Solar Storm

Standard

Stranded around a dying a star you might be going with it unless you and your trusty crew can get the engine back on line and warp out of danger from the ….

The game is a fully cooperative card management game where you’re job is to go around the ship using the cards you’ve got to repair any room that is threatning to blow apart, transfer power from fully functional rooms to the core and finnally to get yourself and your crew out of danger all before the resources run out or your ship blows up. For anyone that has played the likes of pandemic you won’t be too lost or confused. At least for very long.

Each round will be broken into three phases. The first sees you taking three actions that include spending resources to replace one of the missing cubes that signify a room’s health, spending three resources to transfer power to the core from a fully functional room, scrounging up supplies on a dice roll, using room’s abilities, and of course moving between the rooms.

Phase two see’s you taking two face down mysteries into your hand or one of the two face up cards and then the third sees you reveal a damage card which will knock off the top most health cube from a named room. If there is no cube to remove the room blows up and takes out the rest of the ship with it. Each player gets a handy card to help remind them of what they can and can’t do each round. Between rounds your resource cards are face up in front of you meaning that this is one of those games you can talk and plan freely so if your group has an alpha gamer or two this may not be the game for you.

Having said that I think the fact that everyone’s cards are in front of them and the discussion feels encouraged means that you’re less likely going to get one person scheming away by themselves but instead the group will be happy to talk about it and thus you won’t get anyone really left out of the decision making.

Spinning off from that however I like the one card expansion included in the box that adds an escape pod to the ship. You can only get into it once seven rooms have been brought online, you need eight to win, and once you’re in it you can’t get out. It can also only hold one person. Thus this fully cooperative game can turn into a deadly race to the finish and even better is the fact that you might not even win. Every round the ship survives you draw a resource card, making things harder for the other players and have to roll under the number of cards in your hand to see if you survive. If you roll over the number of cards in your hand you die, lost in the firey inferno. If the ship manages to get that last room online and get the jump drive working then you also die.

This all goes against the rest of the game and while I can see others not enjoying this I love that little twist. The fact that this is an expansion and the game can be played without helps as I doubt I’d want this every game. Of course it can’t be used in the solo mode, unless you’re suffering from multiple personality disorder or fancy really role playing this game. As a fully cooperative game I’m sure you could just play a multiplayer game solo but the official mode has you playing as three characters with a smaller hand but one that is shared between the three characters meaning you’re not going to have one person in one corner of the ship needing a card off someone else in the other corner.

The theme of the game is really good with even the meeples adding to that feeling of pressure and dread. The iconography is good and really clear, though the transfer power symbols on the left hand side of the card are perhaps a little small, with the wording clear while still having a kind of dark Alien vibe to it. I love the small nature of the game and low price point that comes with it. However I can see the small nature giving the game little replayability. You can alter the difficulty easily enough by how many of the multi-resource cards you put in the deck. The ship is also randomised at the start of each game meaning that it is never laid out exactly the same twice. The thing is that comparing this to something like pandemic there are, here, far few danger cards to come up due to the short run time and small box nature. They also count down with one damage cards being shuffled together and going on top two damage cards and finally going on top of three damage cards. I think these two facts together mean that one game is going to feel much the same as the last and the next. Where as in Pandemic the problems might start from countless locations (48) you’ve only got eight rooms on your ship.

There is an expansion to give your rooms a different ability, an expansion I don’t have, but I don’t think that’s really enough. Maybe if the game had different layouts and new rooms so that you might not see the same room for a few games at least. In the same way that Nantucket has different town boards or D6 has different ship boards for you to play with; giving you a different feel and set of tactics to play with each game. I do like that the resources you need to fix the rooms are the same timer to the end of the game. Thus there is often a real choice of taking two blind from the top in the hopes of getting the one you want or taking one of the revealed ones that you don’t but knowing it will give you more time in the long run. This combines well with the damage deck which ends with a dice rolling card that will stop damaging your ship directly but start stealing resources from the top of the deck. That’s not to say that you can ignore the room damaging aspect of the game but it means that this can be played more as a straight resource management style game.

Overall I like the game. Now I don’t have pandemic in my collection so do I like this one just because my game has a pandemic shaped hole or is it more telling that I have this in my collection and not that? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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