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Subject: Forbidden Stars - The war never ends... rss

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Dan Licata
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Disclaimer: This is intended as a brief overview of how the game plays. This does not include complete rules and some mistakes may have been made. I’m happy to correct any mistakes pointed out in the comments.



War is raging in the Herakon Cluster. Four brutal factions sow bloody unending destruction in search of ancient treasures on planets surrounded by constantly shifting warp storms. Massive armies face off in space and on the ground in near constant battle crushing their opponents and striding over their fallen bodies to dominate the planets they have conquered. In the brief moments they are not fighting they recruit legions of new troops and build giant machines of devastation, strategize their next move and improve their combat abilities, or position themselves for the next attack. There is no rest…no time to sit back and grow stronger than those around you; there is only time for more fighting, more blood, and more death. There is only time for war.

Forbidden Stars is a game set in the Warhammer 40K universe and players will control one of four factions found in that setting. You will issue orders across the board and execute them one by one in order to control planets that have your objectives on them at the end of the round. Battles are fought with an ingenious combination of dice and cards, a combat system that could almost be game on its own. You will have to act quickly in order to win, no turtling in this game. Battles will be fought over planets that opponents have no interest in other than to get to their objectives or make it harder for others to get theirs. You will conquer planets and dominate them for assets, you will strategize in order to obtain abilities unique to your faction and build your combat decks to fit your plans, and you will advance your troops through empty voids and friendly planets to conquer uncontrolled planets or start combat on ones your opponent controls. Forbidden Stars is a game of giant battles between huge armies and each one plays completely different than the other. Forbidden Stars is a fantastic game but is it a game for you?

Components


Some of the amazing components in the game.



The components for Forbidden Stars (hence force known as FS) are top notch quality wise and not as numerous as I expected which is a good thing. What I mean is there isn’t a ton of components to keep track of every little thing, there is the right amount for what the game needs. Inside the box you’ll find
28combat cards per faction - each faction has their own deck of combat cards with two copies of each card. They will be split into two decks. One deck will contain the starting cards the second will contain the upgrade cards.

8 event cards per faction – these cards may provide you with one time use abilities that are either carried out immediately or saved for later use. They will always provide you with a way to move the Warp Storms on the board. Warp Storms are rips in the Universe that allow a powerful and unpredictable realm to bleed in. They are almost impossible to navigate through. These cards will create the event deck.

5order upgrades per faction – during the game you will be issuing 4 different types of orders each of which have at least one upgrade that can be purchased and used once per round. These are contained in the order upgrade deck.

6 objective tokes per faction – two of these will be given to each of your opponents to be placed strategically on the board during the setup. To win the game you must collect a number of them equal to the number of players.

16custom dice – rolled once at the start of combat these dice have guns to indicate hits, shields to indicate blocks and aquila (double headed eagle) to indicate morale.

8 order tokens per faction – these order tokens will be placed on the board by players and revealed to take actions on their turn.

36 asset tokens – tokens gained when dominating planets that represent a cache of materiel (money), reinforcements, or forge hammers.

12 combat tokens – temporary tokens with guns and shields to indicate extra hits or blocks for a single round of combat.

12 double sided tiles – used to build the board each tile is separated into 4 sections with either a planet or void.

35 structures minis – miniatures to represent bastions, cities and factories.

105 unit minis – miniatures to represent your armies. The number per faction varies but there are always two different ships and four different ground units.

4 materiel dials – used by each player to keep track of materiel (money)

4 faction sheets – one for each player/faction

4 warp storm tokens – used to represent warp storms on the board.

and more – reference cards, first player token, round tracker, etc.


Set Up


Set up for a three player game.




Players will choose their faction and collect all the miniatures, card decks, objectives, etc. for that faction as well as one warp storm token each.

Each player will give each other player two of their objective tokens to be placed on the board so that each has two tokens of every other faction in the game and none of their own. Then a start player will be chosen and the players will proceed to build the board.

The board for forbidden stars is created each game through a set of system tiles (henceforth known as systems), the number of which depends on the number of players. Each player receives their factions starting system and two other systems to place, so in a two player game there will be six systems total for the board, for a four player game twelve.

