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Subject: Starcraft TBG-our new favorite "wargame" rss

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Savino Palumbo
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Well, a couple of weeks ago I finally got my copy of SCTBG. I had been waiting patiently for quite awhile, and was happy when it was finally in my hands. After a few plays, here are my thoughts broken down by category:

1. Components- 9/10

It's FFG-DUH! This is an expensive game, but you'll understand once you've opened the box, looked at all the pieces, and punched out all of the tokens. Theres a whole lot of stuff in here-perhaps not as much as say, Descent, but a lot nonetheless. It definitely has more cards than Descent does-two decks of cards for each of six players, plus a thick event deck, as well as a deck of resource cards for the planet's regions. Aside from the cards, there's a TON of BEAUTIFUL units taken directly from the original PC starcraft. Unfortunately, most people have been reporting many broken units, mostly due to the fragile stands on the flying units. My copy got it pretty bad with a total of six broken units-five were broken stands, and one hydralisk was missing his face. Oh well-FFG informed me that my replacements are already en route, so I can't really fault them there.

The planets themselves are a thick cardboard stock, with a modular style that makes for constantly changing setups. The quality of all the tokens and the cards are very high as always. My only main gripe with the components is STORAGE. The box has two large dividers for pieces, with a small cutout in the center for storing cards-that's it. There's about a million and one pieces in this game, and no way to organize them. Luckily, you can get away with using a bunch of ziplock bags to organize tokens and such by faction (I put my flying units in the respective bags as well) and putting the other units all into one of the dividers. The other divider can hold the bags, and whatever extra little pieces you might have-the portion underneath the dividers can hold the planets. For the cards, I took one of the white cardboard boxes that came in the package and put the cards in that, which fits into the cutout.

But overall, FFG again leaves you to your own devices on how to store the immense amount of stuff they give you. Descent was worse in that regard, though.

Rulebook- 7/10

This thing is a monster folks-a 45 page monster to be exact. But do not fear, the rules are not so hard to understand. They are merely detailed very, very closely. This is both good and bad-I studied the rulebook for weeks before the game came out, and I understood the game after doin g so. However, when you're actually PLAYING the game, it's very difficult to reference-as usual with FFG games, much of the rules are in spots where you wouldn't expect to find them-for example, the information about winning/ending the game are located around 11 or so pages into the whole 45 page rulebook-not exactly where you'd expect them to be. Not to mention, there's already a large handful of errors in the rulebook that have been errata'd on FFG's website-make sure you go read those before you play! Overall, a dense but not so hard to understand rulebook-it's definitely easier to understand than War of the Ring was for me.

Gameplay - 9/10

Gameplay is what matters most with any kind of game, and SCTBG has quality gameplay in spades. Most people reading this probably have a basic idea of how the rules work, so I won't bother explaining that. I've only played two games of this so far, but they've both been excellent. The combat card system is wonderful, and the friends I've played it with enjoy the combat more than any other aspect of the game. A wargame with no dice is refreshing, but not only is this system refreshing, it's just plain GOOD. Lack of good cards after a battle symbolizes the weakened units after an attack. Resources spent on "technology" cards add to your arsenal and overall trickery, and all of the computer game's special attacks and abilities are represented here, from summoning archons and spawn broodling (albeit spelled incorrectly). Aside from the way the cards work, the idea of separated individual units into "skirmishes" plays out very well, and adds a new degree of depth to combat. Instead of just rolling a die for each of your units and hoping to score a hit for each one, ala Risk or A&A, you actually get to battle it out with each unit, using their own personalized stats and abilities-it's a great form of easy micromanagement that is fun and accessible.

Speaking of combat, the attacker has a huge advantage in this game in many different ways, which encourages a dynamic that many wargames do not have. Remember the Risk player who sets up shop in Australia and never leaves? Not gonna happen here. In this game, you must ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK. There are times when I wanted to go after an empty area, but someone put an attack order there before I was going to, meaning I attack there first (since my order will be on top of the stack). In that case, I decided not to mobilize there, since my troops would overtake the area, only to be destroyed by attacker advantage once he reveals his attack order. The resulting atmosphere is intense, fun, and very Starcraft.

