Recommend
69 
 Thumb up
 Hide
26 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

Outreach: The Conquest of the Galaxy, 3000AD» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Yes, that game you bought 35 years ago. rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jeffery Bass
United States
San Carlos
California
flag msg tools
badge
What's this? Why, it's the Hiller Flying Platform! It flew in 1955.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This review of Outreach is dedicated to the thousands of science fiction fans, the 180+ people of BGG who report owning the Outreach game, and who probably experience a hint of nostalgia in seeing a review of Outreach on BGG, as well as to the small handful of folks indicating interest in obtaining a copy of the game.

Setting the Stage
I particularly enjoy science fiction ("hard" SF is my particular favorite) and over the years along with my reading I've absorbed and played numerous incarnations of SF games from cardboard to plastic to PC, from Wing Commander to Galactic Civilizations, Stellar Conquest to Twilight Imperium. The drawback to the more strategic-level games for me is their less-than-riveting reliance on juvenile back stories and their predictable (albeit, understandable) plot that transplants a Buck Rogers-flavored version of 20th century politics into future history. StarCraft or the old Avalon Hill Starship Troopers at least introduce some truly unique possibilities for alien behavior, although even these games ultimately devolve into WWII tactical play, essentially Iwo-Jima-in-Space. Not that such an approach doesn't make for fun game play, which it does, but somewhere in the back of my mind I have an itch to play an SF game that is a little more open ended. And here we come to SPI's 1976 release of Outreach: The Conquest of the Galaxy, 3000 AD. This game has a certain starkness and austerity that makes it appealing to me because it allows my imagination to take hold in a way that is harder to accomplish with other games. This is not necessarily because the game seeks to achieve this. Outreach is in many ways merely a conventional wargame. What sets it apart is its avoidance of a detailed "back story" to embellish its rather perfunctory description of "species" used in the game. In fact, Outreach is almost totally devoid of chrome. While this is probably just as much a reflection of laziness on the designer's part as it is a deliberate design feature, there is enough of a game underneath all this to provide an afternoon of SF gaming freedom that allows your imagination to soar. That is, as long as you can cope with Outreach's vintage '70's design.

The Basic Premise
Outreach is a hex-and-counter wargame designed by Irad B. Hardy and published by SPI in 1976. The game is designed for 1-4 players. In the rule book's introduction it says, "The object of the game is to locate and explore star systems, obtaining resources from them while attempting to neutralize similar efforts by other players." Pretty standard stuff, although it comes some years before the "4X" term was coined in gaming reviews. At any rate, Outreach is a 4X game: eXplore, eXploit, eXpand, eXterminate.

The Map
The game is played on an unexpectedly impressive, and large for the time, 22" x 34" paper map of the Milky Way galaxy, or at least about a third of it, including the Galactic Nucleus and some of the features of the spiral disk. Our solar system is simply a dot, labeled "Sol", on one small hex and is just a backwater in the galactic landscape. The map also features some prominent bright stars that will be familiar to sky gazers and the nomenclature of the spiral arms and other elements on the map reflects the state of astronomical knowledge in the mid '70's, which hasn't fundamentally changed since then as far as identification of general galactic features is concerned other than the fact that it is now known the nucleus of the Milky Way is not spherical but elliptical: We live in a barred spiral galaxy. This was not discovered until more than a decade after Outreach was published. Anyway, each hex is numbered and some of the numbers are unfortunately hard to read (get out yer magnifying glass) but this isn't a show-stopper since the numbers are primarily used only during scenario set-up. The "terrain" of the hexes are of three types: Spiral Axis, Spiral Fringe and Inter Spiral. These different environment types affect the kinds of resources that can be used to build Fleets and augment StarGates. During the game, chits are randomly drawn that specify the precise environment of each hex so these tactical features are different in each game. There are also two other kinds of hexes: Galactic Nucleus and Galactic Core hexes which house special objectives.

