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Sebastian Stückl
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Hey!

After playing Fleets today, here are two rules questions that came up:

1. Is there a limit on the amount of Diplomacy Points(or M€/energy) you can have?
In particular, I was going to 15 DP after one of my turns, and there wasn't any reason to spend one of the 8 I had during the diplomacy phase.
Also, my Goliath was somewhat avoided, resulting in it having 13 energy at the end of a round. Could it go up to 16 then?

2. If "Turret" is equipped to Zealous, will it shoot every time Zealous attacks? Or does the Turret still only attack once?
Also, does Zealous have to perform its 2 attacks directly after each other, or can you shoot with other ships in between?

Thanks for your answers,
Sebastian
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Bastinator1 wrote:
Hey!


Hi! Good to see you migrating to the Pleiades from Mars for a while

Bastinator1 wrote:

1. Is there a limit on the amount of Diplomacy Points(or M€/energy) you can have?
In particular, I was going to 15 DP after one of my turns, and there wasn't any reason to spend one of the 8 I had during the diplomacy phase.
Also, my Goliath was somewhat avoided, resulting in it having 13 energy at the end of a round. Could it go up to 16 then?


Yes, in Fleets, all resource parameters are limiting, making it impossible to have more than 13DP, 26M€, or 15 energy at any one point.
I am very curious though, how you would go from 8 to 15 DP in one turn, since you only get 2 DP per turn. Granted, some rewards give extra and Famous Fleet also gives an extra DP, but I doubt you would get 5 extra this way? In any case, DP is limited, and you will have to find a use for them. With taxing (for 2DP) and forcing opponents to retreat (6DP) I find it very unusual for players to have more than 6DP for more than 1 round. If so, you should buy another fleet to gather Victory Points.

Bastinator1 wrote:
2. If "Turret" is equipped to Zealous, will it shoot every time Zealous attacks? Or does the Turret still only attack once?
Also, does Zealous have to perform its 2 attacks directly after each other, or can you shoot with other ships in between?

Thanks for your answers,
Sebastian

The Turret is a one-time effect for each battle, even with Zealous. However, both Weapon Technology and Upgraded Weapons enhance the flagship's attacks (in this case both of them). So one favorite setup would be to have Zealous with both of these upgrades, shooting 10 dice twice with natural 6:es giving extra damages. Combined with some EMP to hinder the opponent from using his interceptors, that would be awesome

I hope you're enjoying the game (and the connections to TM). I would be glad to hear your thoughts on it. They are very different games indeed, but hopefully the backstory brings an even more epic feel to it. Cheers!
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Lord_Aethan wrote:
Hi! Good to see you migrating to the Pleiades from Mars for a while

Unfortunately just for a short while, I probably won't get many opportunities to play Fleets in the near future. shake
Mostly, this is because we have a player in our group who hates everything that somehow has to do with dice shake (with only very few exceptions), and he's part of the "core" that always shows up, so he'll certainly veto this game. soblue
(And, unsurprisingly, he didn't enjoy Fleets when I played two 2-player games against him 1,5 weeks ago)


Lord_Aethan wrote:
Yes, in Fleets, all resource parameters are limiting, making it impossible to have more than 13DP, 26M€, or 15 energy at any one point.
I am very curious though, how you would go from 8 to 15 DP in one turn, since you only get 2 DP per turn. Granted, some rewards give extra and Famous Fleet also gives an extra DP, but I doubt you would get 5 extra this way?

Apparently, you have not heard of the famous Goliath trade ship yet ninja

In fact, I had two Famous Fleets in this 4 player game, starting round ~3. That may have been an oversight by my opponents (nobody was interested in the second Famous Fleet upgrade, and they generally didn't value DP very highly), though perhaps they just didn't have any upgrade slots left at the time.

