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The Planetary Union of the Andromeda galaxy wants wealthy traders from Earth to invest in their economy, but they want to limit those investments. To control such investments, they have allocated three orbiting economic centers above each of their most important planets for development by Earth interests. This keeps the strange Earthlings off their planets and also creates competition among the many Earth companies interested in such development. The Planetary Union hopes this competition will bring them even more money for these investments as the Earthlings compete for the best centers. To keep the Earthlings from conspiring amongst themselves to divide up the economic centers on their own with secret agreements, the Planetary Union requires that all trades be done under their watchful eyes. They also have spies probing for such secret negotiations and will eliminate traders who are caught in such activities.
Alan R Moon
Players: 3 - 5
Time: 60 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 1,370 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
Average Rating: 3.8 in 6 reviews
It's taken me a long time to admit this, but this is one of my favorite games. Why has it taken me so long? Well, as other reviewers have stated there is a fair amount of luck in this game and although I can enjoy a game with a lot of luck, it should never make my top 10. But this game has so many other mechanisms in it, is so much fun and as another reviewer said, there are ways to turn the odds in your favor. PLUS, the luck factor isn't picking a card or rolling the dice, oh no!.... it's the COSMIC ASHTRAY! (just one more shake, please)
This game has a fun trading phase and the decision as to what to go for (technology upgrade, handsize upgrade, send cubes to a planet, the COSMIC ASHTRAY!) along with the use of the wildcards (do you use them or hoard them) makes for a great game that never seems to slow down.
I think the endgame condition is great as well; some games, only 3 planets will be colonized much and the game will end quickly, while other times, every planet will have at least two colonies on it, leading to a longer game and also different strategies paying off.
All in all, if you want a game with a sprinkle of trading, some fun decision making, and one of the most fun randomizers (the COSMIC ASHTRAY! - even better than the dice tower), go get this game!
I havent played many successful non-war games that invoke a space theme. One of the most fun games Ive played of this genre is Solarquest, a Monopoly variant - which shows the lack of good games in this regard. (I am, of course, not neglecting the all time great Cosmic Encounter). So any game that has a space theme is invariably interesting to me, and as soon as I heard about Andromeda (Rio Grande Games, 1999 - Alan Moon), I resolved to get a hold of it. As usual, I read the comments about Andromeda online and ignored them, snagging a copy of the game. The comments themselves were very varied, but a majority of them mentioned the planet ring piece included in the game - something that apparently is unique only to Andromeda.
It was very interesting to read the wide range of opinions on Andromeda on the net, but I found that when playing the game with my gaming group and friends, that opinions were just as mixed. I loved the game, and will gladly play it anytime. Others in my gaming group, especially those who are heavy strategy gamers, despise this game and denounce the amount of luck in it. Everyone agrees on a few things, such as the unique planet ring (although derailing its use) and the beautiful components, but as to play, I think that its best suited for those who enjoy a fun time with a good dose of luck. Teens took to the game fairly well, but I found that adults playing the game for casual fun had the best time.
Andromeda is played on a large, beautiful board, depicting seven planets along with earth. I think the planets are supposed to represent actual planets in our solar system, but Im not sure. Each player picks a color and takes twenty-six cubes of that color (called stations) and two transport cards of that color, placing them in front of them. One of these cubes is placed on the first space of a spaceship development track, and another on the first space of a technology development track. Each player puts four stations on earth, and 1 station on each of the other planets (two on each if only three players are playing.) A certain amount of cards are dealt to each player, depending on how many are in the game, and players place a station on the matching planet for each card they are dealt. Any leftover stations are removed from the game. Sixteen bonus cards are sorted out into four different types and placed face-up next to the table, along with the planet ring (which looks remarkably similar to an upside-down ashtray). The deck of eighty-four planet cards (12 for each planet) is shuffled, and nine are dealt to each player, with the remaining cards forming a draw pile. The oldest player goes first in the first round.