Rules and Scenarios
For a hex and counter SPI "wargame" of this period, the rules are remarkably simple and brief, about 8-pages plus scenarios written in case-by-case lawyer style (yes...the nostalgia is welling up, now). The rules come with four designer scenarios: Conflict Over Scorpii (2-player), Route to the Nucleus (3-player), PSL Outleap (solitaire), and Struggle for Cygnus-Carina (4-player). Also, the designer has nicely included a procedure for generating a customizable fifth scenario, called Luck of the Draw, that accommodates any number of players and presents far more options and open-ended play with a scope that ranges over the entire map. The scenarios indicate game-length anywhere from 25 game turns to 50 game turns (!) This is typical SPI fare for the time. In the games of Outreach I've played (several 2-player and one 3-player game), each turn took about 15-20 minutes and a "short" game was completed in about 6 hours. The longer 3-player game lasted two full gaming sessions. A 4-player session would, of course, last even longer. I'd be curious if anyone out there has ever played such an Outreach marathon.

Units and Counters
The units in the game are simplicity, itself. Each player has Task Forces (composed of Fleets) and StarGates (i.e. star bases). A Task Force can be composed of up to three kinds of Fleets: Regular, Explorer and Dreadnought. There is only one kind of StarGate. StarGates are represented by individual counters. To hold down "territory" you have to construct StarGates. This is done by exploring the undiscovered potential of galactic hexes using Task Forces that contain Explorer Fleets. Dreadnoughts do the work of "extending diplomacy by other means" while Regular Fleets are used to augment StarGates built after exploration. Regular Fleets also serve as the usual cannon fodder to absorb losses during conflict. Again, Fleets do not have individual counters. Fleets are combined into Task Forces which can be a mixture of several Fleet types. Each Task Force has an individual counter and the Fleet composition of each Task Force must be tracked on a separate piece of paper. Yes, there is a bit of paperwork required in the game but it's not too bad. One benefit is that the aesthetic appearance of the Outreach map during play is remarkably clean with just two basic counters deployed on the board, Fleet Task Forces and StarGates.

Random Factors
Game processes are regulated with the roll of 1d6 (i.e. one six-sided die). There is no process in Outreach governed by the value of a raw die roll. In typical SPI fashion, die rolls are referenced with Combat Results Tables (CRT's) of one sort or another, printed on a separate card for each player. Take it or leave it, but the total reliance on CRT's is the SPI way. Unfortunately, the probabilistic properties of 1d6 leave something to be desired. Whatever modifications can be made to the curve of probabilistic outcomes are accomplished through die roll modifiers and tabular column shifts for various game effects and influences (i.e. shift one column to the left on the Fate Table for every expenditure of 5 Resource Points, or add +2 to the die roll during exploration if the Task Force is composed exclusively of Explorer Fleets). Again, this dependance on tables, column shifts and modifiers won't seem too unfamiliar to wargamers who play vintage-era games, but improvement could definitely be made by using 2d6 or some other approach yielding probabilities that have some shape to them. But 1d6 is how it works in Outreach. 'Nuff said, so we'll move on.

Sequence of Play
The game is played in a series of Player-Turns. The Sequence of Play involves 5 phases including Shift (movement), Exploration, Galactic Interrelation (Conflict Resolution), Fate (Random Events) and Resource Allocation (Production). Another plus for Outreach is that the Sequence of Play is subdivided so that all the players take turns conducting the business of each phase before moving on to the next. Downtime is minimal.

Movement
The concept of movement in Outreach is derived from science fiction sources (Dune comes to mind) in which units are not moved in a conventional manner but actually disappear from physical space and reappear instantaneously elsewhere. This is called a "shift" in Outreach. When units attempt to shift too far they are likely to "scatter" (i.e. arrive somewhere they didn't intend) and suffer losses. This is a cool mechanic. To make progress against your opponents in this game, you have to send Fleets into space across greater distances than you can always afford to traverse safely. There is a lot of shifting beyond the "safe" range which is determined by a player's Civliization Level, an abstract technology indicator which can be improved or degraded during the game. The result is your armada of Dreadnoughts can be badly scattered by the time it arrives on the scene of an invasion. So, there is some risk-management to consider just in the movement phase which adds a bit of spice to what is otherwise a pretty dull affair in most other games. During Movement, each player gets to take their turn shifting and everyone gets a final "reserve" shift at the end of the phase in reaction to other players' moves.

