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The Delta V asteroid field is a wild and dangerous frontier, but if you are up to plundering asteroids, blowing up your rivals' rockets, and dodging hostile alien invaders, it can make you rich.
Delta V is a fast-playing board game of memory and strategy for two to four players. Take charge of an inserstellar mining corporation and compete for lucrative contracts through skill, sabotage, and bribery.
I'm not sure why this little gem of a game has not been reviewed yet or why I had never even heard of it, considering that its been out for a year. My whole group groaned when I pulled it off the shelf and asked them to try out a 'memory game'. I was skeptical myself, as my seven and eight year old sons generally leave me in the dust with this type of a contest.
We were all pleasantly surprised when Delta V turned out to be so much fun. (We played it three more times in the same evening.) A good memory will definitely give players a strong edge in this galaxy exploration game but there are many clever devices that a strategic player can use to make up for poor retention.
Players explore an asteroid-ridden galaxy that surrounds space station Delta V. Armed only with five spaceships and five bribery chips their mission is to mine the most mineral points before either a.) all the contracts are fulfilled or b.) the galaxy becomes overrun with aliens that bear a striking resemblance to the creatures in the movie 'Martians'. Each player is allowed only one action each turn, plus an opportunity to fulfill a contract, so careful consideration is needed to decide between building ships, scouting with spy satellites, mining, and sending ships out to eliminate enemy ships and explore new areas on the grid.
Delta V lasts for about 1 hour with four players and is equally fun with three players. Two player games depend more on memory than diplomacy and bribery so it loses some of the fun in my opinion. The components are of nice quality and the price is reasonable. The rules are written clearly and take about 10-15 minutes to explain to new players. I would highly recommend this to both casual gamers as well as to the more serious gamer who wants an ocassional light and quick game.
Ive enjoyed many of the smaller boxed games that Fantasy Flight Games has put out (Cave Troll, Drakon, Kingdoms, etc.), so when I heard of Delta V, the space theme and the company that produced it sounded like a good match to me. I was a little surprised to find almost no press about the game on the internet, and generally negative opinions about it. But since I love space-themed games, and dont mind memory games too much (one of the negative things said against the game), I decided to get the game anyway.
So is Delta V worth its price tag ($15 or so)? I found that the theme of the game was so loosely based that it became a distraction from the not-so-very-much-fun game play. It reminded me quite a bit of Lord of the Rings: the search in that it has a theme that caused me to expect more than the simplistic game inside. Let me explain a bit more
First, Ill tell you a bit about how to play the game
Forty-eight tiles are shuffled and placed face down in a 7 x 7 square grid, around a center tile the space station. Each player takes five plastic rockets in their color, placing one on the space station. They also take the five bribe counters of their colors. Each bribe counter shows a certain type of mineral on one side, and -2 on the other. Several contract tiles are also placed to the side of the grid, each on showing one or more minerals on it. One player is chosen to go first, with each player taking a turn clockwise
On their turn, a player may do two things. First, they must take an action. These actions include:
1). Move rockets The player may move all their rockets once. This consists of either moving rockets from the space station to any tile on the board, or moving them back to the space station. If a rocket lands on a tile with another players rocket, both rockets are destroyed.
2). Prospect The player may discreetly look at the face of each tile one of their rockets resides on. If the tile is an incident tile, they may reveal it and play/keep it.
3). Satellite Survey A player may flip one of their bribe counters to the -2 side to look at any three tiles in the same row or column.
4). Buy a Rocket A player may place one of their rockets on the space station tile.
After an action, the player may try to fulfill a contract. They pick one of the contracts, declaring that they will complete it. Then, from memory, they must reveal tiles to all players that match the minerals shown on the contract. If incorrect, they flip the tiles back face down and their turn is over. If they do reveal all the minerals on the contract, they keep the minerals and the contract in front of them. Each mineral has a point value from1 to 5. There is also one mineral (purple Omnidium) that acts as a wildcard for any type of mineral. If a player reveals an incident tile at this time, it is played. A player may also turn over one of their bribe counters to the -2 side if the mineral shown on it matches one of the minerals they need.
