Halesowen (03/12/2014)

Halesowen

So, among the ridiculous amount of packages I’ve received in the last few days, thanks to irresistible amazon lightning deals over black friday, there was also one from a kickstarter project! The project in question was that for Artipia’s thematic sequel to Among the Stars – New Dawn. The other things I got shoved aside (LoW, Alhambra and Betrayal at House on the Hill), as Among the Stars is among my favourite games and well…yeah ^^. I’d already mentioned it to Ian, and got it out on the table first thing at Halesowen this week.

New Dawn

Among the Stars follows a great war, whereby the remnants of the various civilised races formed an alliance on what little was left of the Galaxy. In that game, you’re building Space Stations as a testament to the effort to build a better future.

New Dawn goes forward a little, and resources have become scarce in the corner of the galaxy where people now reside. Now, the people of the galaxy need to push back out, and reclaim what was lost in the war. While the effort is seen as good for everyone, there’s naturally a desire from the individual races to want to come out on top…

Mechanically, New Dawn has lots of parts to it, but takes care to throw them at you one at a time, with each round being a series of steps where you just do one thing in each – Produce, Prepare, Explore, Obtain Technologies, Move MHQ, Then 3 Actions (You do 1, then everyone else does their first, then your second, etc), finally is aid to the alliance, where you can burn credits to buy VP cards for a few extra points.

Produce is simple, gain 1 credit per base you’ve built, of the type built (There are 3 types of currency, Military, Economic and Science). Prepare has you draw till you have a hand of 4, from your choice of the 4 card stacks (Military, Economic, Science or Hostile, with the latter being one of the first 3, but you can’t establish a base peacefully). In the explore step, you place one of your cards adjacent to any other card on the board in an empty space (Diagonal counts as adjacent), receiving the ability listed on the card immediately. Buying a technology is just buying one of the cards that are unique to each race, paying the value listed on the top right of the card to place it in one of your 5 technology slots (Technologies can be used once/round at any time).

The next action, move one MHQ, is a sort of preparatory matter for the actions phase. Your MHQ’s, or ‘Mobile Headquarters’ are your centrepoints for taking control of the facility cards placed on the board, and you may only establish bases or seize control of bases that are on or adjacent to a facility with your MHQ. They also provide extra dice towards attack/defense for the purpose of the ‘seize control’ action.

Finally, you have the actions phase, 3 actions each, done 1 at a time going around the table. Establish base lets you place a base on an empty facility by paying its’ cost in credits (With an MHQ on or adjacent). Seize Control lets you try to roll to take a facility, if its’ got noones bases’ on it, you roll to beat its’ cost+vp, otherwise you roll against the person with a base there, again you need an MHQ on or adjacent to do this. Use an Ambassador lets you take one of #players+3 ambassadors that are on the board and perform their listed action, which includes empowered versions of other actions (So its’ good to look at what they give before doing other things). Buying an MHQ lets you put out another MHQ at the cost listed on your board, then move all your MHQ’s. Finally, you can cop-out and just take 1 resource of any type, if you really really can’t do anything else ^^.

Then you rinse and repeat, over the course of 5 years (rounds). On the 3rd round the 4 facility card sets are swapped out with a ‘B’ set, which are higher valued and more geared towards the end-game, and you get to discard your A cards to pick them up if you wish.

It all sounds a little complicated, but splitting into being one thing at a time makes it surprisingly easy to pick up once you’re a round or two into the game. Players compete to have control of bases for resources and try to then spend those resources getting more stuff, VP are based on the bases you control, with a few extra things such as for getting lots of technology cards, having 5 bases of a given type and building MHQ’s.

The Actual Game

Everyone started with economic bases on the alliance card (You all get to place one base on it, hence giving yourself a minimum production of 1 for a resource of your choice), meaning we each had 1 economic credit. This meant we got no technologies for the first round (As buy technology is before actions), except Mark who got one through use of an ambassador (I think I might start next game with a Science base to rush my first technology card). We also all went off onto our own side with our first explores/establish base actions, though could see why you might move onto a card someone else explored.

In the second year, Stan tried to capture one of my bases to use its’ ability (We had a rule wrong, and thought abilities activate when you establish/seize not on explore), failing (ha), while Ian got I think another hostile facility out (He had the first turn too), and Mark got more technology (He was first to have the max of 5 in the game, though Ian got there too by the end).

In the 3rd year, despite us putting out better facilities, I was apparently a hot target as Ian attacked my facility that Stan had previously gone for, sadly with more success than Stan. Mark expanded his Science Empire, having a part of the map with little conflict (As opposed to me/stan/ian who were all getting a bit more in each others way, mostly because of Ian). I tried to attack Ian back, but didn’t realize he had 2 MHQ’s close and his dratted racial power meant that gave him really good defense.

In the 4th round, I picked up a nice military facility that let me seize control of an adjacent facility and pay 2 military credits for +5 to my roll. Naturally I placed it right next to the one of Ians’ I was after and used it successfully despite his strong defenses to take it over. (Leaving me with a neat line of military facilities on the edge of the map, out of the way from everyone else, and mostly facing towards the VP base benefit.

Edit: Base Benefits! Forgot to explain those. In each of the 4 compass directions is a ‘base benefit’ card. 2 orange, 2 green (I think one is more VP/Defensive and the other more token-gaining for one-off’s). When you Establish a Base/Seize Control or Re-orient a facility, you gain each benefit pointed at by arrows on the facility (Between 1 and 3), making part of the game trying to decide what direction you want facilities to point in to get the most useful bonuses.

The 5th round was more of a points grab. At this point Mark looked in a very strong position, and had doubled up most of his bases (Another rule we did wrong, you can normally only have one/facility). Stan/Ian were looking less healthy, partly because of bad dice rolls, but partly because of the decision to make those rolls in the first place, as there’s plenty ways to boost what you roll to avoid losing actions to a failed roll. Stan only had 1 technology card up till this point, so was also missing out on a lot of useful extra effects he could have been doing (I think he may have missed when we mentioned technology is once/round not once/game).

Something I managed to do in this game which usually fails in a ball of fire, is getting people to look the other way when I was doing quite well. The slew of military facilities I had on one edge of the map were all 3VP (The highest as far as I know) and pointed towards the bonus VP benefit (As mentioned earlier). I also had an aid to the alliance card I’d bought much earlier, which I think people had forgotten about, giving me another couple of points.

Aaanyway, the reason I mention that stuff is because I won, hooray! I had 28 points to Marks 25, Ians 19 and Stans 17 (Mark might have won, but Stan went all in defending against him from an attack in the last actions phase so he didn’t get the extra points needed).

Thoughts

I found New Dawn a really interesting game to play. We did play a couple of things significantly wrong though so its’ hard to make a good judgement or say whether the scores were fair. I’m super excited about it though, and I think its’ a fantastic thematic sequel to Among the Stars with more of the beautiful art style from it, while being a very unique and individual game. I hope they come out with more in this awesome universe of square cards =) (Seriously, totally love the square cards in these games, =P).

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