Exploration
Exploration is straight forward. Fleets attempt to discover the value of a hex for purposes of future exploitation, namely building StarGates. A StarGate cannot be built until a hex has been "explored" and the odds of successful exploration are improved greatly by the utilization of, you guessed it, Explorer Fleets. It is during Exploration that the "terrain" of the map comes into play. Hexes in the Spiral Axis (i.e. the thick part of a spiral arm) are usually of high value. The Fringe Spiral hexes are of lesser value while many of the Inter Spiral hexes have no value at all. The fruits of a voyage of exploration between the spiral arms can be frustratingly paltry. This works fine for the game. However, the supposed paucity of resources between the spiral arms presented in Outreach is an aspect that doesn't conform to what is actually known about the real galaxy. The distribution of stars throughout the Milky Way's disk is more or less uniform. Stars are not concentrated in the arms. It turns out the spiral arms are conspicuous only because they harbor a larger population of bright stars (formed by the passage of the density wave that gives rise to the galaxy's spiral structure), not because spiral arms have more total stars. But oh well. Each player takes turns exploring by rolling on the appropriate table before moving onto the next phase.

Interaction
Now the fun part. The true heart of the game is the Galactic Interrelation Phase where players duke it out for cosmic supremacy. In his notes at the back of the rule book, the designer has provided an honest rationale of the game's perspective regarding the subject of interstellar conflict: "We...assume that given a scarce resource of value there will be competition between different independent factions to gain the largest possible slice of the pie...[and]...we are sure that somewhere, somehow, static, perfectly balanced cultures will develop and thrive [i.e. who do *not* seek competition]. However, a game concerning such cultures would be about as exciting as an extinct volcano." So, in Outreach there *will* be competition and there *will* be conflict! However, given the enormous amount of space represented by even just a single hex (about 1,200 light years across), different civilizations have to make a special effort to achieve contact with each other.

This interesting circumstance is represented cleverly in the game. If two players have units in the same hex, it is not guaranteed that they know about each other's presence due to the vastness of space. The size of a Fleet Task Force, additionally skewed by the presence of Explorer Fleets and StarGates, is directly related to the chance of success in making contact with the Fleets of another player. However, if that other player seeks to *avoid* contact, it can be difficult to initiate interaction. A tidy game mechanic, called Contact, takes care of this interesting encounter. If contact is achieved, each player must decide how they relate to the others in the hex. Players can be Cooperative, Neutral or Hostile. The relations between players are revealed simultaneously and these relationships are displayed on an Interaction Matrix. Basically another lovely SPI table, the Interaction Matrix reminds me of the Melee Sheet in Avalon Hill's Magic Realm in which counters are placed on a matrix indicating what a player's foes will try to achieve during combat. In a two player Outreach game, it is generally a foregone conclusion that the "foreign policy" of both players will be hostile toward each other, although not always. In a multi-player game things are a little more subtle and there are benefits to adopting a Cooperative policy, such as the free use of another player's StarGates. If you want to keep things friendly but withhold use of your StarGates by others, a Neutral policy is better. A Hostile stance is reserved for a time when out-and-out conflict is unavoidable as losses are doubled for defending players adopting such an extreme foreign policy.

