I’m not a car guy. It’s not even that I’m not a fan of cars or that I don’t follow car culture, it’s that I don’t enjoy racing video games, boardgames or just watching it on tv. Heck, I don’t even have a driver’s license. Now, I know a little bit about cars (I did work in a gas station, which was odd), but they just don’t interest me.
So why my interest in Thunder Alley? Well, it is a GMT Games publication and as such, does suggest that there will be a little more tactics, a little more strategy than just a simple racing game. The designer was also familiar to me (he also did Manoeuvre), which had some interesting twists on old mechanics. Also, it promised an interesting experience for 2 to 7 players. I don’t have many games that can handle the higher player count, so if the game promises to be fun and simple, I’ll at least give it a go.
Train games, and more specifically 18XX games, are a huge family of games that share some common ideas, if not mechanics. The core concept is always of people owning/running train companies and attempting to run them better than the other players. Sure, elements like track laying/route developing, delivery of goods or stock market can be present or not, but they all deal with trains. Well, that is until 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt (James Hlavaty and Thomas Lehmann) published by TimJim Games came out, that is.
This week’s Time Lapse Replay will be looking at 2038, a game of intergalactic space mining in which 3 to 6 players vie to make the most money by running and holding shares of different space mining corporations.
In 2038, the players represents investors in space mining companies who buy and sell shares in various companies, all in an effort to see who can best manage their share portfolio. Players who control the majority shares of a corporation control them, deciding where they will explore, discovering valuable asteroids that hold various types of ore and what type of spaceships they will buy to exploit said asteroids. As the game progresses, the different companies will (hopefully) increase in value as their share’s price goes up. The players have to figure out what the best time is to pay out dividends to other share holders and when it is best to withhold the funds to gain operating capital. The game ends when there is not enough money in the bank, which can take anywhere from 5 yo 6 hours.
While 2038 shares a lot of aspects with standard 18XX games (it has a stock market, players own shares in companies that can change hand, etc), there are a few things that sets it apart from other of that family. The major different hinges in the way tracks are built, in that there are no tracks (makes sense when you think about it, since you know, space…). Rather, the players will draw tiles from a bag (second major change: luck!) and place them on the board, creating routes. Also, instead of the standard route running from major cities to major cities, in this you will pick up goods at the mines you placed (the tiles that were drawn earlier), placing cubes/tokens to indicate that this mine has been hit in this round. Thus, you get a sort of reverse pick-up and deliver where the turn order becomes important if you have several mining corporations in the same neck of the woods. There are other differences with standard 18XX, but those are the big ones.
In this particular game of 2038 (the first one our group has played), the TSI, which is the very first corporation that can be started, took off early and never looked back Jason backed it quite heavily, especially after most of the other players dropped their share in order to raise funds to start their own companies. We quickly got the hang of exploring for different types of ore and settled a bit into a routine of exploiting everything that was close and not pushing the “train rush” (buying a ship/train can make earlier, cheaper ships to rust and thus be removed from the game). We called the game before the bank ran out of money since it was pretty clear that no one could catch up to Jason. All told, the game took about 5 hours, including rules explanation.
2038 makes for a very different 18XX experience but I’m not really sure how I feel about it. The corporation that Jason ran, the TSI, seemed too overpowered, easily staying at the top of the stock market for the whole game. Granted, it might have been that we didn’t pay it the attention it deserved and we let Jason get away with an easy win, but still. I’d be curious to play it again and see how things pan out that time.
While 2038 is out of print, it is still relatively easy to get a hold of a copy for a decent price. If you really like 18XX games and are looking for something different, it might be worth your while to hunt it down.
For a lot of people, 4X games (eXploit, eXplore, eXpand and eXterminate) are the ultimate games since they give the players the ultimate power: go around and grow, not just a character or a business, but an entire civilization, defining how they expand as they discover the lands around them, how their technology grow and ultimately, who they are as a people.
