Mozzee (Michael) Murphy
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SPACE INFANTRY
By Gottardo Zancani

OVERVIEW
Sometime in early February Gottardo Zancani's Space Infantry popped up on BGG's "The Hotness" list, and it caught my eye for three reasons. First, it is a solitaire game, and I don't have very many of these. Second, being what is known as a "value conscious consumer" [read: Cheap-skate] I'm always interested in new games I can get for practically free. But third was what set it apart: fantastic artwork. I've seen a bunch of great print and play games, but not with such an attractive theme. So I downloaded, produced my set, and began my journey into SPACE INFANTRY.

GAMEPLAY
In this solitaire game, you build a squad of Space Infantry and lead them through a military mission, against one of several possible opposition races.

Each time you play, you select one of the prepared mission cards, which shows the map/gameboard, mission objectives, and any special rules that apply to that scenario. At the time of this writing there were 7 missions available.

Next you will choose one of the Enemy Race sheets, each of which represents a different type of opposition force you might encounter on your mission. At present there are about 5 alien races.

Next you will put together a team of warriors that you think will best be suited to the mission objectives, and against your given enemy. There are a variety of units you can choose from to build your team. There are about 8 types of basic units, including Assault or Shotgun units that specialize in Melee attack, and Fire Teams and Sniper units that are better at longer-range encounters. There are also 6 types of specialists, (scientist, explorer, demolitions, Zero-G team etc.) who are not as robust (less hit points) but have special skills that will be invaluable for certain missions.

Example: in Mission 003 you must infiltrate and destroy an enemy base on an asteroid, but you must travel through several areas where there is no gravity. It would be foolhardy to attempt this mission with without bringing along the Zero-Gravity unit, which is the only unit with the "Zero-G" skill.

Each unit has 3-4 skills, and a numeric rank for each skill (from 2 to 6; 2 being the best). Each unit has a building cost, and you are allowed a certain number of points to use when you build your team. So you can take more units if you take weaker/cheaper units, or you can build a tougher, smaller team by using the heavy-hitters. Each unit is represented by a small card which displays the unit's skills, HP, and other special attributes.

Finally you may equip your team with a variety of resources, such as Grenades, MedKits, StymPacks, Intel, and extra ammo. Your team can carry only 8 of these at a time, but there are supply caches on most of the maps, and you may be able to replenish some of your resources along the way.

Mechanically, the team moves around the board as a single unit, represented on the map by a single Marker, labeled "TEAM A." There is a TEAM B marker, but I haven't encountered any missions that make use of it. In each location, you will perform various skill-checks and encounter-checks using a chit-pulling system. You pull random chits (or tiles) from a bag or bowl, and compare that value with the number required to succeed. I printed my chits on cardstock and mounted them on adhesive backed floor tiles, and pulled them from a bowl. I found this to be a very satisfying mechanic. The game could also be played with a bunch of dice, but with as many random numbers as you have to generate during the battles, I wouldn't want that many dice bouncing around the table.

Most missions have a time limit of 30 turns to move around and accomplish the mission objectives. Each space on the map (called a node) has a challenge that must be overcome to move into the node. The challenge lists a skill and a number of levels that must be achieved. A common example would be a node labeled "Advance 3." This means you must successfully use the Advance skill 3 times. If you have 3 units possessing the Advance skill, and each of them succeeds at a skill check, then you gain 3 levels of Advance, and you may move into the Advance 3 node in one turn. If you only gain 2 levels of advance, you can try again on your next turn to get the last success level. Some of the more skilled units are even capable of gaining more than one level in a single turn. Another example might be a wall or mountain that must be scaled, which could be represented by a CLIMB 3 node. You'd have to use your Explorer Specialist, because that's the only unit with the CLIMB skill. But he would probably take at least three turns to get 3 successful skill-checks.

