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Subject: Asteroyds - A Detailed Review rss

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Image Courtesy of Baartoszz

This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

If you liked the review please thumb the top of the article so others have a better chance of seeing it and I know you stopped by. Thanks for reading.

Summary

Game Type - Racing Game
Play Time: 30-45 minutes
Number of Players: 2-6
Mechanics - Dice Rolling, Programmed Movement, Modular Board, Partnerships
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in 20 minutes)
Components - Good
Release - 2010

Designers - Guillaume Blossier
(The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Chac/Horus, Rush n' Crush, Wordz)

+

Frédéric Henry (The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Chac/Horus, The Builders: Middle Ages/Antiquity, Cardline Series, Timeline Series, Conan, Rush n' Crush, Timeline: Challenge, Wordz)

Overview and Theme

In the Ujitos System (which has no value or purpose) an entrepreneur has established the premier race against death on the Independent’s Circuit! Only the most insane of racers need apply and 6 of the very maddest have come forth to pit their skills and take the cash prize. It is time for the Race Against Death of the Lost Swarm!

That may well be a whole lot of gobble-de-gook to you and largely it is to me too. The translation to mere gaming terms is simple. Asteroyds is a racing game set in space, where things can move...even the gates you are trying to reach. It is part Robo Rally and part Ricochet Robots with a thematic backdrop thrown in for good measure.

But that is only part of the truth because Asteroyds is a multi-modal game...meaning...that the game comes with various modes of play and it has spawned many more fan made modes. As such the game has several arms to its spiral-universe.

But is it varied enough or any better than what has come before?

Grab that space wrench and come fly with me in my two-seater...we have a new gaming sector to explore.

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The Components

The quality of the components is actually pretty good. The visual appeal on the other hand is something else.

d10-1 Board - The board is a pretty basic affair as it largely consists of empty black hexagonal space. The edges are illustrated with a nearby colony and spectators clamouring to watch the race, but the reality is that the board is really a canvas upon which tiles will be placed (ala Memoir '44).

There are a few icons in one corner of the board and their purpose is to provide a place to place the dice after they are rolled and to remind the players of how the asteroids and gates move.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-2 Tiles - It is left to the tiles to provide the splash of colour that the board desperately needs. The tiles are hexagonal in order to be placed in specific locations on the board and they represent Gates (the target for all pilots), spectator pods, starting gates and not surprisingly...asteroids!

Gates are always coloured white or red but the asteroids can be white/red or white/blue as well as solely blue or red.

These colours are important as they relate to the dice used in the game and each type gets slightly different artwork as well.

The other key feature of the tiles (gates and asteroids) is that they have a pip value ranging from 1-6 on each of their edges. Given the game uses six-sided dice I will let you draw your own conclusions as to the purpose of these values!

The tiles are really thick and offer a matte/linen finish, so the quality is great here.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-3 Player Boards - Pilots - A total of 6 player boards are provided to represent each of the 6 different pilots that have come to risk their lives and chance their throttle arm.

Each mat is identical in nature apart from the artwork for the pilot and the special pilot ability (bottom left).

The player mats serve to represent the various moves that the pilots can make with each phase of a given turn and also to track damage at the bottom edge.

As such it is adorned with various icons that allow for movement, shooting and keeping your shields up.


Image Courtesy of Artax


d10-4 Ships - The ships are little plastic affairs that are unique but rather odd looking. I always perceive them as something akin to flying high-heeled shoes...but hey...I drank the cool-aide in the 70s.

The ships are identical apart from their colouring.


Image Courtesy of zombiegod


d10-5 Assorted Tokens - The game comes with a variety of tokens to represent Gate Symbols, Targets and program slots on the Player Boards. These are functional only and don't live long in the memory.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-6 Dice - The dice are seriously over-sized and chunky to say the least. I particularly like the menacingly large 'one' pip, which reminds me of a black hole. This game could have used some black holes.


