A game of mining ore, using orbital facilities, building colonies and exploiting alien technologies. A worker placement game in space, with dice from designer Tory Niemann. Every player starts with three dice, these are the ships you use as workers throughout the game. You also get a couple of colonies, depending on the amount of players, and one Alien Tech card, which gives you an advantage or ability throughout the game.
The goal of the game is to gain as much points by colonizing the planet, gaining majorities in the different regions and discovering and controlling an alien city or an alien monument.
You start your turn by rolling your dice and then you can place them on certain spots on the board, the Orbital Facilities. Where you can place them and what you may get mostly depends on the amount of pips on the die. You may place a die on the Lunar Mine, to gather one ore, but the die must be equal or higher than dice that are already there. You can harvest solar energy by placing dice in the Solar Converter, the higher the die value the more energy you’ll get. Energy and ore are the two basic resources you’ll use throughout the game to pay for your expansion. You can place two dice of equal value in the Shipyard to gain an extra die. You can place dice with a total value of eight on the board to gain an Alien Tech card. You can place three sequentially numbered dice to steel from an opponent and you can place two dice of equal value to exchange energy for ore. You gather all these resources for one reason, to build colonies. You can do that in three ways. The first way is to assign dice to the Colonist Hub, every die you place there advances you one spot on the advancement track of seven spots. Once you’ve reached the end, you may place one colony in one region for one ore and one energy. You can also use the Colony Constructor, there you place three equal dice, pay three ore and then you can also place a colony on the board. Lastly you can use the Terraforming Station, you must give up one die with a value of six, it goes back to the general supply, and then you can place a colony in a region for one ore and one energy.
When you place a colony, you immediately get one point, but if you have the majority in a region, you get one additional point.
You want to get majorities to gain points, but you also want to do that to gain a benefit that is associated with each region, mostly directly impacting one orbital facility.
Once one player has constructed all his colonies, the game ends and the player with the most points, wins the game.
I’ve played this game once with the the Factions expansion and I’ve played it a lot on my Ipad. I don’t think the app is that great, but the game is. The mechanisms are very easy to understand and I really think Alien Frontiers can be used as a gateway game. Well, let’s say one step up from a gateway game. You just roll your dice and then use them as efficient as possible. Get resources and use them to build colonies so you can get majorities in several regions. By doing that you get certain benefits that will make some actions cheaper or better. That’s the basic game, convert resources into colonies. That’s a concept you can probably easily explain to many people. The thing why it might not work so well as a gateway is the amount of things you can do in your turn. The choices you have to make might be off putting for some ‘new’ players. You do not only have to think about what you need and want, but also what other player want or need. In Alien Frontiers you can easily block other players, because your dice will remain on the board until it’s your turn again. Block and be blocked. In addition to keeping certain spots occupied, there’s the Raiders’ Outpost, the place where you can steal hard earned resources from an opponent and really mess up his plans. There’s quit a lot of interaction in this game.
It’s a dice placement game, so you have to be a bit lucky with your dice, but there’s another fun part of the game; first of all, you can get more dice and, secondly, you can get tech cards that give you the ability to slightly bend the rules. Most cards give you an option: use this ability multiple times during the game or discard the card and perform this, mostly more interactive, action now. Like removing a die from an opponent from the board, change the location of two colonies or place field generators that have a more permanent effect on a region.
So, in conclusion, if you want to play a worker placement game with a fair amount of interaction, this is a great one. The rules are easy, but you can try different strategies depending on how the other players play the game. Go for the Colonist Hub? The Colony Constructor? Or the Terraforming Station? There are many ways that lead to a well organised colony on a recently discovered planet. Do I want more? Yes, I do, loads more.