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Subject: Now it all comes back to me... rss

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Ron Olivier, Sr.
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North Smithfield
Rhode Island
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After reminiscing about this game’s rough prototype, which I played once in 2007, and reading Bruno’s interview on the FFG page, I remember enough about the game to really give a bit more information than in my previous thread (‘A question about the prototype’). While I still can’t comment on the quality of the components (but they look great in pictures), I think I can comment on gameplay.

Programming Action Cards (I’ll call them PAC’s).
One early reviewer said the game has nothing new, he must have forgotten the PACs or at least familiar with the concept of them. I don’t know how ‘new’ they are, but they are certainly new to me.
While I don’t remember all the PACs in detail, I remember that some of the actions allowed you an ‘A’ or ‘B’ choice. For instance, a production card may allow you to produce either water or grain. Scoring cards allow you a choice between different scoring methods.
Now the fun part: A player will choose 3 or 4 PAC’s (out of his hand of 11) during a round. Player A chooses his first card and lay it face down on the board. Player B, C, etc. do the same thing in order. This is repeated for the second and third (and fourth cards in a 3P game). Then the cards are revealed one at a time, from first to last. Each player is able to utilize all the PACs played, with the person who laid the card down getting an additional privilege. By the time your third PAC is played, a lot may have changed!

My two comparisons
When I originally played this, I had very little to compare it to - I’d never played Settlers of Catan and Race for the Galaxy was non-existent, so there was no comparison there. In retrospect I do see some obvious similarities to both of those games, but it is quite different from either Settlers or RftG…Let me ‘splain!
I’m not a fan of the excessive die rolling in ‘Settlers’ that that ‘produces’ the resources randomly because a certain number is rolled. The trading in that game is more fun than rolling, but because it can happen on every turn in Settlers it can get old fast. Ad Astra takes a more unique (and IMHO, superior) approach. As you explore space, you have to build bases, factories, spaceships, and terraforms on planets that have resources. You need a production PAC to be laid down (by any player) to produce that resource. Trades are not an automatic part of your turn, but a ‘Trade’ card must be played.
RftG is another popular game that I just don’t care for due to the multi-player solitaire format, the techno-centric iconography, and the relatively short game play (though some hands have lasted quite long). In Ad Astra, interaction is present in the trading of course. But there is a more subtle interaction that goes on in producing, scoring, and travel, and travel because you must make choices that could benefit other players as well as you. And the longer game length lends more credibility to the exploration theme, which allows your strategy to build at a less breakneck pace.

Good Stuff:
Like Settlers, the play area setup is different every time, but all planets are face down at the beginning of the game, revealed one at a time as you explore them (though you can look at all the planets of a solar system and choose which one you want to expose). You’re never fully sure what is where…that’s where the ‘exploration’ comes in!
The ‘action programming system’ described above is a very cool mechanism. The person who played the card gets the best benefit, but all players can be affected by each card. Making the best use of this system requires being able to predict what PACs the other players will lay down, and in what order.
The scoring actions were especially noteworthy. There were several different PACs for scoring, each with two aspects of the game that you could score. It’s up to the player who played the card to choose which aspects would be scored. A player’s scoring cards can not return to the owners hand until all of his different scoring PACs have been played.

Bad Stuff:
The prototype took up a fair amount of space (pardon the pun), with all those solar systems and planets that must be laid out on the table (not on a board). There was also a gameboard for card placement surrounded by a victory point track. You may want to make sure you have enough room to lay this game out prior to playing.
One flaw was that the strategy you choose to implement can sometimes be derived by the outcome of your early exploration. I think that if each player had a specific goal dealt to him with end-game points that would be added if completed (or maybe deducted if not?).
The first player to reach 50 triggers the end-game, but knowinghow close the game is to ending can be a frustrating thing when other players can indirectly (sometimes unknowingly) help another player win the game and leave you in the dust.

(Jumping to a) Conclusion: I’ve heard that the game has been tweaked a bit since I played the early prototype. Looking back, I understand this game more now than I did back then because I’m familiar with Settlers and RftG. Though I see traces of those games here, IMHO I think this game is more interesting to me than both of those.

Still, this game may be a bit of a hard sell to my group. Two people will likely be turned off by the Sci-Fi theme, and another has vowed never to play it again (he won the last time, but doesn’t know how). I think the game is strong enough to win them over in a short time, and I know a few people who’d love it. (My son loves the ‘Program action card’ concept already!)

My final analysis is that I’ve added this game to my want list, and though I’m even tempted to pre-order it, I think I’d be better off giving the final product a try before committing. While the novel PAC, the scoring mechanics, the space exploration theme, and the levels of subtle interaction make this a very desirable title, I want to make sure that this game’s fun factor is worth the price tag.

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Charles Stanley
United States
Nacogdoches
Texas
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Thanks for the review...I'd been on the fence about this one but I honestly think I can confidently pull the trigger now.
 
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Universal Head
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Game summaries and reference sheets: www.headlesshollow.com
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Nice mixed metaphors!
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bruno faidutti
France
PARIS
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Pulling a trigger on a fence… might be dangerous indeed !
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E J
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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UniversalHead wrote:
Nice mixed metaphors!

That was worth typing. shake
 
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Universal Head
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Sorry, I didn't realise you had a standard I had to meet.
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Neal Stidham
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rantinronrevue wrote:

Programming Action Cards (I’ll call them PAC’s).
One early reviewer said the game has nothing new, he must have forgotten the PACs or at least familiar with the concept of them. I don’t know how ‘new’ they are, but they are certainly new to me.


They bear a bit of resemblance to the roles in Puerto Rico: everyone performs the action indicated by the role when it is activated, but the person who played it gets a bonus or choice as to how it resolves.
 
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Zak Kaplan
United States
California
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I was able to demo a couple turns at GenCon. Visually the game is quite appealing. Setup is easy and space should not be a concern (as the actualy distance and relative positioning of the systems is not important.

Standard euro fair with secret, shared orders. The action order anticipation if the key mechanic and as stated by others has been done before.

I cannot honestly say if this game does anything unique, but it does do it in a attractive package.

My problem is the $60 price tag...there is simply not enough in the box to justify it. Discounted online purchase appropriate.
 
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Mark crane
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Provo
Utah
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I'm lucky in that my FLGS usually has at least a 20% discount. It looks great to me:

 
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