Howard Bishop
United Kingdom
High Wycombe
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just a mention of Simpubs UK (Crown Passages, Hale, Altrincham, Cheshire - yes, I remember the address) and its plethora of poorly printed, unplayable but covetable (is that actually a word) games was very exciting to impressionable schoolkids like me back in the 70's. I even feigned illness to stay off school one day because I knew there was a good chance that the copy of Up Scope I'd ordered from them would be delivered that day. One of the games that I yearned for, but couldn't afford or justify was Outreach. It just looked so different and exciting.

Fast forward 40 years and a copy turns up on Gumtree of all places and I finally get my hands on it. Of course time and technology have moved on since then (even in Oldham) and although the box says 3000AD the actual contents are rooted in the late 20th century.

Undaunted by the throwback artwork and basic components we arrange a 4-player session to play through as much of the Struggle For Cygnus-Carina scenario as our frazzled middle-aged brains and time will allow. To make things easier we've all read (or tried to read) the rules and Ben has manufactured some snazzy logsheets that look garishly incongruous next to the other black, blue and grey bits and pieces. We would use Tony's copy, but his green counters have faded and are now indistinguishable from the yellow/beige ones, so mine is pressed into service, despite the fact that a blind person seems to have operated the die cutting machine.

First impressions for me are pretty positive, it looks bleak, stark, empty and unwelcoming, like post-Brexit Britain but bigger, much bigger. As Douglas Adams wrote "You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." It's an assymetric start, but the positions/races aren't fleshed out which allows us to fill in the narrative gaps ourselves (a good thing I think). It's so far from the plethora of modern 4X games which just feel like Axis & Allies in space) that it's a breath of fresh air. And then we begin playing and we suddenly realise how old and stuffy that air is. It's like that unprinted sequel to Hare & Tortoise called Tortoise, Tortoise, Tortoise & Tortoise. Just as going home o'clock starts to loom, Ben finally breaks ranks and attacks the Sagans (Autonomous Race 3) and then has a pop at Tony's Rigelians (all along he's been making plans for Rigel, groan). It just feels like we've been spending the previous 8 hours trying to do our own tax returns with medieval writing apparatus and a slide rule.

We completed nearly half of the 50 turns, and Tony hung on to win by one point, but we felt slightly underwhelmed. Maybe it's the way we were playing; conservative, cosying up to each other, avoiding risks of scatter and fate, just building up our empires like mould on a piece of bread. Perhaps if we'd taken more risks it would have had more oomph, but there was also a feeling that we hadn't always interpreted the rules either.

I still think it has the potential to be an epic game, but it's just too fiddly. When your StarGates get into double figures, writing all those force rosters just kills the momentum.

My thoughts (problems not solutions obviously)
1. It's too long. It should be possible to get the game done in 8 hours.
2. Some of the rules aren't clear (see later in this post)
3. Autonomous forces don't seem to do much. You can avoid contact by moving out of the hex on the turn you placed them.
4. The wisdom chit and civilisation increase rules/table seem a bit clumsy.
5. It's just too easy to mitigate a bad roll on the fate table, by spending 5RPs. Maybe less so if you need the fleets for combat.
6. The fate table is trying to do too many different things.
7. There's almost no benefit in risking the scatter table, so everyone moves at a snail's pace and encourages turtling and building StarGates entirely contiguously.
8. The scatter table looks like it's been inverted, but maybe we're missing something
9. The percentage conversion table is a little bit broken. I've lost 50% doubled, but I have sone StarFleet left .... how?
10. Ultimately the reason why it fails to shine for me is the record keeping. I'm at civ level 1, so I have to create 6 new forces on my log sheet each with 1 StarFleet that get moved and amalgamated into StarGates on the same turn, so I just take them off and rub them out. I do that over and over again until the paper starts to fall apart.

Some questions about the rules
1. Does an autonomous force that chose stance "A" get to roll for an attack if it survives being attacked?
2. What happens if your odds are less than 33% to 65% (i.e. off the bottom of the table)?
3. Can one force of 3 explorers just hoover up 3 Wisdom Chits before heading back (even if it has to separate into 3 forces)?
4. Is the +1 for some explorers and +2 for all explorers cumulative on the scatter table.

I did wonder whether some simple changes might make the thing a bit more playable and exciting.
1. Separate the civ increase and dissolution/autonomous force discovery results onto separate tables.
2. Vary the way/locations that Wisdom Chits are discovered to encourage players to explore in a different way.
3. Have a pool of single starfleet counters to avoid having to do paperwork for cases when only one starfleet is in a hex.
4. Maybe take ordinary starfleets out of the game altogether and just have explorers and dreadnoughts.
5. Reduce the opportunity for exploring the same hex more than once so gaps appear between StarGates bringing the scatter table into play.

