Earthborne Rangers is Revolutionary


Been a while since they got that excited over a game?

Cole Wehrle also had this as no. 1 in some list, iirc, so I’m kind of sold, even though it really doesn’t look like my kind of thing.

Edit: no. 2 on his list of the best of 2023, but Stationfall was no. 3, and no. 1 was basically a roleplaying game, so it’s in good company and arguably his no. 1 boardgame.

That said, the more I learn about it, the more my interest wanes? Really doesn’t look like my cup of tea. Maybe I’ll just try it out solo if there’s a digital implementation (a surefire way to kill my interest off for good).


I watched this last night and it was far too late to comment.

Now that I’ve written the below, I need to go get my coffee. I hope the following mostly makes sense. I feel a a bit less enthusiastic about the game than Matt despite thinking this is a very good game. But I‘ve run and bought too many games because of reviews that turned out were good but not for me. So:

I‘ve recently got back to playing this. I have only played a total of 4 games (and some learning games).

I think it is a very good iteration on what it wants to do.
But it is not for everyone.

Me attempting to explain more about the game and attempting to help you decide if the game is for you.

The first comparison that comes to my mind is Sleeping Gods which I bounced of very hard because of the gameplay.

I also bounced of Arkham Horror TCG because it was too dark and Cthulu (I mean what did I expect?). But there is definitely a similarity there as you construct decks to represent the character you steer through this card world.

I like Earthborne Rangers far better than either of those games. Because the gameplay is actually fun.

You have 30 cards to play and go as far as you can each day. The campaign sheet lists 30 days (which does not mean you need to play that long I think). You can go where you want and discover the valley and you meet people as part of the location decks: your opponent if you will—the land, it’s man versus nature. I have yet to meet unfriendly people. Most people have fixed locations where they appear but there are valley inhabitants that can appear anywhere. The setting is very evocative and does a lot with just those few cards you get to see. One gets quite the impression of flora and fauna—and I found those pieces of the review where Matt talks about discovering how those organically become part of quests quite interesting. This has not happened to me yet. But I have only completed the intro quest and two „helping out“ quests—though I expect to complete another quest next game. Despite the sandbox thing there has been some idea what I could do handed to me by the game so far…

Matt pretty much describes the gameplay but he „waxes lyrical“ about some of the parts where I feel a bit more detail could give people a better idea if the game is for them. The game has an interesting decision space.

So you are at some location that is represented by its Location card. There are the „Path“ cards that keep appearing each turn (that is the deck Matt explains consists of some cards fitting the biome you are traveling in and a few location specific ones for special locations or some common valley cards for normal locations). Most path cards are obstacles you need to get around. On most days you want to „explore“ the Location to leave again and get to the next one. As a ranger you are always on the move (and it certainly feels that way). But especially on important locations you might be looking for a specific person or try to encounter something for a quest you found.

In a given moment, I am usually just trying to get away from where I am. To do that you need to put a number of exploration tokens on the location card. Usually this is done with an Attribut test on your „Fitness“ … you have 4 attributes (those are the coloredwooden tokens—cardboard in my case). Everyone has a sum total of 8 points distributed across those. So I can spend my Fitness energy and cards with the correct symbol to draw one of those random cards and add the resulting number for the test to the Location card. Most cards need 3 or 4 tokens per Ranger so a single test will often not result in a full exploration. Also every card between me and the Location card will cause fatigue according to its presence. Most cards have a presence and a HP value, either of which can be used to „fulfill“ them which means removing them. Locations have just the Presence value and when you fulfill it you travel. There are other ways to fulfill locations (the German keyword is „Erfüllen“).

So let’s say there are 3 path cards out with a sum presence of 5, and I want to have a go at the Location card, I lose 5 cards to fatigue. That is probably a bad idea with a deck of 30 cards. So I need to check out which cards I can remove or if I can find a shortcut. One of the cards out is a „predator“. I could „sneak“ around that one with another test if I still have enough „Awareness“ energy. That would mean I tap the card to exhaust it until next round. Exhausted cards don‘t count as obstacles. If I have any weapons I could also attack it (I don’t have any weapons on this particular character) or commune with nature to get a „feel“ for the creature and either way try to „fulfill“ the card. Or maybe I have a card that interacts with the predator directly.

I could also have cards that directly add tokens to the Location without having to go through obstacles. Which cards interact with which others is governed by the keywords Matt mentions. And this is a pretty genius system. It sometimes really takes a bit of time to realize what a specific card lets you do. My character ability lets me add „usage“ tokens to all my equipment that has the „help“ keyword. So I can‘t conjure food out of thin air but I can repair the communicator I use to understand other „beings“. But in the end it is just matching keywords…

When constructing your deck or adding quest rewards you need to make sure that you have a good variety of cards but also cards that work well with your attributes, your abilities and with each other. It‘s not trivial and I am sure I will have some difficult decisions ahead of me. Cards not only have their normal function but a lot of them also provide you with symbols to enhance your attribute tests. The better cards give more than 1 symbol. There are 4 symbols along with the 4 attributes, they may for various checks be mixed up but the standard tests always use the same symbol and that also thematically represents what the cards do usually.

At the start of the day when your deck is fresh and you have your starting hand of 5 cards and no fatigue your decisions are mostly „what do I want to do, do I want to equip this card and where do I want to go exploring“… at the end of the deck your decisions are: how can I get at this plant to eat it to get some cards from my fatigue and get around that predator and that aggressive plant (yes), so I can get away from here to the place this person I encountered wants me to go to help them because I only have a few more turns in me before I keel over. Or: this predator would give me a 3rd wound which means I could get a permanent negative card in my deck I have to appease it before it attacks. And then suddenly all you want to do is put up camp (end the day).

But despite good gameplay and good decisions—it plays up to 4 but I doubt many people play with more than 2–at its heart this is a story telling game that wants you to discover the valley and do quests more than it is a boardgame. And while I like the decisions, they are NOTHING at all like the ones you make in Gloomhaven! Gloomhaven is a strategy game where you cleverly play your cards to move from hex to hex and kill monsters. Earthborne Rangers is a story game where you cleverly play cards to interact with other cards. I don‘t know how to put it better.

This is not for everyone. It might not even be for me. I can blame the move for making me stop playing after the first 2 games and now that I picked it back up, I definitely want to keep playing.

Maybe I just don‘t know enough other comparable games to tell how revolutionary this is. But this is not for everyone. I would rate it an 8/10 for now.


I saw a review 3 months ago from The Broken Meeple on YouTube that also gave it 8/10, although some of that was for mistakes in the 1st ed rulebook which are presumably fixed in the 2nd printing (there’s errata on the website).

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It’s a cozy game where you have your wee adventures together over a nature-focused post-apocalyptic scenario.

I tried it and I had a good time and will play it again if able, but I dont think it’s your thing.

Revolutionary is a eyebrow raiser. Sorry. This is where I question SUSD’s credibility due to their relationship with the designers

EDIT: As for Werhle: he loves his thematic games. And they are a hit-and-miss for me. He loves High Frontier. But you and I arent so hot about it.


I don’t think it’s fair to accuse them of any conscious bias. They just get excited about some things, and aren’t aiming for any semblance of objectivity. The hyperbole was too much here, but I understand it simply as him being unusually excited by the experience, and that’s fine. There’s still enough content there for me to determine that it’s probably not for me.