Krzysiek
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Hi,

Since at the time of this writing the game is still in its funding stage at Kickstarter, I figured I'd post a couple of words (so to speak) about Savage Planet.

First of all, just to cut to the chase. If you are considering backing this game - don't hesitate. It really delivers on all promises and it is a great little game that will frequently finds it's way to your table. It is worth back if only due to the attractive price. If you need more information, keep reading on...


Disclaimer


First of all I would like to emphasize that I have played this game only twice so far, and I have played it both on Tabletopia as well as in real life using the free PnP version available @ kickstarter. As such, all of the information in this review is based on my experience using a PROTOTYPE version of the game, which is subject to change as the funding campaign progresses.

Also, please excuse my mistakes, as English is not my first language



About the game



Savage Planet: The fate of Fantos (SP in short from now on) is a tableau building game with co-operative and competitive elements for 3-6 players. The game tells the story of the planet Fantos, which is the source of a very precious material called Iridium. Many different races have descended upon Fantos in the past few ages to mine the resource, which in fact is the very life force of the planet itself. The planet, suffering from ages of excavation is at it's last gasps. It is dying, and weeping to the stars for help. An extraterrestrial being, called Zadroz (I wonder if it is a nod to Zardoz ? ) has herd the weeping and has answered it by proclaiming that it will destroy all but one Citadel upon it's arrival to the planet.

The first thing worth mentioning is that the art in SP is absolutely stunning. The game art is influenced in many ways by the comic book art of the late 70's and 80's. Most notably one can see influences of the works of Grzegorz Rosinski's comics i.e. Thorgal, Le Grand Pouvoir du Chninkel, Yans etc. The games designer's also quote being influenced by sunday morning cartoons of the eighties: Thundarr the Barbarian and He-Man to name just a couple and it really shows. Especially the dark worlds of Chninkel and Thundarr can be seen shining through the art of the cards, however one can also find many subtle nods to Heavy Metal comics.

According to information confirmed by the designers, the game is heavily influenced by an old game called Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, however Savage Planet is a complete game, whereas V:TES was a collectible card game. This also means that we will be getting a tested game engine if the 7.1 rating of V:TES is anything to go by.


Gameplay


In the game, each player represents a Citadel of Fantos, which is something like a city-state. During the game, players will hire mercenaries called Legacies, who will run their affairs and serve as middlemen in the interaction between a player and the game. The game focuses on the interaction between three types of cards: The Legacy cards, which are in essence the in-world agents of a player's faction, the Labor cards, which are basically action cards which drive the game forward and the Trials cards, which is a deck serving both as a timer and an event system, forcing events on players which are seldom good.

Players begin the game with a sum of 30 shards (in-game money) which they spend during setup to purchase no more and no less than three Legacies. The cost of a Legacy becomes its life and currency. This means the money a player spends on a Legacy is laid on the purchased Legacy card, rather than discarded to the bank. This money then serves the Legacy as a paying medium as it is those middlemen as I have called them a little earlier, who will from now on interact with other players.

Following setup the main game comprises of consecutive rounds played by the players in clockwise order. However, there are instances when players will have the option of playing outside of their rounds i.e. during certain bidding stages. A typical round is divided into six stages, called Phases. A player goes through all of the phases of their round and then the next player will go through all the stages of their respective rounds. As such, during a round a player will perform ONE main action (called the Fantos action): either Harvesting, waging War or competing against each other for the honor of becoming the Reigning Tribute, a title which grants additional player powers. After the main action a player may face the Trials (I'll talk about it a little later) then, the player may opt to play a secondary action. The secondary actions may vary and depend on availability. This is due to the fact that both the Legacies (your middlemen) as well as Labor cards have symbols on them, denoting the type of action a particular card can perform and when. Sometimes a player won't play a secondary action either because of choosing not to, or because they will not have any cards which would contain the secondary action symbol, allowing the player to play such action.

Once past the secondary action phase, players will have the option of purchasing ONE Legacy card from among five cards in the center row. Again, the money spent on the Legacy is laid on it (card) as the card is laid in the player's zone/tableau. At the end of a player's round, one can discard as many Labor cards as one likes, however, as mentioned before that limit's the player's ability to play these cards outside of their turn.


