$10.00
Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 Hide
3 Posts

Splittin Infinitives» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Truly one of a kind... rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Matthew LaClair
United States
Watertown
New York
flag msg tools
Note: In the interest of full disclosure I'll say right off that I was asked by this game's designer to rate Splittin Infinitives and post a comment. However, I am not a personal friend of the man, and he only asked for the rating so the game would have one from someone who wasn't a friend. What you think of this game, or this review, is of no consequence to me. However, I don't want to be accused of shilling.

In today's landscape of leather-clad nazi telepaths and time-travelling cyborg gorillas, it's pretty easy to find a light strategy game that offers something absurd. What's not so easy to find is one which doesn't take itself just a bit too seriously. Sure, Duel of Ages lets you lead Sparticus into combat against Col. Custer and the Terminator, and while that may be very silly, the game does it with a pretty straight face. Nowadays, off-beat humor seems relegated to 10-minute throwaway card games and homebrewed print n' play titles. A few decades back, however, there were games that seemed to walk the tightrope. Awful Green Things from Outer Space, Gammarauders, and Blood Bowl tempered their overt buffoonery with meaty and chaotic gameplay. It's in the tradition of these games that Andrew Pidcock's Splittin Infinitives mixes some pretty darn playable empire-building and tongue-in-cheek camp into a game that's both cheerfully old-school and refreshingly innovative.

The first thing you'll probably notice about this game is that it's a labor of love. This is entirely the work of one man, and for being both self-published and hand-made, it's pretty freakin' impressive (and was most definitely sold at a cost to him). Each of the seven different alien races comes with it's own fleet of miniature spaceships. They are obviously amateur molds and casts, but they look and feel very nice and each different type of ship for each different race has its own distinct mini (28 in all). That's pretty rare even for big publishers like Hasborg and FFG. The cards, counters, and other assorted bits and bobs come on fairly cheap stock, but sport some very nice cartoon artwork and are perfectly functional. It may not be StarCraft, but it'll certainly outshine Galaxy Trucker or Vanished Planet[/i] in terms of looks. Not only does it look great, it's also accessible. Setup time is very, very short and you can teach new players the rules in just a few minutes. The game moves along at a brisk pace as well with barely any downtime. This is one of those something-for-everybody games. It's easy to learn, easy to play, and best of all it doesn't take 4+ hours to finish.

The best way I can describe SI is to say it's Twilight Imprerium by way of Cosmic Encounter. Though, while that's meant to be a compliment, it doesn't quite capture what this game is. The basic premise is simple; there are 20 planet spaces on the board which must be explored and subsequently colonized. Once the last planet has been inhabited, the game ends and the player with the most planets is declared the winner. Each player represents an alien race with its own special abilities and its own home planet, which gives the player a meager little income and determines how many ships he can have on the board at once (usually 2). For every colony you build, your income and fleet size comes up. Each turn follows the standard "collect money, build units, move/battle" sequence which will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played a game of Riskian ancestry. The same goes for the combat system, which is of the "attacker fires, defender fires, remove casualties, repeat" variety. Once a player's routine actions are completed, he may take one special action. This usually consists of exploring deep space (which can turn up anything from planets to used spaceship lots), taking control of a planet, or drawing a card. Cards come in two types; R&D cards represent advanced weapon systems and other technological assets and usually give you some sort of special ability, and political cards can be held in your hand and used on other players at any time. Political cards also determine your state of affairs with other players, you need to draw a "WAR" card in order to attack another race's ships and invade their planets. "ALLY" cards allow you to enforce a state of peace with another player and sometimes carry mutually beneficial special effects. In other words, it's part epic conquest game, part "take that" card game, with the minimalist approach to rules of a Euro.

However, that's not to say that this is a rote bucket-o-dice affair with some sneaky cardplay shoehorned in, quite the opposite in fact. Splittin Infinitives achieves an equilibrious flow that's almost non-existant among games of this sort. Every element of the game is balanced expertly against another. Each type of unit serves a specific purpose, ships that are useful in combat can't build colonies and vice versa. Trying to build a balanced fleet within your unit limit is a tricky and strategic task, and since you won't be able to simply hang around and build either massive invading or defending forces, combat becomes more tactical and dynamic than you usually find in similar games. This is definately not a matter of build up a front line, push forward, reinforce the line etc. The R&D and political cards, in addition to providing most of the games humor, actually help keep things balanced despite being a random factor. A player may find himself being blasted out of the sky, but will always have the option of trying to force a cease-fire with a political card, and then maybe force his new "ally" to foot the bill for his next wave of starships with another.

SI is not without a few problems. Unfortunately, a run of early luck will generally allow a player to dominate for most of the game. This is typical for empire-building games and this one is no exception, it's less of a problem here but no less frustrating. Some races seem to start the game overly rich, while others will be waiting a good number of turns saving up for their first transport. I can't say whether or not this throws the balance off, but it seems a little hard on certain players. The rules, despite being extremely easy to learn with just the right amount of complexity, are a little fuzzy in places. Some of the card effects can be nebulous as well. Also, the game could be just a bit shorter, although it's worth noting that more players will actually make for a shorter game as the planets will all be snatched up more quickly. These are admittedly nitpicky gripes and don't do much to detract from the overall excellence of the design.

I most certainly consider Splittin Infinitives one of the real gems of my collection. Not only because there are so few other people that have it, but because there are so few games quite like it. Can you think of another game that lets you affect peace through the power of sitcoms, unleash armies of break dancing zombies on unsuspecting colonies, entice enemy scientists with booze and women, and become the GlaxiBall champions of the universe? This is a great marriage of classic mechanics and modern streamlined simplicity, with a personality that is unique and flavorful. There may be other titles out there among the endless re-prints, re-makes, re-themes and cash-ins that offer a similar experience, but this one feels special. You owe it to yourself to check this game out if you're a fan of wargames, card games, sci-fi or humor, but mostly if you're a fan of fun games.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Morris
Canada
Kelowna
British Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
OK, now you've piqued my interest. For those interested, the website is: http://wolfwares.ca/splittin_infinitives.php

The price for the deluxe version (the one with the cool metal minis for ships) is listed as $80, but when I clicked on it, it came up at $60, so I may have to pick it up. Twilight Imperium gets a bit of play, but it does take some time and this might be a nice alternative.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matthew LaClair
United States
Watertown
New York
flag msg tools
I paid $60 USD for my copy, shipping included. I wasn't quite happy with the minis I got, so he made me another set for free. I'm quite happy with what I paid.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.