Ha! No, always dangerous to post in full-on gush mode. I'm glad I didn't because after perusing some of the threads on BGG yesterday, and re-reading the instructions I realised I slightly misinterpreted one rule and didn't fully appreciate the significance of another, so my thoughts on this have changed a little. It's still an interesting, chewy and rewarding game though, so here goes.
You play as a wretched soul washed up on the shores of an island - your starting self is extremely limited, but you have bags of influence and just as much potential. You gradually explore the island, visiting various locations which enables you to convert your influence into simple attributes (strength, inspiration, and knowledge), and thence to obtain more complex ones, and also to enlarge your influence pool by converting potential into influence. Finally (as a player of games) you seek ways to convert all these activities into VPs - that can be by fighting monsters, obtaining and using relics or traits, controlling locations or by other means. Usually this all makes reasonable "sense" e.g you visit a library to obtain knowledge, train at a fort to gain strength, and visit the proverbial arcane tower to pick up a relic. To their credit, the designers have included a nicely illustrated booklet which fleshes the world out, and which helps to prevents the setting becoming a mere skin covering an engine (combine primary colours to form secondary ones, shift cubes from one pot to another).
As to how this is all represented mechanically, it's fairly simple . Everyone picks a colour to play and takes 21 cubes of that colour and associated aids. These colours have no significance. The cubes are initially allocated as to 8 in potential (useless until activated), 8 in influence (think action points), 2 in conviction (think power) and 1 each in the simple attributes - you place one each in the yellow, blue and red sections of the board.
What is significant is your journey card - this determines both your starting position and your starting companion type. Say you have a yellow colour companion, each turn you will be able to spend one influence to activate that companion and thereby obtain 2 inspiration (by moving 2 of your influence cubes into the yellow section). The kicker is that each companion also has an individual ability which you will seek to leverage if possible. You also choose 1 of 2 secret quest cards and this will also have a bearing on your strategy. Then hex tiles are drawn out of a bag and placed to either side of each player's starting position so that in a 4 or 5 player game most of the outer hexagon might be filled in. To start with you are encouraged to stick to the basic 19 tile set which is simple and includes duplicates of most locations (see first photograph). Later you can mix things up with various alternative "bells and whistles" hexes which make the game a little harder and which add some fun novelties. Doing this ratchets up the randomness of tile placement - you may initially only move 2 spaces so it may be a while before a particular unique hex you want comes out, and you may need to mix things up a bit until then. Finally in the set up, 2 end game triggers are drawn from a set of 12.
Each turn you must move at least one space, you may activate one companion or yourself and you may either visit any location hex or rest (move one cube forward). There are also a number of free actions available such as blending primary attribute cubes into secondary ones, taking control of a hex and reclaiming surplus influence cubes from the board or companion cards (you lose the VPs gained when you acquired that companion, but that is trivial).
At first I thought this was a straight forward engine builder - it reminded me of Terra Mystica - but now I think that although there is that element, the fact you may always "reverse" the engine to replace influence from unwanted surpluses on the board or on companion cards makes the analogy weaker. It should not really be an issue to have sufficient influence available even without converting all your potential. The game also reminds me a little of Archmage in the way colours blend - the primary colours are blended to create orange, green and purple and everything is logical in that respect (not sure how this might impact accessibility re colour blindness). There are also area control and set collection aspects because spending a cube of conviction gives you control over a hex and earns you points if other players visit, and because there are various attribute masteries to be gained (represented by the large coloured tiles in the second photos), depending on who has the highest number of cards in each colour.
The thing which really delights me was how each game plays differently. This is a cliché, and also a truism at some level of course, but in this case one really has to think on the fly and change one's approach to reflect how the board develops and which cards are available (you may always select the visible card, take a chance on the top card of the pile or pay a cube of conviction to select 1 of 3 at the top of the deck (very useful indeed)). There are 16-20 cards of each deck so one doesn't burn through them all in a single game. Another fly in the ointment is that reaching certain points on the score board (represented by metal coins in the photos) results in a fresh end game trigger coming into play - so all one's best plans might come to naught. It's fair to say these features aren't universally appreciated. The games I've played have been different although I've also been mixing in new elements along the way to complicate matters.
