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I’ve enjoyed many of the smaller boxed games that Fantasy Flight Games has put out (Cave Troll, Drakon, Kingdoms, etc.), so when I heard of Delta V, the space theme and the company that produced it sounded like a good match to me. I was a little surprised to find almost no press about the game on the internet, and generally negative opinions about it. But since I love space-themed games, and don’t mind memory games too much (one of the negative things said against the game), I decided to get the game anyway.
So is Delta V worth its price tag ($15 or so)? I found that the theme of the game was so loosely based that it became a distraction from the not-so-very-much-fun game play. It reminded me quite a bit of Lord of the Rings: the search in that it has a theme that caused me to expect more than the simplistic game inside. Let me explain a bit more…
First, I’ll tell you a bit about how to play the game…
Forty-eight tiles are shuffled and placed face down in a 7 x 7 square grid, around a center tile – the space station. Each player takes five plastic rockets in their color, placing one on the space station. They also take the five bribe counters of their colors. Each bribe counter shows a certain type of mineral on one side, and “-2” on the other. Several contract tiles are also placed to the side of the grid, each on showing one or more minerals on it. One player is chosen to go first, with each player taking a turn clockwise…
On their turn, a player may do two things. First, they must take an action. These actions include:
1). Move rockets – The player may move all their rockets once. This consists of either moving rockets from the space station to any tile on the board, or moving them back to the space station. If a rocket lands on a tile with another player’s rocket, both rockets are destroyed.
2). Prospect – The player may discreetly look at the face of each tile one of their rockets resides on. If the tile is an “incident” tile, they may reveal it and play/keep it.
3). Satellite Survey – A player may flip one of their bribe counters to the “-2” side to look at any three tiles in the same row or column.
4). Buy a Rocket – A player may place one of their rockets on the space station tile.
After an action, the player may try to fulfill a contract. They pick one of the contracts, declaring that they will complete it. Then, from memory, they must reveal tiles to all players that match the minerals shown on the contract. If incorrect, they flip the tiles back face down and their turn is over. If they do reveal all the minerals on the contract, they keep the minerals and the contract in front of them. Each mineral has a point value from”1” to “5”. There is also one mineral (purple Omnidium) that acts as a wildcard for any type of mineral. If a player reveals an incident tile at this time, it is played. A player may also turn over one of their bribe counters to the “-2” side if the mineral shown on it matches one of the minerals they need.
Another player may “bid up” the contract by flipping over one of their bribe tiles. The player completing the contract must then also find that mineral, or they fail to fulfill the contract.
Incident tiles are usually kept, and can be played on a turn as a free action. They…
- destroy enemy ships,
- allow a ship to be built for free
- cancel a player’s action
- cancel a player’s contract
- look at all tiles under rockets for free
- move the alien.
When the alien (a cardboard stand-up character) is moved, it is placed on another player’s rocket, which then cannot move. The player using the alien can then steal one of the affected player’s bribe counters.
The game ends when the last contract is fulfilled, when the last alien tile is revealed (there are five), or if there are no tiles that are clear at the end of a turn. All players count up the points of the minerals they’ve collected, and subtract all the “-2”s they have showing. Whoever has the most points wins the game.
Some comments on the game…
1). Components: The box is the same size as all other Fantasy Flight small games (why don’t all companies do this?), and holds all components well. The box art leaves something to be desired, as does the pictures of the alien. I do like the art on the tiles- the minerals look pretty good, and the tiles are of a decent quality and size. The plastic rockets are okay, even though they look like they were stolen from a hokey 70’s space game. Overall, the quality of this game is good, but not superb.
2). Rules: The rules are only on two pages – and are fairly easy to understand. The game is easier to teach than it is reading the rules, though, but the rules aren’t often referred to – except in the case of incident tiles. This seems to become a recurring theme in most Fantasy Flight small games – like Dragon, Cave Troll, etc., where the tiles only have symbols on, and you have to refer to the rules to see what each tile does. It would be much better to have a little player aid chart.
3). Theme: Christian Petersen has designed some of the best themed games I’ve ever played, like Twilight Imperium, Battlemist, etc. But the theme for this game has nothing to do with game play. This isn’t a problem if the game is a good game, but Delta V is a little lacking there. The theme actually can become a bit of a distraction. Do we really need to call the minerals “Gammatite, Deltamite, Betamite, etc.”? Wouldn’t it be easier to call them by their colors (which is what we did when playing the game). And the 7 x 7 grid is a joke, really, as the spaceships can go anywhere. I suppose it’s just there for the memory aspect.
4). Memory Match: If playing Memory! when a child enthralled you, you may like this game, as it felt to us like a slightly advanced version of that childhood game. I like some memory games, like Mamma Mia!, but this one just didn’t have the same feel. Memory! is an excellent game to teach young children memory skills, but it gets rather boring for adults – and this game doesn’t improve very much.
5). Luck: Since the numbers on the tiles are so wide-ranging, a small amount of bad luck can really ruin the game for you. If you find three of the “1” tiles, and your opponent only finds 2 of the “5” tiles, they’ll have an immense lead on you. I like a good dash of luck in my games, but it may be too much in Delta V.
6). Good points: I did like the “bidding up” aspect, as it has a bit of a mess-with-your-neighbor feel, and makes a slightly boring game a bit more interesting. The bribe counters are a good idea, and the different things you can do each turn do provide a bit of variety.
7). Fun factor: We didn’t hate playing the game, but we did expect a bit more fun than we had. Space games need to have a little theme in them, and this game fails to deliver in that regard. It may look neat to fly your rockets through the asteroid field, but it doesn’t’ FEEL like you’re flying rockets, so that drops the fun factor down a bit. The fact that the game can end early, at the whim of a player (if they find most of the alien tiles) takes a bit out of the game also, along with the whopping amount of luck.
So, I really can’t recommend the game, unless you are a huge fan of Memory! and need a variant to satiate your appetite. I’m a huge fan of space games, but this is probably my least favorite in that genre (if it can even be considered part of the genre). I will give the game that it’s fast and it’s not totally un-fun. It’s just that there are so many better games I’d rather play. This one may be played by us again, but probably with my children, when they tire of Memory! And even then, maybe not…
Really excellent review. Thank you.