Each turn is made up of four different phases, with the starting player changing each turn - moving one clockwise. The first phase is the card phase, where the starting player deals to each player, filling their hands to their maximum number. Each players maximum number of cards is determined by the spaceship track (starts at nine cards). Following this is the transport phase. Each player may play one of their transport cards, in order, or pass. These cards can only be used once per game, then be discarded. The cards give a player one of two options: they may move two of their stations from earth to any one of the seven planets, or they may move all their stations from one planet to earth.
After this is the trading phase, which is mandatory for all players. The starting player picks any card from their hand and places it face up in front of them. Every other player then simultaneously picks a card and places it face down on the table - then all revealing them at the same time. These cards cannot be the same card as the one that the starting player placed. The starting player then places a second card (can be anything) and adds it to the cards he has on the table. The other players then once again select another card and play it face down simultaneously, again revealing them at the same time. These cards cannot match either card the starting player has played. The starting player can now repeat this process with a third and final card, or they can start trading. Once they trade, they must select one other player and take the cards that player has offered into their hand, giving that player their cards. The player whose cards were taken can either keep the cards they received, or leave them on the table for further trading. The next player clockwise repeats what the starting player did, etc., until everyone has taken cards. If this leaves only one person with cards, that person keeps the cards they offered for trade. Occasionally (Ive never seen it happen), a player does not have any legal cards for trade, in which case they reveal their hand to all players, and then are excused from trading.
The final phase, the most important phase, is the action phase. During this phase, the starting player may execute three actions, after which the other players, in clockwise order, can take two actions. The different actions involved in this round often include playing sets of planet cards. A set is three to seven cards played - all of the same planet. When a player plays four or more cards that are of the same planet, they immediately receive a bonus card. There are four different kinds of bonus cards, depending on how many cards were in the set played (4, 5, 6, or 7). Each card has a point value that its worth at the end of the game, if the player still has it in their hand (2, 3, 4, or 5). These bonus cards can also be used as jokers and played as wild cards to complete sets, although if a set includes a bonus card, the player does not receive a new bonus card. All cards played in a set are discarded.
There are five different actions available to each player, and can be taken in any combination and order. They are...
- Spaceship development. A player can play any set of planet cards to move their station one space on this track. To move to each space requires a different number of cards in the set, and rewards the player by increasing their maximum hand size (up to thirteen!)
- Technology: A player can play any set of planet cards to move their station one space on this track. There are three spaces on the track, each giving the player an additional advantage in the game. The first space allows the player to trade four cards on their turn, the second allows them to trade up to three cards with the draw pile when using the Trade Planet Cards action, and the final rounds numbers up for a player rather than down.
- Trade Planet Cards: The player can discard up to two cards from their hand and draw the same amount from the draw pile. (more if they have the technology).
- Move Stations to Planets: The player can play a set of cards from a planet to move that many stations from earth to that planet. The number of stations they can move is half the number of cards in the set (rounded down).
- Establish an Economic Center: The player can try to gain points on any planet where they have presence by playing a set of cards of that specific planet. The number of attempts they have to do this is half the number of cards in the set (rounded down). The planet ring is placed over all stations from that planet, and the player mixes them up underneath. They then slowly pull the planet ring backwards, allowing cubes to come out an opening in the side of the planet ring equal to the number of attempts they make. If a cube from another player comes out - that cube is sent back to earth. If one of his own color cubes comes out, however, the player can place it on one of the three economic centers rotating that planet. These economic centers are worth a certain amount of victory points, and when a cube is placed on one, no other cubes may go there. When a player receives an economic center, or uses up all their attempts, this action is over.
When all three economic centers are established on three of the seven planets, the game ends after the current round. All players total their scores, receiving one point for each station they have on Earth, points for the bonus cards currently in their hands, points for where their cubes lie on each of the tracks, and points for each of the economic centers they have taken. The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: As I stated in the beginning, the board is absolutely stunning, with beautiful, if inaccurate depictions of Earth and the planets. The cards are fantastic, showing the planets quite clearly, with wonderful artwork. All the artwork, from the cards to the box to the board is very invocative of the space theme, and the whole game really looks snazzy when set up. The cubes are - well - cubes, but the colors are attractive and stand out well on the board. There is a fantastic plastic insert that holds everything securely in the sturdy box, taking away the necessity of needing plastic bags (I obsessively use them anyway).
