original German edition
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Average Rating: 4.5 in 21 reviews
When I first played this game I did not like it. At first blush it seemed to rely on the same production mechanism as Settlers of Catan, and Starfarers of Catan. You have colony planets that produce goods much like Settlers and Starfarers, but the game does not rely on this mechanism to bring goods into the game.
After you lose the mindset that it is similiar to Settlers of Catan, it is a much better game.
There are several stacks of cards, each turn you 'explore' a stack of cards. Find a planet that sells goods for 1 or 2 coins, buy them, and sell those goods at a planet that offers 4 or 5 coins for those goods. Remember what stack each card is in, this is how goods and money are brought into the game.
This is not intended to be an exhauative review. I only mention this one small point to help new players who may be expecting a game similiar to the original. There are many more aspects to this game. There are some tough decisions to made, there is some combat (although not with the other player), there is competition with the other player to get advanced spaceship components, there is some player interaction, and there is some luck involved.
Good game. Buy it if you play 2 player games at all.
This is my favorite game to play of two player games that take a little longer to play. I really feel like I am in a Star Ship Theme when I play this game. It has the feel and mechanics of a regular Settlers of Catan game but with a lot of nice new features! I highly recommend it. We have played this game for a long time now, and we keep coming back to it.
Unless you play at warp speed this game takes more like an hour and a half then one hour but is worth it! This game is just fun. If you like Settlers of Catan's mechanics you will like the mechanics of this game. The basic game is you have a mother ship that you can accesorize with smaller ships, modules with special abililties, boosters to increase speed, and cannons to fight pirates. You have to choose the right ship for your situation and which areas of space are right for you to explore given your current financial status. There are lots of choices to be made balancing money, resources, and points. If you like games that make you think and capture your imagination then you to may want to fare into space.
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The latest instalment on the [page scan/se=0041/sf=category/fi=stockin.asc/ml=20]Siedler soap sees a combination offering a 2 player game set in space. And why not? Settlers is very popular and the company has a great line in 2 player games, including the Settlers card game. So does it match its predecessors?
The initial impression of the box is that Mayfair have used the Kosmos artwork, which is good because I find the Kosmos graphics to be better than the Mayfair style. The second thing you notice is the high heft factor and this is confirmed when you open the lid. Inside this Tardis are two space ships, a wadge of cards, a ton of spaceship components, a sheet of markers and the dice. (It just fits back in when you finish!) Each starship is created from 2 jigsaw parts -- a front and a back onto which cannons (at the front) and movement boosters (at the back) are fitted. To begin with you are lightly armed and slow, but during the game you can acquire more resources to build faster and more dangerous starships.
A Siedler game wouldn't be the same without resources and Starship Catan provides plenty of these. Starfarers players will recognise carbon, food, ore and fuel as well as the trade goods. New into this game is the scientific resource. Storage of resources is on the familiar 4-sided areas, except that there are arrows to show how many resources you have, rather than the card rotation system and the resource areas are drawn on the starships. Personally, I like rotating the cards, but the arrows work fine and are probably a better design for this game.
In the centre of each starship are 6 storage areas and this works really well for the theme. You choose a module to start the game and on offer are:
- A storage module that allows you to store 3 resources of each type rather than 2.
- A command module that increases the number of actions per turn to 3 (plus the roll of a die).
- A trade module that allows you to buy a limited number of goods from your opponent for a fixed price.
- A research module that gives you an extra resource when the die roll matches the card. (This is a 1 in 3 chance as the die gives results of 1-3.)
- A trade goods module - just like the research module.
- A probe module that allows you to look at the first 2 cards of a deck, rearrange their sequence or place one or both of them at the bottom of that deck.
The variety is interesting and it is not clear which module you should select as your starting one. The command module allows you more options on your journey into a deck, but if you have insufficient storage space, you have to spend your resources immediately. This may not be on something you really want, but otherwise you risk losing valuable resources if you have no more space in which to store them. The trade module might be useful early on to get a much needed resource, but in the games that I have played so far, both my opponent and I have spent resources as quickly as possible, so the choice of resource has been limited and this reduces its immediate value. The module making the biggest noise has been the probe. If you meet space pirates, you can dodge them, other "useless" cards can be dumped to the bottom of the deck and the odds of finding something useful seem much higher. Even so, you may not get the resources you would like and storage is a problem. So the best three modules look like the storage, command and probe. This is sufficient choice to make early on in the game.
The best system in the game is the use of cards to offer 4 choices of journey. Each of these four decks has 10 cards, which are face down. They contain a variety of planets to trade with. You can swap money for resources or vice versa; colonise planets, which also score a victory point and offer a chance of a free resource each turn; establish a trade relationship with a planet, which provides a permanent trading option and a friendship point. These are a bit like the longest road in standard Siedler and give the leader a victory point.
There are also pirates, which you can flee from or fight, possibly earning resources or fame points. These are like the longest road too. Other cards let you waste time on neutral planets, trade or visit other systems that may provide resources in return.
Each game follows a standard pattern -- gather resources, explore one of the space journeys, interact with what you find and upgrade your ship. The system is flexible enough to allow plenty of options and has more decisions than standard Siedler, though a few less than the card game counterpart. My main criticism is the lack of interaction between the players. You can trade resources, there is a race for the module upgrades as there is only one of each of these, and you can learn about what is in each journey that your opponent has uncovered. But that's it. You may think this sounds pretty good, but there is no way of clawing back a position. So if you gain a lead in victory points, with sound decisions you can extend that lead and there is not much your opponent can do. By contrast in the Siedler card game, while there is a race for the fifth town, you can spy on your opponent, force cards out of their hand, destroy city improvements and steal resources. It isn't simple to do, but there are several ways that you can injure your opponent and catch up in victory points. In Starship Catan, these opportunities do not exist.
I have enjoyed learning and playing the game, but towards the end of games now, I just want them to finish rather than having the excitement of winning that accompanies the game that this is based on. My second criticism concerns the power of the probe module. If you get the upgrade, then, since this allows for 3 cards in a deck to be examined, re-ordered or put to the bottom of the stack, you have a tremendous advantage. The number of cards seen is dependent on the speed of the starship (nice touch!) and a 1-3 dice roll, so it is quite possible to generate a speed of 7 or more. As the exploration decks are 10 deep, this means it is easily possible to go through a deck on one play. This takes away the edge of uncertainty and surprise and so detracts from some of the game enjoyment. My solution would be to limit the power of the module by 1, so a standard module allowed viewing one card and the upgrade two cards. I would also like to add more cards to deck, so that it was more difficult to go through a deck on one turn. Possibly this would work by reducing the four 10 card decks to three of 13? I haven't tried either of these options out yet, but it might return more of the suspense and uncertainty back to the game. At least for me.
The game is full of design ideas to link the game with the space theme. Boosters for speed sound right. The ship itself is well designed and the modules provide images of a large ship travelling through space. There are replacement cards for the decks as they are added to your growing collection of trade planets. Some of these replacements are space pirates that grow in power as well as some useless planets that ensure you upgrade your speed. So if you like the more solitary nature of the game, then I would say try this one out. My inclination is that this is not such a good game as Siedler card game, as the criticisms I have levelled will have indicated, but on the positive side, the game plays well, the components and options are really first-class and there is a real theme attached to the game. And it is the theme that draws me back. Despite these concerns, I would play this game again, particularly against people who have not tried it yet. The final question is where does the Siedler bandwagon move to next? Outer space has been done, as well as life on earth, so does the Siedler solution go into the fantasy world? Watch this space....