Conflict
When it finally comes down to actual conflict, during which time Fleets of Dreadnoughts that have been laboriously built up over several turns are brought to bear, players have a brilliant opportunity to use bluff and deception. There is a pretty deep "fog of war" in the game. Until a battle is joined, opposing players have no idea of the composition of individual tasks forces arrayed against them. A single counter can represent a lone Explorer Fleet or a massive armada of ten Dreadnoughts. The mechanics are very precise for determining the exact strength of a player's task force, called "True Conflict Capacity", but before the battle is resolved players are not required to reveal their true strength. Instead, they can announce a value within 50%, plus or minus, of their true strength called "Approximate Conflict Capacity". This keeps the other player(s) guessing. With this tool, a player can benefit from making a grandiose threat with a fundamentally weak force, or deliberately mask a strong force with the appearance of weakness, whichever approach works toward their purpose. The player who announces the highest Approximate Conflict Capacity attacks first and can discover, to his dismay after all parties reveal their True Conflict Capacity, that he has been lured into a fight he cannot win, taking twice the attacker loses in comparison to the more reasonable defender loses he would have suffered had he not been so brazen and allowed himself to be attacked instead of being the attacker. This bluffing mechanic helps keep the conflict aspect of the game edgy and responsive to the command style and personality of the players rather than merely the raw values of their deployed units. And it's a hoot.

There is a precise order to the steps undertaken during Conflict: 1) declare attackers, 2) declare Approximate Conflict Capacity and 3) reveal True Conflict Capacity and resolve Conflict. Without going into the details too deeply here, it is possible to make a significant "house rule" and swap the order of steps 1 and 2 and add even more punch to bluff opportunities. This produces a situation similar to Napoleon's Triumph in which a unit can make a show of force and then back away. I am convinced that the Outreach designer considered this possibility and deliberately opted to remove this option, which would drag out Conflict interminably. In Outreach as designed, if you choose to take the path of Conflict, you are committed and you take your lumps with your rewards, quickly, and move on.

Ultimately, the goal of Conflict is to eliminate opposing Fleets and render enemy StarGates useless. "Neutralized" StarGates can then be rebuilt under the new regime. And thus does the history of the Galaxy ebb and flow.

Fate
After Conflict is resolved, the Fate Phase begins. This is a controversial and unpleasant part of the game for some players because even though this phase is a typical device to introduce more-or-less random effects which can affect a player's civilization, in practice many of the effects are so nasty they can instantly unravel a player's winning strategy, such as rendering 70% of a Player's StarGates useless, in one fell swoop (my favorite is the Anarchy Revolution with 90% reduction!). The game-blowing nature of these Fate results has been roundly criticized. However, I think those who are critical of this design feature aren't paying close enough attention to how this phase, and its associated Table, is supposed to work. Almost all of the bad effects of the Fate Table can be circumvented by rolling with a column shift or two (or three or four, later in the game). These column shifts are dirt cheap, paid for with the currency of the game, Resource Points. In practice, the Fate Phase is really not about introducing nastiness, it's about providing incentive for players to keep some Resource Points in reserve and not exhaust them every single turn when they build Fleets. This mechanic provides another opportunity for risk assessment and management. The cost to shift a couple columns on the table is equal to one or two Explorer Fleets, which is not a big deal. Of course, a player can forego this and gain a tactical edge if they feel lucky on the Fate table. It's all a matter of risk tolerance.

Another important function of the Fate Table is to provide a mechanism for improving the Civilization Level of your empire. The Civilization Level is a major modifier of two game mechanics, Shift-movement and Fleet Production. Also, the multi-player scenarios include the upgrade of Civilization Level as an important victory condition. The only way to achieve this is to roll the proper result on the Fate Table. This will require die roll modifiers which, unlike column shifts, are quite expensive. They can only be afforded later in the game when the size of a player's empire is vast and the cash flow in Resource Points is adequate to take a shot at the Fate Table for the purpose of upgrading Civilization Level. And last but not least, the Fate Table provides for the appearance on the game map of non-player Neutral actors, called Autonomous Forces. These can show up unexpectedly in hexes that you've freshly explored that turn. Autonomous Forces can have the effect of merely being speed bumps or sometimes they can seriously get in your way and then they have to be dealt with.