Image Courtesy of zombiegod


d10-7 Timer - The game comes with an electronic timer that looks suitably space-agey. Sadly mine didn't work when I received the game but it would have been really handy. Experienced players will definitely want to play with timed programming turns to up the adrenaline factor.


Image Courtesy of fehrmeister


d10-8 Rules - The rules do their job although I did find the text a little small and bunched up at times. I always like a game that goes the extra parsec to enhance the theme of a game and each pilot in Asteroyds gets a small bio to outline their past and what makes them tick. thumbsup


Image Courtesy of Alice87


Whilst the component quality is quite good, the overall production only gets a pass at best due to the uninspiring artwork and drab colouring and presentation overall.

There is no doubt that the quality of artwork has improved enormously over the past 6 years and on this front Asteroyds is left wanting somewhat.


Image Courtesy of JudgeLP


Set-Up

The set-up to the game is pretty straight forward. Each player selects a pilot and takes the corresponding player board, a set of translucent tokens in a given colour and the matching coloured ship. Players will also need a pilot token if they are using the Pilot Special Power rules.

But the main element of the set-up is the board itself. On the board must be placed a whole host of hexagonal tiles that represent asteroids, gates, viewing pods and the starting gates. The rulebook outlines the exact positions of each tile.

Once the board is set up the players each select one of the starting gates to begin at and the orientation of their ship.

A set of Gate Tokens are then set aside and the game is ready to begin.

It is worth noting that the game has varied set-ups for each of the modes of play.

The Play


Image Courtesy of zombiegod
The basic aspects of the game are the same regardless of the mode that is being played. I will cover each of the modes in turn but consider this main overview as the outline for the Racing Mode, as this is the first one presented in the game and the one most first-time players are likely to try out.

The game is played in rounds, in which each player gets to program their move and the play unfolds.

A single round looks a little bit like this...

d10-1 Roll Dice – The Starting Player for the round rolls the 3 dice and then sets them on the board corner in the order of their colours to help with each player's planning.

d10-2 Program Moves – This is the meat of the game. The players have a defined time limit in which to consider how the objects in space around them will move and change and then plan their thruster moves into their flight computer (read that as program their moves on their player board). If a player is not finished before the timer goes off then they can only make the moves that they have recorded.

Beginners will want to get their head around the game and the thinking involved before they consider timed programming turns. But those well versed in the game will want to add those time limits in order to add an extra edge and tension to the play.

The player mats feature a total of 6 blue columns with which to plan for and then a 7th is coloured red. This final column will often be set to shields, but a player can opt to forgo shields in order to gain a 7th move to try and steal a march on the competition.

d10-3 Move the Asteroids – But before any ships can move, the universe must be set in motion. Here is where the various asteroids and the gates get to move according to the roll of the dice. Red, white then blue is always the order for object movement (I'm guessing the French flag inspired this) but of course some objects have 2 colours, meaning they will possibly moving more than once!

Red Objects - Asteroids and gates of the colour red move first, including those that are red-white. All of these objects move two hexes in the direction of the value on the red dice. Of course each object is not placed with their numbers facing a uniform direction, thus these objects will move in a variety of directions.

Red objects cannot push or more other objects, so if in the course of their movement they would collide with another object, they simply stop in their tracks.

White Objects - In the same way as above, white objects move next (including red/white and blue/white objects) but only ever one space. If that movement would cause a collision with something, they simply don't move.

Blue Objects - Finally it is the blue objects turn to move, including any that are blue/white in nature. These objects move one space and if this movement results in a collision with another object they will push them in the direction of their movement (although not pods, ships or platforms).

The only time a blue object cannot push another asteroid or gate is if that object would be forced to collide with something else or be pushed off the board.

It is this aspect of the game that invites the comparisons to Ricochet Robots, as the players must try to calculate all of the possible moves and variations that are likely to take place as they aim to reach each of those gates, which themselves move! wow

Collision Course Vectors - Should two objects of the same colour be forced to move into the same location, the object with the lowest numerical value moves first and the other object must then obey the laws of its colour.

d10-4 Time to Fly - Once all objects have been moved and the players agree that all is correct, the players then take turns in clockwise fashion to execute their planned manoeuvres, one move at a time. Of course by this stage they may realise that they have gravely erred in their reading of the stars. In addition they may also realise that their engine thrusts may not be taking them where they had intended! laugh

This is of course all part of the fun.

d10-5 Taking Damage – Should an object hit a racer or the other way around, damage will be taken.

