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Centauri Saga» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Centauri Saga review rss

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Dmitriy Razumov
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Centauri Saga is an epic 4X (or 3-3.5X) cooperative board game about giant ships flying in space.

There are technically all 4 X's in the game (as far as possible in a cooperative game), but eXploit and eXpand are shrinked and maybe even debatable, so please no expect to get a feeling of a typical 4X game. But there's still a plenty of exciting things to do.


All images are clickable

The game is designed by Constantine Kevorque published by Vesuvius Media and funded with Kickstarter. There were some issues as it often happens with unexperienced publishers but Vesuvius Media mostly doing good job to address all of those issues.

In the game each player will control giant ship (in rulebook they called "Armadas" but it feels more like one giant ship). Your ships will explore space sectors, fight with enemies (by rolling dice), pick up resources, upgrade stats and purchase different abilities, build starbases that give you benefits and do other interesting actions depending on a given scenario.

I personally think that game is a hybrid of euro and amerit(h)rash with more inclining to the latter, but I will understand if you disagree with me about euro part. Nevertheless, game certainly has puzzly nature in some aspects.

Theme


Plot of the game is revolving around conflict between humans and aliens in Alpha Centauri system. Humans and aliens had good relationships before, trading with each other, etc. but after humans built Jumpgate to Earth a war began.

Mechanics and theme are blended together very well. Movement in space is not very close to actual movement in vacuum, but it's a very complex thing to simulate (see "High Frontier") so no complains here.

Combat system is interesting. It uses speed as initiative when resolving who attacks first, then you roll for shields and attack and you may decide when to use your special abilities - to protect yourself or to kill an enemy - it's fun and tense.

Some of the cards are named a bit strange, but it's a future, who knows what all this means? Also several of the Exploration events requires tricky explanation but most of them are good.

If you want explanation for Combat and Exploration Tokens (taken from defeated enemies and explored sectors) than if you think about this for a little - Combat Tokens are fuel, spare parts and captives, and Explorations Tokens are resources, relicts and allies.

There are roll to resolve skill checks. But they happen not very often and almost every time you have some choices or options. For example, you can wait for a bit before resolving exploration and get some action cards instead - they may help you.

There's not a lot of flavor text in the game, but everything makes sense after just reading title of the card.


Artwork is mostly good. Sometimes even great. And there's a lot of it, almost every card has unique image. I only don't like the look of the commanders, but again you can disagree.

The graphic design is not everybody's cup of tea. I would rather prefer something more light and clean like "T.I.M.E Stories" or "Alien Artifacts", but I can see how current graphic design fits better with space tiles.

Contents


In the box you will find components of great quality:

d10-1 31 space tiles (3 special tiles + 4 types of regular tiles);
d10-2 3 types of regular enemies;
d10-3 7 bosses (5 in v. 1) (including Ravager);
d10-4 7 really different scenarios (5 in v. 1);
d10-5 6 commanders each with unique special ability;
d10-6 20 upgrade cards for each player (the same set per player) and awesome player mats with holes for cubes;
d10-7 A lot of tokens and 200+ different cards (powerful actions, exploration, encounters, events, etc.);
d10-8 A lot of miniatures for ships and artifacts! (in v. 1 Colony Ship and Ravager are cardboard tokens);
d10-9 Very cool Astartium tokens (Acrylic Gems) which I believe named after Greek goddess of sexuality and war Astarte (knowing that designer of the game from Greece);
d10-0 10 big chunky dice (FFG usually can't afford so much).


I do have some nitpicks: There are issues with cards from upgrade pack v. 1.5. They are darker and almost unnoticeably larger (which unfortunately may affect shuffling). As far as I know it's not a issue with some later printings of the game.


My cards are bended a bit. At first it bugged me, but now I can kinda appreciate it because it's a lot easier to pick up them from table.

Complexity

Rulebook v. 1.5 is very well laid out with a lot of pictures and examples. It's really a pleasure to read such good rulebook, especially after terrible v. 1.

But the game is complex. We talking about "Robinson Crusoe" level of complexity. Rounds are consist of 5 phases some of which have subphases, for each of the phases players have different actions, options and choices, some of them are depending on a scenario. Many cards have abilities applying to a certain phase. Some of the upgrade cards requires specific explanation. Some of the events have permanent effect and some of them are triggered once per round. Each of token types have multiple uses depending on a scenario or ability. Not to mention upgrading mechanics with 7 tracks and lots of icons.

Player aids are helpful but still miss a lot of information. That's why I recommend you to use great Player Aid form user juliahna12.

And even still answers to some tricky questions you will find only on this forum.

On top of that each scenario has a different rules for things that at first seems the same. For example rules for colony ship movement - they are different in all three scenarios where you use colony ship.

And don't even try to play PvP scenarios before mastering co-op!

I personally don't mind complexity but be aware of it. For me it's even fascinating how many concepts can be applied to components of this game.

When you grasp it the game flows very well and not that fiddly as you might expect.

