Saturday, November 20, 2010

What's that, rustling in the bushes? (Alien Frontiers, Guerilla

It was Kozure's pick this week and he selected a 20 year old Avalon Hill game called Guerilla. As we waited around for the group to be ready to start. we also had a chance to play a two player game of my new copy of Alien Frontiers.

Alien Frontiers

The Boardgame industry appears to have gone through a slump recently as far as interesting new games are concerned. This time last year I would have struggled to name 5 new games that interested me, and for most of this year the situation was the same (this explains why we have actually been playing our back catalogue recently!). Suddenly, though, a number of games are being released which have picked my interest. One of these was Alien Frontiers.

Alien Frontiers is a dice rolling and placing game similar to "To Court the King" or (apparently) "Kingsburg". Each player is given 8 colony tokens and must attempt to make as many VPs as possible, mostly by placing colonies on the planet. On a turn, players roll the dice they have (their "ships") and place the dice according to the space they are trying to activate. For example, it's possible to gather ore or fuel, to learn an alien technology, etc. Learning the alien techs allows players to manipulate their dice, and gaining dominance in an area gives game changing bonuses as well.

To Court the King ultimately fell flat for me, but so far Alien Frontiers has been quite fun. Dice allocation games are not my favorite, but this one I have enjoyed. At first, I felt the game was fun but lacked a certain dynamic necessary to push it over the top. Now, I've played a few more games with my son and we are starting to use the second type of action available on the alien tech cards: when players discard it and a player can move colonies around, exchange, them, etc. Suddenly the game becomes much more interactive and interesting. A fun game, and unique in my collection.


This is a card game attempting to recreate guerrilla warfare between government and rebels. Unlike many wargame recreations, Guerilla features a couple of game mechanics which makes for a very interesting game without relying on the theme. Before getting into the specifics of the game, it's important to understand at it's heart this is a simple game that involves playing cards that represent government or rebel units to your tableau and using them to attack other players. It's also necessary to understand that all players may control units from both sides and that a player's actual loyalties are secret. There are three possible loyalties: To the government, to the rebels and to no one (meaning that you benefit from having the war and therefore want neither to gain a clear advantage). The mechanic which really makes the game is that as players conduct attacks on other players, the winner of the battle scores points AND the faction of the winning units score the same amount of points. This is important because at the end of the game, if your faction isn't leading (or if the spread in points is too large if you are the mercenaries) your points are HALVED. This means that you will sometimes plan attacks that fail simply so that the faction you want to win gains points. Aside from the units, there are various buildings which grant special powers and VPs to the owner, cards that can be played for "take that" style effects (cutting off supply, assassinations, air raids, etc). The cards are thematic without being overly complex, and the rebels and government factions get different cards which each give them their own feel. It's a well executed combat/ take that style game which is made much more interesting by it's innovative scoring system (not bad for a 20 year old game!).

My main complaints are 1) it's way to long for what it is. The deck should definitely be pruned before we play next. 2) Once you start falling behind, it's hard to get back in... and kinda boring as you watch the others do stuff while you wait. Solving #1 also happens to alleviate #2 so it's not that big of a deal to get over these issues.

As mentioned above, despite my strong start as the government I was beaten down and never really made it back. Some assassinations, cut supplies and a few bad die rolls took me out of contention about midway through the game and I floundered afterwards, knowing it was impossible for me to be a contender. I can point to many errors I made, however, so I'm not blaming the game for my poor showing. I'm sure our next session will be even more fun now that we understand how it works.

Vive la révolution!

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