Space…The New Frontier

I just finished a fairly epic Sunday evening of board games. We played fair bit of Dominion, Resistance: Avalon, and the my new Space Alert expansion: The New Frontier.

Also, one of the new additions to the group brought along Cards Against Humanity which I think deserves its own post.

You may remember I referred to Space Alert as the greatest co-op game ever, because it avoids Game By Committee.

This was the first time we’d cracked out the Space Alert expansion. I’ve been sitting on it for a while, and one of the reasons for that is that a lot of the expansion seems to include ways of making the game harder. This is pretty common for co-op games. I find it is also pretty common for us to not require any further difficulty! We were only succeeding at about 50% of our games anyway. If we played a couple sessions back-to-back we might get smooth enough to mix in a couple “yellow-difficulty” cards, but a whole new “red” difficulty? Are you crazy?

The expansion also includes an entire new deck of action cards. So-called “double-action” cards they allow for, theoretically, twice as many actions but the way they are designed it would be quite challenging to use them efficiently. To compensate for (theoretically!) twice as many actions the expansion includes a slew of harder mission tracks. Red difficulty. Harder sound tracks. I’m really not convinced we’ll ever use them.

So there’s a couple things added to the expansion I’m sure say, a dorm-full of college students, will use but not really our group. Fortunately for us, though, there is some quite fun additions that both the uni-bums and hard-working-average Joe can utilise.

Previously there was a mission log which you could scribble in if you wanted to. We did – mostly to track our best score. We’d also go to the effort of writing down the crew. If we got the same crew together, we’d try and dig up their log and add to it. If we got the same crew together. That never happened as far as I know.

The expansion fixes this all quite nicely. Now everyone gets a character sheet, and they can track their individual missions on that sheet. But it’s more than just a score-card, with the expansion this is a whole new experience system including a class-like specialisations.

So you and your crew successfully complete a mission (yay!) Then you add up the points, convert that to experience, and voilà, after a success or two you level up. When you level up you get to pick the first rank of a specialisation. There are 10 specialisations to choose from each with three ranks (novice, advanced, expert.) So you can, eventually, get several expert specialisations under your belt. This system replaced the heroic action cards which were, by comparison, pretty bland. You pick one of the specialisations you have ranks in at the start of the game and take a card corresponding with that specialisation (for example, the data analyst gets a card that lets them use the main computer from any room on the ship.) As mentioned, this card replaces the heroic action card from the base. Before you get any ranks, you’re unarguably going to be weaker than with the base game. However with a rank in a specialisation you should be about the same strength, and when you get to advanced and expert levels (with which you can choose better cards) you become more effective.

Combined with this whole system is a massive achievement system. This is exactly what it sounds like and clearly borrowed from computer games. Basically after you finish a mission you refer to the achievement sheet and see if you completed any – typically you’ll complete at least one, and the bonus experience this grants gets you across level. (Well, at least at first. The levels get harder to reach the high you go.) The fun thing about these achievements are that Rio Grande have included quite a few that a computer could never cover. For example, an achievement wherein three or your crew members agree you used your specialisation in a particularly great way (open to abuse, maybe, but you’re only cheating yourself!)

Over the Christmas break I’ll be camping out with a couple friends. I expect to give this expansion a thorough workout.

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