In this quick-playing card game from Stoney Enix, ESPC stands for Extra Sensory Perception Combat. Don't worry tho', you won't actually be expected to mind control the other players, the ESP notionally relates to the powers on the cards you play, or rather the cards you say you're playing...
ESPC is a pack of special cards numbered 1-16 featuring 16 different powers plus one 'Enlightenment' card value zero with no powers. Aside from the 'Enlightenment' cards, the pack comprises three copies of each card in blue plus a single copy in red. You don't play with all the cards, you just use a selection of them, with the number used dependent on the number of players (2–6). The red cards are initially used to determine which cards you're playing with: you can either randomly choose these or, particularly for your initial games, play with a suggested mix. The red cards you are using then function as an open display so you know the options available in the game but you actually play with the blue cards, having created a deck formed from the numbered cards you are using in the game.
You're playing with a constructed micro-game deck and game play mirrors that of other micro games like Love Letter (AEG), in that players start off with a hand of 1 card, they draw a second card and then play a card for its effect. The difference here is that you don't necessarily have to play or even have the card you say you are playing... You announce the card and its target (if playing with more than two) and other players then have the opportunity to challenge. If no-one challenges, you take the card effect and then you discard a card from your hand face up. The card you discard doesn't have to match the card whose effect you took. If another player challenges you, you must discard the card you claimed to have. If you can't you're knocked out of the round; if you can, then the player who challenged you is knocked out. If you are the last player left, you win the round. If, when the draw deck runs out, there are still two or more players left, then they compare the number on the card in their hand and the player with the lowest number wins.
ESPC is a game where the fun comes from the various ways in which players can interact using the card powers. Several of the powers mirror those in Love Letter but the fact that you have so many different powers to choose from in creating the deck means that the dynamics can change up from one game to the next. The strong push-your-luck element over the bluffing and challenging adds excitement to ESPC. There will be some circumstances where you've little to lose in challenging a player (the card in your hand means you stand to lose anyway if the stated card takes effect) but usually challenging is high risk. Curiously, bluffing might seem less so: we found players who went unchallenged often discarded a card that differed from the one they said they were playing. Often that means the card they retained was the one they said they were playing, but of course there's always a chance that their play was a complete bluff - especially early in the round where players have very little knowledge about what cards are elsewhere in play.
The artwork in ESPC is rather basic, and some of the cards are heavy with text, but that didn't bother us. We were more concerned that these are cards with dark edges that make them prone to show up any small nicks from shuffling and play. At Board's Eye View, we'd always usually recommend sleeving cards like this but if you do so you won't be able to fit them back into the tuckbox that the game comes in. Do you think Stone Phoenix are playing mind games with us?