Furthermore, Corpas and Weebee were in play, so extra DP were available on the board, too, and I had a fleet in both during this turn and the previous one (3 DP => 10 DP, spent 2, then had 8 DP left)

On either turn, I only spent 2 or 3 DP (perhaps I taxed a system or so).
Also, on both turns, Goliath was in Corpas, uncontested by my opponents(??),
while Ergonia was in Weebee, together with 3 weak/middle class opposing ships. Ergonia had 3 shield escorts and 2 interceptors, and 10 energy, so it was not an easy target either and could avoid most aggression.
My last fleet, Gomorra VIII, which I bought on the 8DP turn, was stuck with two or three opponents in another system, but wasn't a threat to anyone.
So on those two turns, and with my debatable fleet placement, there just wasn't a good way for me to spend more DP.
To be fair, had I known the DP maximum is 13, maybe I would've sent one of my fleets elsewhere. However, I am not even 100% sure about this, since my opponents were quite DP starved and keeping them off DPs with Goliath may have been relevant, and the other two fleets had less flexibility in choosing their systems.
Still, taxing a system for 3-4 M€ would likely be better than reaching the cap, and allow me to build up a 3rd powerful fleet in the next round(s).
With only 8 DP, and the fleet placement as it was, returning a single fleet to somebody's hand was never an option though, and the only way it could have been is if my opponents had placed their fleets differently.
Since the remaining 2 systems had 2 and 3 opposing fleets, returning a fleet to somebody's hand would only make sense if at least 1 other fleet joined Goliath, which apparently nobody wanted to do, since they may be left alone against a very angry ship, even if a 3rd ship is in the system (since I still threatened to force a retreat).
Under the assumption that DPs are unlimited though, I figured hoarding them seemed better, since you could still use them later for pretty much the same effect, leaving more options available and avoiding nasty surprises.
Furthermore, Medusa was one of the system, so stopping somebody else from gaining a VP by forcing their fleet in Medusa to retreat, and then forcing their lonely fleet into the system, was a real option. (Though an expensive one at 11 DP)


This whole situation is also the reason Goliath had so much energy btw. I bought the fleet on the first turn,but it was only involved in two battles during 5 rounds:
- 1 fight against Excalibur (With only 5 hits out of 20, I was 1 damage short of sinking the flagship through "Shields up!" using a Torpedo)
- A small skirmish with Amalthea. (Well, it was really just target practice onto a helpless merchant ship with some interceptors laugh)
Obviously, I didn't use much energy in the two battles either, just some fighter pumps and the +12 attack against Excalibur, so there was still a ton left.
(Fun fact: If you avoid combat with a fleet it only becomes stronger whistle)


Also, I made a pretty amusing mistake in the first round.
I placed my beetle into the same system as Excalibur, forgetting that its drain ability would stop me from using interceptors (I had 1 or 2)
With 8 attack due to an upgrade, and some help from escort ships, I was dealt 8 damage and lost beetle even through a shield escort.
Since my escort ships were still intact, I could easily recover from this loss though.


Unfortunately, we had to abort the game after round 5. (The 8 DP turn)
It was almost midnight, and the game was not close to coming to an end.
After the round, VPs were 3/3/2/2, so the game was still going to take a while, with me being slightly favored due to the massive DP advantage.
(And at first, we wanted to play to 7VP... we didn't even get to 5 )



Lord_Aethan wrote:
The Turret is a one-time effect for each battle, even with Zealous.

Perfect, I interpreted this correctly.
You didn't tell me whether Zealous can shoot at two seperate times though, or fires two consecutive attacks. (To be fair, that's a bit niche though and won't matter in most cases)


Lord_Aethan wrote:
I hope you're enjoying the game (and the connections to TM).

Clearly, I am a huge fan of all board games with a space exploration theme (RftG, Eclipse, Galaxy Trucker, TM, Fleets)
You had me when you said space. meeple
And yeah, it's really cool to see a universe develop, and visit old places/characters (or corporations, in this case).
I bet there is some cool reference I am missing though, hidden somewhere in Terraforming Mars^^.


Lord_Aethan wrote:
I would be glad to hear your thoughts on it. They are very different games indeed, but hopefully the backstory brings an even more epic feel to it. Cheers!


