Time for some expansion buzz as I look at the upcoming
Alien Frontiers: Factions is the first expansion for the very popular Alien Frontiers, the game that is responsible for the whole Kickstarter craze. Factions was put on Kickstarter back in the fall, and ended up raising over $76,000, which was either a record or close to the record for board game related products at the time (though now it’s way behind D-Day Dice and the reprint of Ogre). The expansion adds a fifth player, secret agendas, eight new alien tech cards, and variable player powers (the factions).
I reviewed Alien Frontiers recently, and you might remember that I wasn’t over the moon about it (pun intended). I did like the game, I just thought there wasn’t enough variability to it. Factions should be coming out by June (though it was originally projected for March), and I’m hoping it will add something to the system.
First, let’s look at the fifth player. Each player gets six colonies, as in the four player game, and the fifth player in turn order begins with two fuel and one ore. The Colonist Hub becomes “freeform” – rather than being limited to one track, you can place your dice in any of the twelve spaces as long as it’s available. You can still only use three dice and have one colony working towards completion. You also are not limited to using just one track – if you’re advancing to an occupied space, move to the same space in a different track. If all of that space are occupied, you can’t advance to that point.
Now, the agenda cards. Each player gets two at the beginning. Agenda cards have in-game conditions that can be revealed when met for one VP, or endgame conditions that can be used at the end for one VP. You can score a maximum of one VP per agenda. You can get more by docking pairs at the Orbital Market, though you can never have more than three. You never discard revealed agendas, so if you would go over three, you must discard unrevealed agendas.
Finally, let’s look at the factions, which is what the expansion is named for. It consists of eight boards from which a number equal to the number of players plus one are randomly selected. The last player in turn order selects one of these, then passes the rest down the line. The first player will choose one from the last two, then discards the other one. These factions are placed near the board. Each one has a special ability that only helps its owner, as well as an orbital facility where one ship of any value can be placed, paying one fuel to its owner. They then get toke advantage of a different ability. The factions are:
- Corex Conglomerated – At the beginning of their turn, the owner receives one fuel, plus one fuel per territory they control. If you dock here, you pay two fuel to the bank (on top of the one you paid the owner) to receive one ore per territory they control at the time of docking.
- Dark Space Explorers – The owner may discard two alien techs from their hand instead of one. If you dock here, you may pay one fuel to the bank (on top of the one you already paid the owner) to take the top card of the tech deck. If it’s a duplicate of one you already have, it is discarded without effect.
- Homesteader’s Union – The owner may launch colonies from the sixth space of the Colonist Hub rather than the seventh. If you dock here, you may advance your colony one space.
- New Gaia Engineers – The owner gets the payment from the Terraforming Station (unless they are the one paying it). If you dock here, you must already be docked at the Terraforming Station. You’ll reroll the die. If it’s a 1-2-3, it will go to the Maintenance Bay on your next turn. On 4-5-6, it moves off the board as usual.
- Proxima Centauri Scholars – The owner may pay two fuel to either place or remove one field generator from the planet. You can’t do more than one per turn. If you dock here, you can pay one fuel to the bank (on top of the fuel you paid to dock there) to move a field generator from one territory to another. You just have to know that the owner of the faction may move it again.
- Scavenger Fleet – When the owner builds a new ship or get the relic ship from Burroughs Desert, they may immediately roll it and use it rather than waiting until their next turn. If you dock here, you may dock two unequal ships at the shipyard to build rather than a pair.
- Smuggler’s Alliance – The owner may use any sequence of three ships to bump ships out of the Raiders’ Outpost, not just a higher sequence. If you dock here, you must simultaneously dock at the Raiders’ Outpost. You then can raid four resources AND one alien tech card from your opponents.
- Uranian Syndicate – The owner gets to use the territory bonus of any region (except the Burroughs Desert) that is contested, meaning that it is a colonized territory that no one controls. You may use the bonus for the rest of your turn. If you dock here, you may pay one ore to the bank (on top of the fuel you pay the owner) to move a colony to a different territory, or pay two ore to move an opponent’s colony to a different territory.
And there it is. It sounds like there’s some nice variety going. The factions all seem pretty powerful, and I’m guessing they’re fairly well balanced. I think the Homesteader’s Union, Proxima Centauri Scholers, Scavenger Fleet, and Uranian Syndicate seem like the best. The agendas are a good addition, and I’d be interested to see how they all work. And it would be nice to have purple in the game – I think maybe my wife would be more interested. The Kickstarter campaign included a booster with another faction, a plastic vehicle for planetary exploration, and a new alien tech card (the seismic detonator that will clear a territory of all colonies), and I think that will be available for an extra $10 on top of whatever they’re charging for the expansion (I’m guessing $40-$45). I’d be interested in trying it out, but with the lukewarm reception of the base game in my circles, it’s a definite TRY FIRST for me. Thanks for reading!