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Subject: High Frontier -- Boldly Going Where No Review Has Gone Before rss

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Like Picard's tractor beam deflecting the USS Bozemen before a collision with the Enterprise, Phil Eklund's upcoming release -- High Frontier -- pushes the space-themed games in an entirely new direction. In High Frontier, you will not find any dekyon field modulations in Data's positronic subprocessors, no Vogons nor Babel Fish, no centuries-old conflict between the Clan of Saar and The Winn, and no hot blonde Cylons that make you wonder What-The-Frak FFG was thinking when they put Edward James Olmos on the game box cover. No, instead you will find a game that takes a refreshing look at the plausible reality of human exploration and exploitation of the resources found on the heavenly bodies of our inner solar system.




I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A. Component Quality
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B. Manual
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C. Art/Visuals
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D. Game Play & Mechanics
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E. Theme
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OVERALL RATING
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II DETAILED REVIEW

A. Component Quality



The game box is very sturdy with a nice high-gloss finish. This represents a huge step up from what you get with some other Sierra Madre Games (Kriegbot, American Megafauna). In the case of High Frontier, the high quality game box is essential to store the base game and expansion map, both of are quad-fold and heavy.



The two-sided patent blue-print cards representing different rocket components (thrusters, reactors, robonauts, refineries) are good quality with rounded edges and a matted finish.




The player reference cards are large and packed with game-relevant information. Industry-standard wooden cubes (30), plastic disks (100), and plastic rockets (10) round out the components.




My only disappointment with the components was having to cut out the crew cards (each player gets a crew/faction with unique abilities). I would have rather seen the crew cards printed in the same fashion the patent blue-print cards.


B. Manual

My first reaction to the manual was that I was reading the warranty information that came with my new plasma TV (you know, the 16 pages of colorless text that comes in 8 different languages with any new electronics you buy). The 24-page manual is colorless and filled side to side, top to bottom with small font text and pictures (were the same amount of information included in the manual of a "traditional Euro game," the manual would be 60 pages long. The first half of the manual covered both basic game and the expanded game (the expansion is sold separately, but you you already get the expansion rules with the base game), while pages 12-24 includes designer notes and a detailed description of each of the patentable rocket components. Its in this 2nd half of the game manual that you will find details to impress you friends and family, but that are not essential to playing the game. That said, who amongst us does not already know a brachistochome is 5.0 km/sec or that equipment with a rad-hardness of 1 can withstand total ionizing dose of 4x10^-7 krad. Some color in the manual would have been nice, but overall it functional serves its purpose.


C. Art/Visuals

The box art (front and back) are great and the game board is stunningly beautiful. There is a lot of information to digest on the board and at first the myriad of criss-crossing paths and symbols you may leaving you wondering if it was designed by Phil Ecklund or by a 7 year-old with a full box of crayons. The cards (white with black text and red highlights on one side; black with white text and red highlights on the other) are also pleasing to the eye.


D. Game Play & Mechanics



There are some really interesting aspects to game play. For me, the secret to enjoying the game was to focus on what I need to know and block out the overdose of technical theme-oozing jargon that completely engulfs you.

The goal of the game is to successfully set up factories on the various moons, planets, asteroids, and comets in found in the inner solar system (the expansion lets you venture to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn). The key to doing this is water which serves as both fuel for your rockets and currency with which to acquire the necessary rocket components. The basic steps in the process are:

1. Acquire the patents to different rocket components at auction (you bid using Water Tank tokens).

2. Build a ship that has thruster and robonaut components and boost it into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). To get it into LEO, you will need to spend Water Tanks (WT) equal to the total mass you boosting.

3. Once in LEO, load up your ship with WTs and head off into solar system. The question of where to go gets very very interesting. Each potential prospecting location (moon, asteroid, planet, comet) has a number between 1 and 10 associated with it. The larger the number for the site, the more likely your attempt at prospecting will be successful (you roll a D6 and if you roll less than the value of the site, then you succeed). Thus, it would seem your obvious destination should be one of the larger objects (our Moon, Mars, Venus, Ceres) since they all have numbers of 6 or higher which makes successful prospecting a certainty. But, not so fast. The aforementioned prospecting sites with high numbers are the larger objects in the inner solar system and as such, have higher gravity than other locations. Why does this matter -- because all else being equal, you are going to need to spend a lot more fuel to slow down and land on higher gravity objects than a smaller, lower gravity objects.

