Since surprisingly there is no review of this game so far, I try my best to give you my take on Aristeia! after an intensive testrun over the last weekend.
So welcome one and all to the greatest spectacle in the Human Sphere!
Aristeia! is a set in the world of Corvus Belli's Infinity Table Top Game, where 175 years in the future the human race has left earth and spread all over the universe. Of course humanity took with them their usual problems and the big powers in that world are still fighting a war in the shadows among themself and against some aliens encountered on the way to the stars.
The Human Sphere is all of mankind connected by an interplanitary Internet called Maya, to which nearly every citizen has immediate Access in one way or the other and the biggest "sports show" there happens to be Aristea!.
Welcome to the mass entertainment game Show of the future.
Essentially we have two teams of four Bahadurs (the top athletes of Aristeia!) trying to be the first to score eight points as fast as possible before the opposing team. If this sudden death condition isn't met at the end of the fifth round, the victory goes to the tem which scored more points than the other. Ties are decided by which team fragged more of the opposition.
Pardon me, should have mentioned by now, that the way to score is not gentle. The players are allowed all carry all kinds of nasty armament and other goodies, such as hacking devices or medikits into the Hexadome (the Arena where the fighti... err match is taking place).
So how do yo score? The Hexadome is unsurprisingly a hexagonal shaped playing field, measuring 19 space across at it's widest point. We have six zones of a seven space hexagon marked in each of the six compass points of the arena and one in the middel.
The arena is broken up by several walls which are fixed in place and five obstacles, which can be placed in the arena.
Those zones are used to deploy the Bahadurs and one or more, depending on the scenario being played, is the scoring zone.
If your team is the only one occuppying it at the end of the round, you score three points, if you have more members in the scoring Zone than your opponent you score two and if each has the same amount, each Teams scores one point. (The scores might vary, depending on the scenario, but at least for the assault scenario we played exclusively, this holds true)
As already mentioned, it's perfectly legal to use your favourit katana or sniper rifle to ensure that your team has the majority in the scoring Zone at the end of the round. You are even rewarded by a frag point, if you send one of the opposing Teams members to the hospital.
Thanks to the developments of the medical nanotechnologie in the future, they will be patched up enough to reenter the arena in the next round for some payback time though...
Hope you are with me so far.
One important thing to remembre here right away: Scoring victory points are winning games, scoring frag points do not. One of us found this out the hard way. Killing of the opposition is not fun at all anymore, if you forget to put someone in the scoring zone...
After getting the Basics down, let's take a look at the components you get handed by Corvus Belli to play the game.
One sturdy box of about FFGs standard size holds,three game Manuals, the double sided Hexadome (it's the same layout, but different colors on the other side), the player controll boards, a deck of tactic Cards, Charakter card sets, 14 dice in several colors and covered in different symbols, two sheets of markers and of course the miniatures of the eight Bahadurs.
Please allow me a short paragraph on the miniatures.
Corvus Belli started out in the business as a Company producing table top miniatures. Their Infinity models are metal casts and are sure among the top miniatures you can buy today. Very higly detailed and usually great sculpts. If you are interested in SciFi Skirmish games at all, check out Infinity, the rules are free for everyone to download and I am a big fan of that System.
Aristeia! is their first foray into the board game market.
Anyway, there was some very big discussion going on in the Infinity community about the Aristeia! models and their quality, as this is the first time Corvus Belli produced their miniatures in plastic.
I contemplated the pro and con of this myself for some time, since Corvus Belli offered a collectors Edition, with an extra set of metal cast models for the Aristeia! figures.
In the end I bought the standard Version with the plastic models and I am quite happy with that.
In my Point of view, theses are very finly crafted figures. For plastic models of course. If you compare them to metal cast, they have less details and aren't as crisp, but the game would hve been more expensive by a factor of around 1,6, if they would have done it in metal.
So from a miniature gamers point of view, the figures could be better, from a board gamers point of view, they are above average at the least and are ready to Play, no assembly required.
If I get around to paint them, they will surly not be noticebly different till you pick them up and compare to their Infinity cousins. At least not with my painting skills ;-)
Quality wise everything in the box is on par with other producers on the market. Cards are standard sized (the initative cards of the characters are the mini format)and the text on them is Standard as well.
Personally I need glasses to read them, but that's my age not the cards fault. Depending on the available light, the colors are a bit hard to differentiate but there are symbols for the colorblind included.
To give you an idea how this plays I summarize the game a bit.
If you want to take a look for yourself https://aristeiathegame.com/downloads
Each of the Bahadurs is an induvidial charakter in the game and has his own charakter Card, which details his gaming stats like initative, Speed, defense etc. as well as their available Actions and "Switches" (more on these latter.
