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Subject: Quick Review of MOO! rss

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Chris Sachnik
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A quick review of Master Of Orion!

This is a pretty abstract but enjoyable tableau-builder. The only link it has to the video game are the names of some of the cards and the races, and the overall "story". You are basically vying to win the seat of Galactic Emperor by having the most victory points at the end of the game. The game is quick, usually 30 to 60 minutes. The game ends in one of three ways:
1. The turn track reaches round 8.
2. One player has a morale of 0 or less.
3. One player has built 5 cards in each of their 4 systems.

Each player starts the game by choosing a race card. Each race has a specific advantage, which is listed in text under the race picture and is also highlighted in yellow on the player card. Very easy to understand and use. Some of the other racial advantages include being able to draw more cards, getting more actions, building a bonus of a specific type of resource, etc.
One interesting thing about the race cards is that each one has the Human race on the reverse side, so everyone has the option of playing the Humans instead of one of the other races. The Humans don't have a big advantage but start the game with bonus resources, which is an advantage in itself.

The race cards are where you keep track of your Morale, you resources and your actions. Each card has a turn summary printed on it to help you keep track of what you can do on a turn. All of these items are tracked with cubes of your team color. The board has dots to show where each race starts out on resources, and you start with 10 morale. As you spend resources and use actions, you move the cubes down toward 0. Actions are tracked by moving one of your action cubes to the appropriate action box on your race card.

Each player is dealt 5 resource cards, five Advisors are chosen at random, and the first player is the player who most recently played the Master Of Orion computer game or has been to space. So, random.

On a turn, you collect resources. The amount you collect is based on the cards you have played to your 4 systems. Many of the cards have resource production in the upper right-hand corner of the card, and represent one of the three resources in the game. The resources are food, fleet and tech. These resources are spent to build cards, attack other players, and perform actions laid out on cards in your systems. The amount of resources you collect on a turn also determine how many actions you take on a turn. This is called the exertion level. The resource track on each race card is divided up into three brackets. If you are in the first bracket, which is about 1-3 resources, you only get three action cubes. However, you also get to take an extra card and get to move your morale up by 1. The middle bracket, 4-6, allows you 4 action cubes. 7-9 allows you 5 cubes, but you lose a morale. Some races have an advantage at high exertion.

Once you have determined how many actions you will have, it's time to play. Each player does one action, then play moves to the next player, and so on until you have used all of your action cubes. Actions that you can take are as follows:
1. Attack another player - very abstract, but if your fleet resource number is equal or greater than the person you want to attack, you get 2 victory points and they lose 1 morale. That's it. There are cards that come into play here, but no die rolling or anything.
2. Build a card from your hand - using the resources you have in your pool, you can build one card from your hand into one of your system. Each player has 4 systems, and each system can have a maximum of 5 cards in it. Cards determine resource income, usually have a special effect after being built or will allow you to take another action, or just have an always-on power. The interesting thing here is that as you build cards into a system, when you build one card on top of another, you replace the effect of the previous card with the effect of the new card. The only effects that are not replaced are "at the end of the game" effects, which you will always get.
3. Exploit a card - each card for the most part has a value in the lower left corner that will give you some resources if you exploit it. Usually this is 3 food, 2 fleet, 1 tech, or draw 4 cards and keep 3. These can really help get you the needed resources to build what you need, or set you up for a higher exertion level in the next round. That reminds me, exertion is determined by your highest resource, so if i have 7 food, 1 fleet and 0 tech, i will still get the 5 action cubes on my turn. So it's not all that hard to get the most actions on a turn.
4. Research - draw 2 more cards. you can spend cards pretty quickly, and you really need those cards for exploiting and building up resources. The 8 rounds of the game go fast, so you have to maximize options.
5. Trade resources - if you have a plethora of resources, you can trade them for others. The trade value is 3 food = 2 fleet = 1 tech = 3 food. You can go back and forth on this scale to get what you need, but this action only allows you to trade a single resource value for another.
6. Propaganda - this will allow you to recover 3 morale. This is the only default action that is limited to once per round.
7. Hire an advisor - the game has multiple advisors that are similar to the heroes from the MOO games. Each one has a specific strength. One of them allows you to build a 5th system, one allows you to get extra victory points when attacking, one gives you resources as an action, etc. They add variety to the game and can make some killer combos.

That is really the meat of the game. You take turns placing action cubes and trying to get the most victory points. Victory points are calculated by cards, those that you earned during the game by attacking other players, and by your morale. You can get negative points by having a morale below 0, so generally you don't want to go to that range.

What I like about the game:
1. Everything is right there in front of you. Each race card shows you exactly what you can do, has symbols that are consistent between cards and board to tell you when something can happen, and the rulebook was written by people who have obviously run into most of the questions that will crop up during the game.
2. There are a lot of strategies to pursue. Combining the race abilities with advisors can really present some interesting strategies. There favorite now is the victory point bomb, where you get a bunch of points for blue cards, but to get those points you have to lose morale for each blue card...which usually causes the game to end because someone is at 0 moral or below.
3. System mechanism is cool. I like that each system can only have one "working" card at a time. This keep you from getting bogged down and requires you to really think about where you are in the game before playing a card.

There isn't much I dislike about the game. I wish it lasted longer at times, because I'm a slow-build type of player and this game demands that you maximize every play you make. 8 rounds can go by quickly. I've not seen anyone get to their max build of 20 cards in the 5 games I've played. Usually we end on 8th round or 0 morale.

I really, really like this game. It's quick, easy and fun. And it's space!!
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Jo Bartok
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Well, you can simply play up to 10 rounds, no one is stopping you, or even 12?
 