The game plays out well on a macro scale as well-the wonderful order system is even better than A Game of Thrones, another favorite with our group. There are only three different kinds of orders, but they can stack, including stacking on top of opponent's orders. The backwards resolution of stacking really makes the player think before they place their orders, and being able to obstruct your opponents with them only broadens your strategical options. As for using your resources, there are innumerable ways to go-do you put all your resources into upgrading your starport to level 3, building battlecruisers and researching their Yamato gun? Or will you go with a more affordable and varied approach, focusing on marines and amassing cheaper units, with technologies like stim packs, bunkers, etc? Plus there's all the modules you can get, and multiple building. In short, your options are incredibly broad, and you will need to accept the fact you can't build/research everything there is in one game-you have to build based on what other people are building, just like in the computer game. If your opponent is going mass carrier, you build a spire and get a bunch of scourge up and running ASAP. The thirst to build and research more will run you dry of resources quick, and you'll soon have your eye on other contested planets-which of course, leads to aggression and fun battles.

Lastly, the event deck adds a great new dimension to the experience-it serves as a game clock in two ways-once you get to stage III of the event deck cards, the game can end in the favor of someone who's met their special victory condition. If that doesn't happen, it will end when two "the end draws near" cards are drawn. This only furthers the intensity/desperation in the atmosphere of this game, as players are struggling to get as many conquest points as they can, or to meet their victory condition, before time runs out. Aside from game clock purposes, they are also very useful tools to players-every time a player researches or gets one of their orders obstructed, they draw an event card facedown-at the end of the phase, each player can play one of their drawn event cards; they are all very, very good, and in some cases, game-altering. Unless you are stalling the event deck, you WILL want to get event cards, and using them can be one of the most fun parts of playing the game.

Overall, this is one of the most entertaining wargaming experiences my group has had. Our favorite two player wargame is still War of the Ring, but Starcraft still is an excellent and fast two player game. When it comes to more than two though, it can't be beat. We've had two 3-player games so far, and each time we've wanted to play again afterwards, but couldn't because it was too late. It combines the fast-paced and fun wargame setup and theme implementation, while adding a cerebral element through the use of order tokens and resource management. You will find an infinite amount of replay value, due to the changing nature of planet setup and a huge amount of options.

Our three player games have lasted a little over two hours each-although I can see this time increasing GREATLY with more players. I can see this game being an all-nighter with 5-6 players, especially if one or more are new. Eurogamers/Ameritrash haters take note! My favorite board games are Puerto Rico and Settlers, so don't think I rated this game high because I only play war games. This game is just that good. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in board games and who is willing to learn a few new and unique rules. My overall score: 9/10
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Nick K

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Great review.

ELPsteel wrote:
Rulebook- 7/10

This thing is a monster folks-a 45 page monster to be exact. But do not fear, the rules are not so hard to understand. They are merely detailed very, very closely. This is both good and bad-I studied the rulebook for weeks before the game came out, and I understood the game after doin g so. However, when you're actually PLAYING the game, it's very difficult to reference-as usual with FFG games, much of the rules are in spots where you wouldn't expect to find them-for example, the information about winning/ending the game are located around 11 or so pages into the whole 45 page rulebook-not exactly where you'd expect them to be. Not to mention, there's already a large handful of errors in the rulebook that have been errata'd on FFG's website-make sure you go read those before you play! Overall, a dense but not so hard to understand rulebook-it's definitely easier to understand than War of the Ring was for me.


I agree the rulebook is a monster and isn't well suited for flipping through during game play. I've found the flowchart in the files section very helpful for referencing during game play. Once you play it the game mechanics are actually quite simple and the strategies deep. I'm still looking for a good way to explain the rules concisely though.
 
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Doug Epperson
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Yes...this is a tough game to introduce to new players. I did so at EuroQuest in MD to Euro gamers.

I used my scenario "Brood War" and found that it introduced the game very well. You do not use Z-Axis routes, use starting units as indicated on each player card, and preset all orders. New players then select their respective Race (each race's starting point is also preset). After determining first player, you start right into the Execution Phase of the game.

(NOTE: I found that this setup works well for 2, 4, and 6 player games).

