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Subject: a casual review rss

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Fnorbl Fnorblobson
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So, having played the game, and considering there are no reviews here of it yet, I thought it might be nice to share my thoughts.

Background and gameplay summary
Mankind is just about to discover faster than light travel. You are the leader of a faction on Earth, and try to manage your resources to explore, exploit and expand. The player who does the best job wins.

Game Setup
You have the general game board, showing you the galaxy with some suns, a black hole, our sun, and all that split up in three zones according to the distance to our sun. The board also has two tracks depicting each players general progress in matters of colonization and research. On the board are tokens for celestial objects scattered, that might be mines, planets or colonial rewards.

And now, things might get a bit intimidating for players who are not into seemingly complex games, as each player receives:
- an action board, showing the actions and bonus actions as well as having space for your unused and burned resources
- a board with a table showing information about each planet (type, what it produces, what is needed to terraform it, and so on)
- a research board, showing what can be researched and what each technology will grant you
- one of the two FAQ boards if you need those
- a turn summary card
- a victory point overview card
- a card for your starting planet (Earth)
- a card with a secret mission rewarding you with bonus points if completed
- wooden resource cubes, an action cube, spaceship meepls, colony tokens


The game has a fixed number of sixteen turns. After that, the player with the highest score wins. And there are a lot of things getting you points: research, advancing your colonies, excelling in research, amassing antimatter, mining planets, owning colonies, and more.

Each player has his/her own separate pool of resources, consisting of energy, matter and anti-matter. Each of those can be in one of three states: in your pool of unused resources, ready on a planet to be used, or burned (exhausted, meaning it can neither be produced nor used).

Each turn consists of the following: A progress card is revealed, that will describe some event happening at the end of that turn. For example, it might help the player who is worst in something, or best in something, give all players a free space ship and so on.

Then, each player takes an action, up to two bonus actions, moves and optionally withdraws ships. The action is one of nine available ones, such as producing starships, terraforming planets, producing energy and so on. However, you can't do the same action twice in a row. There are six different bonus actions, of which you have two available in each turn, depending on the action you chose. And to use those bonus actions, you have to burn resources, which means removing them from the produce->use->produce cycle, until you regenerate them.

When you colonize or terraform planets, or research advanced technologies, you might also advance on the universal research or colonial track, getting different bonuses that way.

So, to sum it up: the players ponder on what to do next, choose the action they think of the best (and fitting to the effect of the current progress card), then consider burning resources, and where to move or whether to withdraw ships if they have any.

The game also has rules for a 1-player solitaire variant. I have played the game only with three players, so I can't judge on that. However, I've read positive comments regarding the single player gameplay.

Game Component Quality
The quality is good. There is no plastic whatsoever in the game, which some people might like and others hate. You got the game board, cardboard tokens, wooden tokens and meeples, and good quality cards. All the wooden tokens and the realistic comic look art give the game, for me, a somewhat nostalgic feeling.

Despite there not being a difference between the players colors, I think that is there is quite some replayability, due to:
- different secret missios to start with
- various strategies to win, what to research, what actions to do when, and so on
- celestial objects being of random types and distributed as you wish across the board.
- progress cards adding random events

Crowdfunded vs retail version

The Kickstarter version comes with stickers for the tokens and meeples, additional art variations and cards with a linen finish, though I'm not sure if these are also in the retail version. So, it's some cute stuff but nothing that has an impact on the game itself.

What I disliked
Not much. Sure, you could have had plastic miniatures instead of wooden meeples if you'd prefer that, super fancy art, a soundtrack and all such stuff, but it's not necessary, and the game is of good quality without that.
I personally would have preferred it, if the developers would have produced an english version of the game, and an italian one, seperately. Instead, the box contains both. Of course, it doesn't really matter whether on the backside of the boards is a version in another language, the rulebook is twice as thick, and of the mission and progress cards you have twice as many. But since I don't need that stuff it just feels like some wasted resources.
Some parts of the game seem when you are new to the game a bit convoluted. Like, a single technology that can be researched might have on the research board the following information: cost to research, effect, impact on the research track, impact on other players (like granting them research), a possible bonus effect. Of course, that information is all necessary, and once you played a complete session it's all clear. But at first, it seems very confusing.

