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Subject: Five player complete session report (long) rss

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Marc Mistiaen
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I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy StarCraft: the Boardgame for a month now. I have played a total seven games up to now: four two-player games, two four-player games and one five-player game. This is the last one I am reporting here, which took place on Saturday evening (10/06).
This is not intended as a way to learn the rules of the game, which can be downloaded from FFG’s website or read about in a Review, but I will include some explanations about them when opportune nonetheless.
I want the report to be more than a factual account, and I’ll make my best to try and add my own reflexions where I see they can be relevant so as to provide future players with useful considerations about the game. This makes for a lengthy session report, but this is how I like them myself when I read other gamers. And by the way, I know how it is to wait for the game and every scrap of information you can gather about it is precious, so here’s to the hungry masses!

Only the Jim Raynor faction was left out, which means we had two Protoss players (Tassadar and Aldaris), two Zerg players (The Overmind and The Queen of Blades) and one Terran player (Arcturus Mengsk). This was the first game with the Aldaris faction in play, and I was curious to see how its very specific Special Victory conditions would affect (or not) the outcome of the game. (The Aldaris faction forces the other player to reach the twenty Conquest Points mark to win a normal victory, rather than the usual fifteen.)
The five of us had played the game before, although for two of the players this was the second game only (Aldaris and The Overmind). One other player had played twice before (Arcturus Mengsk); the fourth player had played four times (The Queen of Blades). I, for my part, had been part of the six previous games, the game being mine (Tassadar).

The galaxy was of course made of ten planets, with a good mix of different planets (two two-area planets, six three-area planets and two four-area planets; two planets with no Conquest Points, two planets with a two-Conquest Point area, one planet with two one-Conquest Point areas and five planets with one one-Conquest Point area). Each of us began the game in one corner of the galaxy, although you’re never really far from anything else with the clever z-axis system the game features. (Z-axis represent the three-dimensional nature of space and link planets that appear not connected on the game board in the exact same way than a normal route would.)
There were three choke points on the board, or at least the various actions of the players made them so. One was the planet where their respective progressions made The Overmind and Tassader meet, in the centre of the galaxy; a second was the planet standing right between The Queen of Blades’ and Aldaris’ home planets and the third was the planet Arcturus Mengsk was eying for his second powerbase but was connected to The Queen of Blades’ home system via a z-axis as well. With only two planets per player, mathematically, conquering a third planet means you have to fight someone else at some point or another. It can be a flash fire, or it can be protracted war for the game lasting.

One important part of your strategy in the game is what building order you decide to follow. This is not necessarily all accurate before the game, as you often want to react to what your opponent is building by investing yourself in the right counter-unit, but players will often have picked a general direction prior to the game. Please note this does not imply you always focus on one given type of building (each player has three types of buildings, and each specialise in one or two things between infantry, vehicles, flyers, Assist units, etc.), although this is the most obvious choice.
The two Zerg players pursued very similar strategies, indeed executing almost the same actions for a while at the beginning of the game, including the purchase of the same technologies. They both upgraded their Spawning Pool (the Zerg infantry building) to level two, now able to hatch Hydralisks, and both invested in a Nest as well, making Queens available to them. This also provided them with a build capacity of four, due to the Zerg rule Creep. (Each player begins the game with a building capacity of two, which means they can only build two military units per build order. The usual way to increase this number is through the purchasing of Supply Modules, which each add two to this number. The Zerg, however, do not have Supply Modules, but rather their build limit is equal to the number of different buildings they have.) Their strategy forked as the game went, The Queen of Blade player building a Spire – for the additional building capacity, taking him to a dazzling six – and purchasing more Queen technologies, while The Overmind player teched all the way to Ultralisks, not forgetting to dabble a little in Queen powers as well.

Although the two Protoss players ended with the same units available to them, the process to get there was not the same. The Aldaris player seemed to have an eye on Archons and their formidable power, but took his time to get there, building a Robotics Facility along the way to take advantage of the immediate mayhem-causing ability of the Reavers, ability increased even further by the addition of the Increased Reaver Capacity technology.
The Tassadar player, on the other hand, put all his effort to access the Archons as fast as possible. Thus, he upgraded his Gateway (the Protoss infantry building) to level three and started to build High Templars for the sole purpose of merging them into a more powerful being thanks to the Summon Archon technology. It is only late in the game that he built the Robotics Facility, needing a quick support to the slow-building Archons. He also took the opportunity on the first turn to buy the Singularity Charges technology as a boost to his Dragoons since it was still too soon to consider Archons at the time. Neither Protoss player considered the Stargate (the Protoss flyers building).