Yeah, Fleets is completely different from Terraforming Mars
It's not really a Eurogame (which we tend to play a lot),
but it's not very far away from one either, using a lot of similar mechanics.
It's also not really a wargame either though. (There's no player elimination, and there isn't a reward for fighting itself either)
It's really somewhere in the middle, and I love the spot!
(Did I already mention I love unique games that stand out from the crowd? whistle
Really, keep trying new things in your games, it's awesome to see innovative mechanics!
In this context, I want to note that I actually found the idea of taking a variable amount of actions on each turn really cool in TM, even though it seems like a subtle detail.
While I don't think it's an essential aspect to make the game function, and the game would work perfectly fine with 1 action at a time,
it creates a very different dynamic that I do not think any other game uses. At least I can't think of one right now.
Also, it's very cool that the concept itself (variable amount of actions, where taking fewer actions is not a strict downside) can be further expanded, if suitable elsewhere cool)

Now, there's also something I dislike about Fleets though.
And that is mostly the player aid/rules sheet. Some of the descriptions are quite ambiguous, but the rules sheet is essential to understand the game, and there is no further explanation in the rules.
In this case, it's very important to be concise. (And the player aid isn't)
The text on the player aid should be short, but also not leave any room for interpretation.
The cards are mostly fine, but could be worded better(e.g. nobody says "damages", that word actually has a different meaning, too)
I do like the rulebook though, but I think the "Attack" section is somewhat out of place. It's an important part of battle, so you are missing an essential part of combat when you read the "Battle" section, which can leave a reader confused about how things actually work after that section.
Since the Ship Effects are explained directly after the Battle section, it creates the feeling that you didn't quite the understand the combat system (and that's true, since some of the information about it is found elsewhere)


As for the gameplay itself, first I should probably note that I only managed to complete five 2-player games so far.
We started a 3-player game last week, but the 4th participant showed up early (during round 2), so we decided to stop playing Fleets there and played Tzolkin as planned for the remaining evening, so he wouldn't have to watch us play before joining the action.
Our 4-player game this week also didn't work out, since we ran out of time. Having one player completely new to the game and another player who only played 2 rounds of the previous 3-player attempt did not help speed up play. We had to stop playing after 3-4 hours, in round 5. (probably a bit below 3,5h)

That adds up to about 40min/round, which seems slow at first, though we'd need to play more often to see how realistic 40 min/round really is.
I'd assume 10~15min is realistic for the non-battle part of each turn, with battles probably taking a bit longer than that, considering the amount of different possibilities, and in addition just the mechanical part itself (choosing attacker/defener, rolling die, etc.)
So... probably 30min a turn is realistic, with 4 experienced players.
So yeah, playing a complete 4-player game to 7 VP sounds pretty much impossible.
It would almost certainly take longer than 7 rounds (no clue how many though, 10-20?), so you'd probably have to plan a full day for it. shake
That being said, aborting the game wasn't an awful experience either. It was a ton of fun until that point, and very tense (even though we had a lot of defensive fleets)
It felt like the game was still wide open.
I was slightly ahead, but far from being in a commanding position, and catching up seems really easy if people tend to attack the leading player.
To me, it also felt like bashing a weak opponent, and potentially eliminating multiple of their fleets, was strategically disadvantageous. (so that helped a lot in evening out the chances) After all, they do not pose a threat, but their fleets often "block" a system and stop others from gaining VP.
However, that could be a poor strategy. Perhaps eliminating them before they can get their economy going again can stop them right in their tracks. ninja
(though that strengthens the others)
Perhaps, a more aggresive approach is good, though I fear it's too easy to lose a whole fleet (including several escort ships) if you take such a high risk in a 4 player game.

The game allows for a lot of player interaction in general and requires a lot of strategic and tactical planning.
At the same time, it's not very punishing to lose a fleet, or get a bit unlucky during a fight in 3/4 player games.
If one of your flagships is destroyed, you will probably keep some escort ships, and the flagship can usually be replaced next turn, allowing you to rebuild relatively quickly while the others are busy fighting each other.
That makes it so neither player feels left behind, and makes the game feel like a serious of skirmishs, with none deciding the winner on its own.

While it may seem to some that luck plays a dominating role, and that the first-player advantage is too big, I can not confirm this at all.
For one, positioning yourself well strategically seemed to matter much more than whether you went first, or whether you hit well with your attack. Choosing your fights well, not making yourself a target and equipping your fleets correctly was all much more relevant than the dice rolls.
In the end, dealing a few points more or less damage was rarely the deciding factor in a battle anyway, since there was usually a good amount of flexibility when it came to the amount of hits needed to succeed with your plan.
And even when somebody got a bit lucky/unlucky once or twice, it was not very game-changing in the bigger picture.


As for player order, I am still not sure which place would be preferable in a multiplayer game.
Clearly, this can change depending on your position and the game state(which fleets you have, how they line up against the others, who's ahead etc.)