The round beginns with a simultanus planning phase, where each player places the innitative cards of each character they control from left to right on the running order on their control board. This is the order in which the player plans to activate his characters on the board.
Play then proceeds to the turn phase. Each Player reveals the leftmost unrevealed card on their running order. The two revealed characters are the ones which will be activated this turn, whereas the character with the higher initative score chooses, if he wants to go first or wait till his opponent is finished before activating.
The character which is activated receives an amount of Action points equal to it's current energy attribute (usually five) which he then can spend on actions.
It costs everyone two energy to get movment points equal to their current speed value for movement for example and everyone has different actions listed on their cards.
For example let’s reveal Major Lunah and Gata in the first turn of this round.
While Majaor Lunah is not too slow at initative 5, Gata with her innitative 7 sure is faster.
Gata’s player now can choose, if Gata want’s to act before or after major Luna.
If Gata stands in cover of a wall, it might be a good idea to wait and see what the ex army sniper is up to before moving herself, but if your last turn left you in the open ground of a scoring zone, it’s more advisable to get the hell out of there, before Major Luna opens fire.
Let’s assume that Gata made the wrog decision in the second case and let Major Lunahs player go first. He could activate Major Lunah, who get’s five action points, sepne two on gaining four movement points, spend two of those to move into firing position, activate called shot for three action points and spend her remaining two movement points to relocate to another position on the board and finish her activation.
Called shot would be an attack action, which results in a face to face roll. Specified on her card Major Lunah gets to roll a red and an orange die and receives an automatic hit for free on the roll. Gata would defend herself with her defense stat and roll a black and a blue dice.
Both players would have the chance to play tactic cards to further influence the outcome of the rolls.
Depending on the symbols shown after both players roll their dice and effect tactic cards both players figure out, how to use those symbols to their advantage. Succeses are translated to hits, but those are blocked by shields. There are dice which can produce criticals which can’t be blocked or cancel not only one symbol but a whole die.
And to make matters a bit more complex, each character has certain switches detailed on their card. This is a combination of symbols, which the player can use to effect certain effects on their characters or the opponent. Gata could move one space for free if she rolled two !! for example.
This system is a bit confusing in the beginning, but with a little bit of practice, we where both analyzing the results pretty fast in the third game and trying different ways of using the abilities.
There are also simple actions, which only require one simple success to be rolled to come into effect, without the opponent getting a chance to defend themselves. In the a.m. example Gata could activate first, run up to major Luna, activate an ability and effect her with the Dazzle state (effectively blinding her for one turn), jmp oer her and run on to the next scoring zone.
After both characters have activated, both players reveal their next pair and so on, till at the end of turn four of the round, everyone had the chance to do something. Let me point out, if you got shoot to bits by someone acting earlier in the round before your turn came up, your spend your turn in the hospital…
After that, we check if anybody scores any points this round and adjust the scores accordingly. If one team has eight points, they win, if not game on. Of course if we are at the ned of round five the game ends and whoever has scored more points wins.
Assuming this is not the case yet, the Underdog decides, which zone will be the next scoring zone. What is the Underdog you certainly will ask. At the start of the game, the team with the lower initative total will receive the Underdog Marker. In case of a tie of initative the Underdog decides who goes first. After scoring the marker goes to the team wihich has less victory points, or in case of a tie, to the other player. And then the underdog decides which zone is to be used for scoring next. A nifty little mechanic, which serves the function of leveling an advantage in scoring quite a bit.
For the sake of keeping this wall of text from getting too long, let me just point out, that you can also play tactics and use their effects, also during other steps of the activation of one character. For instance drawing more cards, healing your team or playing states on other characters or yourself. States are effects which range from lowering or raising statlines to immobilizing and blinding characters etc.
If this has not shown through in the meantime, just for the record, we enjoyed Aristeia! quite a bit. I am not a big fan of manuals, which teach you the game in some kind of intro mission which plays the game for you, but Aristeia did a pretty good job of it and you can indeed go on and play afterwards. Heavy reading at first for the special case or as reminder will result, but after a few games, everyone will have a good idea how this works and if need be, the reference book details skills and other game situations pretty clearly.
We did not switch the intro teams nor played a different scenario, but still had lot’s of fun. The possibilities will most likely open up even more, if we start to draft our teams, by choosing from the available Bahadurs. They will open up even more so, when further expansions of new characters will be released in the future.
The game has a relative simple mechanic, which is made complex by the interaction of the characters and their skills, the board and your opponents thinking. Quite rewarding from my point of view, highly recommended.
Thank you very much for your review!