The Arcturus Mengsk player, for his part, went directly to erecting a Starport to field a fleet of Wraiths, although he never bought the Cloaking Field technology to go with them. (Cloaked units can retreat rather than be destroyed in combat.) He would eventually upgrade it to level two to access Science Vessels, for which he had bought a couple of technologies (EMP Shockwave and Irradiate).
Nearly every player built the Air Support Module, which is very popular in our games for its ability to protect the bases from enemy invasions. (You can’t land units on an opponent’s base directly from another planet if they have bought this Module. It also gives a better attack against flyers when defending base and provide bases with the Detector ability, which counter the Cloaking ability). Some players built a Reasearch and Development Module – the Arcturus Mengsk player built two, making two Special Order tokens available to him. (You use three types of orders to act in the game: Mobilize to move and start battles, Build to build buildings and units and Research to acquire combat cards and purchase technologies. Each of these orders has a special, more powerful version accessible through Research & Development Modules.) Supply Modules were scarce, but remember the Zerg players don’t need them and had quite a large building capacity through the buildings they had built.

The first turn saw some very classical openings: one Mobilize order, two Build orders and one Research order, which gives the players the opportunity to build some new units, move to a second planet, build a base there and acquire their first technology (not necessarily in this order). Accordingly, the Aldaris player and the Tassadar player each had a second base ready at the end of the Action Phase. This was especially necessary to the Tassadar player who had no Conquest Point area on his home planet, since you can quickly fall behind if you don’t get some each turn. It’s worth mentioning that, whereas it is true the game usually ends because of someone fulfilling their Special Victory conditions, Conquest Points still break ties between two players making it to these Special Victory conditions on the same turn, which happens almost every time when you have enough players sitting around the table.
The Arcturus Mengsk player set foot on a second planet as well, but didn’t build a base right away, being content with sitting on the two Conquest Points area there. In the same fashion, The Overmind player chose to focus on technological development and only sent troops on the planet next to his, not building a base there.
The last player didn’t get a chance to build a base on this first turn, because he started to ditch it out from the get go! The Aldaris player had moved his forces to the planet standing between them two and featuring two juicy Conquest Point areas, and had made himself comfortable already, when The Queen of Blades player invaded the same planet and burnt down the Terran base rather than choosing one of the two alternatives that would have taken him somewhere else on the board via a z-axis, but would have made him fight a rival faction in any case. Indeed, the galaxy was so arranged that one planet in the very middle of it was at least two moves away from every faction that one of the five players would have no choice but to fight another player if he wanted to access a second planet. This fight ended up very favourable to The Queen of Blades player, who was the attacker, which grants several advantages (the attacker can bring more units to the battle, draws more cards and chose which units will fight which other in the battle), and had had the time to – quite appropriately for a Zerg – spawn an evil scheme. Therefore, it was him and not the Protoss player who had control of the two one-Conquest Point areas when the Regrouping Phase of turn one came.
With the two Conquest Points he just conquered and the two from his home planet, The Queen of Blades player took an early lead to four Conquest Points, lead he was not to lose for the whole game. Then came the Arcturus Mengsk player, adding the Conquest point from his home planet to the one he had troops stationed with on his second planet, and the Tassadar player who had compensated from the lack of Conquest Points of his home planet by conquering the two-Conquest Points area from the neighbouring planet. Finally, The Overmind player and the Aldaris player had only the Conquest Point from their home planet to call for, the Zerg player’s second planet featuring none and the Protoss player having been kicked out of the planet he had made a move to.
The Queen of Blades: 2 + 2 = 4 CP
Arcturus Mengsk: 1 + 1 = 2 CP
Tassadar: 2 CP
The Overmind: 1 CP
Aldaris: 1 CP
The Event Cards brought some minor – if useful – things happening, but one of them proved to be quite important: the Tassadar player was granted the opportunity to swap two z-axis paths. As it was, his home planet and the planet he just conquered on this first turn had each only one z-axis linked to them. Through the Event Card, he was thus able to make it so that the z-axis path leading out of his home planet led directly to his second planet. Therefore, considering his home planet had only one normal way out of it and it was the one leading to the second planet anyway, the only road to access the Tassadar player was through a third planet, the one central to the galaxy, the only planet now connected to his second planet except for his home planet. This unique position on the board made for a very strong defensive position, which allowed the Tassadar player to focus on one front only, a rare fact in a five-player game. However, it also meant his only road of access to the other player was through the same unique path, which in turn made it very hard for him to influence the course of the game.

