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Space Empires, 4X, After Action Review
Central Connecticut Wargaming Club
Sept 2, 2016
The purpose of this review is to capture some of our impressions and observations without going into great detail about what happened on the game board. We play this game infrequently, but those who play it generally have positive comments about it. I want to use the review as a reference for the next time we play Space Empires, 4X.
There were three players, Greg, James, and John (me). We played the standard three-player scenario, advanced rules, with the following additions to speed game play, or to make it more interesting:
• There was no exploration of home system markers. Instead, system markers were placed randomly, face down, then flipped to face up. All home system planets were colonized at highest value (5CP).
• Deep space markers were placed face down so players had to explore beyond their home system.
• Optional rules used:
1. Instant Technology Upgrades
2. Warp Points
3. We placed one Doomsday Machine, but we didn’t find it.
4. We agreed on “Black Hole Sling Shot” but never used it.
Greg developed a spreadsheet for the Production Sheet. Greg and James brought laptops and used the spreadsheet. John did things the old fashioned way by pencil and calculator. The spreadsheet started paying dividends around turn four or five. It helped James and Greg make faster choices for technology and ships. If all players used laptops, I would estimate that it might speed the game by an hour for every ten game turns.
It took about 40 minutes to set up the game and get a brief but necessary review of the rules from James. We started play at about 7:45 pm and ended play about 12:30 pm by mutual agreement. We completed eight game turns. There was no clear winner. At games end, James was pressing home a vigorous attack on Greg’s home system area. Greg was hanging on for promised help from John, who enjoyed an advantage in deep space colonies.
Greg used conventional ships armed with high levels of attack, defense, movement, and tactics technologies. He was successful in all early battles in the game. James kept his ships and technologies mostly hidden until late in the game when he revealed battleships, carriers, and fighters. John used raiders, mines, and a few conventional ships.
• Everyone enjoyed the mix of technologies and the tactics that developed from the use of the technologies. We all had a few painful surprises.
• Well-written rules! Questions about rules did not slow down the game, but were resolved quickly without too much discussion or dispute.
• Bluffs and feints were an important part of the end game.
• The claim that the game can be played in 180 minutes is baloney. It took us over four hours to play 8 game turns.
• Deep space is too damn dangerous. It slowed down game play. We spent a lot of time exploring deep space and losing a large number of scout vessels. We didn’t begin to do the really interesting stuff—conflicts with each other over minerals or planets, eliminating aliens, using warp points—until the sixth game turn.
Suggested improvements for faster play in future games:
• Change deep space. Place deep space markers randomly then flip them over face up, or remove most of the “Danger!” markers and place the remaining markers face down.
• Do a die roll for “Danger” effects, for example: 1-3 ship is destroyed, 4-6 ship loses a movement turn, 7-10 no effect.
• Drop the cost of Exploration Technology and/or allow destroyers to have Exploration Technology.
• Drop the cost of Movement Technology to make it more accessible.
• Allow a scout the option to escape an attack if it survives the first volley.
• Random periodic increase in Alien military power. On selected turns, the Aliens get a die roll for another ship, a technology upgrade, or nothing at all.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Ahhh....my misspent youth...
Thanks for the review - some of these things might help you...
Everyone enjoyed the mix of technologies and the tactics that developed from the use of the technologies. We all had a few painful surprises.
FYI - There is a "Power Curve" in this game. Without going into all the detail (there are other threads for that), you will discover that the most dominant ship type changes as the game progresses.
Well-written rules! Questions about rules did not slow down the game, but were resolved quickly without too much discussion or dispute.
Thank you, but I can't take all the credit for it. When the game was first released, we literally went through every single question asked online and used them to improve the rules. A number of fans helped with that project.
The claim that the game can be played in 180 minutes is baloney. It took us over four hours to play 8 game turns.
That is a good guideline for experienced players that are playing either a two player game or teams. A four player game played teams plays almost as fast as a two player game. Most games I play fall in the two hour mark - but then my oppenent and I know the game really well.
Deep space is too damn dangerous. It slowed down game play. We spent a lot of time exploring deep space and losing a large number of scout vessels.
That was done for timing and balancing the game. Buying exploration tech on a large map is important. There is a cost to that on purpose. And it was purposeful that you need cruisers in order to field that tech. If you make deep space more friendly, you will increase the power of early attacks with Scouts, Carriers, and Raiders, because you will make it easier for a player to punch their way through with Scouts.
Don't get me wrong, I encourage groups to play the game the way they enjoy it best. I just wanted to let you know the reason behind what we did.
Glad you like the game! Enjoy!
It seems to me that many of your complaints/suggestions can be adressed using a smaller map. A quicker path to the action, less Danger markers to worry about, slow ships still able to get somewhere useful reasonably fast. Beware the infamous Scout Swarm Rush though!
As Jim replied, a lot of thought has gone into the balance of this game, so changing rules may well unbalance it.
And pretty much most players in these forums agree that Instant Technology Upgrades is a lot less fun despite the reduced bookkeping. I highly recommend trying without it!
- Last edited Tue Sep 6, 2016 8:54 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Sep 6, 2016 8:53 am