How the actions work

I'd like to focus a little bit on the three main actions, performed by players in the course of their turns. The actions are Harvesting, War and Tribute and they influence the game in more ways than one. All of the actions are performed by each player's Legacies (your mercenaries, or agents in the game's world or what-have-you). Each Mercenary has three stats on it's card, denoting how much influence on each of the three main actions it can provide. When a player chooses to perform ONE and only ONE main action in their turn, they may choose one or more Legacies to perform it, adding up the stats of each Legacy in the particular field, depending on action. This is then supplemented by a dice roll and once summed up, the outcome determines the success or failure of a particular action.

Harvesting - This action allows players to harvest the shards, which is the in-game money and victory points at the same time. However, since burrowing into the land is what's killing the Fantos planet thematically, this action comes with the risk of speeding up or even ending the game. This is due to the fact that each time a player performs Harvesting, they must draw Trials cards which act as a timer in the game. The Trials cards also send upon the players events which force players to perform diplomatic negotiations, draw more Trials cards, speeding up the impending doom or just bring bad luck in the worst possible way to the player who draws them

To perform Harvesting a player chooses one or more of their readied Legacies and "tasks" that Legacy by tapping it 90 degrees. As mentioned before, each Legacy has a stat which shows how much it can provide during a certain action. In this case we look at the Harveting stat. The more the better. Once the Legacy(s) are chosen and tasked to harvesting, the player rolls the shard die and adds the amount to the general outcome. The sum of the Legacy's stat and die roll is the amount of shards harvested during this one action. I will mention here that at this point in time there are two ways of drawing of the Trials cards, which follows the harvesting action: Either the player draws the same amount of Trials cards as the Legacies he'd used for harvesting OR the amount of shards harvested influences the amount of cards drawn from the Trials deck. This is subject to change, depending on the final choice of the designers once the funding campaign is over.


War - This action is the main negative interaction between rivaling players. It can cause a player to become eliminated from the game and it can also be a source of income other to harvesting, which does not trigger trials. In Savage Planet a player is only allowed to attack the player to their left. This allows games with odd numbered players to be more balanced and makes the game more streamlined. On the other hand it also provides another layer to the "game around the table" as some players may influence others to attack the rivals who sit on their right. The rule of attacking, by the way, may only be overridden by the wielder of the Reigning Tribute token, as that token's power allows the owner to attack any other player.

When waging war against another Citadel, players again, choose their untapped Legacies, task them by turning them 90 degrees to the side, and add up the totals of the Legacies' war stat. Then the warring players roll the shard die and each add their respective die roll results to their total war stat. The player with the highest stat wins and receives the amount of shards which is equal to the difference of the two contested stats from the losing Citadel. A Citadel may loose all of its shards this way, and should that happen, the owner of such Citadel is eliminated from the game.

Tribute - The third main action is a little different from the previous two. although it is one of the main three actions a player may choose in their round, this particular action is played by all the players simultaneously. The Citadels attempt to appease and impress Zodraz by nominating one of their Legacies as the Reigning Tribute. Players, again, may choose ONE and only ONE untasked Legacy and offer them as tribute by tasking them. Players then consecutively roll the shard die and add the sum to their totals. Finally, players may supplement their totals with additional boosts from labor cards (however that would require tasking another Legacy to play the card). The player with the highest total wins and is chosen as the next Reigning Tribute - a title which bestows the following benefits upon it's owner:

• When a card is required to be drawn from the Trials Deck and there are
already 3 Trial Cards in-play, the Citadel of the Reigning Tribute decides which in-play Trial to discard.
• Should a tie occur when voting on a Diplomacy Event during the Trials,
the Citadel of the Reigning Tribute acts as tiebreaker.
• Should the Citadel of the Reigning Tribute choose War as its Main
Action, it may attack any rival Citadel it wishes (instead of only the
Citadel to its left).

It is also worth mentioning that all of the above actions may be boosted by playing labor cards which provide extra boosts to harvest, war or tribute action. However, playing labor cards also requires possessing untasked Legacies, which can pay the cost of playing the labor card.


The Good, the Bad and the Fantos

What we have here is a sleeper hit. At least I think so. There is very little I didn't like about Savage Planet so far. To be honest, I am enchanted by the game. I hope You will pardon my slightly biased point of view. I was born in the early eighties and I remember and cherish all the things that have influenced the designers of Savage Planet. I used to watch the same Cartoons (and still have the old episodes of Thundarr somewhere on my hard drive). I also used to be a fan of comic books such as Heavy Metal, Thorgal, Chninkel to name only a few. As such, I am a fan of the graphical aesthetics chosen by the game's graphic artist. The world created by Darth Rimmer & Travis Watkins and supplemented by the art of the talented Michael LaRiccia is fantastic. I really wish I could learn more about the factions/races of the game as well as play more games set in this world (or read a comic or watch a cartoon set in this world. You get the picture ). The game provides a great narrative, full of fantastic creatures and is very immersive. That is a lot to say about such a little game. And speaking of which, I think that this is one of the biggest attributes of SP. It is a "small, large game". Small by physical size and it will fit in one's backpack or even a woman's purse, but once set out on the table it will rock your world and will provide as much emotion and gameplay as any bigger game would.