In this week’s Time Lapse Replay, we’ll be looking at Hegemonic (Oliver Riley) published by Minion Games, a 4X games in which 2 to 6 players attempt to colonize and take control of the various galaxies that make up the universe.
In Hegemonic, while the players are nominally space empires fighting against each other, they are in fact fighting to establish area majority in as many Galaxies (a grouping of 5 hexes delineated by a red border) as possible. Thus, it’s not really about how many territories you have bases in, but rather in which territories that matter in the end. To do this, they will create Industrial, Diplomatic and Military networks which all have their strengths and weaknesses. Unlike other 4X games, each of the different networks can be used to attack or takeover any other type of network, with no network being intrinsically better than any other type. For example, it is completely feasible to use an Industrial network to take over a Military network. It’s all about how the networks are developed.
This is a very low luck game, with a good amount of negotiation and trying to figure out what the other players are holding/will be playing. While the length of time needed for a full game can be a little on the long side (roughly 30 to 45 minutes per player), at the same time there is enough player interaction that the game flies by, with very little downtime. There are so many cool/new ideas in how the game works (the very basic way the networks work, the idea of player actions based on a hand of cards that always come back, etc) that it is almost a must play for anyone who is interested in seeing how new ideas can bring a breath of fresh air to a genre that has been stagnant.
In this time lapse replay, we can see the Yellow empire spread out quite nicely at the start of the game, grabbing an early lead that it never lets go. The game was called with one full turn to go, with the Yellow player being over 20 point ahead of 2nd place, since we figured that we could not possibly catch up. The game took about 3hr, with set up included. All the players knew how to play, but still needed a little refresher every once in a while.
I like this game quite a bit. While it’s not quite a 4X or at least the 4X I was really looking for, it is still a very strong game with some unique aspects that merit exploration. Watch for my review of it in the next blog post.
In this week’s Time Lapse Replay, we will look at Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (Academy Games) by Uwe Eickert, specifically the second scenario. This is still one of the learning scenario which introduces most of the systems of the game and as such is simple to pickup and fairly fast to play. I was playing the Russians and Chris Donavan was playing the German and the game lasted about 1 hour, which each side controlling 4-5 units. This footage was taken at Stack Academy le Quatrieme, on May 3rd 2014.
I like wargames, but what I like more is a interesting system that is used to simulate/recreate something that’s I’ve seen a 1000 times. Most wargames, be they tactical or grand strategic, tend to fall back to the same tried and true systems, instead focusing more on the order of battles and strength ratios than on the systems that attempt to place you in the shoes of an officer having to deal with his forces.
This is what I like about Conflict of Heroes, in that while it does retain the classic formula of hexes and movement points, it still pushes the envelope with a rather unique activation system and even throws some cards in for some added chaos. The activation system has a cinematic feel, with each player doing one action on their turn (shoot, move one hex, play a card). Each action cost a variable amount of points, depending on which unit is performing it and each unit only receives the points at the start of its activation. Switch to a different unit, and the former units loses all remaining points and is Spent for the rest of the turn, generally unable to do any actions. You can always use Command Action Points instead in order to break away from this limitation, but those are limited and won’t be replenished until the end of the turn.
The game unfolds like a chess match, each side careful in the way they move and how they spend their points and commit their units. Unlike a lot of wargames where all units are moved and then fired, this game has a very staccato feel to it, with units performing single actions at a time.
Lots of fun and easy to get into, I’ll do a more in depth review later on when I have more games under my belt.
I love Steam and I don’t get to play it often enough, even though I have a ton of maps for it (even the one for the Montreal metro!)
I’ve started a Youtube channel for all of the replay videos and will be posting more in the coming weeks (I’ve got Hegemonic, Conflict of Heroes and Space Empire 4X already shot and just waiting to be edited).
If you like what you see, please subscribe to the channel and upvote this article and the website over on BoardgameLinks. I can always use more traffic!