Nostalgic is one way of describing Strange New Worlds.
I can think of others, but none should appear here. Gamers of a certain age may well find themselves wallowing chest deep in nostalgia should they get to play this galactic exploration game from the dim dark past of 1978. These gamers might well also conclude that the game hasn`t really aged well over the years - a pity. The new generation of gamers will no doubt raise eyebrows after playing and conclude there`s better stuff `out there` - a pity.
With the box looking like something that might appear on the cover of Analog, Amazing Science Fiction, Galaxy, etc, Strange New Worlds attempt at oozing theme, probably worked well back then. The black & white artwork of the games` cards reminds me of the cheesy illustrations which complimented the stories found within.
Strange New Worlds is a galactic exploration game of planetary systems where the players try to control 7 of the 24 systems in order to declare themselves the winner. It is an economic race game. It is a family game with a Space theme well and truly nailed on as an afterthought.
It is a game with some interesting ideas for one so old, and might even be viewed as an early attempt at something like a Euro. It is a game that will probably drag on for far too long for most, and it is a game that will need house rules and a new set of playing pieces in order to play it. I didn`t mind having to do all that, but for those of you without time or patience, this game now puts back on its` own lid and wishes you farewell. For those of you willing to put up with that sort of thing, pull up a chair and I`ll explain more.
The biggest problem you are going to encounter with this game is the playing pieces. Nearly all of them are going in the bin as they are totally unreadable. Half inch counters with print so small you need something akin to x-ray vision, or as I did, a magnifier to be able to see what is going on. The two decks of cards will certainly need sleeving, as they are printed on flimsy card stock and are near impossible to shuffle.
I pimped an old game called Constellation for the space ships, did my own set of Planetary control markers and did my own set of money markers.
I used plastic cubes for the player`s control markers.
The map board is mounted and a four fold affair, which when put on the table will no doubt be warped. I used gentle persuasion...jack hammers, saws, and other such items to bring it back into line.
The map board divides into two major sections. The outer ring contains boxes for the use of cards, control markers, money and are named after the planetary systems which appear on the inner map which is used only for spaceship movement.
There are two decks of cards used in the game. The crew card deck and the planetary systems deck.
The 54 crew card deck is made up of 8 differing types numbered 1 through 4 and include
Engineering Team = 1
Linguistics Officer = 1
Medical Officer = 1
Science Officer = 1
Colonists = 2
Star Soldiers = 3
Astro Marines = 4
The 24 planetary systems deck contains basic information on Planet type, initial cost and type of crew card needed for colonization of that system. Some have a bonus in credits for controlling the planet.
Object of the Game
To win a player must control 7 colonies, or failing that, the game ends when the last planetary systems marker is turned face up on the outer edge of the map board. Players total their galactic credits in hand, count their credits on any controlled systems, add 100 credits for each controlled system. Most money wins and winner declares himself/herself Galactic Emperor/Empress and destroys the rest of the cosmos.
At start, the two decks of cards are shuffled and four crew cards are dealt out to each player. The planetary systems deck is placed face down to be drawn from as colonization attempts are made. the 28 planetary control markers are turned face down, shuffled and one dealt out to each of the 24 named systems boxes on the outer edge of the game board. Each player takes his spaceship and places it on any named system
on the inner map board.Each Player gets 1,000 galactic credits and off ya go.
A game turn consists of a player doing 5 phases.
1.Collect money for owning a colony.Money collected goes to the the systems box.
2.Buy new crew cards. Up to a maximum of 4.
3. Transfer crew cards from his/her space ship ( his/her hand ) to one of his/her controlled planets, or from one of his/her controlled planets back to his/her space ship. Note that in order to do this your spaceship will need to be on the named planetary system on the inner map board.
4.Move his/her spaceship.
5.Attempt to colonize an uncontrolled system, or initiate combat for an opponents controlled system in an attempt to take control of the system.Again, your spaceship will have to be on the same named planetary system in order to attempt either of these.
Players beginning their turn on an uncontrolled planetary system, or in ` Space` between planetary systems will only be able to do points 4 & 5.
Movement can be made in either two ways.
1. normal movement,or
2. Hyper Space Jump.
Normal movement involves moving your spaceship one diamond point in any direction of the inner map board. Diamond points include named planets and 4 numbered black holes.
Hyper Jumps involve the player moving from named planetary system to another planetary system, turning face up the planetary system marker to find where you move to. Confused?