2.) Planet Ring: Ive heard this thing called many names, from the Cosmic Hockey Puck (my favorite) to the Space Ashtray (sadly not dissimilar). It certainly doesnt look like anything Ive ever seen in a game before - and gives the game a certain distinction. It also adds a good bit of randomness without the rolling of dice. This component alone is what I can draw people into the game with.
3.) Rules: The rulebook is hands down one of the best Ive ever seen. The rules are explained completely in eight full color pages with myriads of illustrations - you could play the entire game from the rulebook, without ever seeing the components. The game is also easy to teach, although the trading mechanic does not come naturally to most people. I found the game easy to learn, but it was a little difficult for people to figure out exactly what they should do, and experienced players have an edge (if only knowing what points to go for.)
4.) Trading: The mandatory trading phase is an excellent mechanic, and helps everyone to feel involved. Of course, there is a lot of moaning and groaning during this phase, especially when someone has to give up one of their precious bonus cards - but it is an aspect of the game Ive heard very few complain about. The starting player has a lot of power, and can strategically get the cards he needs by watching what the other player play. This power is only magnified when he has the technology to trade four cards.
5.) Options: The options in the game are fairly large - and one has to make a lot of choices. Should they go quickly for a planet economic center, or build up on that planet, hoping for a better chance? Should they increase their hand size first, or work on technologies? What planets should they send their stations to, and when should they use their transport cards? Should they keep their bonus cards for the points depicted (thus using up a slot in their hand), or play them for maximum benefit? People who think that there isnt strategy in the game are sorely mistaken.
6.) Luck: Luck plays a good role in this game. There is some in the cards that are dealt to each player, but its the hockey puck that causes most of the contention. A player can play a set of seven cards for the red planet, when they only have one station there, and their opponents have a combined total of twenty! Yet still, if they are lucky, they can take the most influential economic center, netting themselves a whopping 14 points! At the same time, a player can have a massive majority on a planet, and have horrible luck, not getting any of their cubes to exit the ashtray.
7.) Fun Factor: When both of the above situations occur, its not much fun for that player, and some players dislike the game for specific streaks of bad luck theyve had. But overall, most people enjoy the game, and as long as a game doesnt drag out (can happen, but usually doesnt), the game is a fun, light romp.
Many peoples opinions of this game are that the luck is too high - but I disagree. Yes, there is a lot of luck in the game, but the strategic options are high, and can counter most luck. Yes, a player can have flawless strategy, and still lose - but its rare. If you think so, Ill gladly play you, and well see who wins! At the same time, if this kind of luck in games disgusts you, then youd do best to avoid the game. I think its a fine Alan Moon game, one that Ill gladly play. Some disagree with me as much, and you might want to heed their opinions. But if you think a space-themed, light game with a good bit of strategy might be to your liking, then this should be right up your alley!
This game will never win any MENSA awards. If you are looking for strategy, tactics, look elsewhere. What this game lacks in strategic challenge it more than makes up for in good ol' fashioned fun.
Don't get me wrong though: This is not some sort of simple dicefest. You will be making some neat decisions that mitigates the lucks somewhat. You need large sets of planet cards to get anywhere in this game, but small sets can be used to try and get points early. You can get card sets in the unique and interesting trading round, but of course, it's easier to collect big sets if you get to hold more cards. So use a set to 'buy-up' and increase your card limit. Tired of your ties rounding down? Use a set to 'buy-up' so ties are rounded up. You can improve your 'ship' several different ways, which allows you to bend the rules and increase your chances of winning.
So where's the luck? The 'Cosmic Puck'. Every planet on the board has a mix of small cubes on it belonging to the player. If a player plays a set of red planet cards, he takes the Cosmic Puck, puts it over all the cubes on that planet, and draws it along the board until a cube pops out the small portal in the Puck, deperately hopes he draws one of his own. If he does, he claims one of the moons worth victory points. But you can use your cards to get more of your cubes on a planet, increasing your odds. But the cubes sometimes have a mind of their own!
