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

Subject: A beginner's Impression rss

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Michael Ptak
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I've had Outreach for several years now. As a fan of epic galactic sags Outreach was right up my alley... but a combination of thick rules and no opponents willing to try such an old game meant it languished for a long while as other games were played.

Since I wanted to take a break from my imperium "learning" spree I broke open Outreach and decided to try the beginner's scenario just to see the game moving and working and get a hang of it. Assisting me was a rules summary I made earlier this year when I thought about running a PBEM campaign with my gaming group and acting as referee.

In summary Outreach is an elegant game of growing an interstellar empire of galactic proportions. Your civilization is abstracted into several axes of representation. Your 'territory' where your civilization resides is marked out by StarGates. The interactive power of your civilization (Battlefleets, colony fleets, and a mix of both) are represented by ship counters. The economic power of your empire is represented by how valued your StarGates are. Finally the technological sophistication of your empire is measured by your Civilization Level. 1 Means your a regular user of Telesthetics (FTL travel). 3 means you move at the power of thought.

And that's it.

Those simple things; StarGates, Fleets, System Points, and Civilization level all comprise your empire and how it is used in Outreach. Between all of that are a few formulas to perform in order to do anything of significance (Explore a hex to colonize it? Double the number of explorers, add 1 for every regular fleet, consult a chart and roll on a table).

Impressions?
I was actually rather surprised how simple the game was when I saw it in action. Once I knew how attrition was dealt against units and how the scatter table worked moving was easy. I've yet to engage in combat (no minor empires encountered), but if it's as easy as the rest of the game then it might not be so bad. Would give me a reason to actually build dreadnoughts.

I have two issues with the game so far.

Bookeeping: StarGates under player control have strength values, which added together gives your total producing power for the end of the turn. Although I finally found a use for those microscopic 4mm dice I own, the 0.5in counters and accordingly sized hexes don't make for easy bookkeeping on the board. You'll need pencil and paper to track the strength of your StarGates (or the clever use of dice). Moreover you can have three kinds of fleets, but there's only one fleet counter. More bookeeping required or another way to denote what the ships are.

Technology level: Tech level helps bigtime in the game in a number of areas, including movement, combat, destroying opponents territories, reclaiming them, and so on. It is almost impossible to get. In order to do this you must travel to the center of the galaxy, crossing something like 25 hexes of territory where if you fail a scatter roll, your stack of fleets is lost forever. Even a modest distance like three hexes... roll anything below a 3 and the fleet is gone. So in order to advance your race you need to wait a long, long time through careful patient moving to grab one of three Wisdom chits. After that, you have to wait for a random event to happen where you can spend them to advance your tech level.

And in some scenarios if you pull up one specific Wisdom Chit, the game is over. How's that for a friendly game experience?

All in all though I had fun. Not sure how I'm going to get more players for this given how specific it is with record keeping.

As a bonus, I had this playing in the background during that first scenario to really give the game an ethereal experience.

This was only an impressions review... if you want to look at something more in depth about the components and specifics, I invite you to check out the only other review for the game at the time of this writing by Jeff.
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Michael Cox
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Norsehound wrote:
Assisting me was a rules summary I made earlier this year when I thought about running a PBEM campaign with my gaming group and acting as referee.
I am in your shoes, it seems, as this is a game I have had for awhile but finding time and opponents have been tricky so I keep thinking I should just set it out and run through the scenario. Would your rules summary happen to be available for download?

Thanks.

Michael
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Barry Kendall
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The cover was one of SPI's best, imho. And the map looked great in blacklight.
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Damo
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michaeldavidcox wrote:
Norsehound wrote:
Assisting me was a rules summary I made earlier this year when I thought about running a PBEM campaign with my gaming group and acting as referee.

I am in your shoes, it seems, as this is a game I have had for awhile but finding time and opponents have been tricky so I keep thinking I should just set it out and run through the scenario. Would your rules summary happen to be available for download?


Yes please!

