Review: Gen7 A Crossroads Game
Gen7 places you into the boots of an officer on a generational starship headed for the Epsilon Eridani system. The first 6 generations have served their time on board with no mishaps, and now it’s your turn. Of course, as soon as you wake up out of hibernation, things start to go wrong. How you decide to handle them and how successful you are will determine the fate of your ship and crew.
Both in visually and in text form, there is a lot of bad things that can happen to your crew. Without spoiling anything, if you’ve ever seen a Star Trek or Alien movie, you might have a good starting point. Basically almost any violent situation you could imagine happening to a person in a sci-fi setting, could indeed happen to you or your crew in this game. Several illustrations show crew members bloodied or shot. One particularly gruesome ending describes in great detail how it might feel to die from an unwanted parasite, even going so far as to compare the sensation of it killing you, Xenomorph style, with what, “…you might have once called sexual pleasure.” There are multiple bad endings, but that one was by far the worst.
Gen7 has a great hook. Playing an officer on a generational starship halfway through it’s voyage to a distant system is a meaty plot, and if it were a show it might feel like Star Trek or the new Lost in Space. Players are encouraged during set up to treat the game almost like a science-fiction role-playing game as they fill out the ship log with the officer’s names and they get to name their own ship. Our boat was named The Infinity.
A full game of Gen7 is comprised of 7 episodes. Each episode will take you anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes. We were able to get through the first couple episodes in one night, as they act as sort of a primer or introduction to the game’s rules and mechanics. Each episode might take a different number of rounds to play, but each round is made up of 7 steps. Critical tasks are things breaking or needing attention, and players will have to allocate crew (dice) to fix them. Roll crew is when you roll your dice. Player turns happen in clockwise order beginning with the operations chief (first player), and players take single turns until everyone’s crew has been allocated. This is also when file cards or crossroads cards will be played. System failure happens if any critical task cards were not completed and causes the degradation of your systems. Allow this to happen too often and more bad things will happen to your crew. The last three steps—crew retrieval, update status, and end of round—are all self-explanatory (they really wanted 7 steps, okay??).
After finishing an episode of Gen7, players will record their merit, see if they earned any officer awards, and the status of the ship and any crew relationships. Keeping this record is important for the next play. For instance, many of the crossroads cards cause players to choose or even the whole crew to vote—how that vote goes isn’t entirely determined by the crew. The logic/instinct track (hearts and gears) on the left hand side of the track board will also influence your vote, based on how you chose past crossroads cards. For instance, if you chose logic for the last two crossroads cards, the track would be +2 logic, and the next time you have to vote as a crew on something that is logic/instinct, then your vote is already +2 logic. In our game, we were able to easily overcome this due to being unanimous in our voting, but if there had a been a split decision, it would have swung the vote. This is an interesting and cool mechanic, but I had to hunt hard to find the name of the logic/instinct track in the rules as it only shows up once.
Besides rules that could be clearer, I have two other main gripes with the game. To start, there are a ton of different decks. Critical task cards, Operations task cards, File cards, Schema cards, Crossroads cards, Episode objective cards, Personal objective cards, Crew cards (which just explain your character), and Rules cards. Oh, plus any Officer perks you’ve earned, which is hard to do. So besides there being a lot of cards, there’s the price point. I understand that not everyone pays MSRP—and Amazon already has it for less than that—but even then, this is a pricey game for not containing any miniatures whatsoever. Most people will see a price point near the $100 mark and assume that it at least comes with some minis. But in Gen7, all your crew are represented by dice.
Since it is a Crossroads game, you will, at some point, be asked to add, remove, or alter certain game elements. There are several sealed envelopes which at different points you will be instructed to open, adding new game elements, cards (‘cuz it needs more of those), and game boards. This greatly ups the replay value as you could easily finish the game without opening all of the elements. The game boasts of multiple different endings, but (without spoiling the number) I would cut their boast in half, since each ending has two flavors, bad and good.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide if the price point is worth it—there are certainly enough hours of gameplay to justify it, and unlike a legacy game that you’re done with after you’ve beat it, Gen7 encourages you to start again when you’ve reached one of it’s endings. My best suggestion would be to find a non-commentary gameplay video of it, and see if the game’s core loop is appealing to you. If not, you have your answer. If it does, then welcome aboard, officer.
The Bottom Line