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Subject: First Play rss

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Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Situation

Four players. All experienced gamers. Set up and rule reading by game owner and host. The game was the first of two for the evening, the other being Endeavor. I figured this would be quicker and lighter and thus a good warm up.

Explaining the rules

Good rulebook, easy to explain the basics. The initial configuration of stars and planets was pre-set by the host for speed purposes, and after a general discussion of the principles and a walkthrough each of the action cards, we just dove in.

Initial stages

A certain amount of random card placement at first. No one was really quite sure what they were doing, and this meant a certain degree of merriment prevailed, which was a good thing. This game rewards a little tongue-in-cheek (there is an alien artifact card that gives victory to the player with exactly 42 victory points... Like it.) Two starter planets turned out to be water based, one power and one a mineral planet (we did not remember the names of the elements, or even which was X, Y, or Z if you reduced them to their letters. We ended up calling them 'gold' 'fudge' and 'kidneys'). Red player (me) put out scoring cards early, and this worked well in keeping things moving. Blue player also figured this out and began steady scoring early on. Both of us got to recycle scoring cards in the course of the game. Yellow did too, but green never finished a cycle of scores.

Major challenges in early game

Power. It was obviously just the luck of the draw in terms of planet placement, but powering starships turned out to be the most important thing anyone could do, and with only green holding onto a power planet from the outset, it became a very precious commodity. Red (me) wound up stranded fairly soon (on one of the few agricultural planets, luckily) and had to rely on building heavy amounts of resources for two turns, then initiating trade with the bank for the needed elements.

Trade

Blue initiated trade in the first round, and there was some minor and useful exchanges. Blue felt trading should be compulsory at the behest of the player of the action card, but that's just because of his good-natured fondness for 'screwage' in games (and his love of Mare Nostrum). Trading did become a factor in dealing with resource shortages, but more in dealing with the bank.

Mid Game

Blue began to get a serious head of steam up by concentrating on heavy production, trade, and scoring with X/X combos. He was also the first to terraform, then played the terraforming score card. Scoring as you go seems vital to success here. Red (me) kept reasonably close behind, though not breathing down his neck. Yellow and green lagged well behind, but we were all watching Yellow, who has a tendency to have a 'plan'. The game seemed to move slowly enough in terms of scoring all the same, and the planets didn't seem to be explored much, but then as everyone managed to put together a second starship and more power became available, everything accelerated. By the end about 80 per cent of planets were uncovered.

Winning Moves

The scoring cards. Can't stress enough how vital it is to keep using them early and often and well. Blue figured it out first, and, as noted, began pulling away. The mechanic of scoring cards affecting all meant that Red (me), who realised this, tried to keep pace by second guessing what he was going to score with. This is really the heart of the gameplay from an interactive point of view - you can't 'mess with' your opponents (much), but you can 'piggyback' them if you can figure out what they're planning (a Faldutti touch, I'm sure).

Endgame

It was on us before we knew it. Suddenly blue was hitting the forty VP mark and planets were opening up all over the place. It came down to a last round where it was obvious Blue was going to hit fifty, meaning everyone had one last chance to try to catch him. My plan, hatched a round or so earlier, was to conolise then build a factory on an alien planet and grab my points from both actions, and this I did, managing to actually level with Blue just before he made his final push using the X/X score card with a massive haul of resources and the bonus points for duplicates. He wound up exceeding the score track, but I managed to get to fifty myself. Yellow waited too long for his push and didn't have time to get close. Green was a little behind yellow.

Was it fun?

This was an enjoyable session with plenty of good humour. Initial uncertainty gave way pretty quickly to a series of plans, and there was a good to and fro between the players. The whole tone of the game is lighter and more enjoyable than Race for the Galaxy, which it does resemble in some ways. All concurred that it was both similar to and more fun than that.

Was it challenging?

No. It's not a head-scratcher. It's a light euro style experience, but that's not to say it wasn't any fun in the challenge stakes. The challenge is in the other players, not the game, and that's not a flaw, but a design feature, as far as I can see.

Would you (and others) play again?

Everyone said they would play it again. All said they enjoyed playing. I'm happy I bought it.

Was it a good warm-up, then?

Yes, absolutely. It was a nice fun start to the evening and ran about two hours even with learning and rule queries. It would no doubt move a hell of a lot faster after even one play.

Would you recommend buying it?

I'm a collector, so it's a bad question to ask me, but I'm happy to have this one in the collection. It's pricey in Ireland, and for the comparatively large outlay, it's not an immersive all-evening game. But it's a great warm-up, from what I could see in this session.

Editorial

I'm not going to review this until I've had a few more goes, but I certainly preferred it as a gaming experience to Race for the Galaxy, which I've only played a few times but found just kind of turgid and uninvolving (hasn't stopped me buying both expansions - I told you I'm a collector). They do share some thematic and loose structural similiarities which is why I mention it. Others may disagree. It also relates to other games by the two designers, of course.




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Mike
United States
Rhode Island
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Thanks for the session report. Its sad that this game seems to have been lost in the shuffle of Space Hulk and Chaos in the Old World. I have to admit that I was a little put off when I heard this wasn't a typical sci-fi space game...however it sounds like a great game in its own right. I've always been a fan of Faidutti and Laget so I'm fairly sure that I'll end up grabbing this one. Kudos for getting me interested in a game that I had forgotten about!

~ Bones
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Sean Shaw
United States
Idaho
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Thanks for the session report!
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Scott Everts
United States
Foothill Ranch
California
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Fantastic session report! Very useful on how the game actually plays. I just picked it up a couple days ago and looking forward to trying it. I see it's moving up the Hotness so hopefully will get some more notice.
 
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bruno faidutti
France
PARIS
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ScottE wrote:
I see it's moving up the Hotness so hopefully will get some more notice.


Let's hope so !
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Gordon Adams
United Kingdom
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For sure, any game coming out from this month up to Christmas, is going to have heavy cometition because of SH.

Pity really. However, there are lots out there that do not have or do not wish to play SH with others....so, it is good that we have session reports like yours, Harvey.

Regards.
 
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Michael Vinarcik
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I would agree with Harvey on the importance of scoring cards (early usage). I pulled ahead in my first game with my family because I started playing them. My first was a terraforming score...I plopped down a terraformer and my next action was to score them. That was a quick point boost (nobody else had any).

:-)
 
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