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Subject: Another Handful of Stars January 4th rss

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Paul Dobbins
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Herndon
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Just got back home from another great game of A Handful of Stars. This time, it was Ted, Eric, John and me. Ted played red as the Exploremords. Eric was blue Technoids. John, purple Peacenims, and I was green Builderoids. After 20 reshuffles, Eric and I tied at 46. John was a few clicks behind, then Ted.

By chance of the draw, the wormhole worlds were mostly clustered in a quarter of the board. The Technoids accumulated a large research potential, and once they had wormhole technology, they created a swarming offense/defense centered on the wormhole cluster. Great strategy, Eric. Awesome was the manner in which the Technoids shrugged off counterattacks. Although we couldn’t stop them, we managed to slow them down by draining Technoid resources in defensive fights. As Eric observed, had we let up the pressure we put on him, he would have sprinted far out front. So far, in two games, I’ve seen the Technoids start off slowly, investing in research and technology, then surge up the scoring track by mid game.

Ted’s Exploremords repeated my previous experience running them, fighting serial losing battles against the powerful Technoids before scoring a late victory in a world somewhat removed from Eric’s wormhole wonderland. So far I am not impressed by the Exploremord’s intrinsic technology, although Ted added Stealth to his Fast Ships for a potentially dangerous military combo. Eric’s wormhole network more than offset Ted’s sneaky fast tech.

John’s Peacenims played a solid, if somewhat safe and steady-as-she-goes game. What undermined his effort was a number of mid to late game grabs by the rest of us for his lightly defended 3 victory point (VP) outpost worlds in vulnerable locations. Thus, he had only 1 outpost on the board by game’s end, so despite his strong performance establishing 5 VP colonies, he lost net VPs in the end game.

So now, my Builderoids. I had good luck of the draw, with my home world and the first colony in good support distance in a central corridor on the map, which had black holes limiting approaches and no internal wormholes. Both John and I ultimately had some protection from Eric’s wormhole swarming tactics because our little corners of the map lacked wormholes. Had John come after me aggressively early on things may have ended differently, but the great Builderoids advantage is the speed with which they can get their force pool units built and placed on the map. John was careful, and Ted and Eric battled back and forth, draining each other’s resources. So I expanded slowly and committed forces to defense. Funny, I believe I lost several fair sized battles to Ted, John and Eric, but not many VPs were at stake. I also had two outposts virtually surrounded by black holes, which kept them off limits and nothing for me to worry about.

So the Builderoids abided for the tie…..
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Paul Dobbins
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Ted comments

What struck me as a strategy point is that the other players must immediately buy science research [technology] cards when they appear in the tableau-to keep them out of the hands of the technoids. Otherwise the technoids are almost unstoppable.
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Paul Dobbins
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Eric comments

The Technoids don’t start with a huge amount of extra Science resources – I think the total Science in the initial hand is 5. Their primary boost is cards that let them take one expensive Tech card for free, and lets them mine the Tech draw pile once and pick one of the top three cards for free. I used that to get Dreadnoughts and a Terraforming card.

I wasn’t even thinking of wormholes when I bought up as much Science as I could get my hands on – I had my eyes on the ultra-expensive high-end Tech cards. Any race that scoops up a substantial amount of Science and the Wormhole tech could use the same “fire brigade” tactic of building on wormhole colonies and then swarming reinforcements to wherever they’re needed.

Almost by definition, a race that is able to build a decent fleet and has lots of science will end up dominating the wormhole tiles, no matter where they’re clustered on the board.
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Kramble Reggg
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Thanks for this, it's very useful!
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Paul Dobbins
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I think we need a few more playthroughs. Ted may have hit on Jason’s notion of the similarity of this game to Cosmic Encounter insofar as there is at least one alien power that scares everybody else; the Technoids may be an instant rallying call for united action. But the Builderoids are also pretty obnoxious with their fast builds. We may also try one a game without Technoids. There are seven alien races. It seems there could be some impetus to expand the number of aliens beyond 7.

With some experience, this game may be cutthroat like 18XX.
 
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Kramble Reggg
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After our first game, we thought that aggroloids were really scary, what do you think about it?
 
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Paul Dobbins
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I want to see them in action. In the two games I've played the Aggroloids haven't been drawn yet. They look dangerous to me
 
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