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Subject: Be an Entrepreneur, See the Stars! rss

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Roberta Taylor
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(This is my first review- comments appreciated)

I've always enjoyed games where you seek to make your fortune buying and selling, and Free Trader fits into that genre well. It's a short solo game where the goal is to keep up the payments on your spiffy new cargo ship- the fellow holding your loan is very unforgiving. The cards that drive the game make the market quite random, and so it's not quite as simple as buy low sell high, but a cany trader can make a tidy sum if they can avoid disaster. Disasters include space pirates, invaders, and police looking for contraband, and the challenges get harder as you progress.

I like Free Trader when I have a few spare minutes, although I think that it could use a bit more development to make it more balanced. It is very easy to lose in a hurry, and on occasion the cards favour you and you find yourself donating your surplus currency (vectorium) to charity surprisingly soon in the game. Most times however, it is a real challenge to win and you'll find yourself trying 'just once more'.


Concept: Trading goods in space while dodging bad guys- nothing wrong with that. And the space theme allows for the addition of a fun mechanic, where your hyper-drive can misfire and send you into an alternate universe.

Mechanics: You begin the game on earth, and each turn you play a new planet, if one is available, purchase goods, travel, and try to sell your goods at a profit. Travel costs precious vectorium, and is dangerous. The cost of goods and events that occur during travel are determined by the action cards, and payments are due on your ship when the deck has been exhausted. You play through the deck 4 times for 4 rounds, and your ship payment and the enemy strength increase in each. A simple ruleset that quickly makes sense, though you will find yourself referencing the rules for encounters with pirates and space police for the first few games.

Components: This is a nice little print and play with a couple of professional looking, fun redesigns to chose from. You will end up with a small deck of action cards, a small deck of planet cards or tiles, a playmat/board to track your ship's status and your wealth, and some tokens. I also printed a little ship from another pnp game, because I could. The rules are the largest thing in this game, and you can fit everything else into a sandwich-sized zippy bag easily.

Replayability (is that even a word?): Because you generate the universe as you play, the game is different each time, and there are many fan-created variants on BGG, so you should be able to get a lot of play out of this. I am still happily playing the main game, but I've got my eye on a few variants...

Who Should Try It? This is a light solo game. Don't try this if you're looking for deep strategy or if you hate random chaos. Do try it if you like imagining your hero making narrow escapes, if you are able to have a sense of humour when you're trounced by the game, and if you like buying/selling games.


*edit 20/02/2009- added mechanics as requested.
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J Boyes
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This is a good start to a review. Could you please go into the mechanics of the game a bit more?
 
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Roberta Taylor
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I added a section on mechanics at your suggestions- I didn't want to rehash the rules, but I hope I gave some idea of how the gameplay works.
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