To sum up, I will try to bulletpoint the pro's and con's, but again - I'd like to make it clear that my current reception of the game is based on the prototype version and some or all of the qwirks may be removed by the time this game gets released to stores.

Pro's:
• Great narrative, very immersive theme.
• Beautiful art.
• A great small, large game. Small by size, large in gameplay.
• The mechanics of the game are based on an existing, tested game system with some new elements to make it fresh
• Player's factions/Citadel provide variable player powers, making each game a unique experience
• Well balanced war-waging mechanic
• The game has a built in timer which penalizes the players, depending on their actions or simply brings the game's end closer with each consecutive round.
• There is a great reliance between the resources and action. Each action costs shards. The shards are your victory points. This brings a lot of interesting choices into the game.
• I like the concept of Legacies and the way they interact with the game and each-other and how they can die, when they spend all shards from their individual pools.
• There is very little downtime as players interact with each-other even outside of their turns.
• Compact physical size of the game. It's easy to take it with you on travel.
• Low price.
• The funding threshold has already been reached, so this game will definitely get made.


Cons:

• The game uses a lot of new nomenclature, which requires some time to get accustomed to.
• There is some dependence on iconography in the card text. Again it takes time to remember all the symbols, but it is easy to read the cards once one remembers the icons' meanings.
• The instructions manual fails to explain how to resolve a tied score between two or more players at the end of the game.
• There is no visual guide to the particular phases of a player's turn and also the instructions manual does not state all of the instances when other players are affected or participate in a payer's turn (i.e. secondary actions are played by all players regardless of who's turn it is).
• One of the Trials card requires players to pick a choice, but there is no token to denote a particular players choice. In all of our games we all forgot either what our choice was, or to abide to the card, as there was no visual reminder on the table.
• The winning conditions are somewhat unclear. The rulebook somehow emphasizes only the one condition connected to the trials deck, but lack to put stress on the fact that the game can be won by eliminating the other players.
• The design of the shards - the game's currency - leaves much to be desired.


I hope this short summary and recollection of my previous contacts with the game will help You decide whether you wish to back this game. If you found this short review helpful, please leave a thumb or tip. It will be greatly appreciated.

And I hope you will enjoy Savage Planet as much as I do. This game is really worth it.

-K.
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David Giusti
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Thanks for this post. I've backed the game and cannot wait. My obsession with vintage sci-fi comics lead me to this game. I hope the game designers at Imp House take the feedback on board and improve the game accordingly!
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Kotep
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Can't wait for this game!
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Alex P
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Nice review. I really dig the look of the art in this, but it seems that it might be hard to parse (visually). Like, the cards are gorgeous, but do they work as easy-to-understand game components?
 
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Krzysiek
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Hello Alex,

If I understand you correctly (sorry, language can be a barrier), I can assure you that the cards are easy to tell from one another by type. Also the text on the cards is easy to follow, once you familiarize yourself with the iconography used by the publisher.

There is no way to mismatch the card types, as they have a different front, will also feature different graphic on the back of the cards. Lastly, each type of cards is placed in different spots on the table, with the labor cards being held in the player's hand. Everything is easy to follow as such.

I hope this answers your question

- K.
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Warren Brent
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Thank you for a most excellent review Krzysiek; making even more confident with my backing the Kickstarter, and I was already convinced it was going to be a hit.

Must admit that one of the driving forces for backing was due to one of the creative team's names - when I read about "Darth Rimmer" I immediately started thinking strange/awesome thoughts of Star Wars/Red Dwarf crossovers!
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Alex P
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Thanks for the reply, Krzysiek!
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Krzysiek
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Ozywazza wrote:
Thank you for a most excellent review Krzysiek; making even more confident with my backing the Kickstarter, and I was already convinced it was going to be a hit.

Must admit that one of the driving forces for backing was due to one of the creative team's names - when I read about "Darth Rimmer" I immediately started thinking strange/awesome thoughts of Star Wars/Red Dwarf crossovers!


Thank you and yes, "Darth Rimmer" is one smooth alias

- K.
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