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Subject: Fun in Space - Please mind the Asteroids rss

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Luk
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Having had the opportunity to play several protoypes and having had many animated discussions with Fred (Henry) about additional rules and game modes, thus having seen an impressive evolution of the game, I finally played the youngest Ystari-release Asteroyds, and as such a game in which my own creativity is -I admit, partially and largely reduced- incorporated. Consequently, I just had to write that slumbering review.

A. Design and Material
The game contains a large board and 36 asteroids in thick cardboard, 6 status charts with a spacecraft, pilot token and 8 tokens in the same colour, 3 dice and a stopwatch. Indeed, no old-fashioned sandtimer here, it wouldn't work anyway without the gravity of the earth!

All game components are beautifully illustrated and well designed. Large dice, funny spaceships and transparent tokens. Maybe the space theme is not the most creative one could do, but it suits the game (and is just fun to play).

Lovely materials, as we are all used from Ystari. Definitely worth it's price.

B. Rules and explanation
The basic rules are simple and easily and quickly explained.

1. During a round:
* Dice are thrown to indicate the asteroid movements.
* All players program their spacecraft (during the time indicated by the stopwatch).
* Asteroids are moved.
* Each player in turn performs all the actions indicated by his program.

2. How do the asteroids move?
The asteroids are hexagonal, with numbers 1 to 6 on the edges and a priority number in the centre.
An asteroid can be mono-coloured (red, white or blue) or bi-coloured (red-white or blue-white). Each round the dice are thrown, determining the movements of the asteroids as follows:
* first all red asteroids (mono- and bi-coloured) move 2 spaces in the direction indicated by the red die. If the path is blocked, the asteroid just moves as far as possible.
* consequently all white asteroids (mono- and bi-coloured) move 1 space in the direction indicated by the white die. If the path is blocked, the asteroid doesn't move at all.
* at last the blue asteroids (mono- and bi-coloured) move 1 space in the direction indicated by the blue die. In contrast with the white asteroids, if the path is blocked, the asteroid pushes all objects away in the same direction.
* in the case of conflicting movements, the asteroid with the lowest priority number moves first.

3. How does one program his spacecraft?
Each program sheet has 6+1 actions. During actions 1 to 6, one can
* move 1 space forward
* turn 60° left and then move 1 space forward
* turn 60° right and then move 1 space forward
* turn 180° without moving
* shoot without moving
In the 7th action, the possibility "turn 180°" is replaced by "activate protection shield".

4. How does a spacecraft takes damage?
When a spacecraft hits an object (asteroid, public pod, board edge) either by flying into it or by being hit by an asteroid bumping on the spacecraft, the spacecraft takes 2 damage. If its protection shield is activated during this round, it takes only 1 damage.
Once in a game, a player may choose to destroy an asteroid he's flying into. In this special case, the player takes 4 damages (or 3 if his protection shield is activated) and removes the asteroid from the board.
Taking the 6th damage point, the spacecarft explodes and is definitely lost, eliminating his pilot from the game.

And that's it for the basic game. Just notice that
*spacecrafts cannot take damage when other pilotes shoot at them (they can only shoot on enormous asteroids)
* 2 or more spacecrafts can share the same hexagon on the board (the pilotes are highly skilled and are not annoyed by other pilotes).

5. What is the main goal of the game?
The authors have added 4 game variants, but I am pretty sure players will post many more here on BGG, so please go ahead and share the most incredible-crazy-frightening-fun variants you have in mind.

The Race
Among the 36 asteroids, there are 6 pods (for the spectators); 6 launch platforms, 20 asteroids and 4 gates. When a player flies through a gate (eiter by moving into the gate or by the asteroid moving towards him), he takes a gate token. The first player to collect all 4 gate tokens wins the game.

The Shooting
Now the gates behave as normal asteroids (you will take damage by hitting them) and you just have to shoot them. No perilous manoeuvres anymore, just aim and shoot. Shooting an asteroid earns you 1 gate token; the player collecting all 4 wins the game.

The Targets
This is a team variant that even unbalanced teams (2 vs. 3 or 1 vs. 2) can play. 6 white asteroids will have your mark on them, 6 white asteroids show the other team's mark. Your team has only one objective, to shoot all the asteroids with the other team's mark. (The teams can be unbalanced in number of players, but also the amount of targets can be unbalanced, e.g. 7 to 5.)

