Recommend
29 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

Omega Centauri» Forums » Sessions

Subject: "Playtest" Session/Review rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Gunther Schmidl
Austria
Linz
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Having gotten my greedy hands on a playtest copy of Ascendancy thanks to the designer's awesome offer, two friends and I proceeded to assemble the components for the Short Game and get a game under our belts.

I was explicitly warned not to start with the Long Game, and I think the warning is a good one: it's probably not going to be possible to have a good strategy going in, and the Short Game feels a lot more open and forgiving. Nevertheless, and to put the conclusion right here: we're looking forward to trying the Long Game as well, and I'm looking forward to the actual game even more.

Ascendancy is an almost entirely luck-free 4X game by designer Nigel Buckle, to be published by JKLM Games at some unspecified point in the future. The rules are available from their website, and the rules are good: after the initial explanation we looked up things only once, everything else is on the player mats or the cards. Not that we didn't screw it up anyway, but only mildly so...

Anyway, we built the "recommended for first play" 3-player map and went at it. Initially, everyone owns one sector and a few fleets, with another small number of forces in the reserves; the game-controlled empire owns the rest of the sectors (all of which will earn the players resources), and has carelessly left bonus point chits drifting in space, ripe for the taking.

Each turn, players choose 3 out of 5 possible actions, which in turn allow them to do different things: develop technology, muster fleets, move (and attack), take resources, bring additional fleets into the reserves... there're lots of actions to choose from and, with only 6 full turns, it's a bit overwhelming for the first game. Fortunately, the Short Game always leaves open an avenue of pursuit even if your playing is all over the place (as I'm sure ours was). Then, after the (fully deterministic) combat is resolved and spoils of war are earned, the players have the option to advance on the Era track (which is one, but certainly not necessarily the main, way of earning victory points), and then the Empire potentially gets new technology, more fleets, or extra bonus points on the unconquered tiles (this is the only luck element, if you want to call drawing random chits for the empire "luck").

As the first player, I had my eye on the Mobilise cards, which bring additional fleets into the reserve, so I started out slowly, buying technology and mobilising before beginning to expand. The second player also started slowly, but player #3 had no such compunctions and started expanding immediately, only to run out of fleets quickly and spending part of the mid-game developing enough technologies to pick up another Mobilise card.

The mistake we made at this point was to apply the "3 ships per sector" limit only to us, not the empire, so conquest was slowed down as we couldn't get enough fleets pulled together to wipe out the perceived threat from the empire, meaning the early expansionism really paid off for that player. And then, a few desperate last-minute VP grabs later, the game was over way too early.

As I've said, our play was pretty much all over the place, trying out all the things in order to get a better feeling for what does what. On a second play, it should be much more obvious what one needs to do in order to follow certain VP-gathering strategies, although all the mechanics lock together so seamlessly that it'll still be hard to forgo some things in favor of others, I'm sure. There are definitely some things that it makes only sense to do in the early game and some things that it makes sense to do in the late game -- for example, I got the monument-building technology on the penultimate turn, and building one single 2VP monument definitely cost me more than it helped. Buying this tech early in the game is more sensible, but then, technology is limited, so one might miss out on the others -- decisions, decisions. As it should be.

Final scoring proved interesting, as most of the VPs were earned there, and the game ended with us not too far apart, and the expansionist player the winner. Had we played the empire fleets correctly, we would probably have seen some player-vs-player combat (which works the same deterministic way), but as we played, the game ended a turn before it became feasible.

We were all positively surprised by the game. The rules are extremely straightforward but the game is not simplistic, and we actually managed to play the full game in just over an hour, not including rules explanations. The Long Game is supposed to take two hours, so we'll see how that goes.

Thanks again to the designer, Nigel Buckle, for offering playtest kits to impatient people; of course, the downside is that I want the finished product even more now.

Ascendancy was the first game I ever pre-ordered, and now I know I won't will have been regretted it. Or whatever the correct tense for this situation is.
8 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ivan Kolev
Bulgaria
Sofia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
gschmidl wrote:
...we would probably have seen some player-vs-player combat (which works the same non-deterministic way)

Non? Earlier you mentioned "deterministic", isn't PvP also deterministic?
Overall, it sounds exactly as the game I'm looking for.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gunther Schmidl
Austria
Linz
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Sorry, I do mean deterministic. I'll fix it in the original post.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nigel Buckle
United Kingdom
Thornton Heath
Croydon
flag msg tools
designer
NSKN are publishing my next game :)
badge
Omega Centauri Published in 2014
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
gschmidl wrote:
Ascendancy is an almost entirely luck-free 4X game ....

extra bonus points on the unconquered tiles (this is the only luck element, if you want to call drawing random chits for the empire "luck").


Other luck elements (specifically relating to the short game):

* Seating order - play order is fixed, round 1 player 1 goes first (then player 2, then player 3, then player 4), round 2 player 2 goes first (then player 3, then player 4, then player 1) and round 3 player 3 goes first (then player 4, then player 1, then player 2).

Order you start the game is determined randomly, and has a big impact - it's possible to orchestrate a double move on someone (they move before you, you move, then next turn move again before them) by exploiting the turn order.

* Resource sector types - Empire controlled resource sectors are shuffled up and used to create the map, so you don't know which sector produces which resource until they are flipped. Not a huge factor in the short game, but there are points on the chart where to progress you need a mix of different resources.

Resource types has a much bigger impact in the long game.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
UA Darth
United States
Boca Raton
FL
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The game looks great and I've been following it for a year now... it just needs to actually come out...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.