The second turn saw The Queen of Blades player completely retreating from the planet standing between the Aldaris player and him, and reinforce his position on his home planet, threatening either The Overmind player or the Arcturus Mengsk player through the means of z-axis. This may seem an odd move to some, who would think he should have pressed his advantage on the Aldaris player, possibly taking him out of the game, but you have to consider two things: first, making so could have left him with his own home system at the mercy of the other player to which he was linked (Arcturus Mengsk); second, in this game you do not win only by fulfilling your own objectives, but also by thwarting the plans of your opponents. It’s of no use to complete your Special Victory conditions if someone else has done the same with more Conquest Points because they have been left alone unimpeded. With the space left open by The Queen of Blade’s retreat, the Aldaris player got one of the Conquest Point-providing areas on the planet back while the other one remained empty.
At the other side of the galaxy, the Arcturus Mengsk player was pursuing his own strategy, as has been outlined earlier, and eventually built a base on his second planet to secure the Conquest Point area. Likewise, The Overmind player built a base on the planet he had conquered on the previous turn as well, securing three additional resource-providing areas, and carrying on with his strategy to reach Ultralisks, making some advantage over the other Zerg player who had had to burn precious resources to fight on the first turn.
The Tassadar player, with his back now completely secured, moved all of his troops forward, taking those of the home planet to the second planet and conquering a third planet, that central to the galaxy, with the troops who stood on the second planet at the beginning of the turn. Not having to spend too much on building new troops, he was free to direct his means to the Archon strategy.
With the new situation on the board, The Queen of Blades player was still first, adding the two Conquest Points from his home planet to those he had previously, for a total of six. The Tassadar player could now count on three Conquest Points, two from the second planet and one from the new planet he had conquered that turn, bringing him to five total. Just behind was the Arcturus Mengsk player, for whom the situation was unchanged in the number of Conquest Points he had at his disposal. He was at the four mark on the track. Then came the Aldaris player, who had occupied back one of the Conquest Point areas on his second planet, which granted him two more this turn, for a total of three. Finally, The Overmind player still had only the one Conquest Point from his home planet, since his second planet was only resources. He totalled two.
The Queen of Blades: 4 + 2 = 6 CP
Tassadar: 2 + 2 + 1 = 5 CP
Arcturus Mengsk: 2 + 1 + 1 = 4 CP
Aldaris: 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 CP
The Overmind: 1 + 1 = 2 CP

