In the land of Ethnos, the players are leaders seeking to reunite the six kingdoms. To do this, they must grow a force drawn from six different tribes of fantasy creatures. Leaders must use each race’s unique ability to gain dominance over the other players and the land.
Ethnos is a set collection game in a similar vein to Ticket to Ride, where the players collect sets of cards from a display of Ally cards or the Ally deck. These cards form a hand from which a 'Band of Allies' will eventually be selected.
Players win 'Glory' at the end of each age by having the most control markers in each kingdom. They add control markers by sending in a Band of Allies. But only if they play more Allies than they have existing markers already in that region.
At the end of an age, of which there are three, the leader with the most control markers gains the most glory. In the second age, both first and second place winners gain glory, and in the third, the top three players will score. At the end of the game, the leader with the most glory wins!
A Deeper Look Into The Rules
While the above could almost be Ticket to Ride without the trains, there’s more to it than that. Of the six tribes of creatures in the game, each has a unique ability which comes into effect when playing a Band of Allies. A Band, when played, must be made up of either all the same race or all from the same kingdom, denoted by colour.
One Ally from the Band of Allies is assigned the leader. The leader's colour designates which region the player may place a control marker if they have played enough cards. The leader's race also determined the power a player uses that turn.
There are 12 different races available with only six in each game (five in the 2-3 player version). The Centaur’s power, for example, allows a player to send a second Band of Allies into Ethnos on their turn. The power of the Wingfolk is to place a control marker on any kingdom no matter what colour the leader is, although the size of the band still has to allow for the placement in that region.
Then, the Orc’s power is to horde, which adds a marker onto a separate Orc board. The player can score the orcs at the end of an age, dependent on how many regions where the orc leaders have markers. The more regions, the higher the bonus.
Once players send a Band of Allies into a kingdom, it gets placed before the player and will score additional points at the end of each era depending on the number of Allies in the group. The players then discard their remaining cards as face-up Ally cards, making them available for other players to recruit.
What’s Fun About Ethnos?
Ethnos is not over-ambitious in what it sets out to be. It's a light set collection game with area control elements and race abilities. It doesn’t take long to understand how to play, allowing players new to the hobby to begin learning new mechanisms easily. For this reason, Ethnos is a great gateway game.
While it says 60 minutes playing time on the box, for four players it took only 45 minutes to play, plus the brief rules explanation. Turns are quick, with little overall downtime, and scoring is uncomplicated. In turn, each of the races can aide in scoring in a different way, leading to different strategies.
Some area control games can have opponents messing with your pieces, moving them or killing them to gain control of regions. This style of game can be frustrating for some, especially when it ruins a move or a strategy built throughout a game. Ethnos is not one of these games, instead focusing on simply building more control than other opponents.
Are There Any Issues?
While it’s easy to get into and is fun, Ethnos is not a perfect game. The art on the cards is very bland, with many races looking too similar.
Often rounds can devolve into just drawing a single Ally card from the Ally deck because there are no face-up Ally cards. This can allow the luckiest player be able to play something after several turns.
But overall, these flaws are only minor and can be easily overlooked for the fun the game brings. Ethnos is an excellent game for both beginners and experienced players, with some luck and a mix of uncomplicated mechanics. It’s fun and quick with plenty of replay-ability. For those looking for a deep experience, this may not be the game for you.