Each node also has an encounter formula. Each turn in a node you will perform an event check, to find out if you encounter any of the enemy race in that node. If you do, another random number is pulled, and using a simple table on the Enemy Race Sheet, you determine the types and quantity of units you encounter. Then you must do battle.

Each round of battle can happen at either close range (melee) or long range (fire). You will pull a chit, and consult a chart on the Enemy Race Sheet to find out whether you'll be using your Melee or Fire skills. Most of your basic units have both of these skills, as do some of the specialists. Some even have multiple instances of the skill.

Combat Example 1: The Heavy Weapons unit has these skills: Fire 2, and Melee 5 (2 is the best, and 5 is the worst) so Heavy Weapons rocks when in a Firefight, but is not a lot of help in a melee battle.

Combat Example 2: The Shotgun Unit has these skills: Melee 3,4 and Fire 5. So Shotgun is not very helpful in a Firefight, but in a Melee he pulls two chits, and has two chances to hit.

Your enemy units always have Fire & Melee skill levels, and unless you've managed an ambush, they're going to be shooting back at you too. So every round you'll pull chits for each of your opponents as well, and see if they managed to hit you. Combat continues round by round, until either the enemy forces are dead, or your team is. There are some restrictions about how you assign wounds--I won't go into that here, but I will include a link to a forum thread where the designer offers an excellent option that simplifies the matter of handling wounds.

(http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/503263/wounds-vs-treated...)


COMPONENTS
In addition to the Unit cards, the random-number chits, the Mission Maps and the Enemy Race Sheets I mentioned before, there are also a variety of markers you can make to designate the Resources (Grenades & Medkits, etc), wounds, and a generic marker that has several possible uses. All of the components have a thematically rich and satisfying look to them.

Overview of the available Missions:
Mission 001: Communication with the two scientific plants on Xargon IV ceased 2 months ago. Your team must investigate and find out what happened to the scientists, by infiltrating all 3 laboratory Nodes.

Mission 002: The scientists have been imprisoned on the desert planet of Jovvian III, you must find and rescue them. This scenario grants you the use of the Rhino All-Terrain Vehicle. In addition to the Enemies on your Enemy Race Sheet, there is a special enemy called a Sand Worm that you may encounter at certain locations.

Mission 003: Infiltrate and destroy the enemy base located on an asteroid. In the several Zero-G nodes on this map, any skill checks that happen have a -1 penalty because the skills are hampered by the pressure suits. Before making landfall on the asteroid, you may encounter this map's special enemy, the Drones.

Mission 004: You will not choose an Enemy Race Sheet for this mission, which is set on a frigid ocean world. Your objective is to find and destroy a single Boss Enemy, the Leviathan.

Mission 005: The clock is ticking on this mission. You have only 20 turns to find and recover a radio, and some valuable supplies from a ship that has crashed on the planet Denobula. This mission marks the first possibility of encountering a Boss-Level enemy.

Mission 006: Intelligence for this mission is a little sketchy. This mission has several mystery nodes, and you must investigate them all. You won't know which skills you'll need for the mystery nodes until you arrive there, so you'll need a well-rounded team.

Mission 007: This mission features a big-baddie. While you MIGHT have encountered the nasty Boss-Level Enemy on missions 5&6, on this mission you MUST encounter the Boss, and defeat it--but first you have to figure out where it is. Several mystery nodes are on this map. You might find the Boss, a cache of Intel or Grenades, or maybe even a Xeno Poison booby-trap.

SUMMARY
I have totally enjoyed this game, both in the individual missions, and playing it as a campaign. In the campaign format, each time you complete a mission you earn Experience points which can be used to upgrade unit's skills. I also got very excited about the possibility of a community of players that could design and upload their own missions, units, and campaigns providing a rich selection of scenarios to extend replayability.

There are some variant options for making the game more difficult. Yikes! I found it fairly difficult, especially depending on which enemies I faced. In fact, after one encounter with the cultists known as "Dark God Followers" I decided the One True God wiped out those infidels--because I sure couldn't!

