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Subject: First Contact: Thoughts and Impressions After First Play rss

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Mark Buetow
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SpaceCorp arrived Wednesday this week and we got it to the table Thursday evening with our regular group of gamers, all of us used to lengthy, in-depth games. Total play time was just a hair over four hours with some rules referencing and so forth. I'd imagine we could trim a half hour or more now that we have some familiarity with cards and discoveries and the course of play.

Components

The components are great! Two complete rulebooks (one for Multiplayer and one for Solo). I like that they separated the two as I will likely never play Solo and therefore don’t need to see exceptions or extra information, etc. Player aids (for Multi- and solo) are very nice cardstock. The cards are the glossy and sturdy variety but not so stiff you can’t shuffle easily. The Business Display and HQ boards are glossy and tough. The chits are good quality cardboard, and punch easily. The two mounted map boards look great. The artwork is engaging and thematic. It all comes in one of GMT’s glossy, sturdy 3in. boxes. One of the best looking GMT games I’ve seen.

Rules

When I saw that Chad and Kai Jensen worked on the rules, I knew they’d be clear and easily referenced. I was right. Everything is clearly laid out and explained and subtle nuances are made clear as well as questions answered when asked. We struggled with one question about colonies when I suddenly remembered that Chad had posted in the Erratum thread. Problem solved. (And it’s already corrected in the Living Rules online). Outstanding rules for learning the game and referencing during play.

How Does It Play?

So, it’s not a 4X game. Maybe 3X is more accurate, though the actual places you go to are known; it’s what’s there that you don’t know. The game is played on three different boards. The First Board covers expansion from Earth out to the edge of the Asteroid belt, essentially our first steps beyond earth, with Mars being the main first stop. This is the Mariners Era of the Game. Once the Era ends, you’ll move on to the Planeteers Era and switch to an entirely different board. This map begins at the Inner Solar System and extends outward to the Oort Cloud, thus heading to the Outer Solar System and the richly resourced moons of the gas giants. The third Era, Starfarers flips the board to an entirely new board again. This time the center is Sol, as the star and the regions are actually star systems at various distances from Sol. This is more or less 300 years in the future. Also, in the Planters and Starfarers Eras, you will have a Sideboard which holds Adaptations and Revelations (essentially tech upgrades). This Sideboard is on the back of the Mariners board. It’s cool how all the components are used together.

I will say this: Playing the game feels like taking the first advanced steps farther into space from about our present day and age to expanding our mega-corps and the human race out into the void farther and farther as time goes on. If you want to know whether it feels like growing and expanding through outer space, then yes, it does. The Theme is totally the game.

So what do you do? At its core, your corporation sends out teams to reach sites far away. Once there, you can explore them, seeing what resources they may offer. Then you can build bases of various types to cause these sites to produce. Your score is measured in Trillions of Credits. These are your Victory Points but they can also be lost and/or spent so there is something of an economic use for them as well. You'll also work on engineering human genetics to further your ability to reach the stars. You'll also work on revealing new technology to take humanity farther than it has ever gone before.

To do all this, you’ll gather various cards which give you points used for different actions. For example, “Move 2” would give you 2 points of movement for a Move actions. Many cards, however, can be placed in your Headquarters as Infrastructure and you can use that, along with cards you play, and perhaps bonuses from bases, to increase the value of your actions.

Example: I have a total of Move 3 on my HQ and play a Move 2 card and move from a Spaceport Base (=2 Move), I could send my Team on a Move of up to 7. The board indicates how far moves cost as you depart planets and moves, pass through regions, and land again. (Or as you transit the vastness of space later on). What’s cool is that you can use the action points from ANY HQ in the game, that is, you could use your own or those of an opponent. Perhaps she has more Move laid out in her Infrastructure than you. It might be to your benefit to use her count to get you farther. The tradeoff is that whenever you use an opponent’s Infrastructure and/or base, they can claim a reward and take a card from the draw pile for themselves. (And note that when the End of the Era is triggered, you can no longer use opponents’ resources). This mechanic is what drives the interaction between players.

The game does not have direct player conflict, but it does have direct player assistance and competition. On the one hand, you can use an opponent’s resources to aid in your actions but you are also trying to explore and build more than they are.

There is a different deck of cards for each Era. And every Card has two options you can use. A card might have Move 3 and Build 3. Which will you use it for? Many cards are playable to your HQ as infrastructure? Use it now or put spend a turn to put in on your HQ, losing some tempo but ramping up for the long haul? In addition there are other card effects which essentially let you profit from the other players’ actions or carry out “events.” Then there are the Adaptation and Revelation (both Progress) cards. These are a sort of “tech tree” of bilogical and technical improvements that can assist you further in the game as your corporate empire reaches out.