You have two ways you can go about creating the board. First you can use the recommend first game set up that is shown in the rule book. I don’t recommend using this set up unless it is truly the game owners first game, you have only two maybe three players, or don’t mind spending more than four hours playing. My reason is this, I truly think that the board set up in the rule book has each faction so evenly balanced that the time to play is much greater than if you were to set up the board yourselves. While this does help people get into the game and not immediately cry foul because faction X who had a horrible starting set up due to player inexperience must be unbalanced it instead makes the game so balanced that it takes much longer than most of the other games do. So like I said, if you don’t mind the long playing time go ahead and do the recommended set up, just know that you’ll be playing for a while. Now that’s not an issue, I’ve played 3 games with the starting set up and while the games did take a long time I had no problem with that but if you are playing with people that will not like a 4+ hour game then you may want to reconsider.

Your other set up option is create the board by having each player place a system on the table one at a time until each of you has placed three systems. The systems must be placed adjacent to each other and they must be placed to create a certain game board size. The board size depends on the number of players, for two players the board must be 3x2 systems so any placement that would make it otherwise would not be allowed. For three players it is 3x3 and for four players it is 3x4. Other than the board size restriction and that they must be placed adjacent the current player my place whichever system they choose wherever they choose. Additionally all systems are double sided and the player may choose what side they wish to place face up.

Each player will have a number of starting units and a factory as well as two objective tokens for every other player in the game (max of 6). When placing a system you must place objective tokens on every available spot on the system you place within these rules: You cannot place the same factions tokens on one system and you have to evenly place the faction tokens (you can’t place two for one faction until you place one for all factions). When placing a system you may also place any number of your starting units on the system on any available planets or voids, the only rule being that ships must be placed on voids and only voids and ground units must be placed on planets. You may place your factory on any planet in any system that you place.


Game Play


My first game, two player with me as the Chaos Space Marines


The game is won when one player collects a number of faction tokens equal to the number of players in the game (in a three player game they would need to collect three faction tokens). If no player completes this within 8 rounds then the player with the most faction tokens wins with various tie breakers in case of a tie.

To claim an objective token the player must control a planet that has their faction token on it (remember we put these out during set up) at the end of the round. Controlling a planet simply means they have a unit/structure on the planet. You will accomplish this by issuing various ‘orders’ during each round and then executing those orders.

Placing Orders


Order tokens: Deploy, Strategize, Dominate, and Advance


At the start of each round players will place four order tokens on the board. In the center of each system is a hex space where these tokens will be placed. You may place an order token on any system that either has one or more of your units in it or is adjacent to a system that has one or more of your units. Placement of these order tokens is done one at a time in player order. In the case that one or more players wish to place an order in the same system the order will be placed on top of each other (this will come up later).

Here are the four different types of orders and a brief description of what they do:

Dominate – allows you to collect assets from any planet you control in the system. Assets for each planet are indicated on the system tile. There are three possible assets a planet can provide : a reinforcement token that is used during combat to add reinforcements, a forge hammer token that is used to purchase high level units or used to increase a players command level when purchasing units (more on this below), and a cache token that provides 2 materiel when purchasing a unit. Additionally each faction has a special ability listed on their faction sheet that can be preformed for each Dominate order executed.

Deploy – allows you to build units and then build one structure in the system. A factory is needed to build units and they must be placed on friendly or uncontrolled planets in the same system. These cost a specific amount of materiel (money) as indicated on the faction sheets. Also listed on the faction sheet is the number of dice each unit adds to combat, the number of hits a unit can take until it is destroyed, and the amount of morale a unit adds at the end of combat. In order to buy a unit the player must be at the ‘command level’ of that unit. Each unit has a yellow helmet symbol with a number that indicates its command level. A player’s command level is simply the number of cities he controls at that time. For a command level of one the player must control one city structure, for command level two he needs two cities and so on. Once per unit a player may use a Forge Token to increase their command level by one. This allows a player at command level 0 to purchase a unit at command level 1 and so on. Some units also have hammer symbol in their cost. This indicates the need to spend a Forge Token as well as be at the command level to purchase the unit.

After purchasing units the player can purchase one of three structures. They are:

• a factory – allows you to build units in that system.

• a city – increases the command level of the faction controlling it.

• a bastion – prevents orbital strikes and provides dice and morale during combat (more on these later).

Strategize – allows you buy an upgraded combat card, upgraded order, or both. This token will be placed on top of your event deck (more on that later) after you execute it. When purchasing a combat upgrade card you will select one copy of a card from your combat upgrade deck to buy requiring both the correct command level to purchase (as indicated on the card) as well as spending the materiel required. You will then replace one copy of a card in your combat deck with the newly purchased cards. You will always purchase an identical pair and replace an identical pair.