Turn three was the one to see Tassadar and The Overmind meeting, sine their respective advances had made them neighbours, the central planet on the galaxy, currently occupied by the Tassadar player, being a natural frontier between their two realms. The Protoss had the initiative that turn, but due to some Transport problems, were unable to launch a preventive strike on the Zerg planet. Yet, The Overmind player took the opportunity to send some troops on the Tassadar player’s planet, wining a fight there and occupying the Conquest Point area. The Tassadar player then faced a dilemma: he had just built the Air Support Module, and had now the opportunity to build a hard to raid base on the contested planet, which would ensure a steadier flow of troops there, but he couldn’t do it in the Conquest Point area, because the Zerg were there. So either he passed on the opportunity, or he decided to build the base on another area of the planet, foregoing the idea of securing the Conquest Point area for good. He chose this last option, and the Conquest Point area would remain something he would have to battle for every turn. At the end of the turn, though, the first High Templars arrived on the board, ready to merge into an Archon on the next turn…
This is when all hell broke again. Once more, the hungry swarm of the Zerg would indulge in slaughter as The Queen of Blades launched a devastating attack on the unsuspecting Arcturus Mengsk, wiping him out completely on his second planet. It is of course only psychological, as it is made well clear in the rules that there are no difference in game terms between a normal route and a z-axis route connecting two planets, but in practice you will often see players making extensive use of the normal paths and considering the z-axis as second, more hard choices. Therefore, players have a tendency to consider more of an immediate threat a neighbour connected to them via a normal interstellar road than via a z-axis. They sometimes fail to recognise as a dangerous enemy a player whose forces are sitting on the far side of the board, and this can prove fatal.
The Aldaris player kept on recovering from the onslaught he had been the victim of on the first turn and now was in total control of his second planet, including the two Conquest Point-providing areas.
At the end of the turn, The Queen of Blades controlled the one-Conquest Point area he had earned at the expense of Arcturus Mengsk, and the two-Conquest Point area on his home planet, keeping him in lead. Tassadar was now reduced to one Conquest Point area, that of his second planet, albeit providing two. Aldaris, on the other hand, was back in business with three Conquest Points: one from his home planet and two on the second planet he was now in control of. Arcturus Mengsk had suffered a nasty defeat and was reduced to the one-Conquest Point area of his home planet only. Still last in Conquest Points, The Overmind could nevertheless add two Conquest Point to his score for the first time in the game, thanks to the area he had conquered from the Tassadar player. The game was now deep in phase two.
The Queen of Blades: 6 + 2 + 1 = 9 CP
Tassadar: 5 + 2 = 7 CP
Aldaris: 3 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 6 CP
Arcturus Mengsk: 4 + 1 = 5 CP
The Overmind: 2 + 1 + 1 = 4 CP

On turn four, powerful new units were brought to the board. In particular, The Overmind player stroke first this time, bringing freshly spawned Ultralisks to the battlefield he shared with the Tassadar player, and forcing the High Templars who were sitting there under the protection of a Zealot to retreat on a neighbouring area after a bloody fight. But vengeance was at hand. In a bright flash of pure energy, the Templars merged into an Archon, who rushed into the fray, crushing opposition, and cleaning the planet of the Zerg. The Conquest Point area was back into Protoss hands.
If The Overmind player was free to throw all of his resources at the Tassadar player, it is because the two ways of access to his planets were now both under the control of The Queen of Blades player. The two Zerg factions had an evil pact going on between them that they would not harm each other. This was a well laid operation from The Queen of Blades player, who was but too happy to have someone keep Tassadar in check while he crushed Arcturus Mengsk. Rather than a big melee involving several players, the game had turned into a pair of wars, each fought by two opposing players.
But what of Aldaris? Left mostly alone since the disaster of the first turn, he was content of controlling his second planet, and was now investing in some Reaver army, potentially planning a huge strike for the next turn. Still, he spent most of the game uninvolved, and if you can understand he had to lick his wounds for a while, he should probably have taken part in the action at some earlier point. He certainly had the power to tilt the balance one way or another, without appearing too much as a threat himself. Moreover, The Queen of Blades player seemed decided on forgetting about him, so the Aldaris player had nothing to fear from him, and the Tassadar player was quite busy too. No other player had direct access to his planets. Due to the peculiar nature of his Special Victory conditions, the Aldaris player always has an interest in stalling, especially if he’s not too wealthy in Conquest Points himself. Doing so cannot be achieved without direct conflict with other players, denying them their own Special Victories.
The Arcturus Mengsk player seemed in quite a bad shape. Unable to claim back control over his second planet, he was now forced to fight for the defence of his home planet, and his last base in the galaxy. Science Vessels were appearing, and the Irradiate power could certainly prove useful in the future, but was there still time for much of a future? (The Irradiate power affects everything that is not a vehicle, which means it is useful against any Zerg unit.) The game was still in phase two, but there was no doubt that it wouldn’t remain so for a long time.
There was no change in the Conquest Point areas the players controlled, except for the Tassadar player, whose Archon had earned back the area The Overmind player had taken from him on the previous turn.
The Queen of Blades: 9 + 2 + 1 = 12 CP
Tassadar: 7 + 2 + 1 = 10 CP
Aldaris: 6 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 9 CP
Arcturus Mengsk: 5 + 1 = 6 CP
The Overmind: 4 + 1 = 5 CP