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Oliver Kiley
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This game bombed - hard - with my group.

We really liked the core engine building mechanics (resource system, card plays) but I've never played a game that so accurately captured the idea of "multiplayer solitaire" since maybe Yahtzee. There is very little interaction between players, and even attacking is a pretty non-interactive affair (and I'm not even sure how useful or effective attacking even is as a strategy?). We spent nearly all of our time puzzling out our individual card combos, and there is little in the game to setup meaningful interactions with other players. I'd love some someone to tell me I'm wrong on this point...
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Tahsin Shamma
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Mezmorki wrote:
This game bombed - hard - with my group.

We really liked the core engine building mechanics (resource system, card plays) but I've never played a game that so accurately captured the idea of "multiplayer solitaire" since maybe Yahtzee. There is very little interaction between players, and even attacking is a pretty non-interactive affair (and I'm not even sure how useful or effective attacking even is as a strategy?). We spent nearly all of our time puzzling out our individual card combos, and there is little in the game to setup meaningful interactions with other players. I'd love some someone to tell me I'm wrong on this point...


Did anyone in your group go for a combat focused strategy?
 
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Oliver Kiley
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Yes. One player was the aggressive cat people that are supposed to be the warmongers. It was weird because it never seemed worth doing an attack. At the 3rd production level, they only get 4 action cubes (others get 5), so they are short on actions. Spending 1 (or two) actions per turn attacking for +2 VP and -1 moral to opponent nets a 3 VP spread. But then you have to factor in also having to pay TWO fleet strength each time you do it. It just never seemed worth it for them to actually attack relative to playing cards and just sitting on a high fleet strength to ensure that they were not attacked in turn.
 
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Chris Sachnik
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Next time (if there is one) recruit Whisper and try that strategy again. You get out to a big point lead with the bonus VP and end the game early with the moral decrease.
 
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Jo Bartok
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Mezmorki wrote:
This game bombed - hard - with my group.

We really liked the core engine building mechanics (resource system, card plays) but I've never played a game that so accurately captured the idea of "multiplayer solitaire" since maybe Yahtzee. There is very little interaction between players, and even attacking is a pretty non-interactive affair (and I'm not even sure how useful or effective attacking even is as a strategy?). We spent nearly all of our time puzzling out our individual card combos, and there is little in the game to setup meaningful interactions with other players. I'd love some someone to tell me I'm wrong on this point...


Fair point. We liked the game but indeed interaction is lacking most if the time.
 
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Jo Bartok
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veector wrote:
Mezmorki wrote:
This game bombed - hard - with my group.

We really liked the core engine building mechanics (resource system, card plays) but I've never played a game that so accurately captured the idea of "multiplayer solitaire" since maybe Yahtzee. There is very little interaction between players, and even attacking is a pretty non-interactive affair (and I'm not even sure how useful or effective attacking even is as a strategy?). We spent nearly all of our time puzzling out our individual card combos, and there is little in the game to setup meaningful interactions with other players. I'd love some someone to tell me I'm wrong on this point...


Did anyone in your group go for a combat focused strategy?


Combat can be really worth it but more for the VP, nit however for killing off others...that can happen but only rarely and if the defender dorsn’t watch out. Still doesn’t mean that player lost...
 
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Benjamin Hester
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ionas wrote:
Mezmorki wrote:
This game bombed - hard - with my group.

We really liked the core engine building mechanics (resource system, card plays) but I've never played a game that so accurately captured the idea of "multiplayer solitaire" since maybe Yahtzee. There is very little interaction between players, and even attacking is a pretty non-interactive affair (and I'm not even sure how useful or effective attacking even is as a strategy?). We spent nearly all of our time puzzling out our individual card combos, and there is little in the game to setup meaningful interactions with other players. I'd love some someone to tell me I'm wrong on this point...


Fair point. We liked the game but indeed interaction is lacking most if the time.


no disrespect to Oliver (still love Hegemonic) but there *is* a segment of gamers (self included) that prefer their competitive games with low interaction/low aggression. Racing (independently) for points and engine-building appeals strongly to a lot of us, whereas directly attacking/frustrating another player is a turnoff.

This seems to be a hallmark of most of Ryan Laukat's newer designs (Islebound, Near and Far) - where PvP does exist, it mostly benefits the aggressor without negatively impacting the defender much. Curious to see if Empires of the Void II follows that model. I didn't back it, and may be kicking myself for that decision shortly.

All that said, I still play Diplomacy occasionally, so there is a time and place for all the ruthlessness to come out too I suppose.

...and thanks again for making Hegemonic, highly recommended for anyone playing MOO.
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Oliver Kiley
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No disrespect felt We all have our differences and preferences for what makes games enjoyable.
 
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Frank Hastings
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Our fist couple games of this were pretty non interactive as well, until someone won with a military strategy. That changed the game, it makes you pay attention to everyone else. I think it's a natural progression with this game.
 
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Christian Heckmann
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Mezmorki wrote:
Spending 1 (or two) actions per turn attacking for +2 VP and -1 moral to opponent nets a 3 VP spread.

It might not seem like that much, sure, but two to three VPs for a single action at the cost of a meager two fleet is pretty good. For reference, scores in my games have always been around the 40 to 50 point mark. Factoring out the VPs gained by morale (which was usually pretty high, because why not?) that means that a winning player usually got 35 to 45 points over the course of the game, which usually gives around 32 to 40 actions to each player, meaning that each and every action over the course of the game is usually worth a bit more than 1VP. Looking at it that way, two to three is a pretty big deal if you asked me...
 
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