Updated: Feb 20
Designer Jon Spike has set out a fantasy backstory to Gamestormers where players are living in a futuristic world where they are developing and pitching board game designs. If you don't find it convincing, don't worry about it, enjoy Viktoriya Fajardo's great artwork and you can enjoy playing Gamestormers without worrying overly about the theme.
Gamestormers is actually a tableau building game where players will be collecting cards from various different decks and either discarding them to take the action on the card (typically to draw more cards into your hand) or playing them to your 'Notebook' playmat tableau. The playmat has spaces for specific card types and you can only play the correct card type to each place on the mat, so you'll probably be using an action each turn to pick up the card types you need. You usually get two actions per turn (tho' some cards can up this) so you'll need to time your actions. And at the end of each of the five rounds, players must place a card from their hand into their tableau, provided of course that they have a card in hand that is of the correct type for the spaces left on their Notebook...
Tho' there are cards that give you a bonus for having the most cards left in your hand, it's mainly the cards played to your Notebook that will earn you points. The cards themselves will have a points value but they can also rack up bonuses for being in combination in the tableau with cards of a specific genre. So, for example, the Mechanic card titled 'Witchcraft', which is in the Horror genre, scores an extra victory point (VP) if you also have a Sci-Fi or Fantasy themed card in your Notebook, and 3 VP if you have both.
Gamestorm isn't just a set collection game tho'. It incorporates party game elements. Among the actions you can take on your turn is to enter the Arena. Up to two players can choose this action in a round, and it's resolved at the end of the round. They each take an Arena token and draw a Storyline, Mechanic and Item card. They then use these to pitch a game narrative to the other players. They other players vote on which is best/funniest/rudest - depending on the predilections of the players - and the winner takes both of the Arena tokens (contributing to end-game scoring). Both of the players who took the Arena action tho' get to keep one of the three cards they drew, so there's good incentive to try an Arena action. If you're the only one who takes an Arena action in a round then you automatically win (ie: keep your Arena token and a card) so if you go last in around and no-one else has gone Arena then it's almost always a good idea for you to take this action.
Another party game type option is the Theater action. This involves rolling the custom six-sided dice, which have an icon on each face. You then use the supplied dry-erase marker pens and blank cards to create your own Storyline, Mechanic or Item card. The drawing on the card should reflect the dice rolled but it and the dice are actually pretty irrelevant because no-one is judging what you draw. The card is automatically worth 2 VP. The rules say you name the card, so we interpreted that as meaning you could specify what genre it represented, so could use it to satisfy the requirements of a set collection combo bonus card like 'Witchcraft'. That's not wholly clear tho' from the draft rules in the preview prototype shown here on Board's Eye View.
Because it's played over just five rounds, Gamestormers offers something of an optimisation puzzle. Item cards are available in a face-up display so if you use an action to draw one of them then you know precisely what you are getting. There's a chance of doing better taking other actions but they mostly involve a push-your-luck gamble because you don't usually know exactly what you will be adding to your hand. And bear in mind too that there's only space for two Item cards in your Notebook. Hand management is important, and you'll want to keep an eye on what other players are collecting because you could find yourself in competition for majority scoring. Nevertheless, this and Arena voting aside, Gamestormers is a game where you're each mainly doing your own thing. I may nab a card you want before you can get it from the Item market but you don't need to worry overly about directly hostile 'take that' actions. That may well add to Gamestormers' appeal as a family game.
Gamestormers takes 3-6 players and, because of the voting element, it works best at the higher player count. There's an option tho' to focus more on the storytelling party game aspect. In this variant, one player each round acts as a Games Master (GM) and all the players construct a five-card 'game narrative' which they pitch to the GM. The GM then chooses the winner. Players all take turns as GM and the game is won by the player who ends up with the most Arena tokens. Played this way, it's a very different game: all about the pitching, and it can be a lot of fun with the right crowd.
Gamestormers is published by GamestormEDU and it hit Kickstarter on 5 April 2022. Click here to check out the KS and to late pledge.