Well as an example, say my space ship currently occupies the Xela System on the inner map board and I wish to use hyper Jump.I announce that this is what I will do, then look up Xela on the outer ring of the map board, turn over the face down planetary system marker on Xela which say names Uhune as the new system..I must move my spaceship to Uhune on the inner movement part of the game board. Once the planetary systems marker is turned face up hyper jumps will always be between the named systems for all players. So, in our example, Xela hyper jumps to Uhune and Uhune hyper jumps to Xela.
Four of the planetary system markers are black holes, which, when flipped over will consequently force the player to move at the slower rate of one diamond per turn, as occupation of a black hole prevents hyper jumps.
Colonizing New Systems
Colonizing new systems is what you will be trying to do in order to win the game. During a players turn if his spaceship currently occupies a named planetary system, he may attempt to colonize it if it is unexplored, or announce combat if it is already occupied by an opponent.
If it is unexplored he/she draws the top card from the planetary systems deck and secretly sees if he can comply with the necessary crew cards and any initial credit cost for control of the planet. If the player can pay the costs which always requires playing a colonist card as well as any other cards listed, then the players discards the required cards from his hand, pays the credits to the bank, and places his colonist card along with one of his control markers on the box of the named system.
If the player cannot, or does not wish, to comply with the instructions on the planetary systems card, then he places the card face down on the box of the named system he was attempting to colonize, which will then be drawn by future players attempting to colonize that particular system.
Controlled systems earn the player 50 credits per turn plus whatever bonus the planetary card gives.Money generated this way always remains on the box of the named system so in order to get at that money you will have to travel to that system. Of course systems can exchange hands, so the money on them can also be taken by opponents if they control them as a result of combat.
Crew cards are what drives the game. Each Player may never have more than 4 crew cards in his hand at the time he moves his spaceship. Crew cards can be added to any of his controlled systems so long as he currently occupies the system on the movement section of the map board.
a player may never buy more than 4 new crew cards per turn, and each card costs 100 galactic credits.
Colonist cards are really important and are needed if you are to control planets. Placing crew cards on your controlled planets becomes important defensively, as they will be used during combat. There is no restriction on the number of crew cards your controlled planets can have at any one time.
Combat is an abstracted bluffing affair.Any time a player ends his movement on an opponents controlled system he may announce combat in an attempt to win that system for himself.
The defending player only uses the cards currently on the systems box whilst the attacker uses the cards in his hand only.
Each player secretly selects the card/s he wishes to defend/ attack with and places them face down. Cards are then revealed simultaneously, the higher value card/s wins.
The loser of the combat discards his card/s whilst the victor discards cards equal to the value of the losing players card/s. The winning player must still be able to play a colonist card after the victory in order to take control of that system.
A Conclusion of sorts.
What do I think of Strange New Worlds? Well apart from all the playing piece issues, the game is no Freedom in the Galaxy, or StarCraft, that is for sure. It is a mid weight family game that is maybe worth the odd outing once in a while.
There are some game issues which could, and should, and been better handled at the time. For instance, the Paradise Planet card has a wapping 200 credit bonus each turn. So with the 50 credits for the system, that 250 credits per turn. Admittedly, I have to get there to use the money, when I may want to get control of other systems in order to win the game but the game can become a " Chase the Paradise " exercise.
Someone has suggested removing this card altogether from the game, though to me it would seem fairer if the card had an initial high cost in order to gain control of it.
A better solution for me would be to add some more planetary system cards to the deck, thereby making it possible the card never gets drawn in a game in the first place.
The game could do with a makeover and no doubt if it were published today it would have super minis for the spaceships, and cards better suited to the golden age of sci-fi. Of course that would put the game out of my price range for good, so I`ll stick with what I`ve got.
Most though, would I think, consign this to another 35 years of dust collecting.
Ya pays ya galactic credits, and takes ya galactic choice.
Thanks for the review.
I´m looking for this kind of games...but for solitaire gameplay.
Thanks very much for that..you should check out Conquest for Planet Earth.
This is the review I have been waiting for!!
Glad you liked it..I`m working on some more planetary system cards, so when I finish that, I`ll upload them as I think the game would be better for it. Also toying with making Paradise planet initial cost of -150 credits...that might stop the chase exercise.
A good review of the game and its rules! Glad to see someone is still playing this out there. I recall many a fun night passed in my childhood playing this with my brother.
Of course, I wonder if my brother and I were to play it now, would we still enjoy it as much as we did. Hopefully, I'll find a copy one day and be able to put it to the test!
When my friends and I were playing it 35 years ago, we tried a number of alternatives, and decided that tossing the Paradise Planet was the best one. It is just too unbalancing in the game.