When you first open a new game there’s an excitement and uncertainty that surrounds it: that sense of wonder, even if you’ve already seen the rules and read the previews, about how the game is going to work for you. Will it fit your tastes? Meet your requirements? The Artemis Project from Grand Gamers Guild certainly sells itself from the off with eye-catching all-action cover artwork looking a little like a Bond movie poster, and when you open the box this extends through to the components from the shiny energy cubes to the little individual meeple types. The artwork by Josh Cappel and Dominik Mayer also wows, and is consistent throughout. The player boards and buildings are of wonderfully thick card, so often lacking in games. But is it any good?
Designed by Daryl Chow and Daniel Rocchi, the game revolves around players taking turns to place their dice on the main board to take one of seven actions. Once all players have placed, the actions are resolved in order, with an additional event, either positive or negative, taking place at some point. So what can you do? You can take energy and materials. Energy helps you hire and keep workers, and materials help you build buildings. What’s neat here is the dice used determines the number of resources and workers you get to take, and the cost of the buildings, working as a bidding mechanic. There are also expeditions you can undertake, randomly decided by cards, and these award you badges and other rewards. Everything here feels important, especially when you look at final scoring - specialising seems to get mixed results, and doing a bit of everything well, as well as picking up the buildings that add points at the end of the game, seems to be the best approach. There’s nothing brand new here, and you’ll recognise elements from a few games, but equally the game isn’t unnecessarily complicated.
Competition can be high, and there are actions you can use to impact on other players, so you'll need to be ready for some 'take that' competitiveness. The game scales well over the number of players (2–5), and there is also a solo option which works well, with the clever addition of adding dice to the board once you’ve placed yours, so you can never be sure if you’re safe or not.
The theme is a little unusual, and that may or may not bother you - you’re a colony leader on one of Jupiter’s moons exploring the depths as well as building up your colony. Hmm, take it or leave it, maybe this would have been more relatable as a story about new pioneers, but I suppose I can admire their attempt to create something new. It also means this isn't just another euro game, it's a Europa game! Although the mechanics themselves don’t feel entirely fresh, the combination here is interesting and the number of different event cards and expeditions helps make the game a new experience every time you play. Add to that attractive design without being overly busy, and good use of symbols and you’ve got a game worth exploring.
(Review by Steve Berger)