The fifth turn was the last one in the game. Vigilant players knew that phase three was coming, and as a matter of fact the game seldom drags on for longer than that, one player or another – often more than one – completing his Special Victory conditions as soon as it becomes possible. As it happens, this particular game would end in a huge climatic battle, with a bit of a surprise.
Indeed, flexing his muscles and deploying his Ultralisk force, The Overmind player brought death and destruction to the whole contested planet between the Tassadar player and him. Exterminating all the troops there, he was now in possession of every area on the planet. Having planned to build a base later that round on the planet, he claimed victory was his. The Special Victory conditions for The Overmind are to have a base on three different planets. With the base on his home planet and the one on his second planet, the base he was to build this turn would bring him the victory. Was fate ineluctable? Not quite.
The Queen of Blades player was carrying on his assault on the home planet of the Arcturus Mengsk player and was occupying many areas on the game board. However, he had failed to foresee that the game would end this turn, and was planning for his Special Victory on the next turn. He was lacking a third Conquest Point area, and the Terran player had his base to protect his. The players realised The Queen of Blades player couldn’t make it to his Special Victory, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t have a role to play in the outcome. The Tassadar player’s Special Victory conditions are to control more areas than any other player in the game. This means that if at least one player has as much areas under control as Tassadar, the Protoss does not fulfil the conditions. This is not easily achieved by the Protoss players, whose units are expensive and not numerous – yet another subtle aspect of the balance in the game.
The Queen of Blades player held control of seven different areas, with units and bases. This meant the Tassadar player must have at least eight. Unfortunately, his armies weren’t very large, mainly composed now of expensive high end units. Since Archons are slow to build, for all powerful they are, the Tassadar player had decided to invest in some Reavers, whose power he needed to match the huge amount of health of the Ultralisks, not mentioning the Splash Damage (an ability that lets you destroy extra units) that could help to keep the large number of smaller critters in check. When every calculation was done, it appeared there was only one way to thwart The Overmind player’s scheme, and to victory: the Tassadar player had to control the five areas on his two first planets, and three more. However, between him and the deserted areas The Overmind player had left on his rear to attack fully stood the contested planet, now entirely under the control of the Zerg.
The biggest asset of the Tassadar player in this matter was that he was the last player in this final turn, giving him the strategic advantage to place his orders according to what the other players would do, and especially to place the last order on the board. Both the Tassadar player and The Overmind player had put an order on the other player’s second planet, but because the Tassadar player was the last to act he could block The Overmind player’s stack with an order of hiw own, forcing the Zerg to reveal the order he had placed on the Protoss planet before he had had the opportunity to build a Transport to get there, thus rendering the order moot and protecting Tassadar’s last army there. This is a classical illustration of how the clever stacking mechanism can be used in the game to produce all kind of sneaky movements to mess with your opponent’s careful planning.
Still, the game was far from over. Now that the areas of his two planets were secured, the Tassadar player still had to conquer three more territories with his last army. Said army was two Reavers and one Dragoon. The Dragoon had to stay on the second planet to keep control of the empty area there, so this left two Reavers to conquer three areas. The Tassadar player had one Mobilize order on the contested planet and another one on The Overmind’s second planet. Once more, there was only one way to salvation: Tassadar had to first free the area containing his base on the contested planet from Zerg invaders so that the base would not be destroyed at the end of the turn and the Tassadar player would retain control over the area, and second he would have to send each of the two Reavers to a different area on The Overmind player’s second planet. This meant that not only had the Protoss to win the fight on the contested planet but had to do so without losing a single unit as well, or there wouldn’t be enough of them left to conquer enough areas. The tension was almost solid as the Protoss landed on the planet to fight the Zerg. This is typical of the Reaver. The Reaver is a very powerful unit of the Protoss, with a high attack value – especially with the Increased Reaver Capacity technology – and Splash Damage; moreover, they are easily accessible since they only require the building of a level one Robotics Facility. However, they are quite expensive at two Crystals and two Vespene Gas units and their health characteristic do not go higher than eight. This means that, when facing high end enemy units, even if they wreak havoc, they have a good chance of dying in the process as well.
Everyone held their breath as the battle commenced and the cards were chosen and laid. Not only is this great to have such an epic battle deciding of the fate of the game on the last round, but it is even better when the battle in question is fought between the two players in course for victory. When the cards were flipped, The Overmind player’s doom was sealed: he was out of good cards for this crucial skirmish. There are only a limited number of cards for every unit, and expensive, rare units appear less than the common, base units. This encourages diversity in your armies, because you can’t constantly keep enough relevant cards to fight with only one type of units. Another thing that the system depicts very well is how units that have been involved in a previous battle are more vulnerable just after. In the video game, you would have wounded units. Here you have units for which you have already used your best cards – or worse, all your relevant cards. For all his effort, the Zerg player was unable to protect his units, and the Splash Damage from the Reavers took care of the remaining ones. The base secured, the Reavers were then transported on the Zerg planet that had been left empty to muster the attacking army, except for the area with the Zerg base who couldn’t be attacked because of the Air Defense Module. The Tassadar player had succeeded in controlling eight areas, one more than the Queen of Blades player.
Arcturus Mengsk was unable to break through the siege The Queen of Blades was holding on his home planet. The Aldaris player, even though he knew the game was over, still decided to launch an attack on the Zerg forces occupying the Arcturus Mengsk player’s home planet, eliminating them from an area with his Reavers. The Aldaris player had finally moved, but too late.
The final scores were:
The Queen of Blades: 12 + 2 + 1 = 15 CP
Tassadar: 10 + 2 = 12 CP
Aldaris: 9 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 12 CP
Arcturus Mengsk: 6 + 1 = 7 CP
The Overmind: 5 + 1 + 1 = 7 CP