Production
Finally, if the players emerge from the Fate Phase unscathed (or possibly much better off, or much worse), the final activity of the game turn is the Resource Allocation Phase. There is nothing unusual here. Your StarGates generate Resource Points that you can use to build or augment other StarGates and also construct Fleets to carry out your empire's programme. As we've seen, you also want to make progress toward accumulating a war chest of Resource Points to pay for column shifts and modifiers on the Fate Table when appropriate. Compared to the complex production phases of many typical wargames, the Outreach version is fast and painless and you're ready to start a new turn before you know it.

And finally...
One final, cool element of the game involves a region of galactic geography that figures prominently on the map and is crucial in some of the scenarios: the Galactic Nucleus. This is essentially a wasteland where StarGates cannot be built and Fleets that scatter during Shift are lost, forever. It is a plodding bit of business to send an expedition into the Nucleus, but there are rewards to be had. Nestled in the Galactic Core are dazzling secrets that await the intrepid explorer, which is to say there are three hexes at the center of the galaxy which contain "Wisdom Chits." At some point during a multi-player game, you will have to assign at least one task force to penetrate into this forbidding area and schlep a Wisdom Chit or two back to one of your StarGates in the Galactic Disk. You won't be able to improve your Civilization Level on the Fate Table without them. Just don't take the chit with the "X" on its hidden side. If you do (at least in the Solitaire scenario) "it signifies the discovery of the fact that the Nuclear Core has exploded, and that the explosion is spreading outwards in a gargantuan chain reaction at the speed of light. The game is automatically lost and the Player has about forty million years to entirely evacuate the Galaxy. (Give or take a few hours)."

* * * * * *

Problems with the game:

Counter-stack-itis
It isn't really fair to level this criticism solely at Outreach. Like a lot of similar counter-based wargames, the stack of chits in a single hex can become obnoxious to manage. If three players are about to attempt Contact in a hex with a StarGate, there will be at least five counters and probably eight or nine piled on top of each other. Add to this the likelihood that there may be hex-to-hex conflict along an entire front and you can have a messy bit of chits. This isn't different than playing PanzerBlitz or any other similar design-era game, but it's a pain.

Bookkeeping
Each player has to track on a separate sheet the value of his StarGates, Resource Points and disposition of his Task Forces. All of these values change, constantly. Again, this is relatively common in a '60's or '70's wargame but still annoying. It is no less a pain today when these functions are often represented by tracks on a player aid, or the game map, with fiddly counters to move back and forth. I guess that's what computers are for. To make the bookkeeping job easier, I've made some useful forms which I've uploaded to the Files section.

Honesty
To play the game as the designer intended, a lot of activity that is critical to various outcomes happens behind closed doors in your own "smoke filled room", meaning that the actual composition of your Task Forces, the values of your StarGates and the balance in your Resource Point account are all things that can be changed with the stroke of a pencil while other players aren't looking. This approach is consistent with the SPI / Avalon Hill ethic of "let us all sit down and play this game like gentlemen, shall we?" But in fact, there is no way to corroborate how a certain chit, which has been hidden for the entire game, suddenly has the value it does when it is revealed during play. One can devise all sorts of interesting systems to work around this, but all of them involve the use of additional counters and plotting systems which would make Outreach lugubrious. Personally, I've never really seen the "honesty factor" as a problem in this game, or any other. Everyone just needs to play fair and square although I'm not sure such an approach would work in a tournament. Yet, somehow, I don't see an Outreach tournament looming in the future so I won't worry about it.

