This game is about imperialistic interplanetary conquering, invasion and resources exploitation. This game is not about going to a planet and invading it. This game is about going to a planet with your clones (why use unique humans!) and using the existing residents and creatures to fight against each other in order to get you Rubium and victory points to win the game.
Well, I’m up for that!
The gameplay is very simple, though the game has two levels of complexity. We played a game of 4 people, two adults and two children, so we played the simpler of the two. Every round has various phases in which you buy/deploy new troops, move them, battle your enemies, mine for resources and then draw a secret mission card.
The board is created depending on the number of players. Each player has a base tile set and the board has a monolith, which allows the occupier to get advantages, and some lava pits that restrict the entry to some of the miniatures and give advantages to others. Although the monolith always goes in the middle and the lave pits in similar places, the rest of the tiles are fairly random in a Settlers of Catan way (please no one call this game an “inferior Settlers of Catan clone” just because they have similar board systems. Don’t be stupid!) so every time the board will be different, which is nice.
The battle resolution is as simple as rolling a die. If you roll over certain number, your creature deals a blow and the enemy is defeated. The order of the battle starts with the strongest enemy dealing the blow and going down to weaker foes if they survive. Each troop can only attack once. The combat can be a bit frustrating at times because of its over-simplicity. It can happen that one single bad roll will get rid of your most powerful ally, the dragon, while you look in despair/disbelief and thank the fates the table is too heavy to be flipped. All of this while your friends laugh, of course. No; I am not bitter or anything.
If you win a battle, you get a victory point. If you lose a battle, you get an “enhancement card”, so I guess there is something to be said for being a good loser, since those cards can give you tremendous advantages.
The secret mission cards, drawn at the end of each turn, give you that, secret missions you can perform – like destroying a specific enemy at a particular location – for extra victory points. And these cards can really turn the tides to a player or another and, if played well, can speed up the game considerably!
I would go into the game components in detail, but there is already a video that shows you the contents in detail here. However, I will say that they are terrific quality and very easy to play with. With over 150 miniatures in the box, this game can hardly offer better value for money. The tiles are thick enough, the colours of the hexagonal tiles, which are an important game mechanic feature rather than just ornamental, are also easy to see even if you have several of the many miniatures on top of them.
The miniatures are great. Not the best quality plastic, you might get some that have the legs bent in weird shapes. If that is the case, please contact the Fantasy Flight Games customer services dept. They were very quick to reply to my email and posted a new set of miniatures without as much as a single question. I can’t speak highly enough of those guys! The design, though, is pretty good
The rules manual, as it is to be expected from Fantasy Flight Games, is not the best. However is not bad and it read well enough. Plenty of illustrations and it was fairly easy to reference, though a few things were left in the air. For example, if attacking an adjacent tile with a dragon is a battle.
A word of warning. Sometimes the explanation in the cards will not be understood clearly by the youngest children. We had a 9yo at the table and he struggled to understand some of the instructions of the cards. Nothing to do with the cards being too complicated or the kid not being bright enough – he nearly won, the little bugger! – but because they are fairly complex and haven’t been written with children in mind. So, although the game is perfectly safe for children of certain age to play, they might need some coaching.
I know some people out there are comparing this with the previous edition. I can’t do that because I have never seen the 2005 version of the game, though.
This game is very well worth bringing onto the table and I will be doing so time and time again. It has nothing revolutionary and the depth is not immense, but it can be picked up in just a few minutes, is colourful, fairly quick and the replayability factor is more than fair.
I can imagine expansions sorting out some of the combat issues and adding more creatures and complexity to the game. Maybe different tiles and, for the more hard-core player out there, a five or six players variant would be excellent. In fact, this game is so perfect for expansions that I wouldn’t be surprised if Fantasy Flight Games were making less money on this game by giving away so many miniatures, just because they’re hoping to sell a lot of expansions later on. I will probably buy a few, just so you know.
In short, I would gladly recommend this game and put it in the pile with Cosmic Encounters in terms of flavour and level of difficulty. The amazing amount of miniatures and lovely artwork makes is what topples this from a three stars title to a four star one.
Well done Fantasy Flight Games for a terrific re-edition of this game.
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