Published by BTRC
Designed by Greg Porter
Review by Erik A. Dewey
Current Altitude 30,000 feet
Soft Landing is a game about nations dealing with resources and the stress they produce. In the game, each player takes the role of a nation or group of nations who are trying to have the highest victory point total before the game ends.
Victory points are purchased through the resources that the nation produces and also by using any of the special abilities that nation has access to. Of course, in order to gain access to the abilities, resources need to be spent and not all resources needed are available at any given time.
Also, a lack of resources causes stress on the nation which can lead to a catastrophe, either minor or major. Luckily you are not alone and the actions your nation takes can impact the others and vice versa. There are times when nations may need to collude a little for mutual benefit and there are times when nations must serve their own best interests.
Our aircraft for this flight is a Boeing 777
This game comes as a series of PDF files instead of a traditional box and board. There are files for the game board, the nations, the rules, counters, and even a box. One thing that I really like about BTRC’s PDF games is they give you plenty of options on how you want to print things. The map comes in either 8.5x11 or 11x17, the nations come in lo-res or hi-res versions, etc. This makes it very easy to choose how you want your final product to come out based on your printer and desired quality leve.
There is actually very little printing needed for this game. The score board, the nation cards, and the rules are pretty much it. Each player will need their own colored tokens, but you could use anything. In the end I opted to go ahead and print out the tokens that came with the game as I didn’t have anything handy in the correct shape or quantity. Even then it did not take very much to cut them out.
Graphically, the game is very clean and modern looking. The nation cards are a little busy but there is plenty of space for each thing and the graphics are easily identified. The game board is spacious and well laid out. All relevant information is displayed and is large enough for each player to see easily. Overall, this is one of the easiest print and play games I’ve created.
Airspeed is 350 knots and the sky is clear
During the turn, a die is rolled to determine which resources become available. Each country has a different distribution of the five resources but every die roll should generate at least one resource. From there, each country takes their turn. First they use any ability that they have and gain victory points. Second, they can buy or sell on the open market causing price fluctuations. Third they generate stress tokens and place them on the appropriate conflicts. Finally, the country can spend any of its resources to buy tech, abilities, or victory points. The price of tech and abilities is constant but the price for victory points increases as the point total rises.
After all players take their turn, dice are rolled to see if any of the five stress areas trigger a conflict. There can be multiple conflicts in a turn and multiple nations can be affected. Minor conflicts result in a slight loss of victory points where as major ones have a significant impact on all the nations.
Our route today takes us over the Mississippi
There are some very challenging decisions to make in Soft Landing. The first is which county to play. The countries are distributed into four groups and each group has roughly the same distribution of resources and abilities. The idea is that by choosing someone from each group, the game is as balanced as possible.
However, each nation is not equal. A nation like Japan is far more productive than India. During the game, Japan will simply gain more resources per turn than India does. However, Japan starts the game with 4 VP while India has 16. Considering the game ends when someone reaches 30 points, India has a tremendous head start. The vast spread of starting victory points evens out the disparate statistics each country has.
There may be some turbulence up ahead so I’ll keep the fasten seat belt sign on
The real heart of the game is located in the manipulation of the market and also the dealing with the stress tokens and conflicts. In the market, if you sell something, it makes it cheaper later for someone else to buy that item, similarly if you buy something, it raises the price for whoever sells it later on. You can actually manipulate the markets to your advantage or your opponents disadvantage if you wish. The nice thing about the way the market is set up is that it is important but not a dominating factor in the game.
The conflicts are basically the aftermath of all of the global manipulation you do during your turn. By doing something advantageous to yourself, you often leave certain resources empty in your country. This lack of resources causes you to put a token of your color in up to three conflicts. At the end of the turn, three dice are rolled and if the highest rolled die is less than or equal to the number of tokens in a conflict, then a minor conflict is triggered. If the total of all three dice is less than the number of tokens in a conflict, then a major conflict happens. If two major conflicts occur, then the game ends.
These conflicts are painful and can set your country back two or three turns. Similarly, putting tokens in conflicts is unavoidable, but controllable by the player. Which means not only do you need to juggle what resources you need, you also need to deal with the aftermath those choices have. It is not uncommon to make a less optimal move in order to avoid putting tokens in a conflict that is already full of other tokens.
We hope you enjoyed your flight today
So is the game any fun? Absolutely. There is a lot going on but the basic steps and concepts are pretty easy to pick up. Almost every action has some kind of impact on the game and after playing it, you can’t help but wonder if a different tactic would create different results.
The game comes with 11 different nations and the interaction of the nations is different each time, so replayability is pretty high. Playing as a first world nation is very different than playing as a third world nation.
The game itself is relatively abstract, but the theme is strong enough that you feel like you are manipulating real things. Only the victory points distract from the theme, as the best I could figure, they represent some kind of global respect scale.
The wildly different starting victory points and nation abilities actually seems to be pretty balanced. Since it is easier to get victory points earlier in the game, it does not take too long for every country to be fairly close in the score. All of the games I’ve played have come in pretty close at the end with the last turn or two determining the victor.
The game has three different end game triggers and it is never quite certain which one it will be until late in the game, prompting changing strategies as the end nears. This also adds to the replayability of the game.
Overall, the game is a medium weight strategy game with an intriguing theme that is certainly a bargain for the price, considering how simple it is to construct. If the theme is of any interest to you, I suggest you check it out.
How appropriate. You fight like a cow.
could you give some idea about flow, sequence ad interaction?
im looking for a simple game to pbm/em with some collusion
Interesting review. For "conflict" I think you should write "catastrophe" though. That's how it is in the v1.0 rules anyway.