So this is a fun, fairly fast paced game where you pilot a ship that has traveled through a black hole, trying to get back home.
This is done by mining asteroids to gather elements to provide thrust.
Well, that’s the theme anyway, and it’s enjoyable.
In practice, you’ll be drafting fuel cards over the course of six rounds to try and move your ship from the center of the spiral board to the warp gate. The first player to reach the warp gate makes it back through the black hole and wins.
Each player has a ship token that they place at the center of the spiral on the board and an Emergency Stop card. This card allows you to cancel your movement for the card you’ve just played. There are also one or two derelict ships on the board that nobody controls.
The fuel cards are what move your ship. At the start of each round, you’ll deal out a number of cards equal to the number of players times three. So, in a two player game, you will deal out six cards face down. After that, you’ll deal out the same number of cards face up, one on each of the face down cards. These cards have a number value between one and ten, as well as periodic table of elements characters like Ar for argon or Pu for plutonium. There are 3 types of fuel cards: basic movement that move you towards the nearest ship. repulsor movement which moves you away from the nearest ship and the Tractor Beam, which moves all the other ships toward you.
Once all the fuel cards are setup in sets of two, each player will draft a pair of cards. The game recommends youngest to oldest player but I think a simple d20 roll is a better randomizer for starting player. Players will know what half of the cards are but, the other half will be taken blindly. So you’ll know a bit of what your opponents are doing but not everything. Each player will end up with a hand of six cards.
Once all the cards have been drafted, you’ll proceed to the movement phase.
Movement is a great mechanic. Each player selects a card and lays it face down. When all players have selected their cards, they all reveal at the same time. Then, the player with the element that is closest to ‘A’ goes first and play proceeds, moving up the alphabet. Argon would go before Krypton, and Zirconium will likely always go last. Here is the meat of the game. And also the fun. On the first round, everybody moves away from the center of the spiral. After that, you’re working with or against the other ships on the board. Maybe you shoved off for ten spaces on your first move, and you now have a commanding lead on the rest of the pack. If you go first on the second round, since you’re always moving toward the closest ship, there’s a good chance you’ll actually be moving back toward an opponent. If you don’t go first, you might be allowing an opponent to use your momentum to catch up with you as they move toward you. So you have to balance forward progress against a need to keep your opponents somewhat near you as you participate in a bit of a game of leap frog.
There are a couple of extra mechanics here.
The Emergency Stop card lets you cancel your action. You can use this once per round. If it is your move, and you realize you might now be going backward, or – after processing your move – it might allow an opponent to gain much more ground than expected, you can drop your stop and take no move this turn and discard your planned move.
There is also the derelict ship. These ships are placed on the board and are not controlled by any player, but they still act as objects to move around or be moved. You can pull yourself toward them, repulse away from them or use the tractor beam to move them around, possibly annoying your opponents.
Play proceeds like this for up to six rounds or until a player makes it out of the black hole. If after six rounds, nobody has escaped, the player nearest the Warp Gate wins.
This is a fun game. The mechanics are simple. The components are simple but nothing fancy is needed. It’s fast with two set end conditions and few options. There’s little analysis paralysis as there’s a limited number of actions each round. It’s a great warmup because it’s fast. It’s also an excellent gateway game for your friends who might be put off by more grinding games. It’s a theme that most people understand and after a couple of turns the mechanics become second nature.
The audio review of this and other games can be found at www.allusgeeks.com