4X games. For those of you who might not be familiar with the concept it stands for "explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate". Boardgamegeek lists it as a family of games: 4X games
Personally I usually think of Sci-Fi games when someone mentions the genre.Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) and Eclipse spring to mind, as the flagship games of the genre. But a 4X game can of course be set in historical times as well. Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery or Conquest of Paradise fit the bill as well.
Different games emphasize different parts of the four X:s. Extermination might be a harsh word for the level of conflict in all of the games, but conflict in some form is always there. Some might focus more on exploration, others on expansion. But you get the picture. All X:s are there to some extent.
I'll admit, I do have a hard time with some games in the genre. When the game is mainly structured around amassing a ton of miniatures and technology in order to kill your opponents I tend to find it a tad dull. And personally I have a hard time for muppet Sci-Fi, so aliens, space magic and monsters are not on the top of my list.
But I digress. What is the point of this rant?
Well to me the bar has been raised in the genre with the recent release of High Frontier Colonization.
I've never really thought about High Frontier the base game as a 4X game, but the release of the Colonization expansion brings it a bit deeper into that realm. Let me explain.
High Frontier is a hard Sci-Fi game about exploration and exploitation of our solar system in a fairly close future. And in order to do this you must expand and exterminate. Wait. No.
There are really only three X:s present in this game. Sure, you can enter a political state of war or anarchy, but actual conflict is rare. Usually the nastiest thing that might go down - and it is very rare - is someone stealing some water from one of your factories, or perhaps pulling your flag out of the soil of that nice asteroid and replacing it with one of their own. The solar system is of course conquered using flags, as our dear friend Eddie Izzard will now explain to you.
Anyhow. High Frontier the base game is a game that ends where you'd expect a lot of games to start turn two or three. You play it from the beginning until the end of the beginning. That is the sensation you get. It is not a frustrating sensation as you might think. It is very pleasing taking humanity's first steps into the new frontier. You want to play it again and again.
Add to that the fact that flying a rocket in this game is as close to rocket science as most people will ever get, while still having a smile on their faces. If I manage to not only build a rocket, but actually fly it to a site I haven't visited before and find water there, I feel like I've won the game no matter what the scoreboard says. And I am not the only one that plays the game like that if you look at this post: [Poll] Ye little High Frontier poll
So to me High Frontier has sort of been separate from the 4X genre in that it ends prematurely by 4X standards.
High Frontier Colonization not only expands the game map out to the very outskrits of the solar system and introduces a lot of new features to the base game. It also changes (if you want) the endgame conditions. No longer does the game end "prematurely". You now have a game system that takes you from the first trembling steps into the solar system all the way up to what the game refers to as a new "future" for all of mankind.
And even though the amount of direct conflict may not increase much in the game, the shaping of humanity's future has the potential of causing a lot of harm. This is explained in a very entertaining way in this thread: Why Yes, I *HAVE* Always Wanted To Become a Cult Leader!.
My point is that High Frontier now feels like a full game which holds all the qualities of a 4X game and should therefore be considered as such. While - and I stress this - maintaining its integrity as a hard, scnience based Sci-Fi game.
If you are into Science Fiction and 4X games you owe it to yourself to check out High Frontier and High Frontier Colonization.