Playtesting?
The rules credit a small squad of playtesters and there are elements in the rules that indicate to me that the game was, indeed, playtested, or at least run through a couple of times. But there are gaps. Occasionally, situations arise that lack rules guidance such as who gets to build a StarGate in a single hex that was explored by two players, each with units in the hex, but who are not in Contact with eachother? StarGates are built in the Resource Allocation Phase when all production is supposed to take place simultaneously. Well, there cannot be two StarGates of different players in the same hex, so one of the players in this example has to lose out. My solution is that they must resolve their mutual "politics" first, so that only one player can build a StarGate in a hex devoid of opponents. Another example of what appears to be lack of playtesting is the use of the Scatter table during shift-movement. It seems that the Scatter table is designed backwards (or upside down?). Players can improve the outcome of their Scatter table results via die rolls but the higher-numbered results are worse, not better. This is easily rectified by simply inverting the values arrayed in the table, which I've done in my revised charts (which I've uploaded to the files section.) If playtesters actually played for any length of time I think this flaw should have been spotted. Okay, so Outreach probably wasn't really playtested that well. That doesn't surprise me because I'm sure SPI's budget for producing this game was thinner than a spaghetti noodle.

Turtling
Yes, players can choose to spend a lot of time building up their forces before significant interaction occurs but I don't see this as a huge problem. Lots of wargames have this "problem" because wargames mimic real life (at least life on Earth) in which factions controlling large collections of resources are cautious about exposing those resources to potential loss. In Outreach, a player who is puttering around in his backyard is begging to be taken advantage of because it is relatively simple to build a marauding force in one or two game turns and pierce a salient, Blitzkrieg style. Again, the simplicity of the counter mix makes strategic thinking quite easy. There is little analysis paralysis.

* * * * * *

Summary
You've no doubt figured out that despite the game's problems I like Outreach. While it doesn't have the immediate appeal of Twilight Imperium or Starcraft, it is an intriguing and thoughtful game that plays very smoothly and enjoyably. And when a game is concluded, it has an "epic" feel to it. If you've read this far, you are probably interested in the game, too, or maybe you even have an old copy stashed in your closet. Hopefully, I've inspired you to blow the dust off it and plunge into a universe where the Cepheids, Centaurians and Perseits all struggle for glory among the billions of swarming suns in the Cygnus-Carina arm of the Milky Way Galaxy!

[Edited to correct a typo or two]
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Outreach: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.



thumbsup

Outstanding work.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Seth Owen
United States
Norwich
Connecticut
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
It's not mentioned in the review, but it's important to understand for the sake of context that Outreach is part of a trilogy of games based ont he same Sci Fi "universe." The base game is StarForce 'Alpha Centauri': Interstellar Conflict in the 25th Century which provides most of the "back story" that is lacking in Outreach. The other game in the triology was StarSoldier: Tactical Warfare in the 25th Century which was a tactical future combat game.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Terrific review, Jeffery. One of my all-time favorite games, not primarily because of what it completely succeeded in doing, but because of what it dared to try and do.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eddy Richards
Scotland
Allanton
Duns
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Excellent review. I had this, yes, about 25 years ago (or even longer) and we played it a number of times, mostly 3 player. It is a bit fiddly, though no more so than most other wargames of that era, but as you describe has many original and unique features.

One thing I remember in the rationale was that fleets don't necessarily reflect military strength but a combination of this with trade & diplomacy. So you could imagine that your stack of dreadnoughts was actually a huge peaceful contact mission, busy making friends and influencing aliens.

Haven't played this for a long long time, but it does carry fond memories!

Eddy
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian Train
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Excellent review. And thank you for posting the forms!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Martin McCleary
United States
Huachuca City
Arizona
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
I still have the original copy I bought when this was published and plan to introduce it to a gaming friend in the near future. Great review, thanks.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Amala
United States
Dublin
California
flag msg tools
"Heke Heke": Hamsterish for "Huh?"
badge
paul@amala.us
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Thank you for the 'blast from the past' review. I first played this in the summer of '76 at a gaming convention at the University of Detroit (iirc). Got an SPI flat-box copy from that era too. Need to get it out of the box in the garage and give it another play
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francisco Colmenares
Canada
Woodbridge
Ontario
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Great Review Jeffery, many thanks for providing this to the community, it allows those of us who never had a chance to play it to get a feel for the game-play and design.

