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Alien Frontiers: Factions» Forums » Sessions

Subject: First play with my production copy of AF: Factions rss

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Matt Smith
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Where: ROBA, Rochester, MI
When: July 28, 2012
Who: John, Greg, Steve, and Matt (myself)

Greg and myself had played base Alien Frontiers (AF) before, whereas John and Steve had not. They were willing to play the game for the first time with all expansion components, for which I was grateful. I had been dying to try out the Faction boards ever since receiving them in the mail. Everyone immediately loved the new components introduced by the Upgrade Pack, especially the new colony miniatures. They even liked the new Relic Ship die.

I was randomly chosen as the start player, so Steve (sitting to my right) got to pick his Faction first. The available Factions were:
- Dark Space Explorers (Steve)
- New Gaia Engineers (John)
- Proxima Centauri Scholars (not selected)
- Uranium Syndicate (Greg)
- Xeno Explorations, Inc (Matt)

We dealt out the Agenda cards, then got started. John and I got early ships, while Greg and Steve struggled to roll doubles. They both went for Tech cards to help their dice rolls. John was doing a great job of building ships and slowly building colonies. He also quickly completed three in-game Agendas, which vaulted him up the scoring track. He didn't go for Tech cards until very late in the game (if at all).

I had an Agenda that required me to have four Tech cards that no one else had. With Dark Space Explorers, I thought this would be difficult, but people weren't using the Faction docking ports very often. I think having the four extra ports/abilities was a bit overwhelming for even the experienced players, at least early in the game.

I decided to get the Faction boards engaged by terraforming one of my ships, and using New Gaia Engineers to try and save my ship. I rolled a three and saved it from destruction! I also used my own Faction board, Xeno Explorations, to build cheaper ships and move my colonies down the hub track faster. Once I used these Faction boards a couple of times, I think the other players started to remember they could use them to their advantage too.

I placed my terraformed ship on Burroughs Desert, intending to build the relic ship and get my terraforming strategy humming. Greg, the other experienced player, knew what I was planning and promptly bought and discarded a Tech card to place the Isolation Field on the Desert. No relic ship for me. It was at that time that I wished I had selected the Proxima Centauri Scholars Faction board.

Soon enough, John had placed four colonies on the planet, and had 9 points. He had six ships and was able to get enough ore to use the Colony Constructor three times. It became obvious that the rest of us needed to slow him down, or he was going to run away with the game. First Greg, then Steve launched/moved colonies to put John's territories into conflict, which tightened up the score. I had finally completed the four-Tech card Agenda, scoring one point.

Meanwhile, I was hatching a plan to launch my last two colonies on one turn using the Terraforming Station and the Colony Constructor. I needed just the right dice rolls, but it was possible. I rolled 2, 2, 4, 5, 5, 6. I started the turn with one energy. I placed both 2's to get 2 more energy. Then I discarded my Lunar Tunneler Electrofabricator to get three ore. I spent one energy on my Booster Pod to change my 4 to a 5. I spent one energy to move the REV to Bradbury Plateau, then used the three 5's and two ore to construct a colony on Pohl Foothills. I used the 6 and my remaining one energy and ore to Terraform my final colony. This put me one point ahead of John!

We then revealed our remaining face down Agenda cards. John already had three face up cards, and couldn't score any more points. Greg had achieved two end-game Agendas, and Steve had achieved all three! By placing one of my final colonies in Pohl Foothills, I was able to regain control of that territory and complete one of my end-game Agendas. I think I ended up winning by two points. Even with their end-game agenda points, Greg and Steve didn't quite catch up.

Final thoughts on how AF: Factions affected this game
Overall, I liked some of what AF:Factions added to the game. Having four new docking ports (and four new owner abilities) was a lot to keep track of, but certainly added more strategic options. We placed the Faction boards next to the main board, to help players remember to use them. Even so, the docking ports on the Faction boards didn't get used as much as I thought they would. Xeno was used several times, New Gaia 3-4 times, Dark Space 2-3 times, and Uranium Syndicate wasn't used at all.

