Game at a Glance
- Players: 1-4
- Time: 30-150 min
- Ages: 14+
- Update: this Gamefound project has been canceled
The game shown in this preview is a prototype; components and gameplay in the final version are subject to change.
This is not a paid preview, my opinions are my own.
Statera is a double-asymmetric strategy board game in which nations and gods battle for influence. The game is set in the fantasy world of Statera, inhabited by land-dwelling creatures and scheming gods. You may choose to play as either, but know that the mortals and the divine have totally different playstyles. If you live upon the land, you will strive to grow your nation by creating campsites, constructing buildings, fighting enemies, and making babies. The gods measure their success by devotion through influence to convert Staterens to their faith.
Influence in the game is often measured, literally, by the looming scales poised in the center of the board. As the gods play their games and the Staterans perish in the pursuit of nation-building, the faithful souls are calculated. The scale is a functional component that provides a visual reminder of how the balance of the game shifts as nations and gods make their choices.
Statera plays on a double-sided, modular board full of roads and campsites. Each encampment is divided into three distinct areas. The center of the camp is where the atheist land-dwelling Staterans live. Any religious Staterans move to a designated neighborhood in the outskirts of town. When a Stateran or building is converted to a particular faith, it moves to a new neighborhood where like-minded Staterans can congregate.
The win condition of Stateran factions is often tied to the number of buildings they can create and by negating or balancing the religious influences on their communities. Staterans can move around the map and construct buildings, but they also must continue their legacy with the birth of new Staterans. Each round new Staterans are birthed from their buildings – if any buildings happen to be a temple, that baby will automatically join the connected faith, while regular buildings give rise to non-believers.
Gods are creatures of the heavens and are only tied to the land via their legates (disciples sent to Statera to influence the mortals). That is not to say that the business on land is inconsequential – the fate of the gods is directly impacted by that of the Staterans. A god will want a healthy population of mortals to convert to their religion, which can be done by direct conversion of Staterans, and also through the creation of temples that will give rise to new generations of faithful. To become more powerful and influential, the gods need devoted souls. These souls are critical for improving the god’s game engine, and also for ascension to the scales – the ultimate and visible flex of devotion.
In a bid to maintain supremacy on land, Staterans may choose to battle another nation. Similarly, gods may war with other gods. Gods and Staterans do not battle in this direct manner, however, and in certain stories battles are not possible at all.
Depending on the story conditions, it might be beneficial to help a rival, which creates some unusual dynamics for a war game. For example, gods may want to help the Staterans proliferate so they have souls to convert. There is a strange balance where players find themselves assisting another faction out for selfish reasons and that can be incredibly interesting.
Another interesting tidbit is how the meeples are used in the game, specifically then land-based Staterans. Their lives are used as currency by the Staterans and the gods! Building structures is grueling work and lives are often sacrificed for the sake of growth. Other actions often have a cost in lives, as well. Deceased atheists return to the supply, but the believers’ souls are sent to the sanctuary of their god’s faith – and become currency for their preferred god to spend, either on upgrading their faction to become more influential, or to add to the scales for end-game victory conditions.
The game has event cards that add variability to the actions and enrich the story. When a Stateran player fills their campsite with buildings, they can draw an event card. When a god ascends souls to the scales, they get an event card, too. This adds a bit of variety and luck to the stories and strategy.
This section barely scratches the surface of the gameplay possibilities of Statera.
Despite the cute artwork, Statera is geared toward players who prefer heavy strategy games. The mechanics here are not necessarily new nor complicated, but there are enough rules to learn and choices to consider that raise the barrier to entry. This is a game that will require some investment to learn and get playing.
The game’s heaviness is exacerbated by the asymmetry. Not only do players need to understand the general differences between gods and Stateran factions, but they will also need to have an understanding of how each faction behaves – there is a significant learning curve. This is not necessarily a fault, but it is worth noting. Game groups that have avoided delving into Root for its asymmetry should keep this in mind since Statera has a similar barrier.
The English rulebook I received was still in the beta phase, and in that form, it was not easy for me to digest. As it stands, our first game was riddled with rulebook referencing that slowed us down significantly. Fortunately, the creators mentioned that they planned on having the final rulebook formatted to an “easy to learn” version – I am hopeful that some minor changes make the rules more approachable.
The replay potential of Statera is incredibly high, and that is due in large part to the asymmetry and story-driven nature of the game.
The double-asymmetry can best be explained by understanding the factions. There are two factions of land-dwellers, and two factions of gods. Generally, the gods play similarly to each other, and the same goes for the land-based Staterans. The Staterans gain influence by breeding, spreading out, and warring with rival nations – including area influence and skirmishes similar to other war games. Gods, on the other hand, prefer to meddle to convert mortals to their faith and weigh their collected souls upon the scales. If you look closely at each faction, significant differences in play style become apparent, providing a wealth of strategic variability. There are many play styles to discover simply from the inclusion of two completely different categories of factions.