The only thing I am relatively certain about is that going last in a 2-player game is an incredible advantage. (hence why you alternate player order)
Choosing which fleet fights which is extremely relevant, and even if both players control 3 fleets, you get to decide all matchups, whereas your opponent can only decide where his fleets may fight.
In a 2 player game, it's not that easy to eliminate another players flagship though, so choosing your fights is more important for long-term planning than using diplomacy actions first or shooting first.

With more players, I think acting late is still generally desirable, as you have more information to position your fleets, but "blocking" a system with a very powerful fleet can be nice too, as can be acting first on the diplomacy phase, or attacking first, for instance to weaken an opponent, giving other players a bigger incentive to attack the weakened fleet and destroy it, rather than attacking you.
In general though, I would say this is very situation-specific though, so there's no generally "best" position.



So playing with 4 players is really cool and a very nice experience with a sweet dynamic between players, but seems practically impossible to do because of the extreme game length.(even to 5VP) soblue
Of course, being unfamiliar with the game makes this issue worse, but I figure game length with 4 experienced players is still a considerable problem, even if you know the game by heart at some point.


I imagine this is not a real issue with 3 players though, but would still except a considerable game length (2h minimum to 7V, but more realistically ~3h)
I really want to try some more 3 player games.
While I don't want to miss the multiplayer interactions completely, I also don't expect game length to be a problem with 3 players.


For the 2 player game, that one has a completely different dynamic than with all other player numbers.
Clearly, fighting only one opponent is very different from brawling with multiples.
This also means you can play more aggressively (and even destroy a flagship with full health before any ships in that fleet get a chance to fire whistle)
With 2 players, it seemed like acquiring 3 fleets is mandatory (and most likely required on the very first turn).
(In 3+ player games, a third fleet can be omitted for several turns)
If you control only 2 fleets, your opponent (with 3 fleets) will get more rewards than you every turn, continously pulling him ahead as long as this state persists.
With diplomacy actions, it's also relatively easy to blank a strong fleet in 2-player games (for instance, by forcing it to retreat).
Therefor, single powerful fleets are not as important.
In general, diplomacy points are more important with 2 players, since 6 of them can be used to "buy" a victory point

Unlike in multiplayer games, catching up in a 2 player game is a lot harder (sometimes impossible). Usually, the game started out with some skirmish, until there was some crucial turn.
Usually, the tipping point was one player losing a flagship, giving at least 1 VP to the opponent and consequently falling behind in economy as well.
From this point, it was difficult to even out the playing field again.
Acquiring a new fleet and equipping it isn't easy if you're being shot at.
Also, squeezing in the last VP with 6 diplomacy points would always work, which makes catching up even harder.

At the same time though, this means you have some nice skirmish, and the game eventually reaches a tipping point, with one player coming out ahead. But then, the game is almost over, so you can start another one quickly.

At a playing time of only ~1h, that's pretty much ideal for a 2 player game!

Also, it's noteworthy that a player losing a flagship in a 2player game was usually the result of one, or a series of, errors or risky play, rather than the result of lucky/unlucky dice rolls.


So as you can see, overall I REALLY enjoy this game, but I don't think it is playable with 4 players, purely because of the game length.
It's still an excellent 2-3 player game though.



Cheers,
Sebastian

PS: Btw, I just noticed that using a battleship to take out interceptors is explicitly used as an example in the rules blush
I guess memorizing this would have made a few things easier whistle


PPS: Oh yeah, this post became muuuuuuuch longer than anticipated. (That's also why it took so long to respond)
It almost became a review, so perhaps I should add some sections to make it one once I am back home next week.
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Wow, yeah that was almost a review

I take it you are not playing with the Corporate Lords Expansion?
It adds neutral fleets (Pirates and Merchants) which add a lot of dynamics to the game board. It also features unique abilities for the different corporations, special escort ships they start with, and that each player can construct operation bases on one system, which stays there between rounds. All in all, it is just another punchboard with tokens, but it adds a whole new dimension to the game.

Speaking of player order, I think there are good reasons for all placements, although first and last are the best. First player has a great advantage in battles, since their ships fire first, having an opportunity to destroy opposing ships before they can respond. It also gives a slight advantage in the diplomacy phase, which is not always going to count for something, but sometimes it will prove to be very important (taxing and forcing opponents to retreat are very turn-order sensitive). On the other hand, being the last player lets you - as you said - avoid other player's fleets to get certain VPs, or lets you hunt down a weak fleet. In the expansion, second and third players are the ones to place the neutral fleets, which is a nice bonus.