Advance – allows you to move units to the system it was placed in from adjacent systems and/or units within that system. Ships are moved first and then ground units. Ships may move from any void in an adjacent system to any void in the active system. All ground units must have a ‘legal path’ to where they are moved and only 1 contested area (an area containing units from two opposing factions) may be created for each Advance order. A legal path is a line of friendly planets/voids from the starting planet to the planet you wish to move them to. Planets that contain either opponents units or no units will break a legal path. If your advance order ends with units sharing the same space with an opponent’s units then combat will result (more on this later).

If you end an advance order without initializing combat and you have one or more ships in that system that are adjacent to a planet with another players units that doesn’t also contain a bastion you may conduct an orbital strike. To do so simple roll the number of dice allowed by the ships you have present and tally up the hits. The defender has no chance to provide defense and must assign the hits to their units present.


Executing Orders

After each player has placed four orders they will, in turn order, choose one of their orders at the top of a stack to execute. If you have no orders at the top of a stack on your turn you will skip your turn and play will proceed with the next player that has an order at the top of a stack.

Placing and executing orders creates some very interesting decisions in the FS. When placing orders you need to consider which ones you want to do first, especially if you want to execute multiple orders in the same system because they will be stacked on top of each other and need to be executed top down. Trust me at some point you will make a mistake and place orders in the wrong sequence. Not only do you have to worry about placing your own orders on top of each other but opponents may place their orders on top of yours. This could allow them to force you to execute your orders in a different sequence then you intended simply by not executing their orders on top of yours, forcing you to execute orders in a different system first. Additionally this could cause you to not execute any orders that turn because all of yours are covered by an opponent’s order.

You will always get the opportunity to execute four orders each turn you just won’t be guaranteed to execute them in the order you wish to. You may also wish to hold off on executing orders that are on top of your opponent’s orders to try and force them to execute when it is least advantageous to them. There is a lot to think about and consider when and where you place your orders and what order you execute them in.

If you decide you don’t want to execute or cannot execute an order you will take your order and place it on top of your event deck regardless of whether you execute it or not the Strategize order token always goes on top of this deck. At the end of the round you will draw cards from your event deck equal to the number of tokens on top of it, then you will choose one of them to play this round.

These cards will serve two purposes. First it will indicate which direction you can move one of the warp storm tokens on the board. These tokens are placed between system tiles and prevent movement between the two tiles (there are cards for certain factions that break this rule). Each of the warp storm tokens may only be moved once per round and only in the direction indicated on the card. Carefully choose which warp storm to move and where to move it to, they can either help you defend, block an opponent from an objective token, or block an opponent from defending a sector you want to attack but they can also screw up your plans. Second the card you play will be one of two different types, either a Tactic or Scheme. Tactics are immediately executed while Schemes have the ability to be held onto for later play.

Combat


Combat is conducted with the use of dice and cards



Combat is probably one of my favorite mechanics in this game. It is quite the experience and a lot of fun to play through and to watch others play through (IMHO). Whenever an advance order ends up with one or more units from two different factions in the same space combat occurs.

At the start of combat each player will look at the number of dice their units have listed on their faction sheet, they will add the number of dice for each unit present up to 8 dice total (you will never have more than 8 dice ever during combat). They will then roll these dice which will give them a number of guns/shields/aquilas. As stated above guns indicate hits, shields blocks, and aquilas are morale. Then players will shuffle their combat decks of ten cards and draw 5 of them. After drawing cards players can decide if they want to add reinforcements to the combat by spending the reinforcement asset tokens they acquired when dominating certain planets. These tokens count as one level 0 unit for each faction. Then they will go through three rounds of combat each round performing the same actions:

First each player will choose one of the five cards in their hand to play face down. The cards have various die symbols on the left side and some text at the bottom. The symbols on the side indicate additional hits, blocks, morale to be used during the entire combat. This allows players to mitigate some of the randomness of the dice roll; if they didn’t roll many guns they can play a card with more guns (providing they have one).

The text on the bottom gives an ability for that card as well as potentially providing a bonus ability. The first block of text is the ability that card provides, this could be adding dice, removing dice to trigger an action, providing tokens, routing units, rallying units, etc. Routed units are turned on their side to indicate they are routed and cannot be used to take damage (unless all units are routed), trigger bonus abilities (more on that in a minute), or provide morale at the end of the three rounds (more on that later). The second block of text is a bonus ability and is proceeded by the name of a unit for that faction. If that unit is present in the battle and is not routed then the player may take the bonus ability as well.

