Halesowen Board Games #20 (02/07/14)

Among the Stars

First game of the evening was Among the Stars, which I’ve been wanting to get a play in for with the Ambassadors expansion in play (As it’s probably last year since I last got to use it!). This seems to be one of the games that I get chronic new-player disorder with, and end up avoiding the extra stuff, but on this occasion my desire to use cool stuff took priority ^^.

The Ambassadors expansion for Among the Stars adds a new action that can be performed when you discard a card (In base you just have ‘Take 3 Credits’ or ‘Build a Power Reactor’). This new action is to invite an ambassador to your station, which is to be chosen from a few available (We used 3 but I have a strange feeling it could be dependant on #players), paying the cost and immediately using their ability. Rather than place them into your station as locations, you keep the ambassador in front of you and place a bureau card into you station representing the place you have for the visiting ambassadors (Well, sometimes, as ambassadors that have you build a location have you discard a bureau instead).

Essentially, what this adds to the game is more options and a touch of player interaction. The ambassadors are generally equal or perhaps a little weaker than building more locations, but if they happen to get you that precise thing you need, may just be worth it. The interaction aspect comes in as you need to consider that other players will also be looking to invite ambassadors, which may interfere with your plans.

The final interesting thing to mention is that the ambassadors are based around the various races in the game (Which each person is a member of one of, giving variable player powers). You can’t invite ambassadors are your own faction, but can pick up benefits of others (E.g. a Hythian ambassador (Hythian reactors provide 3 power instead of 2) might pump some more energy cubes into your existing reactors). This is a really cool thematic element, as well as making gameplay choices interesting (as you’ll likely step on the toes of the person who’s race that is, in the indirect sense of wanting certain location cards to use it effectively).

Anyway. our game! Players were myself (Nyxtos – lets me cancel one card/player over the course of the game), Stan (Humareen – <redacted>), Steve (Wiss – Can’t build reactors, but main reactor has infinite range and 5 power instead of 2) and Mark (<redacted> – ambassadors cost 1 more credit, but provide 2 points a piece at endgame).

From fairly early on, it was reasonable clear what objectives players aimed to get (From ‘most red’, ‘most blue’, ‘most purple’ and ‘first to 5 ambassadors’). I was generally going for red, purple & blue (Mainly red), Stan & Steve for purple, and Mark for most objectives & blue. For me things went that way as I got a couple of early locations which provided points for having those colours, as well as an early turret which led me to want all turrets which came by me.

As the game continued, Stan/Steve continued to be neck & neck for the most purple locations (Frustratingly, as I had a red/purple location that gave me vp equal to the lower quantity of one of those location types I had, and I had a ton of red already ^^). Mark rushed ambassadors as he wanted all 5 anyway for his racial ability, getting him the first-to-5. I went considerably into the lead with reds, as noone else seemed to want them (Meant I got 3 turrets which was nice, as they scale off quantity of them).

On the ambassadors front, I got one that gave me a couple of credits and made credits worth more points to me (2credits = 1vp instead of 3=1), another an extra vp per empty reactor and er, I had another one but forget what it did ^^. Mark had lots, at least one was for credits, one made the ‘discard for 3 credits’ action considerably weaker for a year (I.e. discard for 1), another stopped us passing our hands for a turn, and a couple more. Steve had a couple giving him some power (Which helped skirt the ‘can’t built additional power reactors’ of his race) and Stan got at least one for credits and I forget what else (Which was fiendish, as I would have taken it to make use of my 1vp/2 credits from my ambassador!).

Other things of possible interest are that both Steve/Stan had quite square stations, built around race-tracks (2 of them in Steve’s case!), Marks was ridiculously wide, being not particularly tall, and mine didn’t really have any particular logic to it, but was a sort of star shape. Also I had a ridiculous amount of delayed rather than immediate abilities, as I just never seemed to have a good layout to get a strong amount of points from the immediate abilities – I think I’ll try and make more surrounded gaps for building things that get points from adjacency in future.

