Buzzworthiness: The Artemis Odyssey

Thanks to Grand Gamers Guild for providing a prototype review copy of this game.

Back in 2009, a game called Ad Astra came out. It was pretty well received, but I didn’t hear much about it after its initial release. The game has been reworked, rebranded, and is now about to be Kickstarted under the name

image by BGG user kamus73

The Artemis Odyssey is a game by Bruno Faidutti and Serge Laget, to be published by Grand Gamers Guild, and it’s currently on Kickstarter. It’s branded in the same universe as 2019’s The Artemis Project, but other than being set in space, the two games have no other similarities. In this one, you are exploring the universe, finding new planets to exploit for resources. The game is for 3-5 players, and there are 1 and 2 player variants that I’ll talk about in a bit.

To set up the game, you’ll distribute a bunch of face down planets around eight different star systems. The sun, in the middle, has one starter planet for each player. You’ll put a starship and a factory on your starting planet. Each player also gets a deck of 11 action cards and sets their score to seven. The score track is found on the action board, where you’ll be planning your actions.

Each round, players will take turns playing cards to the action board in the slot where they want to play them. You have to play in an empty slot. In 1-3 player games, you’ll be playing three cards, and in 4-5 player cards, you’ll end up playing two. Once all cards have been played, you’ll resolve them in order. All players have a chance to do every action played, but the person who chose the action (called the Planner) gets a benefit (as in games like Puerto Rico or Race for the Galaxy). Action possibilities:

  • PRODUCE: The Planner chooses one of the two resource types on the action card, then all players produce as much of that resource as they can. You can produce if you have a Factory, Colony, or Starship on a planet that produces that resource. Factories produce two, Colonies and Starships produce one.
  • TRAVEL: The Planner chooses one of three systems on the action card, then moves a Starship to that system. The Planner may also peek at every planet in the system to determine which planet they want to land on. Once the Planner has landed, all other players may travel if there are available planets in the order determined by the Planner. They may also peek. If you land on an unexplored production planet, it produces one resource for you immediately. If you land on an Alien planet, you get an Alien Technology card. You can always land on a revealed unoccupied planet, but you don’t get any resources. You cannot land on a planet that has anything on it belonging to another player.
  • TRADE: All players show their Resource cards, and the Planner can propose trades with anyone else. The Planner may also trade with the bank at 1:1, then 2:1, 3:1, and so on for subsequent trades. Cards you give to the bank in a single trade must be identical.
  • BUILD: The Planner may build up to two things (assets). Each one has its own cost:
    • Colony: Costs 1 Water, 1 Food, 1 Ore. You can only build where you have a Starship or Terraformer, but not where you have a Factory or another Colony. Building a Colony on an Alien Planet scores 3 points.
    • Factory: Costs 2 Energy and 1 Ore. Your Factory replaces a Colony. Building a Factory on an Alien Planet scores 3 points.
    • Starship: Costs 1 Energy and 1 Ore. You may only build where you have something else (anything).
    • Terraformer: Costs 2 Water and 2 Food. These can only be built on Water, Food, or Alien Planets where there is at least one other thing on the planet. This scores 3 points.
  • SCORE: The Planner takes the first player marker, then scores. Each player has four score cards in their deck, and they’re the same in every deck. The Planner chooses which option on the card scores, and everyone scores. Whoever got the most gets a bonus 3 points, whereas the player who got the least loses 2 points.

At the end of the round, players take all of their action cards back. The exception is score cards, which are discarded after the round where they are used. When you have used all four score cards, you get them back.

As you play, you’ll be collecting Alien Artifacts as you land on Alien planets. These can be used at different times in the game. When someone crosses 42, all players will draft an Alien technology beginning with the player with the lowest score.

The game ends when someone has crossed 77 points. The player with the highest score wins.

The two-player version uses Singularity cards, which always occupy the third slot. These give a bonus to both players. The second player can also trade with the bank, but they start with a 2:1 trade. The solo version also uses these cards, but also has missions to complete.

image by BGG user kamus73

I got a prototype copy of The Artemis Odyssey, so I can’t speak to final component quality. I think art is close to being done, but the final game will have nice plastic minis instead of the generic wooden bits I was playing with. Plus, it’s going to come with a nice Game Trayz insert. The Kickstarter project page shows what the final bits will look like.

Thematically, this is fairly standard space exploration stuff. Whereas The Artemis Project was set in a specific real spot that some people think is one of the best places to look for extraterrestrial life – Europa, the Jupiterian moon. This one ventures out beyond our solar system into more of science fiction fantasy realm, with stars identified by astrological symbols and planets only producing one resource. Other than being in outer space, there’s only the barest thematic connection between the games.

Mechanically, there are no similarities either. The Artemis Project is a dice placement and bidding game, while The Artemis Odyssey is a resource production and action queue game. AO is probably closer to something like Catan as you collect resources and use them to build stuff, as well as having trading as a mechanism. But, in other ways, AO is its own game.

If you’re unfamiliar with an action queue, that’s basically where you line up the actions that are going to be played and do them in order. A good example of a game with this mechanism is Colt Express, where players all put their actions one at a time into a pile, then flip the pile over and see what happens. Or Space Alert, where players line up the actions they will take, and hope they all work out. The mechanism used to be called Programmed Actions, and this terminology makes it seem less computery.

The action queue here is a very interesting aspect because, as opposed to Colt Express, your action will be shared by everyone. In that way, you can think of a game like Race for the Galaxy. The benefit for choosing an action is typically that you get to choose an option, but you can also go first, which can be huge.

Actions in the game are fairly simple, but you have to figure out what path you’re going to be following to get your points. The scoring cards are huge as everyone has the same ones. There’s a benefit to try to do things no one else is doing, but you also don’t want your opponents to get too far ahead of you for other scoring categories. In my first game, I was the only one landing on Alien Planets, and that got me well enough ahead that that I was able to eventually win the game.

There’s a nice variety of stuff to do in this game, and there’s always something interesting. Other player’s choices may affect what you’re doing, which is the benefit of playing certain cards later in the round, and you’ve always got to keep in mind what other players can and can’t do. It’s really a game where you have to attend to all things at all times, and that challenge is a real strength of The Artemis Odyssey.

I’m not entirely sold on the Alien Technology cards in the game. It’s nice to get them when you land on an Alien Planet, but their abilities seem to range in power. For example, there’s one that just straight up gives you five points at the end of the game, and others can be used to mess with your opponents, while others only help you out. I’m not a huge fan of take that mechanisms in games that don’t really need them, and I think this is a game that didn’t need those cards. In general, they’re OK, but I guess the randomness of what you get seems a little out of place in a game that otherwise does not have much randomness. Now, granted, the first time I played through, I didn’t realize you were supposed to draft your cards, and that probably makes it a little better.

On the other hand, I do like the Singularity cards. These are an extra benefit everyone gets to take advantage of in a 1-2 player game. As opposed to many 3-5 player games with 2 player variants, I think this one works very well. And the solo game is pretty good because of the Missions giving you a variable win condition.

The game does take up some table space as you have to spread out the stars and planets. But these pieces are small enough that it doesn’t take up as much as you might think. Still, it’s enough that the game isn’t super portable, and it’s a lot to set up. But it makes for a game with some great table presence, and it looks unique – not your standard single game board.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? I really like The Artemis Odyssey. I think it’s a really strong resource management game with a unique look and lots of different things to think about. I’ll leave you with a quote from a friend I played with: “This game scratches an itch I didn’t even know I had.”

Thanks again to Grand Gamers Guild for providing a review copy of The Artemis Odyssey, and thanks to you for reading!

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