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Darrell Hanning
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Outreach is a game I pre-ordered when it was first announced by SPI. (I was a subscriber to S&T at the time.) For all its warts and blemishes, it's a game that really strikes a chord inside me - the epic scope and magnitude of a game covering expansion across one-third of the Milky Way galaxy, with a time scale of a hundred years per turn. It makes TI3 resemble a trailer park feud, in relative scope.

Unfortunately, where the Wisdom Chits should have been only a sideshow, they are instead integral to success in the game. I would very much like to have seen political, economic, cultural and military achievements and goals play a more central role. And so every once in a while, I run through scenarios in my mind for redesign on this game.

Even so, I still love this thing, and should impose it upon my gaming group, at some point.
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Michael Ptak
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I think all those achievements just fade away in the scope of this game. Major changes, like half of the empire falling away, are still represented but little things like winning an individual system are not really worth noting on a development of this scale.

I've actually drawn up a set of rules that streamline the game to elliminate a measure of bookeeping (System points changed, only one kind of fleet) that is in the middle of playtesting testing now in a solitaire scenario. It's made me wonder if I could take the basics I've brought in to an entirely new game with this as the basis.
 
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Martin McCleary
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Decision Games had (have?) the trilogy on their "pledge" list for some time. They were supposed to update all three but I gave up as it seemed it was just never going to happen. I didn't want the rules messed with, just updated grpahics to reflect more recent discoveries, that kind of thing.

It is a good game and I've had a chance to play it with a friend, we both enjoyed it. Watch out when you encounter the NP civilizations because once they come after you it can be a bear.

 
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Darrell Hanning
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Norsehound wrote:
I think all those achievements just fade away in the scope of this game. Major changes, like half of the empire falling away, are still represented but little things like winning an individual system are not really worth noting on a development of this scale.

I've actually drawn up a set of rules that streamline the game to elliminate a measure of bookeeping (System points changed, only one kind of fleet) that is in the middle of playtesting testing now in a solitaire scenario. It's made me wonder if I could take the basics I've brought in to an entirely new game with this as the basis.


I didn't see anyone mentioning the conquest of individual systems as being missed or appropriate - in comparing TI3 to Outreach, this was exactly the point I was making. I agree that a lot of what preoccupies a civilization, from one day to the next, is completely lost below the level of granularity mandated by a game with 100-year turns, covering a healthy chunk of the galaxy.

Having said that, the game design succeeded in this process of distillation, but (IMO) it succeeded too well, leaving too little to distinguish one race from another (color of counters?), which leaves the player with a sense of emotional detachment. That might seem appropriate, but it is less fun, and that is (IMO) a flaw with the game. It becomes little more than a mechanical exercise of exploring, settling, building fleets, exploring, settling, ad nauseum. The only real decisions the players make are: a) how soon and how aggressively to reach for the galactic center, and b) how much to try and militarily screw with the other players.

Again, from my perspective, that makes for a pretty empty decision space, which is ironic when you think about it, as the subject of Outreach easily covers the most physical space of any boardgame ever published.

Religions, economies, and social systems easily last hundreds and even thousands of years, and spread across the face of the globe. It is then not unreasonable to expect the same to be true for an interstellar civilization - particularly the economic element, as this is the glue that binds a thriving civilization of any scale. Religions come and go, as do social orders, but if a civilization cannot maintain economic viability, it will become another entry in the textbooks. (Indeed, this can be the cause of social upheaval, and thus precipitate new social orders.)

I think such things can easily fit within the scope of this game, and breathe a new life into it, in the process.

The Milky Way galaxy is an awfully vast canvas, to leave it so sparsely populated with ideas.

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Derek H
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Norsehound wrote:
As a bonus, I had this playing in the background during that first scenario to really give the game an ethereal experience.

You could also try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfZxZmbbWI8 ... 'the final frontier'...
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Daniel U. Thibault
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Sounds like a game ripe for play-by-forum.
 
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Juan Valdez
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Sounds like a game ripe for play-by-forum.


I think you're right, I think it would work with forum play. Reading through the rules, it's not exactly a fast playing game.
 
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