Once the first order is flipped, you just have to cover the rules for that particular order. Most have grasped the basic concept of the game after the last order has been flipped and acted on.

On the subsequent turns, each player will learn the strategy of order placement which was bypassed at the beginning of the game.

This scenario continues for a few turns until each player grasps the game and the complexity of order placement, or till someone meets the 15 conquest requirement and wins the scenario.

Just my thoughts on teaching this game to others...


http://www.boardgamegeek.com/file/download/27811/Starcraft_B...

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Wade Stewart
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For the rulebook, you are so right: it is a monster. The theory (reading, learning) is different when it comes into practice (playing, remembering). For me, I scanned in and corrected the back reference guide before printing it. Then, I wrote on there the appropriate page number for each step as well as any answers to any questions we had during play. It made things flow quickly for the next session.
 
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David Bohnenberger
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I'll vouch for Doug's teaching method. By turn 2 my butt was kicked, but I understood exactly why.

This is one of FFGs best efforts yet.
 
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Will Shipley
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Your Brood Wars training scenario looks nifty, Doug; I had a couple questions about it, though. I don't know if they're dumb questions or not, as I've not yet laid eyes on SCBG (I've read the rulebook, and I'm hoping to play it at a science fiction convention this coming weekend.)

1) On each central planet between two starting points, you've placed four tokens: a build and a mobilize for each neighboring player. Wouldn't the order in which the mobilize actions took place strongly affect which player keeps the planet? (I.e. second mobilizer gets to pick the terms of the skirmish.) I can see how this helps show what happens if orders get obstructed or rendered useless, but it also feels like a raw deal for whoever's mobilize token is on top. Does it turn out to be a problem?

2) It looked like you used the gold mobilize token for each starting position, along with the silver build and research tokens. Do SCBG players start with the ability to make one gold order per turn, or is this a convention to help demo the game?
 
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Doug Epperson
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Quote:
1) On each central planet between two starting points, you've placed four tokens: a build and a mobilize for each neighboring player. Wouldn't the order in which the mobilize actions took place strongly affect which player keeps the planet? (I.e. second mobilizer gets to pick the terms of the skirmish.) I can see how this helps show what happens if orders get obstructed or rendered useless, but it also feels like a raw deal for whoever's mobilize token is on top. Does it turn out to be a problem?


Yes it could, but who ever said "Training" would be easy Soldier??

Remember, this is just an introductory scenario to lessen the load of teaching multiple people in the art of Starcraft warfare. Those who pick up on the tactical advantage as you mentioned above usually only learn this after the current round and are slow to react. They do not know what the "Order Tokens" that are contained in the stack.

If you attempt a second game, then I would have those players lay down the tokens in order to maximize their tactical advantage.

Quote:
2) It looked like you used the gold mobilize token for each starting position, along with the silver build and research tokens. Do SCBG players start with the ability to make one gold order per turn, or is this a convention to help demo the game?


All placed tokens are "Grey" standard "Order Tokens" ...sorry, it was the only image I could use to make the presentation. It is a work in progress and will be updated when time permits.

I just wanted to get it up and running for those who might have a group who wanted to play but didn't want to take all night to teach. I wanted it to be fair exchange between players so that one or two are not just blown out in the first turn or two.

I have started and will post the required "To Start" information regarding this scenario asap.

Just remember, this scenario is basically 3 two-player games that occur simultaneously with a single planet that connects each group. Therefore, each group of two players will slug it out and then expand to the adjacent planet where 4 or more tenacious battles will occur. And God are they bloody...

That is why I eliminated the Z-Axis to tone down the complexity of this game. Once they are familiar with the rules and tactics, open up a new game from the start … Let the hostilities begin!

Epp

 
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Doug Epperson
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Dweeb wrote:
I'll vouch for Doug's teaching method. By turn 2 my butt was kicked, but I understood exactly why.

This is one of FFGs best efforts yet.


LOL...but you did learn from it and were in the process of redeeming yourself!
 
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Will Shipley
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Sounds cool to me; thanks!
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Peter Marchlewitz
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Nice review!! And I agree...the rule book to War of the Ring was a real tough one. This one I find much easier to navigate, although it's not perfect.
 
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