One comment regarding the spiral arms. You are correct that the density is more related to a concentration of brighter stars and not total stars. However one could argue that these higher concentrations of brighter stars also tend to represent those regions where higher rates of fusion and supernovas have occurred, generating areas that are higher in metallicity (i.e. higher in the periodic table than Helium). The regions between the arms might have plenty of stars but they might be comparatively lacking in heavy metals (iron, nickel, magnesium, etc) that are arguably necessary for a civilization to thrive.

Of course this brings up the galactic core. In theory these regions should probably also be resource rich but this may be explained by too much activity in the nucleus ( supermassive black hole ) causing too much disruption to reliably establish colonies in a reasonable time frame (pretty weak argument, I won't even try to explain the galactic nucleus explosion - What the...???).

Thanks Again.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy Loakes
United Kingdom
Hinckley
Leicestershire
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Quote:
A 4-player session would, of course, last even longer. I'd be curious if anyone out there has ever played such an Outreach marathon.


We've just finished (on turn 35 of 50 I admit) such a game. Here's what I posted on CSW:

After what we think was 5 days (c. 24-hours) of play over as many months, 3 friends (including Mr Wedge above) and I have finished the four player scenario. On the final day we decided we'd end the game at the end of whichever turn was in play at 16:40. As it turned out , this was Turn 35 (of 50) so we ended the game prematurely.

And boy, was it close?!

One player ended on 78 system points, another on 77, a third on 56 ( after 50% dissolution a little over half-way through the game) and the fourth achieved Civ Level 2 on the very last turn , thus doubling his 74 system points and snatching victory. The player with 78 points had tried for Civ Level 2 one or two turn earlier, with a 50:50 chance, and failed.

An enjoyable game but we'd want to tweak the rules next time to speed things up. It was toooooo long. And we ran out of Potential chits - despite using 2 sets!!!

Picture below shows final state of the game.

Andy
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Boote
United Kingdom
Virginia Water
Surrey
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
SkyGazer wrote:
Another example of what appears to be lack of playtesting is the use of the Scatter table during shift-movement. It seems that the Scatter table is designed backwards (or upside down?). Players can improve the outcome of their Scatter table results via die rolls but the higher-numbered results are worse, not better. This is easily rectified by simply inverting the values arrayed in the table, which I've done in my revised charts (which I've uploaded to the files section.) If playtesters actually played for any length of time I think this flaw should have been spotted.


Actually, this is quite deliberate
There was a magazine article (Wargamer, I think) that discussed the rational behind this,a s well as providing a (HUGE) new Fate table

Other than that, an excellent review, thanx
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steven Solomon
United States
Monterey
California
flag msg tools
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Thanks for an excellent review!

I am engaged in the painful process of divesting myself of some old games (partially because of finances and partially because I've run out of room for new games!), and I really appreciate the time and effort you put into your review. This was probably not your intent, but I think you've convinced me to sell my copy of Outreach, either here on the Geek or on eBay.

I just can't imagine that I'll get a couple of friends to come to the table for a game lasting days and days. I also doubt I'll find anybody willing to deal with the tiny print of a 30-year-old SPI rulebook, and I doubt that I myself want to deal with tall, fiddly counter stacks.

I'm sorry to say this, though. From your review and everybody else's comments, this game seems to have potential. Also, Outreach is one of those games I've been dragging around with me for about 3 decades now, and it has a certain sentimental value for me. But I've got scads of new games I haven't had a chance to play yet, and something's gotta give.

Thanks again for the valuable info on this game, and I hope you get to play it often.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy Loakes
United Kingdom
Hinckley
Leicestershire
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Quote:
this game seems to have potential


There's a joke there that's just too obvious (to anyone that know the game)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francisco Colmenares
Canada
Woodbridge
Ontario
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
andyloakes wrote:
Quote:
this game seems to have potential


There's a joke there that's just too obvious (to anyone that know the game)


So you're saying there's a huge gray cardboard square with black numbers under his game?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Danny Stevens
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
flag msg tools
Games: Design 'em, rewrite 'em, play 'em!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Excellent review. Its prompted me to arrange a game with friends.

