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Subject: Alien Artifacts from the North Review. rss

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Harry Jacobs
Northwest Territories
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Alien Artifacts

This game looked interesting as it is advertised as a 4x game (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate). This is a tableau style card game where you have three types of cards, Ships, Assembly Line or planets. Each card has two sides a Logistic Side and an operational side. Depending on your strategy and luck you will have to decide which side to use after you buy and build the card. Once built you can use the various abilities or actions available to you on the cards.

First the components, it’s a deck builder, the cards are OK, I think a little thicker would have been nicer but once sleeved it does not really matter, the player Matts and Scoring card could have been a bit heavier cardboard, but again not a big issue, just one I suppose keeps the price of manufacturing down and the profit per unit up. Typically, my biggest complaint is there was lots of room in the box to allow room in the insert for cards in sleeves in the various spaces, but they choose not to, which means taking out the inserts and using plastic baggies to separate the decks out.

The set up is quick and easy, shuffle some cards, select your starting faction, follow the easy set up for your faction and select three resource cards, each turn you can do one action. You can buy from the market to add to your under-construction side of the player matt, you can construct where you move the card from the under-construction site to the constructed site, you may use the ability of the card once build, such as attack, score, produce resources on planets. Basically, the more cards constructed drives up the cost of your next construction project.

Other actions include turning in resources for credits as credits allow you to buy cards, you can store a particular resource on a under-construction card to build that up so you can afford it later on, you can attack another player or alien race. This is super abstract and perhaps one of the weak points of the game. When you build a new operational ship, you can attack, or if you choose you can pay 5 red resources to fight. Then you basically pick a player or alien race, which uses a defense plan. Draw a card, look at the number in the centre, look at the defense plan and follow the instructions. The worse you can do to another player is blockade cards, which makes them almost useless unless you pay an extra credit to use it, or play two resources of the same type to get rid of the blockade.

You can gain artifacts if you attack an alien which have for the most part one-time effect on play, the effect can be super useful, but getting an artifact is not that easy without a big luck factor. Luck is a huge factor in the game, you have to work to get an engine going so that you can build victory points at the end, which is tough, for instance if a player really lucks out and gets some ships going they can attack and keep you bottled up with blockade tokens which is super annoying. There is always a chance to blow a ship up, but you have to have the right ship in order to get a better defense plan.

Each turn plays very fast, take your action, move on to the next person. The resource deck is your timer, basically you run through the deck for each number of players, depending on cards drawn and what you do, you are looking at 40 – 50 turns. This game should play in under an hour even with four players. Does this game deliver, I like the mechanics, the idea of buying, building and constructing cards, then having to make the choice of using it operationally or logistically? Which is pretty much driven by your end goals for your faction.

There are only about 5 alien planet cards which does not offer up a lot of choices, you attack the top one. Not a lot of artifacts and the chances of getting one may or may not be worth the effort to attack an alien race when I could blockade someone in and basically shutting there engine down. I suspect in a four-player game this factor may not be an issue as if you play like a tyrant, you may find yourself blockaded by the others.

The game feels a bit unfinished, but they have announced an expansion upcoming I March 2018, so hopefully that will add a bit more to the game. Right now, I would more than likely go to Master of Orion for a space tableau builder as it feels more finished then Alien Artifacts. If Alien Artifacts is expanded and supported I think the potential is there to be a good solid tableau builder. The card mechanics certainly set it apart from other games with a tableau mechanic. The price point on this game is good, there is value and replay ability here but just needs some polish.
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Martin Larouche
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Melting souls with cuteness since 2007
Lovin' N-16
Sleeved cards do fit in the insert.

I wonder why you think the game is unfinished. Everything in the game serves a purpose and the game is super tight.
A bit of luck? Sure... but so does Race for the Galaxy. Every tableau builder that play out decks of cards will have that.

In fact AA has less luck than most, since you can see the top card of the draw deck before you get it and you have several piles to choose from.

Defense plans work superbly, as they are a quick way of determining combat results. Lots better than throwing dices for a mega-battle for two minutes without any decision-making for the same result.
Artifacts are random... but are rare occurence and are meant to be lucky.

The game's design is easy to figure out. There are three aspects to it:
- planets are low risk, low predictable reward cards
- ships are medium risk, medium reward cards which are more lucky on the rewards
- techs are long term strategies. Higher risk as they are hard to pull off and they don't provide any operational bonuses... but at the very end give a whole lotta points

It works surprisingly well imo.

Unlike Race and Imperial Settlers, i do not see the need for expansions in this one. Everything feels solid to me. A bit solitaire-ish perhaps... but that would be my only critic.
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