Friday, 11 February 2011

Kicked into Orbit

Another Tuesday night in the Ribs and another night of gaming. This week were lucky enough to be joined by Steve, Sharon and Aaron, who read about NoBoG on BoardGameGeek, and decided to check out what we had to offer.

Apart from new people to insult, the main point of interest was a new game called Alien Frontiers. Kevin had bought it from direct from the small publisher, Clever Mojo Games, during the Kickstarter scheme. For those of you not familiar with, it’s an online pledge system for funding creative projects and ideas. Projects such as films, music, books, inventions, art or any other creative endeavour can be listed on the website, which facilitates the gathering of funds from the general public. The project coordinator sets a deadline and a minimum funding total. If the total is not reached by the deadline then the contributions are not collected. However, if the funding total is reached or surpassed then the project goes ahead and the donors’ money is collected. The donors then receive the rewards listed by the projects. In the case of Clever Mojo Games, the reward was a copy of and Alien Frontiers for a pledge of $50 or more. It’s a good system to get a game published if you don’t have the starting capital and can generate enough hype.

So what is Alien Frontiers about? It’s primarily a dice-rolling game in a similar vein to Roll through the Ages, but with a full board, which is used to incorporate worker placement and area majority mechanisms. It’s also, as the name may allude to, set in the exciting environment known as SPACE! It’s nicely produced and has a very retro space theme and feel. Players are racing to colonise an unnamed planetoid. To do this, players roll dice which represent their space fleet and allocate them to various board positions in order to gather resources, alien artifacts, spaceships; land colonies, and steal from other players. Colonies placed on the alien planet gain victory points for the players, as well as special territory bonuses which bend the game rules. The game ends when a player lands their sixth and final colony.

Alien Frontiers is a decent, lightweight dice-roller. It’s pretty quick and the luck of the dice shouldn’t put people off – as rolling high isn’t necessarily good (though not rolling any doubles throughout the game could be a problem). There is a fair bit of tit for tat in the game and plenty of opportunity to have a pop at your fellow players, either though stealing or outright attacking them with the plasma cannon or other nefarious alien tech. All good… however, I felt the gap between winning and losing was rather too slender and that the mixture of area majority and ‘take that’ meant the outcome could be a little arbitrary. You only get to place a maximum of six colonies throughout the game, so the territories don’t change hands very often. When they do it’s a two point swing. With an average winning score of 8, deciding who to knobble can quickly lead to bash the leader (I’m OK with that) or king making (not so much). Still, I’ve only played it once and my worries may not be as prevalent as I imagine. So enjoy a quick, easy game of Alien Frontiers next time Kevin brings it along.

The game was played twice and everyone will be pleased to know that the green players prevailed both times. Punk Rich beat Kevin, Phil and Aaron in the first outing and I squeezed out a victory against Kevin, Christine and Steve.

Other games that hit the table were: Jaipur, Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers, Dominion, Stone Age and the lovely, lovely Taj Mahal.

Beer: Another brew from Newmans Brewery based in Wales. I had something by them the other week which I seem to remember being OK. Tonight’s draft was Red Castle Cream. A soft, bronze coloured beer with a slight head. Tasted of strawberry malted milkshake, slightly sour with some grainy bitterness, not as creamy or as red as the name suggests. I’ll give it an 8 and compare it Caylus, as they both have castles…