5th September 2021
Sunday night gaming on Board Game Arena continued with New Frontiers.
Galaxies: The New Frontier, these are the games of the website of 3 Spellcaster and a Dwarf.
Dodgy puns aside, New Frontiers is a sibling-game to Race for the Galaxy and Roll for the Galaxy and shares the same universe. Players will find many similarities between the 3.
Caveat: We have only ever played the digital version of New Frontiers
What's in a game?
Unlike the previously mentioned games, while New Frontiers is a board game, players of the other games will recognise many elements here.
Like its siblings, New Frontiers uses an abundance of symbols and icons which can be daunting for new or inexperienced players.
How's it play?
In New Frontiers, turns are carried out according to the turn order as shown on the priority board. Actions are not simultaneous.
On their turn, the active player chooses a single action tile and performs the action on it, all other players may follow, in other words also perform that action. However, there is a bonus that only the active player gets for triggering a tile.
Each tile can only be used once per round, thus only 1 player benefits from the bonus a tile may confer. Furthermore, actions are actually performed in the order they are selected, there are no numbered phases in New Frontiers.
There are 7 actions that can be chosen, most of these will be familiar to players of Race for the Galaxy or Roll for the Galaxy.
Now a new round begins, possibly with a new player order and all the action tiles are now selectable again.
Rounds continue until the endgame conditions are met.
Once the endgame is triggered, the current round ends and points are scored.
There are 4 ways to trigger the game end.
Settlements: A player adds a 7th settled worlds to the game board.
Developments: When the 11th or 12th development space on a player's board has been filled with a development.
Victory points: When the supply of victory points is depleted.
Colonists: When the supply of colonist meeples drops lower than 5.
Points come from settled planets and developments bought, some developments offer additional routes to earn point and finally, victory points are counted.
Points are tallied, highest score wins!
Players of the previous 2 games will find a lot here instantly familiar.
New Frontiers contains the same mix of intricate and mechanical interdependencies between planets and developments that feature in the other two games which allow players to create varied combinations of engine building and combinations.
There are a couple of mechanics New Frontiers does differently, particularly the action mechanic, firstly there's no set action order for actions to occur and more importantly, only 1 player can benefit from an action's bonus per round. If a player really needs a bonus action, it can make turn order very important. The existence of a turn order is new as well.
When playing New Frontiers, there are a couple of approaches always available to players, building their tableau or acquiring victory point tokens, or maybe getting one of the 9-point developments and working towards exploiting for points in the endgame. However, players will need to adapt to which planets become available to the, as unlike developments which use a drafting mechanic, planet acquisition will be to some degree, random.
But here's the thing; the additions New Frontiers brings to the table don't add anything to the game other than extra complexity, there's no extra depth or strategy, just extra resources to manage in place of the hand-as-money mechanic that makes Race for the Galaxy such a good game. Yet somehow, it even seems to have a shorter, less engaging play time?
You see, in Race for the Galaxy and Roll for the Galaxy, there are 2 ways to end a game; a player can complete their tableau or deplete the supply of victory tokens, both of which require players to play well or at least fast/better than other players. But in New Frontiers, it's possible to end the game by simply triggering the Settle action multiple times. It felt hugely unsatisfying way for the game to end.
Ultimately, New Frontiers is a good game, it has the pedigree of its predecessors, but it's also too familiar and too similar to Race for the Galaxy, which is in my opinion, hands down the better game. I would choose it over New Frontiers every time.
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