pic765321_md[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Let’s assume there is life in other planets. Now let’s assume that one of those alien races would want to invade Earth. Some of you might think “why on Earth would want to invade our planet considering how battered we’re leaving it”. You might also think “They’d be doing the planet a favour, bring it on!”.

Regardless of what you may think, invading a planet takes considerable planning. The invading planet needs to get enough spaceships, weapons, shuttles, land vehicles and, after learning lessons from our literature, anti-biotics.

On the other hand, we would also need to get ready. After our initial surprise — which would be considerable? – our governments would have to decide if they wanted to fight or surrender, then we’d have to think of ways to fight, capture a few prisoners (and treat them humanely, of course… we’re not aliens!) and learn from them and, in a nutshell, fight back.

Well, Jacobo Cagigal (no, I haven’t heard about him before either) has taken that formula and turned it into a board game. Then he’s got GenX and published it, and now you can enjoy Target Earth.

After my last experience with a GenX game, Luna Llena, I was desperate to like this game. As a Spaniard, I am keen to see good products coming out of my country. After playing Dos de Mayo and Total Rumble, I know for a fact that GenX can produce terrific games, so my hopes were very high.

So how did it do?

pic763816_md[1]Unboxing the game is a good experience. There are loads of components to it. The main board is divided in three main areas. A map of the world, with quite a few of its countries to the left, and two different areas to the right. The top right side of the board is divided in various columns that show how many landing attempts the aliens perform, how many radars the humans need to detect, and thus intercept them. The bottom right side of the board is divided in various rectangles where successful alien landings are confronted by human troupes to try and stop them.

Each player receives a board with a grid that shows a character with specific characteristics the player can use in game. On this board, the player will display the tokens with the different items that can be used to fight the invading force. Storage building, hangars, radars, shuttles, tanks, labs, fighters, infantry… all you need to defend your planet. All those elements come in handy tokens with colourful illustration for your benefit, of course.

The components are very solid. The board is as good as you need it to be. Sturdy, well printed with vivid colour and sharp graphics displaying all the information you need in a concise and well place manner. You can’t really get lost in this board, even with the amount of information it holds, and it is a lot of information!

The tokens are thick enough. They lack a good plastic coating, so you’ll have to be careful when detaching them or you’ll see some tear in the holding board or the token itself. The printing is very good, with great illustrations for everything.

The rules manuals look lovely. I say manuals because you get two with this game. One in Spanish, and one in English. That is typical of GenX, and is both welcome and useful. The manuals are well laid out and the paper quality is very good as well.

The first game.

target-earth-1Preparation takes a bit of time to start with. There are dozens of tokens to detach from the boards and, depending on how many players there are, the configuration varies slightly. It also takes a fair bit of space, so you’ll need a large table to have everything handy.

Playing the first time is not an easy experience. The game is rather complex, though the mechanics are terribly simple. It also has two modes of play, cooperative and competitive.

The game is played over a certain number of rounds, and each round is divided in 9 phases, some longer than others. To complicate things a bit more, the game itself is divided in three major phases, each phase complicating things more and bringing more powerful foes to defeat.

The manual is not terribly clear. Following the rules can be very confusing and not everything is in the right place, or explained clearly. Quite frankly, getting to grips with nice different phases of a turn is no mean feat and it’ll take you a bit to remember what to do every time.

Thank goodness the mechanics are beautifully simple. You determine who rolls first and then how many dice. Both parts roll the right number of dice and compare successes. 5 and 6 are a success. You get more than your opponent, you win. Simple!

The first game took us longer than we anticipated, and indeed longer than it should. The reason was the lack of clarity in the rules book. It really is not easy to follow and it needs a great deal of editing.

So did I like it?

I certainly did, but let me get the bad bits out of the way first.

target-earth-2The rules are not very well explained. Be warned that it’ll take a bit of time to get used to them and to get used to the flow of the game.

Something really basic went wrong in the printing of the tokens too. Some of the resources you gather, depending on how many countries you have on your side is money. Currency comes in two denominations. 1 credit and 5 credits tokens. In my box, the 5 credits tokens had been mis-printed and the 5 was upside-down, looking like a 2 instead. It could be that it was a printing error, but it lets the production of the game down and made things very confusing at the beginning.

The player’s board is a bit on the weak side. It is, basically, a thin sheet of plastic. Strong enough to withstand the play, but not as thick as the tokens.

The last thing that I found annoying is the number of dice the game comes with. Eight. For a game in which you could find yourself rolling a large number of dice, eight is nowhere near enough. It should come with 15 at least. It makes rolling large number of dice awkward.

So why did I like it? For starters the game reflects the theme to perfection. The whole experience is like watching a – rather long – Sci-Fi movie. The whole thing truly feels like a story developing in front of your eyes and that is a very cool thing indeed.

Once one gets over the rather average rules manual writing, the game is very enjoyable. The negotiations between players to get the right equipment, and research the right technologies is very good. It makes the cooperative nature of the game perfect for the theme. The “advanced” game play includes even more rules and it’s competitive, and, to be honest, not much fun.

Overall I would recommend this game, even if it takes a two or three games to really enjoy it. However, once you get over that, you’ll want to play this game again.

Very happy to give this game 4 out of 5 stars.