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Subject: Space Empires, a solo review rss

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Crian
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When I first heard about Space Empires, I thought it sounded pretty neat, especially as I played Master of Orion 1 & 2 to death on the computer.

(Summary at bottom)

Recently I was lucky enough to find a copy (i.e. I got the game store I work at to order a copy in), and snapped it up.
Knowing that most of my gamer friends prefer lighter/fast games (Evo has been a big hit, as has Small World), I am a little sceptical about getting this game on the table with them, so decided to try a solo game first to learn the rules and get a feel for it.
So, now that the background is out of the way, on to the review proper!

Opening the box.
The first thing that struck me was the weight of the box. This is definitely not a game that skimps on components.
Inside I found the rulebook and scenario book, a bunch of counter sheets, a bunch of log sheets, four quick reference sheets, and the map.
The map and counter sheets are wonderful. They are made of good sturdy cardboard, and all have a great thematic theme to them - good artwork, clear and readable labels, and so on.
The log sheets and quick reference sheets are clear and readable, although the log sheets could use a bit more space for ship construction.
My only issue at this step was the rulebook and scenario book. The paper felt a bit flimsy and light, and after a few readings and the game it is showing signs of wear.

Playing the game.
The box was opened, counters were punched, rulebooks read, it was time to play!
I decided on the small/easy doomsday machine scenario, with free upgrades (more on this later), giving myself the quickest and easiest introduction to the game. As I started setting up, rules that had been a little hazy suddenly became clear. The hexes that had first appeared very large suddenly seemed much smaller as tokens started to be placed down.
As I started to play, everything suddenly made sense. My Scouts (the smallest & weakest ship, that is all you have at the start) flew around revealing planets (for colonisation), minerals (which could be towed back to planets for resources), and various obstacles.
With a good seven turns until the first doomsday machine appeared, I had plenty of time to set up some colonies, build some ships, and generally prepare.
Each game turn is divided into three movement phases, and then an economic phase. In each movement phase you can... Move! No surprises there: you can move your ships a certain number of spaces (movement tech plays its part), explore space (revealing counters), tow minerals back to planets (with mining ships), and more. Plenty of options, and allowing each player to move three times each game turn gives a sense of simultaneous movement while allowing for reactions.

The economic phase is the bit most likely to scare people, as you actually have to do some basic maths and write things down! Fortunately, once the game was in progress it all made sense and was very easy. Add up all the colony income (neatly printed on the tokens), add up all mineral income, and add up stored income from last turn. Then decide how to spend it - building ships and upgrading tech are the main two points.

Eventually the doomsday machines appeared, and combat happened!
Again, rules and procedures that had seemed a little hazy suddenly became clear. The varying stats that affected dice rolls (namely attack strength and defence strength) were added up, dice were rolled, and I eventually emerged victorious.

Summary
From my one play, Space Empires 4x is a great game. It has enough depth and decision making to give real choices, but is straightforward enough that I spent very little time consulting rules. The empire building aspect was well paced - I felt a good sense of expanding a space empire and having control over ever growing resources, but never got bogged down in micro-management.
The total time taken by me was about 2 hours, so I am confident that play with some people who know the game would be 1-2 hours. I am now eager to introduce the game to some friends, explaining that it is actually quite easy!

End rating:
Components: 8/10 (Great map & counters, slightly flimsy rulebook)

Sense of theme: 10/10

Ease of play: 8/10

Gameplay: 9/10
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Eric Etkin
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Got this for solo play myself... can't wait to crack it open. Just need some more free time and motivate myself to read the rules.
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Dan
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The rules look long, but they read so quickly and digest so easily. I was stunned how comprehensible they are.
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Troy Creamer
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I totally agree I thought the rules would be harder but it really is pretty straightforward even the solo rules were very easy to grasp and simple. Excited to try this solo.
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Eric Etkin
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Do you think I'd need the components all out, or is this comprehensible from just a rules read through?
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Crian
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I think it is fairly understandable from just a rules read through, but putting the components out will make everything click. At least, that was my experience.
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Bob
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I usually start by demo-ing a unit to explain how they work, what the numbers mean and the numeric counters as those usually need a bit of explaining.

I usually then leave explaining the specifics of deep space counters to when they are revealed.
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Franck Bouvot
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Nice review!

I played my first solo Doomsday Machine scenario yesterday. Basic rules, automatic tech updates, small map, medieum difficulty. I got my ass handed to me. Those DM are really powerful and I forgot the eXterminate part of the game because I had no opponent until economic phase 7. You always think you have time and that it won't be so terrible, and then you have your first fight.

2 destroyers and 3 cruisers, level 2 in attack, defense and tactics, and I only scratched the DM once. I got some unlucky bad rolls for sure, but still, I had some bad planning. Like waiting to have discovered a new planet to build a colony ship. Next game, I'll be much more aggressive and will win. Or at least survive until the apperance of the 3rd DM
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Maurice Fitzgerald
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How many scenario's can be played solo? I'm always looking for solo games and not many space solo games out there, this is one I've looked at. Does it come with a bunch of scenario's?
 
