If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
I just picked up TGS, partially for the better card balance, more partially for the fifth player, but mainly for the solo game. I gave it a spin the night that it came in the mail.
It kicked my ass.
I did two hands of a practice game to get an understanding for how the robot system worked, then restarted. I don't remember what start worlds these were.
My first real game, I was Epsilon Eridani and the robot was Doomed World. He pulled ahead after a couple turns, but I thought I'd do alright. I could pick up cheap military worlds and I could already consume. I thought it would be fine.
I also thought I was a good player. I generally win 3 of 5 face-to-face. I know what I'm doing in this game.
I lost 28 to 60. On easy. What the hell is this robot?
Fortunately, I gathered from various reviews and session reports that I was supposed to lose for the first several games, so I tried again. I drew New Sparta, which allowed me to go more aggressively military. The robot got Alpha Centauri. I was blessed by being able to get an average consume engine going. I was more blessed that the robot got poor draws for all of its Develop and Settle actions.
I won, 39 to 37. I was very pleased, but I knew I was lucky.
Game three, I was Earth's Lost Colony. The robot was Separatist Colony. I thought I would do well with the produce-consume engine built into one planet; in face-to-face games, it usually gives me some solid VPs. However, I could not get a good consume engine going, and I relied a little too much on hoping that the robot would roll its robot power of Explore when I needed just one more card. It was a bad risk that I took a little too often, usually to unused Develop or Settle actions.
In the very quick end, I lost 32 to 48.
What I learned about the robot is that it is fast, even on easy. It can build up to 12 in its tableau with ease, not that it ever will. With
only 24 VPs, the robot consumes at a wicked fast speed, and I've not even played with Old Earth yet. I've yet to get a 6-Development on the table yet, and frankly, I think it will be hard to do so. I can't see myself at the speed I am now doing so. Never before has the game actually been the titular Race, but now I'm starting to appreciate how I can't ever waste my time. I'm also having problems benefiting from the robot's actions; hopefully, this too will come with time.
Still, a win within two games. At least I know I can do it.
I found the robot an ideal stepping stone between being a beginner who dominates his local group with one-dimensional tactics to Keldon's AI, which is more sophisticated.
The reality is that RFTG is a very deep game that experienced players can use to punish wasteful plays brutally and completely. The robot shows you how to dominate phases.
The good news is that the robot suffers from being amazing in some phases and a nonety in others. As you get better, you get most wins by winning key phases while staying competitive in all phases. Keldon's AI helps a lot in showing you how to do this with multiple players.