Each Era has multiple Discovery Tiles that are randomly drawn to indicate what is found at different sites. These range from resources like ore and water to microbes or elements. Essentially there is a large variety of resources upon which you can establish bases to produce income or gain some other advantage. There are many types of bases (Spaceports, Research, Industrial, Refinery, Bio, Attractions, etc.) and they have various requirements to build them and a host of advantages they give you. For example, a Spaceport increases the movement you can do if departing from a Space port and it also allows a sort of “free move” transit for an unused Team. (And yes, you can use the bases of your opponents to move, and they’ll be rewarded as when you use their HQ resources).

Then there are the Contracts. These are a static list of achievements that you can claim in each era which provide nice profit jumps. Pay attention to them as to everything else and claim them! Finally, there are colonies. Colonies, those distant enclaves of humanity established in far-flung star systems (in the third era) are worth an increasing level of Profit at the end of the game and can give you valuable boosts when you build them. But they can be difficult to achieve. They’re the sort of endgame goal you need to maximize.

SpaceCorp is a game about maximizing your profit (VPs). It’s about leveraging your resources to expand and produce as much as possible. It’s about working out your solar and galactic infrastructure to maximize your profit and launch humanity to world unknown. it’s a game of card and hand management, tough decisions on how to use limited resources, when to specialize and when to utilize others’ work. It’s a game that involves racing as stretching out farther and faster gives you advantages in future eras. It’s a game about being first and biggest and shrewdest. But the mechanics and theme are so well integrated that it’s exactly what you want it to be: an ever growing peaceful empire of space conquest, dramatically illustrated by the boards and cards which expand as your entity does.

Something For Everyone

Replayability? Absolutely! It was immediately apparent that the combination of random discovery draws, types of bases, contract conditions, colony requirements, and card draws all combine to give the game what appears to be a lot of replayability. Sometimes things might be pretty open ended, but what and where you discover as you explore can also help shape your strategy.

It is possible to stop the game at the end of any Era. Special scoring is available in those instances. You can also start in any Era and the appropriate HQ boards are also provided. They’ve really spared no expense. So the ability to play a short, medium, or long game, in any of the three eras, plus the addition of a complete solo system means there is something for everyone in terms of time and player count for game play. They’ve really thought of everything, made it simple, and put it all in the box.

Concluding First Impressions

So once again I’m pretty excited about a game but have only played it once so my ramblings above aren’t really a review in my mind. But hopefully this will give a glimpse to those wondering about this new game and whether it would be something they’re interested in.

That’s all for now…until our great-great-great-great-grandchildren meet at Butterfield Colony in the Alpha Centauri System in 300 years!
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Mark Copple
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Thanks for that write up.

"Playing the game feels like taking the first advanced steps farther into space from about our present day and age to expanding our mega-corps and the human race out into the void farther and farther as time goes on. If you want to know whether it feels like growing and expanding through outer space, then yes, it does. The Theme is totally the game."

Looking forward to this.
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Darrell Hanning
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Thanks, Mark, for the write-up.

Now, if USPS would only get the game here faster...
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Ron Gilbert
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Thanks for the review - been wondering what people think of it. (and now I really can't wait until next Wednesday when it's supposed to be here!)
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Jacob Williams
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I hate seeing so many people getting the game before me
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James Petersen
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Just got my shipping notification....HURRY
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Darren Belcher
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ChromiumAgeCollector wrote:
I hate seeing so many people getting the game before me


HA! Try living in Australia
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Graham Shiels
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dbelcher wrote:
ChromiumAgeCollector wrote:
I hate seeing so many people getting the game before me


HA! Try living in Australia


Or the UK cry
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Jan Tuijp
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Please, dear sirs. There are several threads available for deliberations on shipping and the like. Let us save this one for the game itself.

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Peter Gibson
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Amen
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Mark Buetow
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So anyone else play yet? How did it go? What did you think?
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Mitchell Greer
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Malacandra wrote:
So anyone else play yet? How did it go? What did you think?

I have played one solo game all the way through that was marred by a very important missed rule on my part. I still had a blast though and will definitely be trying it again solo as soon as possible.

I played multiplayer for the first time last night. My friend and I only had about an hour and a half to play so I taught him the rules and we played just the Mariners era. We both agreed that it's a very good game and are looking forward to playing Planeteers together, which we will hopefully do tonight.