This game is a luckfest and, as many lucky games are, is more fun with more players, probably because more players produces more groaning and laughter! This game says 3-5 players, but really clicks with 4 or 5. And with 4 or 5, you may really enjoy this. The nice space artwork looks good, and the game has some interesting decisions. If you like games like lucky games like Royal Turf, Can't Stop, and that sort of thing, but want a game with funky actions, and a bit more to it in the way of gameplay, Andromeda fits the bill. It makes for a great 4 or 5 player family game.
I disagree with the previous assessment of the game. Yes, luck -is- an element in the game but the game provides many, many mechanisms to allow players to increase the probability that things will fall their way. The real game, in fact, -is- deciding whether to trust your luck as is, or to 'spend' cards to 'buy' more luck.
It's a typical German game in that there are no dead spots--you have to pay attention during everyone else's turn because you may be involved at a moment's notice. And as the game proceeds, you reach a point where you can see the game about to end and you start using luck to sabotage your opponents.
Our group enjoyed this game. I had an idea for a variant where the game ends on the turn when 3 satellites on ANY ONE planet are full. I suspect this would make defense a lot more cutthroat.
Be warned, if you dislike games that have a large amount of luck: there's nothing more to see here. Go home. Right, now that that's out of the way and all the chess players are busy with castling and en passant, I can talk about Andromeda without fear of being shouted down.
Andromeda is, when you come right down to it, little more than a game where you play the odds, and hope to come out on top. But it does it in such a fun way that you don't even realize it. It is the journey, not the destination, that is Andromeda's highlight; indeed, I am often disappointed when the game ends, and the fact that there is a winner is largely irrelevant to me.
The game is a blend of several different mechanics that might seem incongruent, but actually work together pretty well. One mechanism is the trade phase, where players trade cards with each other to acquire sets. The other main mechanism involves spending sets of three or more cards to attempt to gain victory points. These are essentially encapsulated in the two phases that form the bulk of the game.
The premise of Andromeda is that each player represents a faction attempting to establish trade posts on the seven rich worlds of some unspecified star system. The player does this by moving representatives (all right, they're little coloured cubes) to a planet and trying to move these cubes onto the planet's moons, which is where the trade posts (and victory points) are.
The board depicts the seven planets, each with three satellites. In the corner of the board lies Earth, which is essentially a glorified holding pen, though at least having cubes on it earns you some victory points. There are also two short tracks on the board, one which affects hand size (thus your ability to make sets of cards), and the other which has some subtle but useful effects in improving your odds of success. During the game you can spend sets of cards to advance along each of these tracks.
The cards each depict one of the seven planets, the significance of which is that if you want to do something with, say, the purple planet, you need a set of at least three purple-planet cards. Since the cards are dealt at random, players need to trade cards with each other in order to get these sets. This is done during the trading phase, where one player (the start player--this rotates around the table) offers a card up for trade. All other players secretly pick a card of a different kind, then all are revealed simultaneously. The start player now offers another card, and the other players have to offer a second card that differs from both of the cards that the start player played. This can continue up to four cards (depending on the start player's technology). Then the start player trades his or her offered cards with the offered cards from one opponent--presumably the ones that looked the most interesting. The opponent is now allowed to take up the start player's cards and keep out of what follows, or leave the cards on the table. What follows is that the player next to the start player now has the same opportunity as the start player--trade cards with someone else, or take up the cards in front of him or her. At the end, one unlucky player will have no choice but to take the only cards left on the table. This mechanism--which should be familiar to anyone who has played the card game Money--sounds complicated, but it moves along very quickly, and it keeps all players involved. Because one player's trash may be another player's treasure, it has the result of increasing the likelihood (and size) of sets of cards.