Another player may bid up the contract by flipping over one of their bribe tiles. The player completing the contract must then also find that mineral, or they fail to fulfill the contract.
Incident tiles are usually kept, and can be played on a turn as a free action. They
- destroy enemy ships,
- allow a ship to be built for free
- cancel a players action
- cancel a players contract
- look at all tiles under rockets for free
- move the alien.
When the alien (a cardboard stand-up character) is moved, it is placed on another players rocket, which then cannot move. The player using the alien can then steal one of the affected players bribe counters.
The game ends when the last contract is fulfilled, when the last alien tile is revealed (there are five), or if there are no tiles that are clear at the end of a turn. All players count up the points of the minerals theyve collected, and subtract all the -2s they have showing. Whoever has the most points wins the game.
Some comments on the game
1). Components: The box is the same size as all other Fantasy Flight small games (why dont all companies do this?), and holds all components well. The box art leaves something to be desired, as does the pictures of the alien. I do like the art on the tiles- the minerals look pretty good, and the tiles are of a decent quality and size. The plastic rockets are okay, even though they look like they were stolen from a hokey 70s space game. Overall, the quality of this game is good, but not superb.
2). Rules: The rules are only on two pages and are fairly easy to understand. The game is easier to teach than it is reading the rules, though, but the rules arent often referred to except in the case of incident tiles. This seems to become a recurring theme in most Fantasy Flight small games like Dragon, Cave Troll, etc., where the tiles only have symbols on, and you have to refer to the rules to see what each tile does. It would be much better to have a little player aid chart.
3). Theme: Christian Petersen has designed some of the best themed games Ive ever played, like Twilight Imperium, Battlemist, etc. But the theme for this game has nothing to do with game play. This isnt a problem if the game is a good game, but Delta V is a little lacking there. The theme actually can become a bit of a distraction. Do we really need to call the minerals Gammatite, Deltamite, Betamite, etc.? Wouldnt it be easier to call them by their colors (which is what we did when playing the game). And the 7 x 7 grid is a joke, really, as the spaceships can go anywhere. I suppose its just there for the memory aspect.
4). Memory Match: If playing Memory! when a child enthralled you, you may like this game, as it felt to us like a slightly advanced version of that childhood game. I like some memory games, like Mamma Mia!, but this one just didnt have the same feel. Memory! is an excellent game to teach young children memory skills, but it gets rather boring for adults and this game doesnt improve very much.
5). Luck: Since the numbers on the tiles are so wide-ranging, a small amount of bad luck can really ruin the game for you. If you find three of the 1 tiles, and your opponent only finds 2 of the 5 tiles, theyll have an immense lead on you. I like a good dash of luck in my games, but it may be too much in Delta V.
6). Good points: I did like the bidding up aspect, as it has a bit of a mess-with-your-neighbor feel, and makes a slightly boring game a bit more interesting. The bribe counters are a good idea, and the different things you can do each turn do provide a bit of variety.
7). Fun factor: We didnt hate playing the game, but we did expect a bit more fun than we had. Space games need to have a little theme in them, and this game fails to deliver in that regard. It may look neat to fly your rockets through the asteroid field, but it doesnt FEEL like youre flying rockets, so that drops the fun factor down a bit. The fact that the game can end early, at the whim of a player (if they find most of the alien tiles) takes a bit out of the game also, along with the whopping amount of luck.
So, I really cant recommend the game, unless you are a huge fan of Memory! and need a variant to satiate your appetite. Im a huge fan of space games, but this is probably my least favorite in that genre (if it can even be considered part of the genre). I will give the game that its fast and its not totally un-fun. Its just that there are so many better games Id rather play. This one may be played by us again, but probably with my children, when they tire of Memory! And even then, maybe not