Play time: In retrospect, I think we should have made 5VP the normal game and add the 7VP goal as a variant. In demos, we usually play to 3VP, but this is barely enough to get a feel for the game, and it makes resource-gathering fleets almost useless. 5VP is really good, although even that may be too long for 4 players, as you say.

Starting Strategies: My usual tip for new players - no matter the player count - is to either build one really large, fully equipped fleet first turn, or 2 smaller, unequipped fleets. It is very rare - although it happens - that someone buys three fleets the first round. They will not have any money to protect themselves against other fleets, and will not have enough firepower to destroy another fleet, making them really easy to block. In a 2-player game, if both players buy 3 fleets, then none of them will be destroyed and nobody would get VPs first round. Not sure that is good for either of them.

Other things: Remember, you can buy upgrades without actually placing them on a fleet yet. Once they are installed, they cannot be moved to other fleets. But this is interesting - especially the first round. The first player gets to pick the fleet first, or upgrade first, but not both. In the case of Famous Fleet, which I personally think is one of the best upgrades, this could really be worth getting for future investments, or even just so that nobody else gets it.
Some of the maneuvers in this game are still told, even many years after they were performed. I remember my brother Abram, who had a really good fleet. Two other players agreed to combine their forces to take him out. So they deployed their fleets where he was. He saw his opportunity to retreat. The two attackers then had to blast each other to pieces instead.
With Medusa, someone really weak were about to get smashed. But he payed 5 to draw another fleet there and then retreat himself.
Some of the event cards are also legendary. EMP, Energy Transfer and Skillful maneuver are some cards that have completely changed the outcome of a battle.

Backstory: The longest story in the rule book explains the history between Terraforming Mars and Fleets. The character in the story sits in his office of the Terraformed Mars. Of course you also recognize the icon on Security Fleet? And maybe you will recognize flagship Polyphemus from somewhere? Treasure hunt!
 
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Sebastian Stückl
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Lord_Aethan wrote:
I take it you are not playing with the Corporate Lords Expansion?


I have read the rules for Corporate Lords, but decided I should play the base game first, and then consider whether I want to buy it or not.


Lord_Aethan wrote:
Play time: In retrospect, I think we should have made 5VP the normal game and add the 7VP goal as a variant. In demos, we usually play to 3VP, but this is barely enough to get a feel for the game, and it makes resource-gathering fleets almost useless. 5VP is really good, although even that may be too long for 4 players, as you say.


Ah, that's interesting! Did you ever consider other ways to make the game shorter with more players? (Or at least make it scale less)
So far I could only think of using more systems and/or limiting the # of fleets, but the problem with that approach is that it doesn't fight the issue at hand, which is the large amount of decisions possible, and the need to process a lot of information on other player's boards.
Instead, it only decrease the in-game time by needing fewer rounds to complete, which doesn't affect overall playtime as much as desired.
In fact, using more systems may even increase playtime with newer players, as more options become available...



Lord_Aethan wrote:
Starting Strategies: My usual tip for new players - no matter the player count - is to either build one really large, fully equipped fleet first turn, or 2 smaller, unequipped fleets. It is very rare - although it happens - that someone buys three fleets the first round. They will not have any money to protect themselves against other fleets, and will not have enough firepower to destroy another fleet, making them really easy to block. In a 2-player game, if both players buy 3 fleets, then none of them will be destroyed and nobody would get VPs first round. Not sure that is good for either of them.


Hmm, I am not sure about the "one big fleet" approach. Isn't it relatively easy to blank this using deplomacy actions, even in multiplayer games?

I assume when you say 2 "unequipped" fleets, you mean 2 fleets with a few escort ships and roughly equal strength? (Not 0 escort ships)


Here's some more thought towards 2-player games:
There are 9 possible ways the fleets can be divided:

Most setups in which players have the same amount of fleets are close to even.
A 1-1 split slighlty favors the starting player, because he gets the better reward, unless both fleets are in the same system, in which case the stronger fleet will be favored.