Collision Course - Asteroids that would move into a ship's path stay where they are but inflict one point of damage to the ship's hull.

Pilot Error - If a ship manoeuvres into the path of a fixed object (map border, public pod or a platform) the ship's progress is halted (no further programmed moves are executed) and 2 damage points are inflicted on the hull.

Evasive Manoeuvres - If a pilot rams into an asteroid, it too will do 2 points of damage to the hull but a player does have an alternative.

A pilot can choose to ram an asteroid with such force that the asteroid is destroyed in exchange for 4 points of damage to the hull. This drastic action allows a player to continue their planned flying in exchange for the damage. Of course a pilot must be flying a ship that can take this damage and not be destroyed in order to do so.

Shields - The default position of each pilot's emergency power (red program column) is to arm their shield. Provided a player has their shield activated, they can reduce 1 point of damage for all collisions, including the asteroid rams just outlined.

Should a player at the start of a round decide to divert their emergency power to a particular manoeuvre, then they will incur the full damage of any collisions as outlined in exchange for an extra movement manoeuvre.

d10-6 Tagging Gates, the End of a Round and Victory –

Image Courtesy of diddle74
If a player manages to inhabit the same hex as a gate at any point during their turn, they are deemed to have tagged it and can continue flying towards the next gate of their choice. As soon as a gate is tagged, a player takes a Gate Token with a symbol that matches the one on the gate. This is how the players keep track of their own progress and that of their competitors.

Unlike Robo Rally, the pilots here are free to pursue the gates in any order they wish.

Once the final player in a round has executed their move, the players check to see if any one player has tagged all 4 gates. If no one has done so, then the game proceeds to a new round, programming tokens are removed from the player mats and the process above is repeated.

If a player does reach their final gate in a round, the race is not automatically won because other pilots may also manage the same feat in the same round of the game.

The pilot who takes the podium in this situation will be the one who tagged their final gate earliest in the round (e.g. in their 2nd movement phase as opposed to their opponent's 4th for example). If two or more pilots tagged their final gate at the exact same moment in the final round, the pilot who has taken the least damage gets the victory.

This is in essence the play of Asteroyds.

d10-7 Advanced Rules - There is an advanced option also whereby each pilot has access to a token with their pilot's head on it. This token can be used once in a game to perform an advanced manoeuvre as outlined for their pilot. I will leave these to be explored but essentially they allow for moves not otherwise permitted in the normal rules such as rotating and moving at the same time.

After a game or two I can't see why the players would not want to play with these as they mix up the action a little and take no effort to add to the play from a rules perspective.

Game Mode - Shooting

This mode is very similar to the Race format as the board is set up identically. The difference here is that the players must now shoot the gates instead of tagging them. When fired, lasers will fire in a straight line based on the ship's forward facing until it comes into contact with something. The aim of course is to shoot each of the 4 gates and when achieved the successful pilot takes the corresponding token.

The first player to shoot all 4 gates wins the game. The lasers when fired do not hurt or damage other ships in this mode.

Game Mode - Targets

In this mode the players face off in teams of 1 to 3 players (and if the group is happy, teams need not have identical numbers).

The board is set up quite differently and the teams begin on the far left and right sides of the board facing the center.

The aim of this mode is to take out (shoot) 6 targets that are located on 6 different white asteroids on the opposite side of the board, before their opponents do.

The teamwork aspect adds a little something here, but overall I think this mode suffers from not allowing enemy ships to target one another. I'm sure that fan modes abound. devil

Game Mode - Drones

This is the most interesting of the modes in my opinion. The board again has a varied set-up and the map now contains 4 asteroids that feature a drone. These drones will release targets at various times and the targets themselves are also mobile. The pilots are in a race to shoot down the targets before their opponents can (everyone is out for themselves).