Game modes


The game comes with 7 scenarios (5 in v. 1)

1. Fixing the Jumpgate
You might want play this scenario from time to time because each play it will provide a slightly different puzzle to solve. It's good for introducing new players because it's not difficult and show many aspects of the game. It's good that special encounters for this scenario are not just roll to resolve - they all provide some interesting mechanics.

I played this scenario several times, each time was enjoyable but I don't eager to play this scenario again yet. I would rather prefer to play "Reaching for the Stars" (harder version) from the "Arena" expansion.

2. Safe Passage
This scenario is heavy on movement and path calculation and it's tense! Low replayability, but very balanced and feels very different with 2 and with 4 players. Me and my friend Commander Handsome Archie (thanks him for gameplay photos) had a blast and discussed it a long time after. Requires strategy, tactics, math and some luck with the events. Even Commander Amelia Von Beck (convert exploration to combat tokens) which at first seems useless in this scenario, actually may turn out to be very helpful.

If you will play solo than I strongly recommend you to play it as 2 players instead of official solo rules. Because of shared cargo you will lose one of the most interesting aspects of the scenario.

3. The Lost Starbases
You may play it from time to time, but replayability is lower than scenario 1 because it requires more restrict strategy.

Didn't try it yet but looking forward to.

4. Distress Call
This scenario is interesting. It's very sandboxy - you don't necessary need to kill bosses, you not required to build starbases but you can if you really want.

There's nothing mind blown but I enjoy the darker mood of this scenario where you need to find and rescue lost colony ships.

Scenario is actually seems easy, especially with higher player counts.

5. Open Confrontation
Scenario is a lot similar to the first one but harder. Designer even blended them together in "Reaching for the Stars" in the "Arena" expansion.

Didn't try it yet but looking forward to.

6. Ravager's Demise (only in v. 1.5)


Wow! Just wow! So many new cool things in this one. But also a lot of new rules to track. It's easy to miss something.

But still, the scenario is epic, interesting, kinda story-driven and well balanced. And the pattern system is very clever.

It can be replayable several times because you don't need to kill every boss, you can choose different scientific projects to build, how many starbases to use and final battle is very intense. Very much enjoyed this one.

7. Retaliation (only in v. 1.5) (actually you can easily play it with v. 1)
Exploration heavy scenario if you don't want to fight a lot.

Rules for this scenario are written poorly, but it's playable if you use some common sense. I tried it solo but never finished because playing solo is not my thing. Want to play it again with friends.

Difficulty

Difficulty of the game is a bit unpredictable. That's because of a penalty for failed exploration action - not only you don't get essential to winning exploration token, but also you spawn a bad event and to remove such events you need to spend similar tokens. So, if you are lucky with exploration rolls - the game is a cakewalk, if you are unlucky with several of those - the game may become a nightmare. For some reason in my plays I was always very lucky, but I suppose the game was designed with assumption that you will fail 1-2 times.

Also depending on a scenario difficulty may vary. First scenario is very easy (never lost it), other scenarios are more challenging.

Another thing that in v. 1.5 there is a lot of "not so bad" bad events which can make game very easy if you luckily drawing only them. And "Damocles" boss is easier than other bosses in my opinion.

Other than that, the challenge is spot on. You must use right abilities for right circumstances. You need to strategize and prioritize. Also in some scenarios there are red herrings. So it's all interesting and thought provoking.

Many players here on BGG think that game is too punishing. I personally didn't notice that.

Interaction between players and down time

Interaction is great. Not only you are strategizing together, but you can use action cards and abilities to help each other during each other turns. You need to spread out to perform different actions, then you need join together to build starbases - cooperation is very good.

Alpha-player was not an issue in our plays, because upgrading the ship is pretty complex and nobody have a time to recommend everybody else what to take, so anyone can enjoy building their own armada and play with cards, tokens and wooden cubes.

Downtime may be an issue with higher player counts, but still: you are often invested in turns of other players because you may help them with your cards or special abilities when they are performing their encounters, which are actually, very quick. Only battles with bosses can last longer, but it's a boss battle! Everyone should be emotionally engaged.

Luck factor

Luck certainly is there, because you are constantly rolling dice and topdecking. But after several plays you know what to expect in each deck to a certain degree (maybe even counting cards), so you can adjust your stats respectively. Also, you can spend resources to purchase abilities to mitigate bad dice rolls. And you can get those resources even without dice rolls. When you have several abilities and action cards in your hand the game becomes a puzzle how to most efficiently spend them.

Of course, luck can screw your plans over, especially in later scenarios, but without luck cooperative games are boring.

I will say this: Luck factor is higher than in "Legends of Andor" but lower (very much so) than in "Eldritch Horror". I think it's on the same level as "Robinson Crusoe". At least this is my impression.

Scaling

Difficulty is a bit lower with higher player counts for most of the scenarios because players have a wider variety of the action cards at their disposal and a bigger token receiving ratio.