Which is where the other main phase comes in. Beginning with the start player, each player now can hand in sets of cards to move their cubes on the board--either from Earth to a planet, or higher along hand size or technology track, or from a planet to its victory-point-laden moons. The larger set that is handed in, the bigger the odds of success. It is this last option--planets to moons--that introduces the huge luck element that turns off some gamers. At the planet are all of your (and everyone else's) cubes that have been moved from Earth, but not onto moons yet. Over all of these cubes, you place a plastic device which looks very much like an inverted ashtray--a shallow cup with a hole in one side just large enough for one cube to come out. Shake it around lots--this is the fun bit--and move it so that one cube comes out the hole. If it's yours, congratulations, you've set up a trade post. Stick it on a free (presumably the most valuable) moon. If the cube was someone else's, it is sent back to Earth, improving your odds (but also improving that player's score by increasing the number of cubes on Earth). If you didn't succeed, and you have more shakes left--this depends on the size of the set you played--you can try again. Of course, if the planet's three moons are full, there's not much point shaking, because there's nowhere for your cubes to go. This provides a balance between going all-out on a planet to improve your odds: you will be left with a bunch of cubes lying scoreless on the planet's surface at the end of the game.
The end of the game is, incidentally, when three planets' satellite systems fill up. The current round ends and everyone tallies up their victory points, on the board and in their hands from 'bonus cards' that have been collected during the game from playing large sets of cards. (But only if you kept them until the end of the game, since bonus cards can also be used as any-planet 'wild' cards to make sets. This is another way of improving your odds.)
I've left out several details here, such as the use of transport cards, the meaning of the different technology levels, and several important numbers. These are all described in the rules on Rio Grande's web site, and they don't make a lot of difference to the flavour of the game, only the balance.
Speaking of balance, this is the largest criticism that I can level at Andromeda: it's not clear that the various scoring mechanisms are equally important. For instance, there are victory points to be had for higher technology, but none for increased hand size. If you go for broke with the planetary ashtray early on, you may get lucky and score some key victories before your opponents have had a chance to react. For this reason, the game works a little more evenly with more players, because it is harder for one player to get a huge majority of cubes on one planet. Having said that, I find that most of the time I am usually playing Andromeda with the minimum complement of three. It's a bit random, but so what? It's fun watching the cube come out of the hole in the ashtray, and cheering when it's my colour or cursing when it's not. And while I'm on the topic of fun--have a look at the cargo being carried in the ship on the front of the box: artist Doris Matthus has filled it with all sorts of gaming references. Very cute.
It's unusual for a game to have so little downtime between turns, but with Andromeda you are always doing something, so the game doesn't feel as long as the 75 minutes it usually takes to finish. Andromeda is a game that should appeal to casual gamers and families the most. And if you think calling a game 'family' is a slight, shouldn't you be off playing chess right now?
I really wanted to like this game more, but the luck component can take you completely out of the game rather than simply hindering you as in Elfenland. The game is driven by acquiring sets of matching planet cards. You need these to move your pieces from Earth out to a specific planet or to take control of one of the economic centers (moons) orbiting that planet. There are several mechanisms to help you build combos. You can spend combos to enhance your spaceship (increase your hand size) or to improve your technology (hand manipulation via card swapping with other players or deck). While these do work to some extent and represent viable stategies, too often I've sat there with combo-less hands watching new players completely ignore these mechanisms and win completely on luck. This can still be a fun family game just for that reason: anybody can win. But as a gamer's game it falls short. Get Stephenson's Rocket instead.
Alan Moon may have shirked his sartorial responsibility in the aftermath of Elfenland's success, failing to divert any of his royalty fund to a wardrobe upgrade. He should, however, have further opportunities if the standards of Andromeda are maintained. The former "Man In Black" (now "The Man In Wal-Mart Jumper") retains his elite billing on the back of this first-rate Abacus/Rio Grande release.
Andromeda's premise is the colonization of planets and the establishment of Economic Centres. Very grandiose, but simply a sop for some tried and trusted Moon machinations which his devotees will quickly recognise.
The game's thrust is generated by a pack of Planet cards. There are 12 each of the seven planets featured on the superbly designed game board (courtesy Doris Matthäus). Sets of these cards (minimum three) allow a variety of actions and the opportunity to develop a specific plan of action. In fact, after a couple of plays, you will be certain you have cracked it (as I did, before proceeding to end up last in consecutive games).