A 3-3 split will leave both players with the same reward, so the 2nd player should be slightly favored, because he had slightly better matchups. Considering all fleets will be relatively weak, none should be able to get a huge advantage here (or even destroy a flagship), and the second-mover advantage should even out as he becomes the starting player

A 2-2 split is much more interesting. In this case, the second player can choose to either fight in one system, or in two. Usually, it should be possible to pick one favorable fight, either avoiding the second one, or "blanking" the second fleet. In either case, this should be a strong advantage for the second player

In case of a 1-2/2-1 split, a starting player with only 1 fleet will fall considerably behind in VP and rewards, assuming the opponent simply dodges his fleet. If the 2nd player is smart, they will keep 6 DP for the following turn. Basically, I don't see how you can win from this position.
By the time your giant flagship will battle again, your opponent will have enough defenses to not immediately lose a flagship

In case the player with 1 fleet goes second, they can force a fight.
However, the starting player should be able to protect both his fleets reasonably well (I think?), so he would still gain 1 more reward, and score 1 VP right now. This setup only favors the player with 1 fleet if they destroy a flagship, or at least deal a massive amount of damage with it. That seems very unlikely though.

The 1-3 setup (okay, this will never happen shake) is really difficult to figure out.
After all, one incredibly strong fleet will fight a weak one. In this case, it won't really mater who's the starting player.
It's noteworthy that the player with 1 fleet may be able to destroy an opposing flagship, since it will be poorly equipped.
This will most likely force the opponent to retreat one fleet. In case they can acquire one extra DP, they can force the strong fleet to retreat on the next turn. If not, they can probably make one (or two) fleets stronger, able to survive the super fleet.
In most cases, the player with 3 fleets should be hugely favored as well.

This only leaves 2 fleets vs. 3 as an option
Here, player order is also not crucial.
Basically, you will fight in two systems, and the player with 3 fleets gains 1 VP and an extra reward.
Unless you are up against an ion cannon or Excalibur, it should still be relatively easy to defend your 3 fleets against your opponent's 2 fleets using interceptors, unless on of them is much stronger than the other. The problem here is that having two imbalanced fleets will usually be a hindrance later on, if there is any way to get extra DP, because it can be forced to retreat every 2nd/3rd turn.
Since every turn creates a heavier VP imbalance, the player with 2 fleets will be forced to build a 3rd fleet relatively soon. Of course, it is also possible to destroy an opposing flagship in this setup, which should then pull you pretty far ahead if you have only 2 fleets. However, this has to happen rather quickly. Otherwise, your opponent will likely force through their last 1-2 VP using DP while you struggle to destroy all their ships.


Overall, I think whether you want 2 or 3 fleets on the first turn can heavily depend on the fleets, systems and upgrades available. In case you are sure you can arrange a favorable fight, going for 2 fleets sounds good, whereas going for 3 fleets becomes better the more DP are available, and the weaker the fleets are when it comes to fights.

It's noteworthy that over 70% of system setups contain at least one DP reward, so the "peaceful" 3 fleet setup should definitely come up regularly, and I think it's probably better in the majority of cases.
(Though clearly, I haven't mastered Fleets yet, so maybe it's too early to make this judgement)


Obviously, certain cards and system can change this. For instance, an early "Vengeful Fleet" card can allow you to mitigate the problem of having your strongest fleet forced to withdraw.
Also, certain system effects can make a pretty big difference and make one strategy better than the other.


The only thing that's relatively certain is that starting out with only a single fleet in a 2-player game will only very rarely be a viable strategy. It's simply too hard to catch up on fleets (especially when you have lower income than the opponent), and too easy to deny the advantage your super fleet has in battles.


Lord_Aethan wrote:
Backstory: The longest story in the rule book explains the history between Terraforming Mars and Fleets. The character in the story sits in his office of the Terraformed Mars. Of course you also recognize the icon on Security Fleet? And maybe you will recognize flagship Polyphemus from somewhere? Treasure hunt!


Oh yeah, the background story was really sweet!
It made reading the rules much more enjoyable, too, and adds a lot of flavor to the game!
(Same as in, say, Galaxy Trucker or Dungeon Lords)

Honestly, I never appeared to me that the Security Fleet comes from this game laugh
Guess I should be paying more attention to details

Also, I haven't found Polyphemus yet, but I will keep my eyes open! googoo
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