The map is double-sided and modular, which allows for variability in setup, which leads me to the story-driven nature of Statera. Each game of Statera is based on a story, or scenario, with unique rules, setup, and victory conditions. The stories are not interconnected, similar to a campaign-style game. They act as independent tales that provide a bit of context for a new set of rules that suit the preferred player count or play style.
These stories are created for specific player counts, so before setting up a game it is crucial to choose a scenario that fits your plans. The scenarios provide immersion into the world and make each story feel unique. It also provides variability and room for creativity.
Fan-created stories are possible – and encouraged. The potential for community-created scenarios means that with an enthusiastic community, Statera could become a living game. This opens the Statera system to an enormous amount of replay potential, and I find that to be very exciting.
Theme / Aesthetics
With its large colorful map and unique scale, Statera has table presence. The cute, cartoon artwork is sure to draw the eye, too, although it might be a bit deceptive (the game is incredibly confrontational).
The theme of gods and mortals and how their lives interplay with each other is impressive and works incredibly well in this game. Gods and mortals have different priorities therefore unique victory conditions. How each faction can interact, both positively and negatively, depends heavily on the story and chosen play style. All the components work well to create a theme that is dynamic and resonates on a very deep, human level. I think it’s incredible, ambitious, and full of potential.
Interaction / Fun
This game is all about interaction and interplay, and although some of the interactions may be positive, each player will have a selfish motive each time they help another player out. This game can be very mean and is suitable for players who appreciate and prefer heavy interaction. Unfortunately, I was unable to play this with three or four, but I can imagine it facilitating a lot of table talk at that count.
Full disclosure before I delve into my thoughts: I have only scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. I am writing this preview without having experienced the full gamut of playstyles that were offered from the scenarios included with the prototype. I was unable to secure players other than my husband during the timeframe I had the prototype, and this limited my ability to explore many of the stories. In addition, I was not able to experience the battle system as we primarily explored a scenario that was gods (Dragons) vs. Staterans (Chompas). So my opinions and thoughts are coming from a place where I have limited experience, and I encourage players looking for details on a full-table experience and the battle aspect to read/watch additional previews.
Mechanically, the game seems to work well. We did run into some hiccups, especially during the learning phase of the game. We had to stop and reference the rules often, but I think this can be attributed to the rulebook I had being in its beta form. I would like to see the game come with some player aids that further explain the actions, and possibly help to explain the other factions’ abilities. I believe this will speed up the learning process, as would a few minor clarifications and edits to the rulebook.
The game could certainly use more official scenarios, something I believe the creators have been actively working on. I am excited about the living nature of the game. I think opening the game up to the community for story creation fantastic – this has worked with varying degrees of success with other games. The quality of the stories will depend heavily on the story-crafter; however, so it would be wonderful if the designers were to put out a set of guidelines to help people craft balanced scenarios.
One thing the designers will need to get right is the scale since it is such a major factor in victory conditions. Of course, all the meeples will need to be identical in weight for this to work, but the scale should also have smooth movement. Our 3D printed prototype was fine for previewing the game, but the final design will need to be easy to construct and tear apart while maintaining a smooth function over time.
I think Statera will draw comparisons to the game Root. Both games feature a map-based struggle for dominance with cute wooden meeples and adorable artwork that hides a more sinister, take-that core. But I believe most of the comparisons will be drawn from the asymmetry in factions – which is a bit of a double-edged sword, in my opinion. The asymmetry gives Statera a lot of strategic discovery and plenty of replay potential. But similar to Root, it creates a high barrier of entry for new players. People will need to learn and understand how all the factions function on top of their own. There are a lot of rules to consider, as well, so it’s a bit of an investment to get started.
Because each story is crafted with a specific player count in mind, the game should play well at all player counts – theoretically (I have not tried anything but the two-player stories yet). The game can be lengthened or shortened simply by adjusting the number of rounds, and the victory conditions can be adjusted in many different ways. The game seems to have been designed with flexibility in mind, and with the right story-crafter, it can be molded in many ways.
Statera feels very unique to me – so much so that I actually struggled a bit describing the game in words. Although many of the mechanics will feel familiar to seasoned board gamers, they come together in a way that feels like something new. This is in large part due to the theme and the asymmetry, I believe.
Speaking of the theme – it’s one of my favorite aspects of Statera. I have always been fascinated with the interplay of mortals and gods in fantasy settings (probably because I grew up playing a lot of ActRaiser on the SNES). I feel this will resonate with so many. You can open any ancient mythology book to see stories about jealous trickster gods interfering with mortals since the beginning of time. And in Statera the interplay of actions between gods and mortals evolves in such an interactive and visual format it’s hard not to become interested in the stories as they play out in front of you.
This is not a game I’d recommend for a casual group of players that don’t enjoy investing in the learning process. There are a lot of rules to digest and the asymmetry compounds the learning curve. But for a group who is invested in exploring this together, there is a lot of potential for a rich playing experience.
If you are interested in learning more about Statera, please check out the Gamefound Page. The campaign is running now through the end of February 2023.