games
Designer: Carl Brière
Duration: 30 min.
Dragons are one of the greatest mythological creatures ever… or are they? What if they were real? Well, the only obvious answer would be to breed them and sell them as pets of course… well, at least the friendly ones. And of course, we all know that dragon eggs need fire and water to hatch, so you’re gonna have go make sure you have some on hand. Some eggs will be harder to hatch, but those dragons will fetch more on the market! And perhaps, some dragons can even score you some treasure when they hatch… do you have what it takes to be the greatest dragon breeder around?
Incubation is a set collection game with a little press your luck thrown in there. You will be rolling dice to collect dragon eggs, add fire and water to them, get some cash or even add some treasure. When you hatch them, they will be added to your collection for end game scoring and possibly some objectives and treasure as well! It’s a good looking game with some simple mechanics, but does the finished product hatch out and stand above the crowd of other family games out there?
What’s in the box?
Inside the box there are 36 dragon egg cards, 10 objective cards, 5 player boards, 30 fire and 30 water tokens, 30 silver coins and 15 gold coins, 2 custom dice, a 1st player token and a game board. First of all, forget the components for a minute, there is an awesome game insert that has a spot for everything and looks great and is well labeled… I wish more companies had inserts like this in their games. This one is just as good as Kero and I like seeing that from companies… well done!
Aside from that, the art in this game is really great and cute. It’s very vibrant and bright, and the iconography is great. The cardboard of the board and tokens is thick and feels good, and the cards are pretty nice as well. My favourite part is the dice, they’re really big, chunky and feel great. The player boards are on the thin side but they work, and overall I’m very impressed with the component quality and art.
So how do you play?
To set up the game, place the market board in the middle of the table, and place the appropriate resources on the markers on the spinner. Placee the appropriate number of objective cards indicated on the spaces, then shuffle the dragon egg cards and make 3 equal piles, putting them face up. Each player receives an incubator board, and then the starting player receives the first player token. Then in reverse turn order, each player chooses one dragon egg card from any of the face up piles. Set aside the remaining resources, and the starting player gets the 2 dice to begin the game.
Incubation has 4 actions that can be preformed each round. I’ll break them down:
- Roll the dice. If you don’t like your roll, you may re-roll one or both dice, but you may only do this once, and you have to keep what you rolled.
- Perform the actions on the dice:
- If there is one dice with a treasure, turn the market wheel one space and place he appropriate resources on the spots. If both dice show treasures, you may take all the treasure from one spot on the market
- If one dice shows a coin, take one coin from the supply. If both dice show coins, then take 3 coins from the supply.
- Water and fire work the same way as coins, but you will put them next to your cards in the incubator. Each card has a fixed amount of resources needed, and if you exceed that amount, you simply take only what you can: there is no reserving of resources for future cards.
- Alternatively, you may spend a die showing a coin, water or fire to take a new card from one of the 3 egg piles and place it an empty incubator spot on your board. You can do this with both dice if both your incubator spots are free.
- After performing the dice actions, if you have all the required resources on one of your eggs, you may hatch the egg and sell it. Discard the resources, and flip the card over. You can use the dragons for objectives (if applicable), and you may get a bonus depending on the card: If the card is a regular dragon, you may collect any resources on a spot on the market of the colour. If the card is a mystery (grey egg), you don’t get any bonuses from the market but the dragon is wild and can be any colour for objectives. Hybrid eggs are the opposite: they don’t help with objectives, but they have 2 colours and you may collect resources from both colours on the market wheel.
- Lastly, you may resolve an objective card if you have the appropriate hatched dragons and/or coins. If you do, just take it and place it in front of you. You may only resolve one objective card, even if you can do multiple ones that turn.
That’s pretty much it… so how do you win? Well… you’ll notice that every single egg you has a coin value on it’s top right corner, and thats points towards the end of the game. When 2 egg piles are gone, or all the objective cards are taken, the game will end, and the round will continue until the last player has finished a turn, so that every player has had an equal number of turns. You will add the totals of all your hatched dragon egg cards, your coins you collected and your objective cards: the highest total wins the game!
