Saturday, November 01, 2014

Star Borders: Humanity

The next game from my collection that I am writing about is Star Borders: Humanity, the first in a promised trilogy of space combat games from Victory Point Games.  I should point out up front that I own, and have played, the first edition of this game, published in 2010.  In 2013 there was a second edition published with upgraded graphic design, a longer rule book, and more scenarios.  I don't own the second edition, so this write-up only relates to the first edition.

In Star Borders: Humanity, there are two groups of space-faring humanity; the Empire and the Alliance.  Ships are represented by square cardboard counters.  The counters move around a map depicting planets, empty space, asteroids, or wormholes.  Planets can be permanently controlled, and if a player has a ship on an asteroid space at the end of a turn then it counts as controlled for that turn.  Each turn consists of one side, and then the other, spending their Logistics Points to move ships, purchase Development Cards, and build replacement ships at their home base.  The scenario you are playing will have specific victory conditions, but most of the time this comes down to who has the most victory points at the end of the game, and victory points usually come from controlling planets on the map.

Interestingly, the map is unique for each scenario, being built from a series of modular map pieces.  There are two larger map pieces that show open space, and four smaller map pieces that are generally used to show starting spaces for each side.  These smaller pieces are color-coded for one side or the other, as they contain the Logistics Points tracks used to know how many points you have left.  So, each scenario has a unique map, and the players can also make their own scenarios be arranging the map boards in new ways.

Ship counters contain three things of interest to the players: engine symbols (which indicates how many spaces a ship can move when a Logistics Point is spent), attack numbers (the number which must be rolled or less on a die to score a hit in combat), and defense numbers (the number which must be rolled under to survive a hit in combat).  Combat is done in turns, with defenders firing first, so if the attackers don't outnumber the defenders it is possible they could get destroyed without firing a shot.  Ships can retreat from combat in certain situations.

The Development cards are interesting.  To purchase one, you have to spend half (rounded down) of your Logistics Points at the beginning of the turn, and then you get to draw one from the deck.  Each card breaks the rules of the game in your favor somehow, and they add some really nice flavor to the game.  Most effects are permanent for the rest of the game, like allowing quick transport between systems you control, or allowing quicker movement between wormholes, granting extra victory points, etc.  Properly using your Development advantages can be the key to victory, though admittedly dice rolls have a big impact, as well.

While this is a simple strategic space combat game, I enjoy it.  The design is solid, and there is a lot of replay ability.  At some point I will probably dump my first edition and pick up a second edition game so I can combine it with the future games and have LOTS of various scenario possibilities, including scenarios with more than two players.

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