I'd be keen to try it again with the vanilla rules and a bit more of a gung ho approach before trying any of these radical changes, but at the end of the day we have so many other games clamouring for attention that I doubt whether there's any chance of that. But we can dream of starships whizzing through the endless void of our galaxy.
16 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tiggo Morrison
United Kingdom
Bridgnorth
Shropshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Quote:
making plans for Rigel


Senses working overtime here methinks...
5 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hansen
United States
Sun Valley
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
That was an entertaining read, thank you. It also points out some of the flaws in this game, most especially the fate system and of course the complaint over the years of the game being mostly a simulation of accountants in space. The SPI magazine Ares had this to say in summation about Outreach back in March 1980 - 'Outreach has enough play value to entertain the first few times it is played, but then degenerates into a mathematical puzzle. Still, the ideas and general direction of the design allow the enterprising player to design a much better game.'

So some of this has been addressed over the years by players. First off, you'll note in the files section here that other people have noted the inconsistency with the scatter table and a more logical version has been put forward. Second, there is a variant that was put forward years ago regarding the whole fate system. You can read that one here: http://grognard.com/zines/ph/p1112.txt

Since there is no errata for this game that I could find, questions not covered in the rules are up to player interpretation. That said, here are my answers to your questions.
1. Does an autonomous force that chose stance "A" get to roll for an attack if it survives being attacked?
This one is up to interpretation. I read it via the Interaction set of rules to mean that the A player/autonomous force may not initiate combat, but they still get their return attack in combat if attacked. The wordage could also be interpreted that they don't get to attack at all. So...your choice.
2. What happens if your odds are less than 33% to 65% (i.e. off the bottom of the table)?
I don't think it is possible to survive any attack that would allow you to roll on anything less than the 33%-65% table, since the stronger force would attack first and be at the 400% table insuring the other sides destruction.
3. Can one force of 3 explorers just hoover up 3 Wisdom Chits before heading back (even if it has to separate into 3 forces)?
As far as I can see, they sure can. The only limitation on Wisdom chits is that only 3 can be controlled at once (with the exception of 18.56), but the rules also state that a Wisdom chit is only considered controlled once it is brought back to a StarGate. Technically that would mean if you had sufficient StarForces in the center of the galaxy, you could vacuum up all the wisdom chits...and thus becoming public enemy #1 to all the other players. In fact, when playing using 18.56, you would want to try and do so.
4. Is the +1 for some explorers and +2 for all explorers cumulative on the scatter table.
The table is poorly written, but fortunately the answer to this lies in the example provided in 5.46. There you find that the total add for an exclusively explorer force is +2.

As for trying it again but being more aggressive, you probably would get a more interesting game. But as you say, there are so many other games that you want to play.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeffery Bass
United States
San Carlos
California
flag msg tools
badge
What's this? Why, it's the Hiller Flying Platform! It flew in 1955.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Always fun to read the exploits of gamers who give Outreach a go. Thanks for posting the well-written session report and your impressions. They resonate strongly with my experiences with the game, too.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Irsik
United States
Clearfield
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My thoughts are that the more players there are for this the better the game as with a two player scenario it can become an accounting chore if you aren't being aggressive towards each other. I am still surprised how well this game has held up over the years. Granted, other games probably do this theme better (and a bit faster!), but the ideas behind it are still pretty good and it's worth a play every now and then. Also, if you think the accounting is bad for this one, don't try Yaquinto's Starfall!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Howard Bishop
United Kingdom
High Wycombe
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks all for comments, suggestions and rules clarifications. I so want to like this game. I refuse to give up on it, but it's just a question of how much you'd have to dismantle and reassemble to make it shine. Would it actually resemble the original game enough and/or would it take away the undoubted charm.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Kreutzer
United States
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
In the oldie space empires line, I recommend Starfall, which I remember playing coherently around 1980-82. Bookkeeping was modest but clear and sometimes fun to find out the type and civilization level of new discoveries. Nowadays it would be faulted for low player interaction. Always a problem when the hex scale is light-years.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hansen
United States
Sun Valley
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
To be honest, back when Outreach came out this amount of bookkeeping wasn't that onerous or that unusual. But game design has moved forward and changed and we are far more used to using a board + bits to track things, or at least using an app on a phone/tablet/laptop. Now this isn't so much a problem with those of us who are enthused about a game, but it does become a bit more of a problem when trying to convince others to give it a try.

So I do believe that you at least should give Outreach another chance, maybe with one of the other scenarios. Wrangling your friends into another go however may likely be more challenging than anything that you'll encounter while playing the game.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ftstevens wrote:
In the oldie space empires line, I recommend Starfall, which I remember playing coherently around 1980-82. Bookkeeping was modest but clear and sometimes fun to find out the type and civilization level of new discoveries. Nowadays it would be faulted for low player interaction. Always a problem when the hex scale is light-years.


Starfall is really cool. But it has one of the most poorly-written rulebooks in history. Also has one HUGE rule hole: can infinity ships cross quadrant boundaries using normal-hex movement? The rules imply they can, and they can't, in different sections, but never explicitly say one way or the other.

But it is very fun rolling on the tables to find out what you found.

Edit: also the "colonization as combat" subroutine is inspired; it works really well and is quite evocative of actually trying to colonize a marginally-hospitable planet. That subroutine is worth experiencing once all on its own.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Fabbro
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
stuarttigger wrote:

Quote:
making plans for Rigel


Senses working overtime here methinks...


Or perhaps SENSORS working overtime!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.