Another very interesting mechanic involves the difference between wet and dry mass. Dry mass is your ships mass without any fuel (no Water Tanks). Wet Mass is your ship's mass when fueled with Water tanks. The more WTs you initially load, the shorter distance you can travel per tank consumed (because you are having to carry around all the extra Water Tank mass). But as you use up your WT fuel, you be less massive and your thrusters can take you further per bturn. Fuel load, consumption, and thruster efficiency is cleverly tracked in the bottom 2/3 of each Player Mat.

The result of all the fuel consumption mechanics is that players must either attempt to exactly calculate the Water needed to get to their desired destination or disregard efficiency and just "wing it" (I strongly recommend the latter for new players trying to learn the game).



E. Theme

This is easily High Frontier's strongest suit. The game totally immerses you in the realistic future of human exploration and exploitation of our solar system. Could Phil have taken some of the jargon out to broaden the game's audience? Sure he could have, but it would have been at the expense of the thematic experience. And, for those of you who know Phil (a real-life rocket scientist), it would have be very Un-Phil for him to do so.


III. OVERALL RATING
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I highly recommend this game for folks who want be totally immersed in a 2-3 hour, realistic exploration of our solar system. The game is unforgiving -- but so real-world is space flight. In a crowded galaxy of space games, High Frontier stands out from the crowd.

.

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Ingo Griebsch
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Hi rsolow,

many many thanks for the review! thumbsup

It is really really dificult to be patient to wait until thursday then I pick up my game at the fair.
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Ricky Gray
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Quote:
you be less massive and your thrusters can take you further per burn


Hi, Bob .

Technically, the more fuel you burn, the less massive you are, and thus the further your thrusters can take you per turn - not per burn.

Great job!

Ricky
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Pete Belli
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I like the photograph of this game standing in front of the other titles. Clever.

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pete belli wrote:
I like the photograph of this game standing in front of the other titles. Clever.


I have my moments
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David G. Cox Esq.
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rsolow wrote:
I have my moments


I was under the impression that most of them were only momentary...
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Filip Lange
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rsolow wrote:
pete belli wrote:
I like the photograph of this game standing in front of the other titles. Clever.


I have my moments :)


...although, if I am to give some constructive criticism, the lighting of the gamebox in front could have been better. But it's nitpick, really. Great review!
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Paul Lister
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rsolow wrote:


My first reaction to the manual was that I was reading the warranty information that came with my new plasma TV (you know, the 16 pages of colorless text that comes in 8 different languages with any new electronics you buy).


For this alone i vote this review best of year
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Mike Urban
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da pyrate wrote:
rsolow wrote:
I have my moments


I was under the impression that most of them were only momentary...


Sounds like the sort of game where one requires moments of inertia.
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Sorp222 wrote:
rsolow wrote:


My first reaction to the manual was that I was reading the warranty information that came with my new plasma TV (you know, the 16 pages of colorless text that comes in 8 different languages with any new electronics you buy).


For this alone i vote this review best of year



Sweet. Do I get a geek badge if I win?
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Paul Lister
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rsolow wrote:
Sorp222 wrote:
rsolow wrote:


My first reaction to the manual was that I was reading the warranty information that came with my new plasma TV (you know, the 16 pages of colorless text that comes in 8 different languages with any new electronics you buy).


For this alone i vote this review best of year



Sweet. Do I get a geek badge if I win?


Yes with a 24 page instruction manual in Czech and Korean
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Holger Hannemann
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Oh my God,

and I thought the Origins: How We Became Human game board was intimidating.....
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The MatrixCube wrote:
Oh my God,

and I thought the Origins: How We Became Human game board was intimidating.....


High Frontier is actually not so bad once you spend a little time with it. Where lines cross, there are several possibilities:

1. They do not actually touch (think of electric circuit diagrams where on paper one wire crosses over another, but without actually touching)

2. They touch and you can turn at no fuel cost

3. They touch and you must burn fuel to turn.
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Wulf Corbett
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rsolow wrote:
High Frontier is actually not so bad once you spend a little time with it. Where lines cross, there are several possibilities:

1. They do not actually touch (think of electric circuit diagrams where on paper one wire crosses over another, but without actually touching)

2. They touch and you can turn at no fuel cost

3. They touch and you must burn fuel to turn.
I hate to add complexity, but there's a 4th possibility:

4. They cross, and you may choose either to stop, and may begin the next game turn moving in any direction, or may turn at cost, or may continue in a straight path (if available) at no cost.