Time consumption increases by 20-40 min per additional player. You are discussing and executing Upkeep and Movement phases kinda at the same time, but Encounters can be performed only one at a time.

If you using the "Arena" expansion to play with 5-6 player I think game becomes a lot easier to a degree when some houseruling may be required.

Replayability

There are no super replayble scenarios in the game, but there are 7 (seven!) of them (and each one you can play several times easily) - that's a lot of plays.

Setup


Setup time for some scenarios (with prebuilt map) is rather long (15-20 min), but for most of them is not that bad (10-15 min).

The game requires a lot of space because player mats are huge (28x22 cm), also you need a space for tokens, space tiles, baddies and 6-7 decks of cards + 2 small deck per player near mats.

Luckily you can explore the Alpha Centauri leaving gaps for your drinks and snacks

Flow of a session


At the start of the game you and your teammates will try to form overall strategy, who will do what and what upgrades do they need.

Then you will try to execute the strategy fighting with a lot of baddies, random events and dice rolls, and also your own teammates proposing different plan than yours.

In this game you have no time to just fly around and do silly stuff. You will need to count each and every movement point, you will need each resource you can get. This is not a Beer & Pretzels game. If you want to explore you'd better prepare for it: upgrade needed stats, purchase helpful abilities and ask somebody to draw helpful action cards. Otherwise you may end up getting damage and bad events.

What I love about the game is that you constantly getting new stuff. Almost each turn you receive new tokens, new cards, new abilities. No time to get bored.

Even if you lose skill check - you don't need to repeat it next round waiting in the same space (hello, clues from Eldritch Horror) - you just go somewhere else to do something else, that's very clever.

Advices

If you have v. 1 then IMMEDIATELY download the rulebook v. 1.5 . Also please checkout my thorough comparison of two versions ant try to create errata for cards.

And again: be aware of issues with cards from upgrade.

Because of different rules versions you will be tempted to play not by official rules, but by the some combination that you like. Which is not that bad because all of it comes from the designer after all, and also you should get as much fun from the game as you can, so play it how you see it more likable.

I would recommend you to keep Action Cards hidden from other players using only vague words like "I will help you fight this boss" or "Can anybody help me to get to this XPM and then to Jumpgate?". It will increase cooperation and make game more challenging.

Conclusions

Everyone who I played the game with (9 persons overall) also liked it, even one person who didn't want to play a game about space which is certainly a good sign.

Experience is immersive and fulfilling. Game may be a bit too long with higher player counts but still not too terrible - under 3 hours. When everybody know the rules well you can play with 4 players in less than 2 hours.

I love the game. It's smart and beautiful. I love how the Scanning Report deck create very different events in different scenarios. I love how random sectors + raiders placement creates interesting movement puzzle about how to spend your movement points and abilities. I love that there's a lot of things to do: you can explore, you can fight, you can run like crazy picking up resources, you can just gathering tokens to build starbases or to move colony ship. I love that there is exploration heavy scenario "Retaliation" where you don't even need to fight the bosses.

I highly recommend this game if you love space and can overcome all the issues that I described. It's very unfortunate that rulebook v. 1 spoiled the impression for so many players.
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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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Nice review and I agree - this is a little gem of a game that deserves more attention. We've played a couple of scenarios now and it is very fun and looks great on the table.

Herm
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Barry Miller
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HORST324 wrote:
Nice review and I agree - this is a little gem of a game that deserves more attention. We've played a couple of scenarios now and it is very fun and looks great on the table.

Quite agree! I only hope that if they ever decide to reprint this game as a new edition, that they do away with the chocolate brown color palette! That is the most unnatural looking color scheme for a space game that I've seen.

But other than that... it rocks.

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Constantine Kevorque
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bgm1961 wrote:

HORST324 wrote:
Nice review and I agree - this is a little gem of a game that deserves more attention. We've played a couple of scenarios now and it is very fun and looks great on the table.

Quite agree! I only hope that if they ever decide to reprint this game as a new edition, that they do away with the chocolate brown color palette! That is the most unnatural looking color scheme for a space game that I've seen.

But other than that... it rocks.



Hi Barry, are you referring to the color of the Player Board?
 
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Barry Miller
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Constantine,

Thanks for asking! Yes, I'm talking primarily about the player boards. Given the amount of real estate they occupy on the table top (not a bad thing), they do set the color tone for the whole game (also considering that the space tiles are black (as appropriate), which only perpetuates the brown scheme).

But it's more than the player boards... all of the other components - to include the card faces - show some hint of an "earth tone" palette. Yes, the card backs use different colors, but even those colors are on the darker end of their color spectrum, which again, serves to perpetuate the brown color made predominate by the player boards.

So why do I even mention any of this? I don't know, really. It just seems "off" somehow, that a space-themed game uses a color palette more aligned with Earth tones than "outer space adventure" tones - whatever they are!

This of course is entirely my personal opinion. So take it for what its worth!

 
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