If you are interested, here is a brief overview of how the session went: I went for Luna and then Mars at first (and snagged the Mars base and non-Lagrange bases in the process after I also built a base on Phobos) while he went for two early Lagrange bases, built up his infra and advanced his genetics cube (gaining the genetics marker and 3 infra cards contracts fairly early in the game as well). I snagged 1st beyond and the first produce action contract on the last couple of turns. He got the bases in 4 regions contract on his last turn. We ended up exactly tied on profit. I have 1st beyond but his HQ board is in better shape than mine. Altogether I feel like neither one of us is too far ahead of the other. From my solo playthrough, I know that the game opens up quite a bit in Planeteers when you have quite a few more sites to explore and you have to start considering shielding and progress cards, so we are definitely looking forward to getting the game back on the table tonight.
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David Janik-Jones
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Nanosplic wrote:
dbelcher wrote:
ChromiumAgeCollector wrote:
I hate seeing so many people getting the game before me

HA! Try living in Australia

Or the UK cry

Or even Canada. cry
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Brad Keusch
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soooo ready to play this. No idea when it's going to be released thoughhh
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Niko
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anatana wrote:
soooo ready to play this. No idea when it's going to be released thoughhh
Roughly a week ago, shipping has started last Monday IIRC. Some people in the US already got theirs. See here for more shipping discussions: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2107538/always-popular-ive-...
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Abe Delnore
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Malacandra wrote:


The game does not have direct player conflict, but it does have direct player assistance and competition. On the one hand, you can use an opponent’s resources to aid in your actions but you are also trying to explore and build more than they are.



This is mostly true; however some cards have two uses, one of which is to injure an opponent.
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Mark Buetow
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Abe Delnore wrote:
Malacandra wrote:


The game does not have direct player conflict, but it does have direct player assistance and competition. On the one hand, you can use an opponent’s resources to aid in your actions but you are also trying to explore and build more than they are.



This is mostly true; however some cards have two uses, one of which is to injure an opponent.


True enough, though in our play it's a tough call to use those cards when they could be used for their other action. Great game when the choices are tough.
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Mark Buetow
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Second play tonight, this time two player (with my wife) and only until the end of Planeteers (on account of time).

First of all, it's a definite feature of this game that you can play 1, 2, or three Eras and start in any Era. Very customizable in terms of time/complexity.

My wife is a great strategy gamer and had no problems picking up the mechanics at all. She was very good about nabbing contracts. I noticed in the two player game that ending the Era via the 6/7 contracts condition happened twice as opposed to running out of cards (though I drew the last card in Mariners and she got the 6th contract and so threw the last turn on to me).

I was a bit more cognizant of which bases would be useful. For example, without a lot of genetics progress to grab radiation resistance, I focuses on getting Shield Factories while I worked on establishing bases on the moons of Jupiter and then out to Pluto.

All in all, same great game, scaled very well down at two; played a little quicker I guess because of player count but also my familiarity with the game.
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Malacandra wrote:
So anyone else play yet? How did it go? What did you think?


I played this weekend with my wife and 13 year-old son.

My wife came into the game with some prejudices because it's published by a wargame company and designed by a wargame designer. While she does enjoy traditional euros and other modern boardgames, anything in the wargame realm really turns her off (Thirteen Days is the closest to a wargame that she will play, and she did not enjoy games of Memoir '44 and C&C Ancients when we tried those).

We struggled through the first era because there are a lot of new mechanics and concepts to understand.

But once it clicked for all of us, she was so excited to take her action each turn that she was standing up at the table to play her cards. She texted all of our friends who would enjoy it.

My son really understood the thematic elements and was able to parlay that into a decisive win.

The first game was slow (4+ hours split into two sessions on one day), but we were flying once we hit the third era. Each era adds a few new concepts (radiation, colonization), so it is slowly building as you play the game.

Bottom line: We have a lot of board games in our house, and each of us generally like different games. But this one hit the spot for us all.

(And to top it off, the player aids are extremely useful and the components are simply beautiful--which was quite important to my 13 year-old budding astronomer.)
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Michael J
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I enjoyed the game for its Euro mechanics, but the sci-fi fan in me was slightly underwhelmed. All techs, from rockets to ion thrusters, nano tech to mega machines basically are reduced to Move 1, Build 2, Draw 3, etc. I kind of wanted there to be more sci-fi in my Euro. But that’s just my view of the perfect sci-fi game and doesn’t mean this one is bad. It held together nicely and offered lots of tough choices. I’d certainly play again.
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Richard Young
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The question that comes to mind is, considering that the broad themes are identical, how close to a High Frontier-lite would this appear to be?
 
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Adam Parker
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Malacandra wrote:
I will say this: Playing the game feels like taking the first advanced steps farther into space from about our present day and age to expanding our mega-corps and the human race out into the void farther and farther as time goes on. If you want to know whether it feels like growing and expanding through outer space, then yes, it does. The Theme is totally the game.

[...]

Replayability? Absolutely! It was immediately apparent that the combination of random discovery draws, types of bases, contract conditions, colony requirements, and card draws all combine to give the game what appears to be a lot of replayability. Sometimes things might be pretty open ended, but what and where you discover as you explore can also help shape your strategy.


Really interested to see if you can revisit this in a month's time with further play. Rare is the new design today that offers classic longevity: 21st Century impatience keeps us wanting more, but I'm eager to see if things wear thin or truly grow on you and the group.

Thanks for the review.
 
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