Each round took me from 30 minutes to an hour, and a little longer if I took notes. (Shorter when I got obliterated by the cultists!) When I had an afternoon to myself I was able to play 4 or 5 missions in a row. I accomplished the missions a little better than half of the time, but even so, a couple of times I had a lone, wounded soldier left at the end of the mission.

This review is based mostly on rule set version 0.8 (Feb 19). The first ruleset that I played with was version 0.7. But after only about 5 plays, the designer released version 0.8, which contained several refinements, corrections, and a few new additions. I incorporated several of the new additions, but not all of them. So far, I've played 16 rounds of the game, and I still I haven't tried the Ammo tracking that was introduced in Rules Version 0.8, nor any of the new units that have been posted here
(http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/505093/additionan-leader...)
and here.
(http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/503104/leader-variant)

AVAILABILITY
This game was available for download for only a short time before Lock & Load games approached the designer with an offer to produce a professional version of the game, so he had to remove the posted free-version of the game. A simplified version (v. 0.9b) of the rules can be downloaded here:
(http://zak965.it/spaceinfantry/Basic%20Rules.pdf)

I don't think the printable pieces are available, but you can apparently use these rules to play the game on the Vassal Module. Here is a link to some information on Vassal, but "I don't understand everything I know about that," (as my grandfather used to say).
(http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/500200/vassal-play-space...)


LINKS
If you want to know more about these adhesive-backed floor tiles, check out this link:
(http://www.instructables.com/id/Using-Adhesive-Backed-Floor-...)


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Christopher
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Good review!

And Michael is right: this game is some great fun and entertainment!
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Grand Pooba

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Thanks for the review. I have always been interested in space related games. Your great review has convinced me to pre-order this one.
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Curt Ligot
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ericb wrote:
Thanks for the review. I have always been interested in space related games. Your great review has convinced me to pre-order this one.
Ditto here. I'v been trying to back off buying games, but this one looks like a must buy.
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Scott Lewis
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I've been eyeballing this one, too, and may pre-order it. I've never ordered from LnL before, though; do they charge you now, or do they charge you right before it ships?
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Uwe Hock
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They charge you right before it ships.
And let me say that LNL are the best publisher I met so far.
The quality is high standard.
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Alan Lynott
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This sounds like a board game version of X-Com. Interesting ...
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Warren Smith
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alanlynott wrote:
This sounds like a board game version of X-Com. Interesting ...
That would be fantastic. However, to me it doesn't sound like that at all. Unless I'm not understanding the review, I'm kind of disappointed. Am I right that the entire team moves as a single unit throughout the game? To me, it sounds like an obstacle course where the decision as to whether you win or lose is made by the time the team is assembled and it's just a matter of going through the course to discover the outcome. I'm sure I'm not being very fair to the game, but that's my initial impression. Still, I'm going to keep my eye on this and hope I'm wrong because I was initially excited to learn about the game and was hoping it'd really fit my interests.
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Mozzee (Michael) Murphy
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wsmithjr wrote:

Unless I'm not understanding the review, I'm kind of disappointed. Am I right that the entire team moves as a single unit throughout the game? To me, it sounds like an obstacle course where the decision as to whether you win or lose is made by the time the team is assembled and it's just a matter of going through the course to discover the outcome.
Yes and No.

Yes, the team moves as a UNIT.

No. The outcome is by no means fore-ordained once the team is assembled. You use random-number chits in this game, which serve a similar purpose to dice-rolling in D&D type games.

Further I would say that is absolutely the opposite of the way things work. Granted, if you pick a team that is entirely unsuited to the objective and/or your chosen enemy, it may be a foregone conclusion, as unwinnable. But, in my experience, there are so many variables and challenges in a scenario that no two plays are alike. I've played the same scenario several times with the same team, using the same route/strategy, and similar equipment kits yet had widely divergent outcomes.