The attacker reveals and resolves his card first, followed by the defender. After resolving the cards players will tally up the number of guns and shields they have and resolve damage. The amount of damage done is equal to the difference of one player’s guns minus their opponent’s shields. For example if player one had 5 guns and player two had 4 shields the amount of damage is 1.

Each player must then decide how to assign the damage amongst their units with a few rules. First non-routed units must be assigned damage before routed units. Second all damage must be dealt to a single unit until that unit has either taken damage equal to its health and destroyed, or you run out of damage to assign. If a unit has taken damage and was not destroyed it becomes routed unless it was already.

If at the start of any combat round one player no longer has units present in the combat zone then combat is over and the remaining player wins. If combat goes three rounds and both players still have units present then each player will count their total morale as indicated on the dice, cards played, and the morale total for any non-routed unit remaining as indicated on the faction sheet and the player with the highest morale total wins. The losing player must retreat their remaining units if possible, otherwise they are destroyed.

IMHO the combat in FS takes the best of both dice based and card based combat and mashes them together. It has the surprise randomness of dice but allows you to mitigate that with strategic card play. However playing the right card is not only determined by the dice but also what ability the card provides, what units you have in combat so you can take advantage of the special bonus on the cards, what other cards you have in hand and plan on playing in future rounds, how many hits/blocks/morale your opponent has, do you plan on winning through morale or by destroying your opponent, etc. Its great fun to participate in and I think it is fun to watch others participate in as well. I find myself choosing and cheering for one side or the other, sometimes different sides for each round. I also find myself imagining the battles taking place, their images playing in my head as the players face off against one another.

End of Round

After each player has executed the four orders they placed at the start of the round players will perform a few end of round steps to perform they will:

• Collect objective tokens – if a player controls a planet that has an objective token for their faction they will collect it.

• Collect Materiel – for each planet a player controls they will collect the amount materiel indicated on it.

• Rally all units that were routed in battle.

• Draw event cards and move Warp Storms – as discussed above.

• Advance the round tracker and pass the first player token

My Thoughts


Four player game where I was playing the Evil Sunz Orks



I love this game. It has quickly shot up to one of my favorite games to play. I have played it at two players, three, and four. My shortest game was 2.5 hours and my longest was about 6 hours but I’ve enjoyed every one of them. It should be quick to teach and simple to understand but there are many layers of strategy underneath.

The decisions in the game can be agonizing, and trying to keep track of what orders you played where will often confuse you even though you only ever play 4. Part of this is because you are watching where other players are placing tokens and trying to figure out what their plans are for each one. You’re changing your strategies constantly based on other players placing on top of your tokens or not doing what you expected them to do. Did they place that last token on top of yours just to disrupt you or are they actually executing something there and if so what? Should you place an order on top of one their tokens to try and force them to play the one on top of yours first? If so can you actually use that order or is it just going on top of your event deck? Are you doing a strategize this turn or do you want to not execute one of your orders so that you can play an event card this turn? Do you want to draw more (of course you do)? Is it worth not executing this order to do so?

The decisions go on and on. Sometimes you execute a deploy order before an advance to build up forces to conquer a planet from an opponent with a large force present only to have them advance off of that planet before you even get there. Other times you will pace a strategize order to buy combat cards that have special abilities for units you just purchased only to have your opponent attack before you can purchase them or force you to move into combat with them before you get the chance to buy the upgrades. This game requires you to be very strategic and very tactical in amazing ways.

Not to mention that each faction plays complete differently than any other but are all balanced with each other. I’ve had games where I was almost complete eliminated only to come back and make a strong push to win. I’ve had or seen small forces stand up to large ones, to hold out just long enough in combat to squeak out a win by morale count. The combat system is fantastic, a real joy to participate in and interesting (at least for me) to watch others go through.

However combat is also probably is one of the weaker spots in the game as well. Until you are familiar with not only the game and the faction you choose to play but each of the other factions as well you will not be able to perform as well as you can. You need to know that when you go up against the Orks you’ll be rerolling a lot of dice, our when you face the Chaos Space Marines you be forced to rout your units. You need to have a good understanding of your faction to make combat quicker, to know what the cards do, make good decisions and upgrade choices. This only comes with a lot of reading the first time and a few plays to understand the intricacies of your faction. I don’t find this to be different than a lot of other games but some people may find it distasteful considering how long the game takes as it is.

