The game takes place in a five-planet solar system and the players represent newly-arrived competing cultures, fighting over the planets. You begin with two ships in the form of dice, and during each turn you can move, settle on planets, build more ships, combat other players - either in space, or attack a planet - or cause an uprising on a planet where you have a settled ship. The last one is the heart of the game, because if a player has the highest value die on a planet, they have dominance there. Not only does that give you a boost during play, it's also key to winning: the game ends when one player gets dominance on all five planets concurrently. It's kind of Lords of Vegas in space in that regard - I nearly called it Spagas, only that sounds like a fungal infection.
There's a couple of other actions too, but mainly you're flying around, blowing each other up and landing on planets - there's only space for four ships on each planet.
Ian looks longingly on as Andrew and I share the blue planet
At the end of each round, all the planets move along their orbital paths, so you have to take your moment if you can, or you'll be left behind. And at the start of each new round, players pick up resources for each planet they occupy (being dominant gives you an additional resource cube) and these can either be spent during your turn (cheaper building, free moves, dice-rolling bonuses and hyperspace!) or saved for points at the end of the game.
WIP player mats
The idea was to make a feisty game where players are encouraged to go all out attack (trying to get dominance in all planets) or consolidate by stockpiling resources. But of course, you can only stockpile cubes if you're picking them up in the first place...
Ian is dominant
We played nine rounds in a little over an hour. I'd fallen away dramatically and had taken on some debt in order to build more ships. Having done so, I sprang back into what I thought was contention - gaining dominance in two planets. But the very next turn Andrew got himself back on top in four of them. He then went for the fifth, knowing if he managed to roll a six, he'd grab the planet and mostly likely the game. He rolled a six!
late game: orange (me) is struggling whilst the other two battle it out
Hard for me to be objective, especially when throughout I was worrying if it was too fiddly/too luck-based/too X. But I think I enjoyed it.
With that trial by fire out the way, Chris was yet to arrive, sending us a mysterious text about poop.
So we decided to give Madame Ching another go; the board game that's actually a card game. The game played very fast - only 30 minutes - and whilst no-one made it to Hong Kong or claimed the China Pearl, we did at least give the impression we knew what we were doing this time.
those lovely clouds
As we were debating what to play next Chris arrived. Having cleared up the mystery of the poo text, and cleared up the source of the poo text as well, we went and stared at the games cupboard in huddled discussion. Five Tribes nearly got played, but in the end we went for one of Chris' favourites: Concordia. It's not been seen for a while at GNN and playing it I think that's because it is a rather staccato experience: often turns whizz by, but everyone had their moments of pausing, staring at their cards and the board, and then saying "shit". Games are so fun!
I went with my tried and not-totally-trusted method of spreading around the board and trying to nab Saturnus cards which reward you for settlements in different regions. I can't remember what Ian and Chris did, but I do remember looking over at Andrew's cards in final scoring and thinking "shit" - games, fun!
Andrew (black) doesn't look that threatening mid-game
We then played Waggle Dance, the game of dice-rolling worker placement. Fool's Gold pulls this combo off really well, but Waggle Dance ...doesn't. It looks nice, it's easy to teach, there's a fair bit of screwage, but unless I imagined it, we were all largely underwhelmed. At least it's quick, though.
Sam 4 honey (wins on tie-breaker)
Andrew 4 honey
Ian 3 honey (third on tie-breaker)
Chris 3 honey
There was just time for a blast of Push It before we wrapped up. This time it was Andrew who lagged behind the rest of us, only to make a belated push for glory. But someone - Chris I think - sent my disc ricocheting into the puck to give me a rather jammy two-disc win:
Lots of fun. And thanks for indulging me on Orbital.