Andromeda has four specific Phases. The first allows players to draw cards to their maximum permissible hand (initially nine in a four-handed game). The second stage permits players the chance to play a Transport card, which gives free movement of the little wooden blocks known to us as Space Stations. As you are limited to just two of these cards, their use is crucial, particularly in the latter stages of the game when Stations need to return to Earth from redundant Planets to fight again for your cause.
The final two Phases demand a considered approach. Both require precise card play and an element of sacrifice. A potentially damaging hand might need refinement to maximise its effect, identifiable as a typical Moon ploy and which works to spectacular effect in this game.
Assuming four people are participating, and remembering that each has nine cards at their disposal, player one (this rotates) must offer a card up for trade. The other players place a card face down, but this must not be of the planet type now visible. Player one now adds a second card, likewise the rest of the team but with the same restriction. At this point, the starting player may choose to trade or add a third card. Either way, a swap is compulsory. Assume that Alan takes Reiner's cards. Reiner may now pocket them away, or instigate an exchange himself (but, obviously, not with Alan, although he has offered to take him to dinner later). This process is repeated until all players have participated.
And now comes the serious crunch, whereby the starting player is allowed an additional action (three instead of two) of those listed below. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how Moonie worked out this part of the game, particularly as it appears there is an imbalance. I assume that, ultimately, everyone has the same opportunity but I have been unable to untangle the theory. The five possible actions are:
- Exchange Planet cards from the draw pile.
- In the initial game set-up, each player establishes a presence (one Station) on each planet, with four more on Earth (the game's base). To increase their chances of creating an Economic Centre it is prudent to increase the number of Stations on the planet (you will see why in a mo'). Players may play three to seven cards of the same type (Planet) and move that number of Stations (divided by two, and rounded down--so three cards move one station) to their destination.
- The game-winning conditions require the completion of all three Economic Centres on three of the Planets. In the previous action, I explained the movement of Stations from Earth to the Planets. Their multiplication is vital, because we now introduce the dastardly "Ashtray", a nonsensical device (officially titled the Space Ring) which is placed over the Stations, shaken and then withdrawn, which allows the little blocks to exit and which usually prompts howls of delight, or in my case, anguish. As an odds-maker, the Ashtray is perfect, and is the sort of gimmick which keeps the pretence out of games such as these. To continue: If the first block drawn belongs to the player executing the Space Ring shuffle, he places it on the highest rated Economic Centre available. This action now ends. If, however, the block belongs to another player, it is whisked back to Earth. The player may continue to try his luck using the card formula as per Action 2.
- Advance along the Spaceship Development track (allowing you to increase your hand size)
- Advance along the Technology track (additional trading or card exchange options and the opportunity to round-up when doing the math). sets.
As sets are played, jokers become available. These are Bonus Credit Cards, which provide the traditional option as well as victory points, the latter also credited as you progress along the Technology ladder. These additions to the more visible Economic Centre values can be a game breaker. For example: A player placed third on the Purple Planet will gain four points, whilst level four Technology is worth six. Credit Card bonuses are only counted if kept in hand at the end of play.
If the above looks like it will take a couple of hours or more, that was the original word and the cause of some concern, although I am not sure how a time limit can be placed on 'fun'. Nonetheless, the only time the game took approaching 90 minutes was on our first run through when determining the game terms and card options. Expect to be at the table for a little more than the slightly optimistic "one hour" suggested on the box.
It would be remiss not to mention a minor failing, but this would be more down to the company you keep rather than the game's internal motor. A dithering player can be a source of frustration, particularly when a successful trading phase means you can steam ahead with your chosen actions. In fact, that is the beauty of Andromeda. All are involved in trades and the crucial Space Ring operation, which means you are rarely given time for wayward thoughts.
Whilst we may have tired a little of Elfenland, I would imagine Andromeda to have a similar lifespan, which in itself is testimony enough.