Another thing to note is you need not have any knowledge of the Warhammer 40K universe to enjoy the game. I bought this having never played a game of Warhammer, never read one of the books. Really I had only heard of it and thought it was not for me. Well that may be true but this game is definitely for me and I see myself playing this many more times.

In conclusion I think there are a lot people out there that would enjoy this game but may not ever play it because of the theme, to those people I hope you read this or other reviews about the game and decide to give it a shot. For those that don’t like aggression in their games or are not willing to sit down to a long game then this is certainly not for you. However consider the fact that a two player game can be played quite quickly I’d say in about an hour. Forbidden Stars is a fantastic game and I hope to see expansions come out for it in the future, until then I must prepare for war because war never ends and this time I plan on winning.




edit: For those that want more information on each faction and strategy tips for them user:

umbral Aeronaut
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has created excellent guides for each faction. You can find them here:

Eldar

Space Marines

Orks

Chaos Space Marines
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Ruud
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I feel the biggest problem of this game is gamelength. 6 hours for a 4 player game is just too long for the 'simplicity' of the game.

Yeah, the decisions are there and challenging.. but I much rather spend 6 hours playing TI:3, then playing this game. Much more diversity.

I feel the game is good at 2 and 3. Sadly.
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Chris
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Thanks for posting this Dan, very informative.

Ruud2009 wrote:
I feel the biggest problem of this game is gamelength. 6 hours for a 4 player game is just too long for the 'simplicity' of the game.

Yeah, the decisions are there and challenging.. but I much rather spend 6 hours playing TI:3, then playing this game. Much more diversity.

I feel the game is good at 2 and 3. Sadly.


Considering this game appears like it'll let you play two 2 player games simultaneously that could be an option for some, specially considering it looks like factions come with own cards and draw cards plus counters and 12 tiles. I think this is how we'll be playing when we have less time or at a club.
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eindatadog wrote:
Thanks for posting this Dan, very informative.

Ruud2009 wrote:
I feel the biggest problem of this game is gamelength. 6 hours for a 4 player game is just too long for the 'simplicity' of the game.

Yeah, the decisions are there and challenging.. but I much rather spend 6 hours playing TI:3, then playing this game. Much more diversity.

I feel the game is good at 2 and 3. Sadly.


Considering this game appears like it'll let you play two 2 player games simultaneously that could be an option for some, specially considering it looks like factions come with own cards and draw cards plus counters and 12 tiles. I think this is how we'll be playing when we have less time or at a club.



Good point. FS just strikes me as more versitile, and as far as the so-called simplicity, I think it is more chess-like strategy-wise as opposed to bloat from FFG's Era of Fiddly.
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Dan Licata
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Ruud2009 wrote:
I feel the biggest problem of this game is gamelength. 6 hours for a 4 player game is just too long for the 'simplicity' of the game.

Yeah, the decisions are there and challenging.. but I much rather spend 6 hours playing TI:3, then playing this game. Much more diversity.

I feel the game is good at 2 and 3. Sadly.


If you don't go with the intro board set up you games so play much quicker. I've played a 4 player build the board game in 2.5 hours and it was one of the best games I played.
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Dan Licata
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eindatadog wrote:
Thanks for posting this Dan, very informative.


Considering this game appears like it'll let you play two 2 player games simultaneously that could be an option for some, specially considering it looks like factions come with own cards and draw cards plus counters and 12 tiles. I think this is how we'll be playing when we have less time or at a club.


Glad you liked it.

I think running 2 consecutive 2 player games is very doable and an interesting idea. The only bottle neck would be the dice and maybe some tokens but that would be easy enough to wait for. I think I may try this as well.
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danlicata wrote:
I think running 2 consecutive 2 player games is very doable and an interesting idea. The only bottle neck would be the dice and maybe some tokens but that would be easy enough to wait for. I think I may try this as well.

You could always write down the results of the dice on a piece of paper
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fatum wrote:

You could always write down the results of the dice on a piece of paper


Great idea that would avoid the whole thing, plus give you the count easy enough without counting the symbols everytime.
 
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I feel like there are so many add die and reroll effects on combat cards that if you're doing 2x2 you should just proxy in regular dice.
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I think its too early to be bitching about time. I see a 4 player game of this being less than a 4 hour affair once people are familiar enough with the cards and upgrades so that there isn't a 10 min decision each time something happens.
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Like many other games, FS can be an issue for AP-prone players. But IMHO that is a player issue, not a game issue.
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