After putting together endgame points, I jumped from 4th to 2nd, Mark was in 1st a little out of reach, and Stan/Steve in 3rd/4th but I forget which way around. It was a good game, although I think I made a few mistakes due looking too much at ambassadors and not enough at my hand/station layout. In terms of powers I feel like Marks was a bit on the strong side (Costs 5 extra credits, but 10 points, whereas most races net maybe ~3 on average, emphasised as credits are generally a little easier to get with ambassadors), Nyxtos which i had I’m not a huge fan as it’s quite variable and reliant on screwing other players, Wiss is a nice one with limited but infinite range power (For those who don’t know, power usually has a 2-space max range, so you need to build power reactors in the right places to make best use of it), unfortunately I forget was Stans humareen provided, but I think it was a few VP.

Arctic Scavengers

Next up, after a brief discussion of what to play next where I for some reason didn’t try very hard to tout Trains and Stations (I feel I should have because it’s a new addition to my colelction ^^), we went with Steve’s brand spanking new copy of Arctic Scavengers.

Arctic Scavengers is a deck-building game where players decks represent tribes in an arctic wasteland, with players digging, scrounging and fighting to get strong and increase the size of their tribe. At the end of the game, the player who has the most tribesmen is the winner.

Each turn consists of a play phase and a skirmish phase. In the play phase, players take turns to play cards to perform various actions if possible from a short list of possibilities – Draw (Take cards from your deck into your hand), Dig (Look at cards from the waste pile, keeping 0-1 of them), Hire(Take a card from the hiring area into your deck, paying its’ cost), Trash (Shuffle any number of cards from your hand into the waste pile). Each action can only be performed once/turn, but you can potentially do all of them. At the end of the actions phase, the player declares how many cards he’s not used and keeps them face-down in front of them.

When all players complete their turns, the skirmish phase occurs. Each player reveals the set-aside cards and the attack-power of these cards is compared, the winner takes the top of the good-stuff pile (It has an official name, I just happen to have an awful memory) into their deck. The good-stuff pile also acts as a timer for the game – If it runs out the game ends (Alternatively I think if 2 piles of hirables are emptied, or something like that ^^).

This was the first time for all of us in our game, so I think there was lots of poking-and-prodding to see how things went. For example the first turn I did nothing, declaring all my cards so I could have the card from the ‘good-stuff’ pile (Which was a group of 5 people, who were pretty useless other than numbers). Other seemed to do plenty of digging, and I think Mark got some extra scavengers (Can do everything, but aren’t particularly special at anything). The 2nd turn I picked up an extra brawler, so that I could aim to win the end-turn skirmishes.

A few turns in I realised noone was using the trash action, so I made use of it to throw away all my refugees (A start-deck card that is pretty useless but worth 1 point and can potentially use tools that you have). I think Stan got rid of a few of his too, but don’t remember seeing Steve/Mark particularly trying to chuck theirs. I think all other players got cards with the medical icon (Required for hiring some cards) which you get from digging through waste, although I got a medpack eventually. For most of my turns I kept a large-ish number of people back, which worked out quite well as I got 4 of the ‘set of people’ cards, particularly good when you consider 1person = 1point and skirmish ties are broken by most people in the fight.

Near the end of the game people finally started being able to buy the more interesting cards. Stan got a couple of saboteurs though he never used them, I got a group leader and grenade which I never used, and I couldn’t really tell what Steve/Mark had as upside-cards aren’t particularly obvious when it’s your first time playing a game ^^. When the game ended, we added up points with me winning on 29 points, which to be honest is pretty much because I was rarely doing anything so won skirmishes a lot. I think it was kind of disapointing that it finished right as we started being able to afford better cards – In fact I think it wasn’t until my last or second-to-last turn that I finally had enough to buy more than a subset of 3-4 of the possibilities as I never seemed to get the medic-symbols at the right times.

I think it’s a pretty good game, but without the (Included, to be fair) expansion content I think wouldn’t stay interesting past a game or two, as there’s just not a whole lot of variety as a result of most cards just being facilitators for the 4 basic actions (I think ~3 of the possible hires had some special text to make them do something different). Certainly up for trying again sometime with the expansion included to see what it injects to make the game more varied and what other mechanics it adds (There was an extra piece for a deck of cards that isn’t used in the base game, which must mean more than just card variety is added).

So er…thanks for the games all! ^^.

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