It seems like some Faction owner abilities are better than others. Steve never used the Dark Space Explorers owner's ability, and Greg couldn't use the Uranium Syndicate owner's ability until very late in the game, when territories started to become contested. Conversely, I used my Xeno owner's ability quite a bit, while John's ability was triggered whenever someone Terraformed, which happened several times.

The Agenda cards seemed to vary from incredibly easy to achieve, to almost impossible. While I like the idea of having some hidden end-game points, I'm not sure it fits well with the rest of the game. Also, using them didn't make the game feel less directly confrontational. I want to introduce AF to my wife and our friends from down the street, but I think all of the direct confrontation and trading of points wouldn't be their cup of tea. I had hoped the Agenda cards would provide more of a balance between in-game and end-game scoring, but that didn't seem to be the case in this one play.

I can see some groups leaving out the Agenda cards, because they prefer AF having all open information. However, I can also see how using Agenda cards could require players to pursue different strategies, providing more variety from game to game. Also, using a different mix of Faction boards each game should provide a lot of replayability.

The game seemed to progress very quickly. I don't know exactly how long it took to play, but it was probably 75-90 minutes. I actually think using the Faction boards sped up play, because they provided bonuses that the players wouldn't have otherwise had. The Faction boards, when used, also took some dice off the main board, which kept the standard orbital facilities a little more open.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to more plays with Factions. Very experienced euro gamers could probably play AF for the first time with the Factions elements, but I recommend using the Faction boards only with a group of experience AF players. The Agenda cards could be used with new players, as they don't require a lot of extra strategizing.

Thank you for reading my rambling session report.
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Scott Everts
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Thanks for the nice session report. I'm waiting for my copy to show up (I was on the beta group). My group felt the faction boards were cool but if you have a lot of AP prone players it creates even more choices which increases play time.

I do like the agenda cards since I think it makes the endgame alittle more exciting.

I'm looking forward to trying them out (they changed a bit since the beta). I know my group prefers to play with 4 at most since the game's play time seems to increase greatly with 5. But we all are a bit AP prone!
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Matt Smith
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I hadn't thought about how the Agenda cards affected the drama of the end game. In our game, it was pretty clear I was going to win, even before we tabulated the end-game Agendas. I could see where, in closer games, scoring the end-game Agendas would be more exciting.

As for game length, I was surprised how quickly the game progressed. With all experienced AF players, I could see a 5-player game still completing in 90 minutes, which seems reasonable to me for a game of this complexity. The key is for players to know what they want to do prior to their next turn. If they don't get the dice they need for their preferred strategy, they should be ready with a secondary strategy.
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Scott Everts
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Late game I've found AP can really slow the game down. When you have many tech cards and trying to figure out how to use the cards effectively, it can take awhile. If you have fast players it's not too bad. I love tech cards but it can take a minute or two sometimes to work out the best use of them.

I agree that sometimes the scores are so spread out that Agenda cards probably won't make a difference but those close games should make it more exciting. I really love games with hidden VP systems.

This game is so expandable and really hoping my copy of Factions comes soon since I want to play it again. It's been ages since we've played!
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Sochan

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Agenda cards cost me 1-2 points over the weekend. It's tough when you have a starting agenda card requires you to control a territory while the other starting agenda card requires you not to have any colonies on the same territory.
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Brandon Freels
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Yea! It is good to see another Xeno win! It is like being a proud father.

As you play with the Factions more, you will see how they balance each other and their strengths/weaknesses. The Syndicate is a spider at the center of a web and needs to be played accordingly.

Agendas didn't really make a difference for us in our playtesting. They are an OK option to gain more Permanent VP, but since everyone usually takes the time to do them, they don't do the swing endgame changer that was proposed. However, they are a fun option to inflate the scores, and to try for difficult agenda bragging rights.
 
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