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