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Subject: Review of a physical copy of Burning Suns rss

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Nisses Clan Skryre
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Fair warning:
I'm not one for extravagantly typed up and or cross-referenced reviews.
Additionally, this is one of those "I played the game a few times and now I have an opinion!" sort of reviews

If you're still interested, here we go...
I had an issue while posting this earlier, so I hope this doesn't get double-posted


Components
First thing that you notice (like in the unboxing video posted recently) is that the gamebox is small for a 4X game. It's about the same size box as most White Goblin/Ystari boxes. Not like most of those games, the box is *heavy* ginger
It's quite literally packed full of components once everything is punched and bagged.

Based on the core game only, with 5 races worth of minis, I'm fairly certain that the people that have 10 races worth, will not be able to fit it all in 1 box.
I remember from years back that Emil had a plan to make smaller boxes per race, which backers did *not* care for. I see some reason in that idea now. thumbsup

All cardboard components are sturdy, clean, functional.
Dice that come with the game are a bit strange:
The general dice are d8s but smaller than standard and feel a bit cheap.
The player-specific dice are also custom dice and range between cheap and messy in appearance (with paint not cleaned up on the numbers, or in places not completely covering the engraving)
The plastic components are not the best quality. Regiments have clear mold-lines/residue for certain models, some ship models roll over easily (annoying when it is a unique ship holding a die), and some models have too tight a fit to hold the die (had to really pull to free it).

Graphical design
It shows that this was done a few years ago on kickstarter with artwork done by not industry professionals. It doesn't pop quite that much overal.

The above 2 points together: in today's kickstarter world of mini's, profesionally designed sheets & boards, this would be sub-par. Compared to the renders of the plastic components you saw in the Kickstarter (which are also used in the rulebook), they are a bit of a let down and would hamper the game getting funded.


Rulebook
Well structured-? This one actually makes you think it won't be that difficult to explain it all to new players (and it isn't, there's just a lot to go through). It presents itself well, outlining the big picture in 2 blurbs of text (what's the goal, how do you get there), then the components then setup, then the round structure, and finally each of the planned actions in detail.
Iconography & keywords are listed in the frame of each page, so that during a game, you can quickly find everthing (at 20 pages, not impossible).
Also: no spelling or language mistakes that confuse matters (I'm sure there's 2 or 3 innocent spelling mistakes in there somewhere, but this to me was/is a well-thought out rulebook, and very much its own product, not borrowing from other companies/games.

Gameplay
It's presented as a 4X game with a highly tactical nature. How accurate is it? Let's see:

Tactical
I've only seen 5 different race combinations, so my experience is limited...I've also only played the short game.

I said race combinations earlier, because each player gets a combination of an ideology (tech tree), race (upgrade slots & unit stats), and framework (artificial limits like how far can you move, how much can you construct, how long does your diplomatic influence reach). 10 of each of these makes for 10x10x10= 1000 possible combinations. However, it's such a marketing point for this game that anybody reading this, probably already knows

The game is clearly tactical, with a few shortcuts taken to speed up early game (you've got fixed income that is reasonably high to not only get you started, but keep you in the game during setbacks as well. And you start with 1 of each unit so all potential actions are actually possible at the start of the game).

I like this idea (but then, I'm less of a fan of strategic games), because often early rounds are very similar, with not a lot of meaningful decisions taken. In Burning Suns, from round 2, you can be off in different directions already. (Round 1 will always be something of a buy/recruit/explore idea...)

You have 12 actions to choose from which come stuck in groups of 3, each group on a board. The boards are are shuffled each round. Action resolve goes from top to bottom on a board, and left to right between boards.
If the tactical nature of the game comes through strongly anywhere, it's here... Perfect planning is literally impossible, you might find the correct order of actions for your goal to be inversed just when you need them most.

Exploit
There's a galactic market, artifacts & agents & your own construction yard to exploit to your heart's desire.
However, construction is limited by an artifical limit imposed by your race's framework. That means you can't save up for a big construct/move/attack.
It's not terribly nuanced, but it comes across really well.
You have some good options here to score victory points.

Expand
You have several options to expand in the game: you can colonize, you can invade and you can make friends with planets and their population.
Planets give bonus income, victory points or special powers.
Works well, doesn't complicate matters.

