We set up quickly and started. Each player has a card to represent their empire, with tracks for energy and cultural resources. There's also a second track for the capability of your empire, which triggers the number of ships that you have available, the number of dice you can roll and the victory points that you have. The objective of the game is to win by amassing at least 21 victory points. Once a player hits that level, the end game is triggered and play continues until everyone has completed the same number of turns. This means that you can be first to hit the victory conditions, but you may not win if someone can outperform you on their final turn.
A hand of planets is dealt out, all of which have a number of victory points associated with controlling them and a unique action. Each planet is a source of energy or culture points and has a route to becoming a colony of your empire either through diplomacy or economic ties. There are two locations on the planet - the surface itself and the orbit track.
Each player also gets a choice between one of two secret missions which give them extra victory points if they achieve them.
Each turn, you roll a number of custom six-sided dice, which have a number of symbols on them:
- Diplomacy (allows you to move towards the colonisation of a planet you are orbiting)
- Economy (allows you to move towards the colonisation of a planet you are orbiting)
- Energy (allows you to gain energy if you have a ship orbiting the right planet)
- Culture (allows you to gain culture if you have a ship orbiting the right planet)
- Ship move (allows you to place a ship on a planet or orbiting it)
- Colony move (allows you to trigger an action for a planet you control)
Once you have your dice, you can re-roll them once for free, and additional times by spending energy. If you still don't like the dice results, you can convert two dice into one of your choice.
You spend the dice in any order. Each time you spend a dice, the other players can opt to spend a point of culture to follow your move and do the same thing. If you have a ship in orbit, and you spend enough diplomacy or economy points, you will get control, meaning the card is added to your galaxy card you gain the victory points associated with the planet. You can use the colony's move when the right dice face comes up. If you land a ship on the planet before it is controlled, you can also do the same, using the move as a one-off.
If you spend enough culture or energy, you can increase your empire's capability (numbers of ships, dice and base victory points).
In our playthrough, Aidan (9) won. He spotted that his secret mission was usable and grasped the idea of the follow-on moves more quickly than Nathan (13), and produced a killer last turn. Nathan was somewhat annoyed, as he thought he had the game in the bag. I came a dismal last. They've both said that they liked it and would like to play it again. I enjoyed it, as it's light enough to be fun and quick and crunchy enough to be different. Although the game is built around random dice throws, there are plenty of opportunities to influence the outcomes and to adjust your strategy.
At some point, we'll try it again with the superweapons expansion to see what that does to the feel of the game.
9 February 2020