Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alien Frontiers Features Dice Placement

If you enjoy the dice placement mechanic of "Kingsberg" you might want to check out Clevermojo Games' "Alien Frontiers." In some ways, I think I like it better than "kingsberg." Why? Kingsberg has the "stick-it-to-the-other-guy" effect, that can actually prevent another player, depending on turn order, from placing some or even all of his dice. In Space Frontiers, there are limited spaces, but there is always something to do with your dice.

The dice in "Alien Frontiers" are actually space ships. The goal of the game is to dock your space ships (dice) on various spaces on the gamegboard to receive certain benefits. The goal is to take control of colonies on a planet (with areas named after great Sci-Fi writers such as Bradbury or Heinlen). Controlling an area gives you a benefit and a victory point. However, you have to dock your ships, obtain fuel and ore, and work on constructing colonies, they don't just magically appear. So players dock at a solar collector to gain fuel or at the lunar mine to obtain ore.

There is still the "stick-it-to-the-other-guy" factor, though. For instance, at the lunar mine a player has to dock a ship with a die result that is at least equal to the largest die there. So, a player might place a 6 there, causing the next player to also place a 6 there if he needs ore. Or it might cause the next player to be unable to place a die there if he didn't roll a 6.

In a major difference from Kingsberg.. players roll their dice on their own turn and complete all placement (dice stay in the spaces until their next turn) so one player doesn't know what the next player's dice will show when he is placing. Spaces are limited, with only one space having only one spot.. but docking there consumes the die (taking it out of play)as it converts a "ship" into a colony. Players can manage resources to purchase extra dice.

Mounted vs. Paper maps

One place a lot of wargame publishers save money is by printing folding paper game maps. Recently, a discussion broke out in the GMT games forum on Consimworld when it was announced that several new games would feature mounted boards. I was shocked to see that there are actually players who prefer the paper maps. For the most part it makes no difference to me, but I thought the subject was worth covering here. I suppose a factor favoring mounted boards would be durability. I'm not really certain that a mounted map will have more durability, but one assumes that if the board is properly constructed it will hold up longer than a paper map, which if mistreated is easily torn. On the other hand, a mounted board can be folded back the wrong way and then be broken. If players care for their games properly then the difference in durability will be negligible. A mounted board might allow for cleaning with a slightly damp cloth (a baby wipe) if it becomes sticky, etc. A glossy paper map might permit this as well. Of course, some people who suffer from game-owner OCD will wonder how dare someone bring food or drink to the war. One factor favoring paper maps mentioned by a player in the forum was that a paper map has more of a "military" feel to it. I guess he can imagine hunkering down in a bunker somewhere and ordering his troops about. I'd never thought of such a thing, but to a small extent I have to agree with the poster about the "feel" even though I never get that deeply immersed into my fantasy command. Paper maps certainly have an edge when it comes to weight and box-size. Especially if a gamer is packing around a number of boxed games. Obviously, a game box will have to be a bit larger to accomodate a mounted mapboard. If a gamer has a large collection of games then the space on his game shelf might be filled up more quickly. I can't think of any more reasons to prefer one over the other, except to say that while I tend to prefer mounted maps, and thicker heavier components for durability purposes, that preference doesn't translate into a factor when making a purchase. I may "oooh" and "aaah" over some really nice components, but the real deciding factor is whether or not a game offers a challenge and is enjoyable to play.