Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Alien Frontiers

Do you try before you buy? My board gaming history began in junior high and high school when I’d have friends over to play Settlers of Catan, Samurai Swords, Risk, Tikal, or a game of my own creation. It was good fun and I got lucky, because all of the games I bought were completely blind purchases for me which even included Acquire and Tikal (two excellent games).

Then I moved to Iowa and started the 13th Tribe out there. Again, since I was the main board game provider, games were coming from me and so I purchased several games without playing them. However, this time I had at least read some reviews on them and so was generally successful with my purchases which included things like Puerto Rico, Bang!, and Carcassonne.

In 2007 we moved to Indianapolis and joined the Indy Boardgamers. Now I was no longer the main provider of games, not only was I not the main provider of games, I was way down on the totem pole with several of the gamers have 200+ games in their collection. Also, the main organizer of our group is a part of the “cult of the new” as we call it in the gaming world and was constantly getting the newest and shiniest game on the market. So now I can try before I buy pretty much anytime.

The latest example of this for me was Alien Frontiers, the first game from Mojo Games, and one with an interesting story. The guys behind the game went to kickstarter.com, got enough money to start their game company, and produced the game. It has excellent quality, especially for a first time publisher, and I was really pumped to buy it. However, by the time I was ready to pull the trigger, the whole first print run of 1,000 games was sold out. So walking into gaming on Sunday I saw one of those 1,000 copies in Mike’s hands. I immediately claimed a seat at the table and we began.

I won’t go into the specifics of game play, but here is a real quick overview of the game.  Players are colonizing a planet with several different regions on it that give bonuses to the player that controls them. There are different areas around the board that players place their ships (3 to 6 six-sided dice) to get things such as fuel, ore, build new ships, place colonies, steal from your opponents, and trade fuel for ore. On your turn you roll your dice, place them on the board following the appropriate combinations that are required for the different type of spaces, and then they stay there until your next turn. The game ends once one player has placed six colonies. You score points for each colony, for each region you control, and then there are a couple cards that give you 1 point each.

My feelings on the game were very neutral. In the four player game we played there was a lot of downtime between turns, the spaces where you placed your ships (dice) depended more on what numbers you rolled than what players already placed there (It only seemed to matter who had placed there in the ore area, since higher numbers prevented you from placing there), and since you roll dice on your turn there isn’t any planning ahead. I’ve heard some say that this game will replace Kingsburg in their collection. I don’t own Kingsburg, but do enjoy it when played with the expansion, but if I did own it this wouldn’t replace it for me. This is one of those cases where I’m really grateful that I tried before I purchased the game. If you like dice-rolling and worker placement games such as Kingsburg, Stone Age, Yspahan, and others you should try this game. However, I would suggest making sure you do try it before you buy it. Since the first print run has sold out, you will have to wait before you buy anyways, so find one of those 1,000 owners and don’t spend your hard earned money without experiencing the game first.

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