Exterminate

You have 4 options for extermination, fleet battles, ground assaults and barrage (the coward action! Damn you Saya for costing me that battle ). Combat is abstracted, no retreat is possible and rerolling is available but limited. A little more nuance would have been fine here, but as it is, combat does not turn into a dicefest that turns the rest of the players into smartphone-playing standby-droids.
A nice 4th option here is to exterminate with kindness... You can use diplomacy to make the people think you're a much better leader than their current oppressordevil. It will take you 3 attempts (make them unhappy > revolt & destroy his buildings/troops > become your friend instead), so not the fastest option, but I like having it all the same
Exterminate has the most clear and direct way of getting victory points (win a big enough battle, or win against a unique unit of an opposing player)

Explore
The weakest of the 4X'es for me. The galaxy just isn't big enough, after the first couple of turns, the potential of this aspect has diminished a lot. By midgame it has disappeared completely. It's limited to a single action (called Explore) but it's too easy to take (just need an explored path from your own empire), and allows flipping up to 2 tiles. At 13 tiles possible, of which at least 6 get flipped in the first round-and-a-half, there's nothing to get excited about.

It is also the only aspect that works both for and against you (you open up new space, but it might just as well be captured by opponents) and does not provide any potential victory points.

So I'll call it a 3.5X I suppose?

Extra
A nice little extra module that I've yet to play, are the race cards.
Yes, in this game we all get to play the race card whistle
You enter an alliance with a player, and can take one of his race cards, and give one of your own in return.
This will give you both a clear gameplay benefit, for as long as you are of similar powerlevel & do not attack your alliance partner.
The player himself can play his race cards as a one-time special power as well. If so, the card is removed from play.
Definitely want to see these in action! Additionally, if your alliance partner wins the game, you also win. Play the big guys and ride their coattails, if you're behind


Gamelength (or: will I get it to the table?)
Two players was ok, but 3 was clearly better as an experience. I expect 3-4 to be the best player-count, with 5 too slow of a game due to downtime.

We've gotten nowhere near the expected 40'/player, clocking in at about 80' instead. But this is only after a few plays, so I expect 60' to be possible, maybe 40' is an option for people that play it often? Today there are so many games to pick (at least in my closet) that I doubt we'll ever go below 60' per player. That means I'm limited to playing this on weekends where we specifically play that game. Weekdays I doubt this will see much action). As I mostly play during the week, I'm sad to say, it will probably gather dust on my shelf Which is unfortunate because...


Fun
I really like Burning Suns. Sure, the components/graphical presentation are not CMON/FFG level. But it's a fine game. You are constantly making decisions, they are rather incremental instead of BIG moves, which cuts down on downtime. We played for 4h with 3 people, but in the end nobody felt we had been bored, waiting for it to end. Suffering several setbacks AND getting several big moments in a single game, along with moments where your whole plan gets thrown in disarray, requiring you to think on your feet, means you are committed, you are involved.
Neither of us really checked their cellphones more than once or twice.

There's comeback opportunities because big moves are curtailed & your income can't drop to unrealistic lows. Additionally (another thing we haven't tried yet) if you're stuck taking that final actions in line each time, you get to go first the round after. Which balances out you getting to pick first this turn but being forced to the back the next.

Kingmaking is possible, but if you're in the same powerlevel at least, you might stay relevant simply by forging the right alliances.


I rate Burning Suns at an 8.5 on the BGG scale. I highly recommend you try it out if you're a fan of space, 4X or tactical games with direct conflict.


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Nisses Clan Skryre
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Seems like it double posted anyway

Not the worst thing to happen, but any mods can delete this
 
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Ian Kissell
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Nisses wrote:
Seems like it double posted anyway

Not the worst thing to happen, but any mods can delete this


I missed the kickstarter for this one, and was really excited to try it, but after two years, my excitement has completely died (I guess not enough to periodically check back for reviews). I'm sure Emil will pop and here as he does every thread, but this to me seems like a game that is a classic pitfall of kickstarter. It was a great idea that needed a professional touch to polish and execute correctly. I wish that had happened, because I think this could have been a hit. As of now, maybe I'll play it some day, but maybe not.
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