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Subject: Sparky Speaks: Metallum rss

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Shawn Sparks
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Pictured: Setup for a standard game.


Metallum is an economic sci-fi themed area control game. If you would like to read a general description of how the game is played please see the OVERVIEW section below. If you would simply like to read my PROS & CONS along with my FINAL THOUGHTS you can check those topics out near the bottom of this post.

OVERVIEW
This game is for 2 players only and is played over 9 rounds. Each round is divided into 4 phases with both players fully completing a phase before moving on to the next. The player with the most credits at the end of the game is the winner.

The play area is made up of 7 planet tiles. The first tile is always planet Alpha, and it is placed face-up. The last tile is always planet Omega, and it is placed face-down. The 5 planet tiles in the middle are selected randomly from a group of 7 and placed face-down. To start the game players choose a color (red or blue) and place their ships on the Alpha tile. 3 planetary cards are made available for purchase using the market bar which has some added values to increase/decrease the cost. Each player is given 25 cubes of their color (these represent extractors), a set of 12 subroutine tiles, a scoring dial, and a player screen. It should be noted that players are limited to playing 25 extractors. Now onto the phases.

Phase 1: Programming
Secretly, behind their screens, each player will create a subroutine using 2-4 tiles (essentially this is like claiming what actions you will take on your turn). These subroutine tiles allow players to move 1-3 planets, deploy 1-3 extractors, take extra planetary actions (see phase 2), purchase or move cards, increase or decrease the payout of a planet, collect additional credits, and as a bonus place 1 extractor or move to an adjacent planet. Movement must always be part of a subroutine and it is a required action in phase 2. Once both players finish programming their subroutines they reveal them to each other. Used subroutine tiles are removed from play until rounds 4 and 7, at which time players may use them again.

Phase 2: Actions
Every subroutine tile has a numeric value on it; the player with the lowest total value chooses who goes first this round. Players then perform all of their programmed actions in any order they choose. In addition to the programmed actions, players can take a planetary action (some subroutine tiles allow players to take an extra planetary action). Each planet has its own planetary action that primarily allows you to move, swap, and add extractors (among a few other things). This is also when players can play any planetary or action card they may have purchased. These cards have varying in-game benefits, the difference is that planetary cards are permanent and can only be purchased in rounds 1-6, while action cards are usually played immediately and can only be purchased in rounds 7-9.

Phase 3: Scoring
This is where players collect credits for any extractors they have deployed. Players gain $3 if they have the most extractors on a planet, $1 if they have the least, and both players receive $0 for a tie. There are ways to increase or decrease these values by playing deposit reports in the action phase. The adjusted values are typically a $1-2 difference in either direction, but never less than $0. Players then record their earnings using the scoring dial.

Phase 4: End of Round
Any card still remaining in the right most space of the market bar is discarded. All remaining cards are slid to the left and any open slots are restocked with cards.

So in general that is how the game is played. Here are my PROS & CONS.

PROS:
• The artwork for the planet tiles and all the cards is fantastic. The artwork really helps to bring out the sci-fi theme.
• The component quality is outstanding. Nice thick tiles and the scoring dials are very cool.
• This is sort of personal thing that I like, but the 4 inch square planet tiles can easily be used in any sci-fi based RPG. I’ve already got ideas to use them in my Star Wars Edge of the Empire campaign. I can also see using those scoring dials for all kinds of different board games. I love those things!
• This game has some real strategy to it, and it is not luck based. There are so many possibilities as to how you can score or prevent your opponent from scoring that its mind boggling. It would be fun to just play 4 or 5 games in a row and try a different strategy every time.
• The box is small enough to transport and take on the road. The game easily fits into a small backpack.

CONS:
• Maybe it’s just me, but I struggled a little with the rulebook at first. Now once I read the action phase example near the back of the book I began to grasp things better, but just reading the basic rules I was kind of lost (not entirely lost). It also helped to actually start playing the game. It makes better sense once you see the game unfold in front of you. I’m probably making it sound worse than it is, but bottom line it wasn’t the smoothest rulebook I have ever read. As a minor note there are some type-o’s and missing words in the rulebook and on the cards. That doesn’t really bother me (nobody is perfect), and perhaps a few things were simply lost in translation.
• Here is my biggest beef with this game. There are a lot of icons in this game that represent specific actions. The subroutine icons are pretty easy to learn, but it’s hard to remember what all those planet action icons mean. In the games I have played, both players are constantly reaching for the rulebook. This happens the most in the programming phase where we are trying to figure out what planet actions we would like to take and how will we get there (ultimately we end up fighting for control of the rulebook). Now, the more you play the game the easier it gets to remember what these icons mean, but even after 5 or 6 games I failed to remember all of them. Alpha and Omega are easy to remember because they are placed in every game, but the 5 middle tiles are chosen from a stack of 7, so the game board is changing every game which also makes it difficult to remember. I only wish the game would have come with individual reference sheets. For a game with so many actions and icons I think it’s a necessity. Fortunately there is a simple fix, just download a copy of the PDF rulebook from BGG and make a print out of the action/icon definitions. You can download the English rulebook here: http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/95767/metallum-english-rul...
• Like many 2 player games this game lends itself to cutthroat play. That doesn’t bother me at all, and actually with this game it’s an important strategy. I just wanted to point that out for those who don’t like it when somebody doesn’t play nice (it’s almost impossible to play nice in this game).
• The two sets of cards that are available at certain points in the game could be reduced to one set in my opinion. Not sure how that would effect the game, but despite the different backs I might try just mixing them together.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
This game doesn’t have a suggested play time, but I think 60 minutes is fair once you get familiar with it. Ok, so I really enjoy the strategy of this game and all of its components, but if I put this game on my shelf for a year the learning curve will reset. With the rulebook being a little off and no reference sheets it simply created too much frustration for me. I can fix the reference sheet thing, but still I feel it necessary to lower my score for this game by 1 whole point. Strategy wise it is solid, and if you want to give it a try I recommend you play with somebody who is very experienced. They should be able to tell you what everything does without flipping through the rulebook or wasting a bunch of time looking for the answer. Using the BGG rating guide I’m giving Metallum a decent score of 6.5 out of 10 with a medium weight of 3 for its strategy.
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Wojtek Wojcik
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Re: Sparky Speaks: Fortress America (2nd Edition)
Thank you for reviewing Metallum! I am glad that you liked the game.

I am sorry to hear that you had problems with the rulebook so far we had mostly positive feedback on it but I am sure that it could be improved (if you are willing to invest the time do not hesitate to send me the list of issues you had).

As for the icons on the planets/actions we were considering preparing player aids but we received very good feedback on their readability from our blind playtesters and decided against it (as it could have delayed the game and make it more expensive). Still I will try to see if Galakata will be willing to prepare a print and play player aid.

Again thanks for taking the time to review the game!
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Re: Sparky Speaks: Fortress America (2nd Edition)
Is that a typo in your title? What has this o do with FA2?
 
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Shawn Sparks
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whac3 wrote:
Is that a typo in your title? What has this o do with FA2?

LOL! Copy and paste error, like I said nobody is perfect. I've corrected it and I also forgot to add one of my Con notes about the cards. I edited that in as well.
 
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Shawn Sparks
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Wojo wrote:
Thank you for reviewing Metallum! I am glad that you liked the game.

As for the icons on the planets/actions we were considering preparing player aids but we received very good feedback on their readability from our blind playtesters and decided against it (as it could have delayed the game and make it more expensive). Still I will try to see if Galakata will be willing to prepare a print and play player aid.

That would be great! Thank you for designing the game, those player aids would really help somebody like me.

 
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