Is it any good?
There’s a lot of lightweight family set collection games that play in about 30 minutes (Splendor and Majesty come to mind), and it seems like there are more and more coming out every week. Some are instant classics, some just copy others and some fall in between. So where does Incubation fit into this spectrum? After playing it multiple times, it’s higher up on the list that I thought it would have been when I first set it up.
First of all, I actually quite enjoy the dice mechanics, especially that you’re allowed a free re-roll and that you rarely have a bad roll. And with only being able to handle 2 cards at a time, you have to be smart on when to add new cards and when to finish them and get the bonuses and create some good combos. Theres a lot of games out there where the game is dictated by the dice rolls, but I felt that this game had a pretty good balance of luck and strategy.
I liked the set collection as well, and how the eggs varied: the solid colours giving you points, using the hybrid eggs to chain some combos to get some treasure but no dragon, and the wilds not giving you any treasure but can be any dragon for objectives. I also like that while the objectives give you points, its not a lot and they’re not overpowered: at only 5 points, having a couple doesn’t guarantee you victory, but at the same time it does help bring the end game closer and going for them adds a nice little race factor to the game.
I also like that the rules and mechanics are simple and concise. Your actions are pretty straightforward, and you can add more combos by completing dragon eggs in order, but there isn’t any confusion on how things are done. There’a a lot of games out there that are simple but have a lot of little things that can make turns drag a bit, but Incubation is lean and simple, and the mechanics make it really inviting to both new players and experienced veterans alike.
I already said how great the components are, and I really do think the art adds a lot. It’s cute without being childish, and bight and vibrant to attract families and non-gamers. The graphic design is great and the symbols are easy to learn and use. The presentation is top notch, and really helps this game stand out when it’s on the table. I like the board as well, and any game with a moving wheel is always a bonus to me, as I enjoy moving resources and it’s fun to do. And those dice are really big and chunky and they feel great to hold and roll.
The game plays with 2-5 players, and I feel that it’s sweet spot is that 3 player count, although it works great with 2 and 4 as well. My only problem with the 5 player is that I found you really lose some of that strategy, as there are fewer objectives and more downtime between turns, and a bad roll can affect you more. I understand why there are less objectives (to keep the playtime from getting too long), but it does make the game a little more chaotic. I still enjoy it… but it’s not my favourite.
The one thing that I both love and don’t about the game is the treasure wheel. I do love the mechanics of it, and when its being added to and its full it’s a great reward and can do some nice bonuses. However, in games where no one is adding to it, the bonuses just aren’t there and theres no rewards, and this is especially felt with the hybrid eggs, because it makes their bonus of getting more treasure instead of a dragon kind of nullified. I love the mechanic and it really shines when its implemented a lot during the game, but when it’s not being used I feel it takes a little something out of it.
Aside from those minor issues (which may not even come up in your games), Incubation is great. It plays smooth and fast, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with it’s length of play. It’s that sweet little game that you can bring out for non gamers, or play at the end of your game night after some heavy games or just something you can bring out when you have half an hour to play. It looks great on the table and the components are top notch. I really enjoyed playing it, and every crowd from non-gamers to my hardcore game group to my 5 year old daughter loves it (Yes, I played this with my 5 year old, but she also beats me at Kingdomino so she’s not your typical kid). The designer, Carl Brière, really did an amazing job with his first design. All in all, I highly recommend Incubation. It’s a fun game and looks great, and it’s always a good time!
- Gorgeous art and components
- Easy to learn and concise rules
- Fun set collection, and some sweet combos
- The treasure wheel is one of the best parts of the game…
- But when it’s not being used, the game can lose some luster
- 5 player count can get a little chaotic
*Thank you to Asmodee Canada for providing a copy of Incubation for this review, and you can find more about them by clicking here. You can also find more about Synapses Games and their lineup by clicking here*