The Drones
Special turrets are sending drones into space. Each drone has its own specific symbol. By shooting the drone, you collect the drone's symbol. Collect all 4 to win the game.

6. Additional Rules
* To spice up the game, you can change your programming time. Advanced and experienced players will have only 30 seconds (or less if you really want a though time), starting players will preset 60 or 90 seconds.
* Upto 6 pilotes can participate, so let's give them all a unique and specific power. However, they can use this special power only once in the game. Can you use it to win the game?

Ok, writing all the rules is time consuming. Reading them probably dull, but they can be easily explained in 5 to 10 minutes. Furthermore, they are nicely written (in French, English and German) and after -let's say- 20 minutes (after opening the box), you are flying around in outer space!

C. What about the gameplay?
The game has a very logical gameplay. Throwing dice, setting up the timer, program your spacecraft and let's take a look at the results in space. Mind the moving asteroids and really go for that gate.
The game is pure fun and is easily played (depending on the variant you play) in 20 to 40 minutes, as indicated on the box. Experienced players might even do better. The different variants will definitely increase the replayability of the game.
Last night, we played 4-player games and as all of us had already a lot of experience with Roborally, programming went pretty fast, although I have to admit that we started with 40 seconds, instead of the 30 seconds, suggested for experienced players. All of us took some damage, but in less than 20 minutes, 1 of us reached all the gates, one other player was just 1 hexagon away from the fourth gate. Really close, just as we liked it.

D. What are the major drawbacks?thumbsdown
* This is a game you'll have to learn to play. Experienced players will just blow away beginners. Therefore, the authors suggest the teamplay in this special case, so you can really unbalance the game, for instance by giving the experience one more asteroids to shoot.
* If you have difficulties with left and right or just an orientation problem, you will be annoyed for the whole 20 minutes. Just lean back and enjoy being a spectator. The pods are there, especially for you.
* The pilotes special power do not seem very attractive (at first sight), especially because you can only use them once in the game. Then again, I have to admit that we did not tested this additional rule, so it is just a preliminar remark. Nevertheless, I really think that some players will like the special powers.

E. What are the important strengths?thumbsup
* The game is a nice 2-player (I know from prototype testing) but can be easily played with 6. Probably one of the rare games being as fun with any number of players.
* Different variants will increase the replayability and will encourage players to develop different tactics.
* Teamplay as well as soloplay variants.
* Short play time (20-40 minutes), so nice to squeeze into a gaming night are to launch a tournament.
* Lovely and robust materials

F. Some final remarks
If you like Roborally, please give it a try.
If you like racing games, please give it a try.
If you like to have a good time with friends, having lots of fun, please give it a try.

And for what it's worth after all prototypes and yesterday evening: I rate it a solid 10, but then again, I love Roborally and Formula D.
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Mark Gerrits
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I'm waiting eagerly for this game!

How easy did you find it to decide on the best time limits? That seems to be where the main fun and tension in the game comes from (at least in the race variant). My only trepidation is that the game could quickly become too boring (with too much time) or too frustrating (with too little time).
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Allen Wiles
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This is robo-rally in space!! laugh
Nothing wrong with that, though.
I'll probably play it anyhow because I'm a sucker for space games.
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Luk
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In fact, one of the protos had a sandtimer of 30 seconds, which was definitely a treshold for many testplayers. Used to play Roborally (or other programming games) the programming was easily done, but in this game you also have to take into account the movement of the asteroids.

Later on, we tested it with a 60 seconds limit, but once you are used to the programming, the game indeed was rather boring as everyone finished before time limit. Yesterday evening, we took the normal time limit + 10 seconds to consider the asteroid movement. In the beginning of the game this was not really enough, but after a few rounds, you are just used to it.

Out of the blue, maybe you can consider to decrease the time limit during the game, i.e. the first round you take 50 seconds, the next 45, and so on till you arrive at 30 seconds time limit. As it is a stopwatch, you just reset it every turn.

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Simon Lundström
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Now who are these five?
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OMFG this sounds like something I've been on the verge of doing myself, out of lack of an existing game. I'll look out for this one, really!
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