Is anything OP? Efficiently gaining multiple relics or enemy scalps will probably result in high scores, particularly if you use the power draw to select those which are most useful, but this may not always be easy to achieve. For example if I want to fight monsters I need sources of strength and inspiration (red plus yellow respectively which I may always blend to create orange i.e courage), but my starting companion might give me knowledge (blue) and the hexes I need to recruit a red or yellow companion from an inn or to obtain red or yellow directly from a fort or a holy spire respectively might not emerge quickly.
As you can hopefully see from the photos, you position your marker in the triangles between hexes and move along these - a really neat idea. You can't occupy the same space as another player but up to 5 players may visit any 1 hex. Other than this, player interaction is limited to the toll exacted via hex ownership, but there is an optional "treachery" deck which may be mixed in to create some back stabbery if desired. Each turn you have to move although this usually doesn't preclude spamming a single hex if that is what you want to do.
Generally component quality is high and each of the player kits is fitted into its own small tray which makes set up quick. However, there are some complete howlers - like a cloth bag which is simply too small to both hold the hexes and to be able to shuffle them around a bit (the hexes are double sided so you can't just put them on the table face down).
Then there are the miniatures. Yes, there are miniatures, which I haven't mentioned at all. That's because they are completely unnecessary. There is a great big 1st player marker (seen on purple's player board in the second photo), and then there are the monuments. One of the game variants is called "guilds and monuments". In this you can dedicate attributes and conviction to - surprise! - construct a monument, which when completed gives you 15 Vps and a possession of a large miniature. In the second game pictured green didn't have a good time but amused themselves with constructing a giant tree thing (not pictured). A true KS game I suppose.
(There is a game mode I haven't yet experienced which involves a boss fight in the centre of the board. )
Of course, playing solo (3H so far although tempted to try a full on 5H) I'm not looking at this from the same perspective as many. I'm indifferent to who wins, I don't even care particularly if the game is tight. I really like randomness, and this certainly hits that particular mark. Some companions grant more useful abilities, some hex layouts will facilitate certain strategies more easily, some relics or traits will be more or less useful (hence the attraction of the power draw). The design works really well, and in general production quality is high. I love the way new game ending triggers emerge pretty quickly, and how you have to keep thinking on your feet. Games seem to take 60-90 minutes.
The photos represent
1. Base game board, probably at the conclusion of my first game. The board is double sided and this side is for beginners - it explains what goes where. You can see there are duplicates of some tiles - in this game both forts are adjacent, and 2 of the 3 inns are also adjacent.
2. Advanced game board at conclusion of most recent game but before end game scoring. I've just set the cards out to be oriented my way rather than all facing outward. In this game not all the location hexes were even drawn. In this game also I've mixed in the optional tiles from various small expansions - a pet store, crystal mines, teleport stones etc - so the only duplicate hex is the inn (this the only way to add companions so it is pretty important). The end game trigger which came into play was the one drawn most recently - see pile to the left - and was related to proficiencies in place before the card was drawn (proficiencies are the smaller coloured rectangles which are easy to acquire by spending 3 cubes of that attribute). After final scoring, grey won this one comfortably from dominating in 3 attributes, killing several monsters and what not. Purple was trying to go down the relics route (one of the original game ending triggers) but on this occasion it didn't work. Green built a giant plastic tree and finished last. Green also sacked their only companion (to reclaim the influence cubes) so that wasn't great either (not that sacking companions is necessarily bad - some give you on joining bonuses and nothing further so there is no point in keeping them if you need the influence back). None of the 3 players reached "vindicated" status which would have required converting all potential into influence, and which is represented by flipping the player card onto a predominantly white side. This action seems curiously underpowered to me in the context of the game setting and how significant it should be as major life event - you simply gain 5 VPs as a one off benefit, and then 2 attributes instead of 1 if you choose to activate yourself rather than a companion. Gee whiz! It isn't trivial to convert 8 potential into influence, and that's the best you can offer as a reward!