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Jeff Johnson
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Moezilla wrote:
How many scenario's can be played solo? I'm always looking for solo games and not many space solo games out there, this is one I've looked at. Does it come with a bunch of scenario's?


There are two types of solo game in the core set-- Doomsday Machine and Alien Empires.

The first expansion adds an Amoeba scenario, co-op rules for all the solitaire games, and also updates Alien Empires to use all of the new goodies.
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P Santos
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I'm thinking to get this, mainly for its solo gameplay. Could you confirm that the solo gameplay is, in a nutshell, prepare/build your army for the eventual showdown with the Doomsday Machine? Is that all you are preparing for, in the solo scenario?
 
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Niko
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ppsantos wrote:
I'm thinking to get this, mainly for its solo gameplay. Could you confirm that the solo gameplay is, in a nutshell, prepare/build your army for the eventual showdown with the Doomsday Machine? Is that all you are preparing for, in the solo scenario?
In the DM scenario yes, but there is also a scenario that plays against a smarter AI that simulates the game against a human opponent very well. The AI might send multiple small waves, or fewer larger ones, or focus on tech, etc.
You also won't know what is in any given fleet or what tech it has until you fight it for the first time, just like in a game against a human opponent.
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Russ Williams
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P, you can download the PDF of rules and the scenario book to see for yourself what they are like.
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P Santos
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Thanks. I read the scenario book and realized that Space Empires 4X is pretty much just preparing your army for the eventual showdown with the enemy. So, I've taken it off my want list. At least I realized that this game is not for me.
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Niko
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ppsantos wrote:
Thanks. I read the scenario book and realized that Space Empires 4X is pretty much just preparing your army for the eventual showdown with the enemy. So, I've taken it off my want list. At least I realized that this game is not for me.
Read some session reports at least, your idea of what this game is about can happen, but is not how most games play out.
 
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P Santos
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I can only see SE4X being played solo, as none of my non-gamer playmates would be even remotely interested in a complicated 3 hr long sci-fi boardgame. Though it could play out differently depending on the players, I would only be playing this solo, so it's probably inevitable that this would boil down to preparing your army for the showdown with the enemy. I wanted to like this game, but considering that it's hard to find, its out of print, I'd rather not make another disappointing purchase.

This review has done what it's supposed to do. Thanks for all your input.
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Niko
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ppsantos wrote:
I can only see SE4X being played solo, as none of my non-gamer playmates would be even remotely interested in a complicated 3 hr long sci-fi boardgame. Though it could play out differently depending on the players, I would only be playing this solo, so it's probably inevitable that this would boil down to preparing your army for the showdown with the enemy. I wanted to like this game, but considering that it's hard to find, its out of print, I'd rather not make another disappointing purchase.

Thanks for all your input.
I'm not trying to convince you, but I also don't want others to come across this and get the wrong idea;
In a solo game against multiple aliens you are constantly under pressure. They will launch fleets that you need to respond to, and you won't know what ships or technology they have until you actually meet that fleet in combat.
There isn't any formulaic build up to a final confrontation, you need to develop technology and ships to engage the immediate threat.

Even the final fight to take on their homeworlds will be different depending on what technology they have, what ships you brought, and how many resources they have when you attack.

The only reason I don't play this solo any more often is the upkeep required to run multiple spreadsheets, and even that isn't bad just that I have now found other games that require less work for similar fun.
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Peter Kossits
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ppsantos wrote:
this would boil down to preparing your army for the showdown with the enemy.


Not really. You need to do fast efficient exploring. You need to configure your home system to give you the resources you need. And then make smart combat choices. It's quite deep as a solo play and can feel pretty epic. So epic...that I never ended up finishing my long session report on my last game.

Mind you, I only played the Doomsday scenario 1-2 times and then moved on to the Alien Empire scenario which is where you get more of that depth.

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My name is
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Ze_German_Guy wrote:
The only reason I don't play this solo any more often is the upkeep required to run multiple spreadsheets, and even that isn't bad just that I have now found other games that require less work for similar fun.


Can you name these solo games requiring less work for similar fun?
Thanks.
 
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Russ Williams
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baylock wrote:
Ze_German_Guy wrote:
The only reason I don't play this solo any more often is the upkeep required to run multiple spreadsheets, and even that isn't bad just that I have now found other games that require less work for similar fun.


Can you name these solo games requiring less work for similar fun?
Thanks.


If "similar fun" means "the same kind of fun" (i.e. space empire 4X specifically) then I'm curious too.

...

If "similar fun" means "similar levels of fun" (which is certainly a personal subjective judgement), then I'll mention:

Some States of Siege games, e.g. Empires in America, Ottoman Sunset, Hapsburg Eclipse, have much less upkeep/fiddliness.

Conflict of Heroes: Eastern Front – Solo Expansion is pretty cool with less upkeep.

The Barbarossa Campaign is perhaps similarly fiddly, but has no paper bookkeeping.

For space science fiction, maybe Astra Titanus or Struggle for the Galactic Empire.
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Tomasz Szklarski
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Guys in solo scenerios we start with The same fleet which we start in normal game?
 
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Yep.
 
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