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Subject: 2 Player Basic Game - Breakdown Review rss

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Kenan Emilijan Kulenović
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I feel like more games should have their "basic" version reviewed (if any), especially to emphasize when the gameplay is fun enough to not require the advanced variants.

TL;DR - Should you whip out SSE when you want to play a quick, easy to learn abstract game; and does it sit well with the 2-player format?

IMHO, yes.

Strategy/Tactics

My first impression of the game after a few turns was, "wow, this feels like someone designed a new chess variant for a star trek series", and I mean that in a very positive way.

The game offers a lot with very little actual rules. You move, block, plan expansion, escapes, and gambits with only 3 types of minis and 4 types of tiles (basic version). So all in all, good food for the puzzle-solving mind.

Luck

Luck plays a slightly bigger role in the advanced variants, but it is down to a minimum in the basic version. You shuffle groups of tiles and change the map each time you play just enough to offer new combinations of moves and new optimizations to calculate. You may find that luck may slightly affect the balance of types of tiles nearer to a player's homeworld, but it is minimal.

Complexity

The rules are quick to teach, the game quick to start. But when you really start thinking in game terms and points to earn, the geometry of it and the battles of wits possible are a brain-burner (in a "let's review this" good kinda way).

The final points counting is a bit cumbersome, but you can download an excellent point-tracking app made by the creators to help.

Interaction

The interaction between players is on a level typical for abstract games. You need to keep track of the entire (albeit small) board and rethink almost every move in response to the other players' moves, but other than that, there is no direct communication required.

Conflict

The basic game offers no direct conflict, no take-that mechanisms, and no attacking. You move, maneuver, and expand until you can't improve your position any more.

Theme

Being primarily an abstract game, the theme could easily be substituted for something else and still work identically. However, the minimalistic SF design does feel like a really good fit.

Replayability

Since SSE is basically an abstract game, you play it for the straight-up chess-like challenge. However, it also has a number of variants (special tiles etc.) which add extra options to the party when you want a less deterministic game.

Another bonus is that the building blocks for setting up the map are two-sided and just the right size/combinations to be modular, making it quick and easy to mix up portions of the starting galaxy map.

Components

The components are very nice. Small hexes, plastic minis just the right size, and a small box that can be held in one hand with satisfying practicality.

Art

The art is just the right fit for the small components - black background, minimalistic, with a few words of placeholder decorative text here and there. Love the standing-out vividly colored nebula hexes.

Fun

Playing this as a 2-player game, liked it lot, would recommend it as a filler game for all types of gamers. I usually like heavier euros, and this still got to me. The short playing time contributes greatly to the accessibility of the game.

All-in-all, a great option for a "quickest to start playing with new players" game.

EDIT: For completeness' sake and in response to comments here, I should put up a disclaimer that I haven't played Hey, That's My Fish!, and that similarities between the two can be found mentioned elsewhere in the game forums here.
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Nick Case
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Re: 2 player basic game review
I think that all reviews of Small Star Empires should make a significant nod in the direction of Hey Thats My Fish.
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Kenan Emilijan Kulenović
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Re: 2 player basic game review
Thanks Nick, added a disclaimer to the post.

I think I'll try out HTMF and add to the review when I get the time.

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