We see The Queen of Blades player would have been the victor through normal victory (Conquest Points) if it hadn’t been for the presence of the Aldaris player. Normal victory is checked before special victory, and here is a proof this can definitely happen. Also, the Aldaris player Special Victory conditions proved of a major impact on the outcome of the game in the end.
As no player had made it to twenty Conquest Points, it was time to turn to Special Victory conditions. Both The Overmind and the Tassadar player qualified and the tie was to be broken by the Conquest Points. This illustrates the fact that even though the game often ends with Special Victory, Conquest Points are never to be neglected.
It is also nice to see that The Overmind player, who seemed to be in last place all game if you consider the Conquest Points only, almost won the game in the end. People pursue their own goals throughout the game, teching to the units they want to field and securing Conquest Point areas. But when phase three is nearing, the atmosphere changes, tension rises and everyone is eying the Special Victory conditions, trying to fulfill their own agenda while preventing the other players from doing so at the same time. This can lead to some very fun diplomatic attempts, as each player makes their best effort to convince the others that they are not the biggest threat on the board and that they should better turn their attention elsewhere. This is a fragile equilibrium, because you will often have several legitimate candidates to victory, and indeed considering one of them as more of a threat and bringing him down may in turn help another player. That’s also why there is no friendship or lasting alliance in the game: everyone must be ready to attack everyone else, depending on the circumstances!
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Chris Leder
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This was a fantastic session report for anyone even thinking about getting the game. As a gamer anxiously awaiting this one, I was riveted. Nice work.
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Gergely Orsó
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Bravo, excellent session report!
You have made me being more and less patient in the same time for this game to arrive. More like this are more than welcome, so write some more!
 
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Kester J
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Cool stuff, I enjoyed reading it! I have a couple of questions from reading this:

First, it seems the game was very tense all the way through. This is obviously desirable, but I find with other close games like this, the game is decided by the players who don't have a chance of winning. A Game of Thrones is a major culprit in this. All 5 or 6 games I've played have been declared a draw by us, on the basis that if other players are deciding the winner, then it's close enough to call a draw. Does Starcraft have the same problem, or are players who take a lead able to keep it, even if fighting more than one player at once?

Second, you mention special victories are the common way of the game ending. I've not yet seen anyone mention a game ending due to the "End Draws Near" condition. Have you ever had games end due to "End Draws Near" cards? If not, doesn't this make the Aldaris faction a bit crap, on the basis that his special victory is never going to be reached?

(Unfortunately, the second item exacerbates the first: the "End Draws Near" condition offers a variable and unknown number of turns, which can do a lot to halt the first problem. Players always have at least a slim chance of winning if the game isn't guaranteed to end on a certain turn, so will act in their own interest rather than being free agents.)
 