The pilots all start at the bottom of the map with the drones located in the north and north east quadrants (semi-circle arc).

The first pilot to take out their 4th target is the winner. This kind of feels like skeet shooting in space! cool

Asteroyds v Robo Rally/Ricochet Robots - Do I need Both?

Now this is the real question isn't it? Asteroyds is certainly a unique design despite borrowing concepts from other games. But is it any better?

The short answer is no or more to the point...hell no! Robo Rally has a charm all of its own thanks to those personable robots but its gameplay is also much deeper and engaging.

The biggest shortfall of Asteroyds is two-fold. First, the game comes across as far more random than its predecessor. That is simply due to the rolling of dice to move the asteroids. This can lead to some players enjoying clear space at times and others being hampered terribly. Sometimes the asteroids will also move rather dully into the edge of the board and have little impact on the play. Whilst Robo Rally cannot match the moving elements of Asteroyds, the fact that its machinations remain static does allow for the players to plan in a more strategic fashion and this feels rewarding rather than frustrating at times (as it can in Asteroyds).

Secondly (and most importantly) though, Robo Rally allows for player versus player interaction, where Asteroyds does not. Asteroyds can largely feel like multi-player solitaire at times and it really is a straightforward race, with only the environment to contend with. A huge part of the appeal of Robo Rally is the fact that the robots can physically interact and interfere with one another...and then there are the lasers and the various upgrade abilities.

Robo Rally is the superior 'programmable movement' game of the two by far. The only reason why a gamer would want to have both is if they are a big fan of the genre or really like space games.

Of course the one element that Asteroyds has over Robo Rally is that it features several game modes but in my opinion that is nowhere near enough for it to come close to Garfield's classic bots game.


Image Courtesy of zombiegod
Asteroyds and Ricochet Robots are similar in that the players need to think through a series of possible moves to find an optimal solution. Again Asteroyds losses out in the comparison game as Ricochet is bar far the more pure design (has no random elements) and it allows for direct competition between the minds of the players. Asteroyds only requires the players to compete against the environment and because the objects move randomly, some moves are dead easy and others may not offer a solution through the debris. soblue

The Final Word

I don't actually mind Asteroyds and my boys found it enjoyable enough to try a few of the modes. The programming works well enough and there is some fun to be had in trying to calculate where those damned asteroids and gates are going to end up (ala Ricochet Robots to some extent). This is made all the more challenging due to the fact that many asteroids will move multiple times due to their colour.

But without direct player interaction, the game does not have enough going for it to make it an amazing experience every time and after 3-5 plays you really don't have the urge to grab it off the shelf over something else. Visually the game also looks a little drab on the table with nothing to really wow the senses. The timer is cool though.

The other major failing of the game is that even after only a few games, I found that my basic skills of calculation were enough to avoid the danger of hitting objects or being hit. In other words, there really wasn't enough danger and so one element of the game (getting destroyed) was nothing more than a veiled threat. That's no fun at all!

With my collection I have no need for two games of this style in my collection and thus Asteroyds must go to greener pastures and Robo Rally waves from the corner of my gaming room...another competitor seen off yet again. I suspect this would be the verdict for many a Robo Rally owner if they acquired Asteroyds.

Till next we meet, may your thrusters fire true and your shields hold out!

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Waggly Bean
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Great review! I own both this and Robo Rally but haven't played either yet, so it'll be interesting to see if I share your thoughts. On paper both games greatly appeal to me.

I'm going to check your geeklist now to see if you've tried out and reviewed other programmable games like Colt Express or Walk the Plank.
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wagglybean wrote:
Great review! I own both this and Robo Rally but haven't played either yet, so it'll be interesting to see if I share your thoughts. On paper both games greatly appeal to me.

I'm going to check your geeklist now to see if you've tried out and reviewed other programmable games like Colt Express or Walk the Plank.


Colt Express is on the shelf...just needs more play.
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