Also, there are points where no lines cross, but you have to burn fuel (but can sometimes avoid the fuel cost).

And then there's aerobraking.

And flyby boosts.

And... erm... OK, it is a bit complicated...
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Michael Mindes
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I have played this game with Phil Eklund and Seth Jaffee. I have not seen the final product, but as I understand it some of the streamlining and simplification of the game that we suggested made it into the final product.

That being said, the game totally captures your imagination and the possibility of intra-solar system space travel.

The complexity of the rules mainly comes from the exacting methods of Phil, as opposed to the quantity of rules that effect everyday game play. That being said, every box should include a Phil Eklund to play with, since he makes the experience VERY interesting.

I also would recommend playing with the expansion, so you can at least see Jupiter and Saturn and make a decision to fly your rocket out there.

I did discover some methods to get infinite travel as a result of making flyby loops that increased speed/total distance to travel. I imagine that was resolved though.

Additionally, it should be noted that the board is calculated by Phil to accurately represent the energy required to travel from point A to B. He also had his work verified by some of his rocket scientest space travel buddies.

This really is an accurate space-exploration simulation, and I think it is awesome. Even if it is a little heavy on the rules end.
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Greg Maynard
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DrMayhem wrote:
... every box should include a Phil Eklund to play with, since he makes the experience VERY interesting.

Now THAT sounds like fun!
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Zsolt Nagy
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Stile86 wrote:
DrMayhem wrote:
... every box should include a Phil Eklund to play with, since he makes the experience VERY interesting.

Now THAT sounds like fun!


Maybe the next expansion will come with this extra?
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Lee Fisher
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Nagypapi wrote:
Stile86 wrote:
DrMayhem wrote:
... every box should include a Phil Eklund to play with, since he makes the experience VERY interesting.

Now THAT sounds like fun!


Maybe the next expansion will come with this extra?


Eventually Phil will design a game based on cloning.
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lfisher wrote:
Eventually Phil will design a game based on cloning.


Eventually Phil will design a game based on cloning himself! Whoever has the most Phil Eklunds wins!
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Wulf Corbett
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Getting into space is simple. Getting a factory built on Ceres is a minor challenge. Getting a crew on the surface of Io might be tricky... getting them back to Earth certainly will be!

There are many, many simple challenges involving just figuring out how to do stuff - and that's before you start to consider actual scenarios, or the challenge of competition between players.
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Wulf Corbett
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Well, the normal (that is, not playing a specific scenario) game ends when a total number of factories have been built. Players then count Victory Points. As you get more VP for building different types of factories, and those different types must be built on different bodies (asteroids, moons, comets, etc), you have to figure out how to reach a suitable one with the technology you have, or wait until the technology becomes available. Then there's the extra points for specific actions - like first manned mission to return from a successful mission to Io, or a number of other scientific sites.

So, there are a myriad of ways to win the geme. If you're of a competitive frame of mind, and care only for point scoring, a number of preferable courses of action will become evident, but if you want to explore, the possibilities, although not endless, are many. There's also a fair bit of randomness in the game - some sites may prove barren & unusable, craft may not survive hazardous burn points, etc.

There's a lot to do & a lot of different ways to do it. It's possible there may be an optimum strategy to win, but you'll take long enough to find it, even if you try.
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Fabian Trunz
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Okay, this doesn't have much to do with the game, but at all, but in here is where it might reach the right audience. Though probably everyone but me already knew this:

Guys, girls, the Soviets actually managed to shoot a probe to venus and send back pictures! This is ridiculously incredible!

Link: http://www.mentallandscape.com/C_CatalogVenus.htm
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Wulf Corbett
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You do realise that was back in the '70s & '80s?

Hot there, though. The probes didn't last long.
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Fabian Trunz
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The 70s 80s thing doesn't make it less incredible to me, it makes it a huge load more incredible.
 
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Wulf Corbett
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if they did it again it would look much better. Special effects have improved no end since they faked the Moon landings.
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