Stay thirsty my friends.
First of all, as a caveat, this review is based upon play utilizing only two starter decks (Inferno and Brutus Magnus) and with no booster packs. Also, I won’t go into detail of the fine card quality or the hideous rules since I addressed them on a previous post. However . . .
a. To get the full impact of DF:SE, you will need to purchase some boosters. There are some powerful actions in the advanced rules only available to players if you have the right “expansion” cards provided in boosters. Fortunately, you know exactly what you are getting in each starter deck and booster when you purchase them, so you can design your decks even before you buy them. (Thank you Mr. Fox!)
b. The holes in the rulebook are very adequately filled by downloading the DF:SE tutorial, which is found on any of the card set order sites. You won’t be able to play without it. (“Huh? Wha? Oh, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”)
The design of the game is a hybrid of your typical space combat board game and a typical CCG. Individually, there is nothing new here, but the combination of the two is a unique experience I wanted to check out. As in many CCGs, you begin with your character (a mothership in this case) and utilize a deck of cards to determine its actions, equipment, etc. You also have a typical star map with hexes to maneuver your ship and blast away at your opponents. The cool aspect is the meshing of the two.
DF:SE is one of those designs that have the “Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before” appeal. It has the benefit of hand management and planning your turn from limited options of a CCG while still providing a tactical and less abstract feel of a space combat wargame. However, if you’re looking to zip across the cosmos and obliterate enemy ships with Armageddon-like weapons, flanking fire, and decaying shields, this is not the game for you. Once you maneuver within range of the enemy, combat is more of a sword fight of thrust and parry, out-thinking the blighter, whittling him away, and cursing the luck of the draw.
This is not to imply that the game is luck based. Since each player may have a hand of up to ten cards, your options are very open. So, most folly is by your own doing. Consider this a card driven game to the max.
Each turn is broken into three phases:
1. Preparation - Draw new cards, set/place up to three cards face down for your turn, or pass.
2. Resolution - Each player resolves any special abilities, then each set card is resolved.
3. Discard - All action cards are discarded. First player is rotated clockwise.
My overall impression is very positive, but nearsighted. As I mentioned, my two decks provided a limited experience without the ability to fully push DF:SE to its full potential. This is definitely a more-is-better game. The card art and its unique hybrid approach hooked me. But, whether this is a keeper or not, the best way I can summarize my opinion is, I’ve gotta get more stuff to see what this baby can do!