There is a great deal of randomness in what you encounter. Sometimes you keep getting hammered by overwhelming opposition force, and your only hope is to have amazing luck with the number pulls (dice rolls) during the battles. That can be quite exciting, (or frustrating depending on your temperament). Other times (I think it may have happened twice out of 35 plays) I had amazing luck when doing enemy encounter checks, and the few times I did encounter anyone it turned out to be a minimal force. So those plays my team walked away largely unfazed, and it felt a little like an empty victory.

So for me there is a fair amount a luck involved. Probably because I'm no great strategist, I have to depend on luck. Your mileage may vary. If you're great with military strategy, you may need to include some of the "Challenge" options to make the game tougher. The base game is still more than exciting enough for me.
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Warren Smith
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revtiedye wrote:

So for me there is a fair amount a luck involved. Probably because I'm no great strategist, I have to depend on luck. Your mileage may vary. If you're great with military strategy, you may need to include some of the "Challenge" options to make the game tougher. The base game is still more than exciting enough for me.
I don't mind the luck. It still seems to me like the game is more of a story or a movie. Is there opportunity, once the actual battle begins, to tactically influence the outcome? Either overcome bad luck with good tactics and choices or, more likely for me, fritter away good luck with bad choices and tactics.

It's not my intention to be critical of the game as it does intrigue me and I even see how it would be fun to experience. However, I think I would not be completely satisfied if there were little or no tactical considerations in the actual execution of the mission.

Thanks for your review and comments.
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Mozzee (Michael) Murphy
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wsmithjr wrote:

I don't mind the luck. It still seems to me like the game is more of a story or a movie. Is there opportunity, once the actual battle begins, to tactically influence the outcome? Either overcome bad luck with good tactics and choices or, more likely for me, fritter away good luck with bad choices and tactics.
Point well taken. I suppose once the team and supply kit have been selected, the tactical choices for the base game may mostly consist of choosing which path to explore, deciding when and how to expend your Team Leader's command points, and your supplies (Medkits, intel, grenades, etc.) Playing some of the expansions there are more choices, for instance one variant includes a tile placement aspect, but really that's more of a puzzle game than a tactical choice.

Major Proviso: I have only a nuts and bolts understanding of the terms "strategy" and "tactics" so I'm sure there are aspects of the game that elude me.

Michael;
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Andrea
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UweH wrote:
They charge you right before it ships.
And let me say that LNL are the best publisher I met so far.
The quality is high standard.
Well... let's say that sometimes they print wrong counters...
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wsmithjr wrote:
revtiedye wrote:

So for me there is a fair amount a luck involved. Probably because I'm no great strategist, I have to depend on luck. Your mileage may vary. If you're great with military strategy, you may need to include some of the "Challenge" options to make the game tougher. The base game is still more than exciting enough for me.
I don't mind the luck. It still seems to me like the game is more of a story or a movie. Is there opportunity, once the actual battle begins, to tactically influence the outcome? Either overcome bad luck with good tactics and choices or, more likely for me, fritter away good luck with bad choices and tactics.

It's not my intention to be critical of the game as it does intrigue me and I even see how it would be fun to experience. However, I think I would not be completely satisfied if there were little or no tactical considerations in the actual execution of the mission.

Thanks for your review and comments.
I bought the game more or less spontaneous with the reasonably high BGG-Rating in mind, seeing it on the shelf of my FLGS.

I should have read the review first, so nobody but me is to blame, but my impression after 2 games is exactly like wsmithjr guessed.

After choosing your team and resources there is almost no deep tactical decision once the game started, it mostly comes down to choose the one way ("try my demolitions skill) or the other ("test security"). The rest of the game is almost pure luck.

Again i have to say, that the game promised nothing on the box it could not keep, it was just that i wanted the game to be something other as it is.

I am relatviely new to solitaire gaming, but after playing two excellent games from VPG ("Legions of Darkness" and "Astra Titanus") i got carried away a little.

Still i can see, that this game means fun for some, it is just not the right game for me.
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