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Snowball
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Excellent report that gave me an useful hint about how the game is played!
 
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Adam B
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An outstanding report. Your english is better than mine!!!!
 
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Bobby Passmore
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Great session report.Very good information.I don't normally read long session reports,but this one was good.Thank you.
 
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Matthew M
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MrSkeletor wrote:
Kester wrote:
Second, you mention special victories are the common way of the game ending. I've not yet seen anyone mention a game ending due to the "End Draws Near" condition. Have you ever had games end due to "End Draws Near" cards? If not, doesn't this make the Aldaris faction a bit crap, on the basis that his special victory is never going to be reached?


Aldaris normally wins by getting 15 victory points, rather than waiting 'till the end of the game.


If what the OP says is true about most games ending via special victory conditions being triggered the round Stage III is entered, and that this was one of the few (only?) games where 15 was actually reached by ANYBODY, this would still seem like a handicap for Aldaris.

Of course I'll reserve saying more until I've actually played I suspect that focusing on the conquest points primarily and not having any other goal to work towards probably counter-balances things, plus this was the first time the author saw Aldaris used.

-MMM
 
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Matthijs v S
Netherlands
Arnhem
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great session report

how long did the game last?
 
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Marc Mistiaen
Belgium
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First, thank you all for the nice comments. I'm glad you've found this of use.
Here are some answers and reflections.

A very valid question about the length of the game that I forgot to add in the report. The game lasted a little over five hours. This is the longest I've played. The shortest game has been one hour and a half. As a very rough estimate, I reckon from the collected data about our games that StarCraft lasts for a number of hours equal to the number of players. Admittedly, the deviation to such an estimation is high. Also, even at eight games, it still makes for a very short sample as such, not mentioning the fact I fully expect play time to drop once we get more accustomed to the strategies (as opposed to the rules with which we are quite familiar now). I want to add that I often find our sessions with other games last longer than the reported average as well.

It occurred to me when I wrote the last part of the report that it sounded very much like kingmaking. I hesitated to change the wording to try and avoid this but figured I would just comment about it if the matter came up. It is worth noting that even if the Aldaris player hadn't fought with The Queen of Blades player on the last turn, the Tassadar player would still have had more areas than The Queen of Blade. Hence, there was no kingmaking in this game.
In my opinion, the thing is not so much about kingmaking than about "bash the leader". The latter is a very possible option in StarCraft: the Boardgame. As I explained, you will find yourself directly connected to several other players, possibly all of them. It is an uncommon occurrence when there is a player you can't reach at all. And as where you hit someone is often of secondary importance as long as you hit them, you will have the opportunity to mess with the leader. Several people can do that at once.
However, it does not mean the game is not balanced. First, it is not obvious who the leader is, since the Conquest Points are not the only factor. I would consider a player with a strong position on the board more of a threat than someone a couple of Conquest Points ahead, especially if said position assured them of achieving Special Victory. Second, everyone will – or should – be attacked in turn. It actually is more detrimental to the balance of the game when a player is left alone than when one player is the target of several others. It is important that all the players get involved in some conflict or another. Finally, even if the players try to bring the leader down, it is not always successful. I wouldn't go as far as arguing that the leader consistently has a position strong enough to repel the attacks of several opponents – rather the contrary: I feel like everyone is always vulnerable to everyone else, most of the time – but it does happen. In my last game, I played Arcturus Mengsk and the two other players considered me as the leader – a feeling certainly enhanced by me usually winning the game. Anyway, on the last turn they both turned on me and attacked two different planets of my territory. One of the two planets I decided not to fight for at all. On the other planet I did my best to repel the attack but lose an area. However, I was the last player to go in that round, which means I had the last move, which I used to initiate an attack on the area I had just lost, fielding my first battlecruiser and claiming it back. This was enough to ensure victory as I had now full control of this planet again, as well as my home planet. Arcturus Mengsk's Special Victory conditions stipulate that he has to control every area on two different planets. This is also why I didn't bother to fight for the other planet they landed on: I knew this would be the last turn and that I only needed control of two planets to win the game.