You didn't mention the dust cloud hex edges, which block long shifts, and beacon stars which aid navigation. I remember being excited about having to add new beacon stars until the first time I actually had to do it.

I also remember trying to create a special rule about globular clusters as special resource hexes scattered about the place, but it didn't add much to the game that other features hadn't already covered.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Cawley
United States
Anthem
Arizona
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.

The rationale for the core region being barren is that the stars there are old, have been through their gas giant phase, and lack planets (fried 'em lol). As for the core explosion idea, it was one old theory about quasars. Quasars are active galactic nuclei, correct, and outshine the rest of their galaxy, correct. They just didn't know all that release comes from a narrow region around the core and stays that way...
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Miserendino
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Excellent review! Thanks for providing this!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marcus
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful review.

I've owned Outreach a couple of times (as part of the StarForce Trilogy), but never had a chance to play it and likely, never will.

However, I've always liked the scope of the game, the cover art and the ideas/systems contained in the game. Also very fond of the map. I may yet purchase my third copy of the game, to stand next to my (still unplayed) copy of StarForce: Alpha Centauri.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Thomas Frost
United States
Maryland
flag msg tools
mb
Re: Yes, that game you bought 25 years ago.
I loved -- love -- Outreach. I owned and played all three of the SPI Star Force trilogy, and liked Outreach the best of all. The presence of Autonomous Forces give it a very good level of solitaire playability, and the scale of the game can't be outdone. The Fate Table was quite entertaining as well.

I still own Outreach and would love to play in person or by email (I think there's a Cyberboard game box for it).
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Young
Canada
Ontario
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Oh! The treasures we come across on this website! As I sit here staring at my wrinkled and cracked box for Outreach, I'm thinking maybe it's time to lay it all out on the table and introduce my sons to the amoeba that became StarCraft et al. Very nice review! and I think BoardGameGeek is a great website and resource!
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Juan Valdez
msg tools
monstrooper wrote:
Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful review.

I've owned Outreach a couple of times (as part of the StarForce Trilogy), but never had a chance to play it and likely, never will.

However, I've always liked the scope of the game, the cover art and the ideas/systems contained in the game. Also very fond of the map. I may yet purchase my third copy of the game, to stand next to my (still unplayed) copy of StarForce: Alpha Centauri.


I've lately solo'ed Scenarios 1 and 2 in StarForce, finding the mechanics both simple and elegant in the extreme.

This comes at a cost of some bookkeeping, true, but I didn't find it much of a burden. After a couple of turns, the bookkeeping helped me remember what to do, so I'm seeing that as a net win.

Based on this review I purchased Outreach. Based on my experience with StarForce, I believe I will quite enjoy it.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Danny Stevens
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
flag msg tools
Games: Design 'em, rewrite 'em, play 'em!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One thing that people don't metion much is the feel of the game. Space is big. Really big. Games like Twilight Imperium make it feel small. I guess because of the need to make the game exciting and "immediate". But I like the feeling of big, of the impossible distances and cold between the many, many stars.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Glen Cote
United States
Central Village
Connecticut
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for a great review. I played the hell out of this game when I was a kid (along with Starforce and Battlefleet Mars) when I was a teenager. Always loved those SPI sci-fi games.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Roger W
United States
California
flag msg tools
Very, very fond memories of playing this in ~1978
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Howard Bishop
United Kingdom
High Wycombe
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
A wonderful thorough and thoughtful review. Many thanks
I managed to pick up a second-hand copy for cheap recently and we have a 4-handed game scheduled in 3 days time.
What immediately strikes me is the epic and stark feel of the enterprise. Almost all of the other 4X games I've played just have that sniff of WW2 in space. This is different.
We might write up an AAR for anyone who still has a copy of the game and has even a miniscule chance of getting it to the table.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.