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Subject: A gameplay review from a previous KS supporter rss

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Hassan Lopez
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I've had a chance to play Among the Stars (AtS) several times now, mostly with the full complement of 4 players. Here are some thoughts, for those of you perhaps on the fence about this game. I know that when I was considering supporting the last KS campaign, I really went back on forth, wondering whether AtS would work out at my gaming table. I generally don't talk about rules in my reviews, instead choosing to focus on aspects of the design that I like and dislike. Suffice to say, if you're thinking about supporting, you can easily check out the rulebook to see the nitty-gritty details.


Weight and Playtime:
This is a major bonus for me. The game is light enough to teach in 10 minutes, even to complete non-gamers. There are only 3 possible actions each turn, and they're quite easy to understand. The goal is straightforward (score the most points). The only rule that can hang people up for a bit is the resolution of white vs. yellow text-boxes (scoring now vs. at the end of the game, respectively). On a graphic design side-note, I was worried that the white vs. yellow distinction would be a bit too subtle. And perhaps it is - but after a round of play, everyone "gets" it.

Playtime is about an hour for 4. There's no real difference in playtime for 3 vs. 4 player games. So much of the game is simultaneous or near-simultaneous resolution, there's virtually zero down-time. You can, and likely will, play 2 games back-to-back. I think there's a lot of value in having games like this in your collection. Easy to teach, relatively quick to play.


Theme and Art:
Personally, I love the theme of building an alien space station. You get a feel of city-building from AtS, without excessive book-keeping. You will be able to give your station a certain "character" - although that can certainly evolve over the course of a game depending on what cards you draw. The first time I played, I originally had in mind that I wanted to build a peaceful entertainment complex, so I started by focusing on purple recreational locations. But then during years 3 and 4, I just rolled into a number of military locations, including 2 War Rooms - and focusing on red ended up winning me the game. Some people will likely find the setting and theme too "nerdy". It may not be the best game for pairs of couples, depending on people's respective interests in sci-fi.

The art is consistently stunning, as I'm sure everyone agrees. However, the cards are small, and it's almost a shame that such beautiful, vibrant, and colorful art is forced into such small spaces. The cards need to be this small, since your station will end up consuming quite a bit of room on your table.


Gameplay and Scoring:
Gameplay is quick and decisions are fun. However, I've found that most people tend to draft without necessarily caring what cards they'll pass along to their neighbors. The game primarily rewards you for drafting the best card in your hand for your station. I don't think there's much incentive to draft something solely to screw over your competitors. For example, if you see the player to your right building Crew Quarters, which score more the more that you build, you might be tempted to build a Crew Quarters on your turn when you see one in your hand. Or discard it to get cash or build a new power reactor. But more likely, you're just going to choose to build something that's best for your station. I don't think this is a major flaw with the game - it mostly leads to non-competitive games where players are focused on their own little world. Note: I have not yet played with Aggressive Mode (conflict cards), and maybe this will increase interaction. However, just looking at how the conflict cards are structured, I'm not excited about the prospect of slowing down play to compare the number of blue/purple/red/etc. locations between 2 players. I kind of wish conflict was more extreme, as in allowing for the destruction of other player's locations.

End-game scoring is relatively straight-forward, but each player will need to go through their yellow text-boxes one at a time. This is a personal bias, but I'm not a huge fan of semi-tedious end-game scoring routines like this. There's some tension, I suppose, in all the mathematics, but it always feels like an interruption in the natural "flow". And since the winner really will be determined through this end-game process, your relative score during the rest of the game is mostly meaningless.

This is also probably going to be controversial, but I don't like playing with the racial abilities or objectives. The racial abilities seem lack-luster and periodically imbalanced. The objectives can distract you from just building the space station you want to build. However, if you end up playing AtS to death, these racial abilities and objectives will extend the replayability of the game and will likely be welcome additions.


Final thoughts:
I like Among the Stars, and everyone I've played it with has liked it too. However, it hasn't evoked strong feelings - it's not a game I love (at least at this point). I find it a pleasurable, relaxing exercise that plays best when you have a group of 4 who can kind of get into the theme. I'm glad I have it in my collection and hope to get it to the table regularly.
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Steve Carey
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severian73 wrote:
I like Among the Stars, and everyone I've played it with has liked it too. However, it hasn't evoked strong feelings - it's not a game I love (at least at this point). I find it a pleasurable, relaxing exercise that plays best when you have a group of 4 who can kind of get into the theme.


We've expressed the exact same thoughts - this is a very good game that we plan to play often, but it's not a "Wow!" type of release. Personally I find the game more intriguing than exciting, but that's OK.

I like AtS enough that it has become my first Kickstarter project backed.

And yes, the artwork is often stunning but is detracted somewhat by the small cards (which I understand is necessary for table space limits).
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Carl Bussema
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The objectives really help create interaction in the form of picking a card that might be worth a little less, but helps work toward an objective, and bonus value if the next player is also working on it.

The racial abilities in the base game are not all created equal, for sure. I like to give everyone two and let them pick one. Vak is very good, especially with objectives. Humareen is harder to play when the objectives reward for most of a color, since that's the opposite of what they want. Some are definitely more skill testing than others (13 credits per round without carryover and no ability to discard for money is much harder but not necessarily worse than being able to discard for 4 and get 5 vp instead of 3.33 for 10 credits at end game.)

The one time we tried conflict, it didn't impress us. Two of us probably tried too hard to make it work, but it does slow the game down (a little).
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bort
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severian73 wrote:

End-game scoring is relatively straight-forward, but each player will need to go through their yellow text-boxes one at a time. This is a personal bias, but I'm not a huge fan of semi-tedious end-game scoring routines like this. There's some tension, I suppose, in all the mathematics, but it always feels like an interruption in the natural "flow".


I agree, its not a lot of fun. And for objectives too - scanning to count how many unique structures you have is a bit tedious.

I agree with all your points really - except I think I'm putting it a little below even "pleasurable". Almost pleasurable?
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Carl Bussema
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There isn't a base game objective for "unique structures." The base game objectives are:
Most of type X (where X is one of the 5 types; there is an objective for each)
Most credits
First to 50 VP before end of game
Most non-power-reactors locations (this takes the longest to count, but by longest I mean it takes about 15 seconds to just go left-right top-bottom and count. Could take a minute if anyone is going to want a recount.)

Only the last objective is remotely complicated. Otherwise you just have everyone count (and really, you know whether you're competing for a particular objective or not) and announce their own totals. Give the winner the bonus points and go to the next objective.

OK, so the end-game scoring may take a few minutes. You're seriously going to complain about that? I mean, everyone is done, there's nothing left to do but score and clean up. You should be able to score everyone in about 30 seconds per player with practice... everyone should work together to count one person at a time, because you will avoid having to recount, and it's less likely to make a mistake if everyone is watching. Plus that way one person can be finding the next card to score, another moving the counter, and the other people are actually counting the points.

I mean, it's fine not to think the game is perfect, but complaining about how long the end game scoring is... just seems really weird, since it's never felt long to me at all.
 
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bort
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InfoCynic wrote:
There isn't a base game objective for "unique structures."


The card is "build at least 12 different basic structures"

InfoCynic wrote:

complaining about how long the end game scoring is


Noone said long - we said "tedious"

 
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