As up to now, the game has never ended via drawing of two “The End Draws Near” cards. Furthermore, I think the card has been seen in game once only in the eight games I’ve played. This is a direct consequence of the fact the game ends almost always on the turn Stage Three is reached, which is before any Stage Three cards had a chanced to be played in the first place. I don’t think it has happened more than twice that we played another round after we reached Stage Three.
To be clear, I don’t think it makes the Aldaris faction “crap” and this for several reasons. That being said, I do think the Aldaris faction is not easy to win with, and I would thus recommend leaving it out if you can afford it, which means using it only in a six-player game or a game where you have two players who won’t be playing something else than Protoss. This goes along well with another remark, which is that I feel the Aldaris faction belongs to games with more players. It looks to me that, despite the fact that more players means more Special Victory conditions to watch for, it gets harder to secure your Special Victory with the more players involved in the game. In a five-player game, you potentially have five other players to thwart your plans for grandeur, where you only have to worry about one other player in a two-player game, which is really more manageable.
But the most important thing indeed is that the Special Victory conditions of the Aldaris faction are not limited to winning via “The End Draws Near”. On the contrary, I see their main path to victory being through Conquest Points. Yes, so far I’ve only seen someone reach fifteen Conquest Points twice (once in this game; another in a two-player game, the only one to have ended through Conquest Points victory), but there has been a couple other occasions where one player has been close to it. But it is all different when the Aldaris faction is in play. Because Aldaris does not have Special Victory conditions proper, he can focus on preventing the other players from reaching their own, as I mentioned in the report. And it’s not a case of trying to prevent five other players from winning all by yourself: you will have other players more than willing to prevent a player from winning, and you won’t have five players fulfilling their Special Victory conditions at the same time, more like one or two.
This is a good place to say that focusing on Conquest Points solely is not necessarily a viable strategy for Aldaris. First because everyone is focusing on Conquest Points in the first half of the game if they want to have a good shot at tie-breaking and second because, in the second half of the game, when the other players are focusing on their Special Victory Aldaris should be focusing on impeding them. Eventually, it all sounds balanced when you see things like that, at least on paper.

It is likely some Special Victory conditions are easier to complete than others. Some conditions are also harder to achieve with a small number of players: try to hold six resource-providing areas when there are only four planets on the board. But I think it is too early for me to call a ranking. Therefore, I’m not convinced Tassadar’s Special Victory conditions are more difficult than others. I may be biased by the fact that I’ve played Tassadar the most and that I only lost once with him. It is true that sometimes in the middle of the game I feel like I will have a really hard time, especially considering the cost of Protoss units which make it less easy to occupy many areas, but I manage in the end. Although I must say that my victories have been made easier by the fact that the other players so far often fail to realise when the game is about to end and are thus surprised when I achieve victory when they thought they had one last turn.
I can’t say I’ve been witnessing a rise of power of the Protoss as the game develops. I understand this would make perfect sense and sounds sensible when you make the comparison with the PC game, but for now my impression is that the factions stand on the same ground from the start to the end. Perhaps it will change when we develop more thorough strategies and build orders. I’m eager to hear other people’s experience with this.
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Kester J
United Kingdom
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That's a really comprehensive reply, thanks! You've done a lot to put some of my worries about this game to rest; now it's just a case of waiting for it to get here.
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Jarrett Lee
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Here's a probably over-simple question (but one I try to answer from these reports): how fun was it, in your mind and as far as you could tell for the other players? How would you rate the fun factor? It certainly sounds pretty fun!
 
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Marc Mistiaen
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I tihnk I am pretty safe saying it was a lot of fun for everyone. Personally, this game is all I've been playing since I got it at the begining of September. That must say something about it.
 
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Jerzy Ambroszczyk
Poland
Malanów
Wielkopolska
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Thanks a lot for this article. It gave me a good impression of how the game can look like, and when I needed it the most. Tonight a friend (also a registered boardgamegeek) is coming over to my place with SC:BG and we are going to play a 3-player game, which will also be the first one for all of us.
I've read the manual carefully once or twice, but that never gives a full picture, nor feeling, of the gameplay. A report like this helped me to get a general image.

I am in fact fond of writing such reports myself, I often did take notes and photos during my Warhammer: Fantasy Battles games to compile a nice description afterwards.
The Starcraft: Board Game sessions seem to be epic enough to keep and share a record a few good ones.
 
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