What I liked
- The various strategies you can employ to win.
- The diverse ways to set up the game, depending on how you spread the random celestial objects and what mission card you get.
- The many examples in the rulebook helping out when something is unclear.
- The way the game by itself slightly manipulates the players. Like, here a progress card gives a player something. There, researching a technology allows another player to get a free research. It's as if the game takes a players strategy and plans and then slightly kneads it through, forcing you to change it a little bit here or there. It all still works, but you have to adapt and consider stuff happening.
- Since the game has sixteen turns, you have only sixteen main actions for research, colonization, space travel, terraforming and so on. So while it's no short game, you have the feeling of having to carefully judge what to do with your actions, especially the closer you are to the last turn.
- The strong theme.
- Each of the thirty or so planets is unique.
- That the lack of player interaction allows you to plan your turn ahead.
- At least when we played it: players cursing regularly, as they realized as some things wouldn't work as planned due to a lack of resources or wrong order of actions or anything like that.
- Pondering through all the combinations and aims and strategies. Such as: "To get the victory points for my secret mission, I need to terraform a certain type of planet planet. So I need to find such a planet by revealing the cestial object tokens. I Also need to colonize the planet and have the resources on it required to terraform it. The planet can not produce all the resources, so I need to research some technology in order to get the resources there or transform them. So I need to acquire the resources to research that. I also need to produce and move starships to that planet. For that, I need to have the resources on the planet I build the star ships. So I could produce that here, and since I took that main action I could burn a resource for this bonus action which would allow me to..." And so on.

I think that it's average in this matter. The rules themselves are simple, so you can play it quite quickly, as long as you can keep in your mind what the nine default actions and the six bonus actions were about. However, at the same time, planning ahead and thinking things through does reward you. So, it has a light to medium entry level, but the game scales quickly with the brain power the people invest into their moves.

Luck factor
Not that much luck involved. The nature of the celestial objects can be revealed before you get there by spending an action to do so, and the effect of the progress cards is having some but not a huge impact on the game. I doubt that a player, who is very lucky but new to the game, is capable of beating a player who is having bad luck but played the game multiple times before, if both are roughly the same in regards of their skill in strategy board games.

Out first game took us, in total including the setup and reading through the rules, about three and a half hours. That was mostly because I had just roughly scanned the rulebook and the others didn't know the game at all. Once we understood all the rules, the game went quite smoothly. Sure, sometimes a player would realize in his turn that his plan wouldn't work and thus has to find a different strategy for that turn, but in general the gameplay was smooth, due to each player having only a single main action.
I assume that the next time we play the game it would take about ninety minutes.

The game might be not for you if
- You need lots of player interaction. The player interaction that is there consists of blocking a planet or mine, getting a medal first, or allowing a player to get a free technology thanks to you researching a high level technology.
- You need jaw-dropping game components.

The game might be for you if
- You like strategy games, planning ahead.
- You enjoy the sci-fi setting of exploring and colonizing our galaxy.
- You want a game that allows you to play alongside others. You ponder and think and judge on what to do, while watching others and their strategies, without anyone messing up the other players game.

I'm happy I supported the game at Kickstarter. We were confused with the rules here and there at times, but were able to solve all questions by ourselves, by repeatedly consulting the rulebook and its examples, and in the end, each player enjoyed the game a lot.
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Claudio Coppini
Frankfurt am Main
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Nice review!

I also backed this game and I'm enjoying it very much.
Only played it solo so far, and I'd like to add that the solo variant too is very well done (it's a campaign style variant similar to Agricola).

Personally I was a bit surprised to find the game heavier than I thought (which is good for me), so I don't actually agree with your statement of this game having a "light to medium entry level", as I think especially in the first plays it requires a lot of planning and consideration between all the possible actions and the way they affect each other.

One thing I personally loved is the publisher comment at the end of the science booklet, where it explain the ideal of peaceful space exploration as the background for the game. The science booklet itself has quite a few nice pieces of information in it and I'm glad they included it.
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Justin Green
United States
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Thanks for writing this up.

I've been very curious about this game, but there's not much info out there.
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David Larkin
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Good review. I picked a copy up at Essen and have played a couple of times. The differentiation between actions and technologies was a bit confusing for some, especially as some technologies effectively give you an additional action such as transporting resources between planets.

I like it a nice mix of space exploration and engine building. I think I would put it down as a short medium to heavy game
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Frederik Van Saet
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Great write-up, thanks!
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