The Games We Play

The Games We Play

A repository of reports on the Wednesday night sessions of the club and anything else related to the club or boardgaming in general, which may be of interest to anyone who may be passing by.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Session Summary - 21 November 2007

4 of us in this week (Me, Mike, Dave & Ben) and the game was Starcraft the Boardgame from Fantasy Flight. Dave picked this up at Midcon and I understood it was to be a Christmas present, but it seems that Santa is early this year.

The game is supposed to be based on the computer game of the same name, I have not played that so I do not know what resemblance there is between the 2. What we have seems essentially to be a space exploration and conflict game, where each player represents one of 3 races, so there are potentially 2 representatives of each race, and moves to occupy planets and exploit the resources found there. Victory is achieved, either by accumulating 15 points gained by occupying certain planetary areas or by achieving a special objective in phase 3 of the game.

The game is played in turns broken into steps, in the first of which players give orders as to what they will do in the following, this can be to do research, to build units or buildings or to mobilise (that is to move units either on a planet or from planet to planet). This is complicated somewhat as the order of resolution of the orders is the reverse of that in which they were placed so if I want to move to an area and then build a base, I have to place the build order first and then the move order. I had thought it would be better if this were eliminated by flipping over the order stacks and simply executing in placement order, but this would cause issues with the other complicating factor, which is that if, when it comes to your turn to execute an order, there is another players order sitting on top of the stack, you can't execute it that turn. This can be painful, if say in the example, you were moving from another planet because you could find that your move order is blocked, forcing you to execute the build order first, which is then wasted because the units haven't yet arrived. There is therefore a potential to screw your opponents by placing your orders on top of theirs and ruining their plans. For this reason, the first player which rotates every turn is significant.

Combat is a fairly simple case of lining up opposing units one to one, with spare units as support and playing cards for each match up. There is one round only and if the attacker does not eliminate all defenders in that turn, all attackers must retreat.

What do I think? I'm not a great fan of games where players are pitched into direct confrontation with other, but this is OK. It seems nothing special, but there seems enough to set it apart from the likes of others of that type, the classic example of this being Risk, it may even be possible to adopt a defensive strategy, but I'm not sure that would be entirely successful. Where I would take issue is the same problem I have with many games produced by big American manufacturers and that is the mass of plastic bits, which clutter up the board and add pounds (both weight and currency) to the products. Fantasy Flight can and do produce very nice cardboard counters, (although it would be good to have unit names on them) and there are some in this game as well and these would be preferable in my opinion. If the pieces were to be painted, which could be done, they would perhaps add something to the game, but otherwise they are just plastic pieces of uniform colour. Perhaps an idea would be for the companies to produce the base game with cardboard counters and then sell the plastic pieces as an expansion, for those who might wish to customise them with their own colour schemes.

We were forced to call a halt to this playing because of time, but several players were in contention to perhaps score a win in the near future. I don't see why this shouldn't fit into an evening when there is no need to explain the rules


  1. Ben and I have played a lot of games of Starcraft now; the more we play, the more we like it.
    Each race has different capabilities and you do need to understand these; I would suggest playing the same race several times in a row. Many of the units you can build are useless without the appropriate technology.

    Plastic bits: I do agree with DD wrt to several games (the depletion markers in Railroad Tycoon and even the trains; even the bits in Age of Empires aren't necessary). However, in Starcraft, I don't think counters would work so well; once you've got used to the units, it's easy to glance at your opponent and see what they've got massing, rather than having to examine stacks of counters.

    Having read some stuff on the Geek; I do wonder if some of these people have actually played the game (a comment not exclusive to Starcraft btw). Order placing does -not- take an hour; neither does combat. We think the combat system is quick, fast and intuitive; obviously, if you build a unit without the corresponding Tech to back it up, then that unit is -probably- cannon fodder. But you chose to build it. Having said that; it's a good idea to look at what your opponent is building. No attacks vs flying units? Then research, build and post these in key areas. Obviously, your opponent will counter this; but at least you might be a Turn ahead. Also; your opponent does not know what you hold in your hand( although they do know what you have researched). Is that Science Vessel a decoy; or is it fully operational?

    Look at your opponents Special Victory. Could they do it quickly; if so you need to get out there and hold areas; or can you afford to wait and build up your forces; then launch a massive offensive. However, the game system stops you hanging on too long, due to the end game built into the Event Cards.

    Look at the board set-up. Remember; you have some control over this (placing planents and z- gates). Can you grab and hold 4 Conquest Points? If so, then you'll win in 4 Turns; unless someone's Special Victory conditions interfere ( and it will be obvious who they are).

  2. Dave, have just noticed your example isn't quite correct. The move order is placed on the planet you are moving TO, not from. Providing you have placed the orders correctly, build first, then move, your move and build will take place in that order, regardless of whether that stack is temporarily blocked.

    However - the danger is that:-
    a) the planet you were intending to move from is attacked and your forces depleted
    b) Someone else might have moved to the planet before you (possibly why you were blocked), forcing you to fight a battle
    c) You might have to do another order out of sequence, thus wrecking your evil plan. For example; in the above example; you want to move then build a base. However, you have placed another build order somewhere else; you intended to use this to replace any losses incurred in the invasion. By being forced to execute this order first (due to the invasion being blocked) you either have to waste the order or build units you didn't want (because you were hoping to replace your cheap cannon fodder, and you can't replace them if they haven't died yet).