Top 10 board games of 2013

Below you’ll find my Top 10 board games of 2013. It was another great year, having praised 2012 last time out. You’ll find four games that were in my last Top 40, three of which were in the Top 20. Three more were in previous Top 50s, while the others easily could’ve been. The top eight are all currently in my collection, while the 10th was until recently (I’ve never owned number nine, but still play it). And despite my thinking this a strong list, many other players will be surprised at some of the household favourites that didn’t make the cut.

Related: My 2013 Essen wishlist

In terms of board gaming, 2013 holds a special place in my heart. It was the year Empire Engine was released, and so was my first year at Essen Spiel as a ‘proper’ designer. It was incredibly exciting, despite it being a small release. And at least one of my other games was signed at the show too, making it a brilliant year all around. Sadly it feels as if that part of my life is behind me at least for now, but there are certainly still some great memories.

My Top 10 board games of 2013

(Note: Links on the game names below go to full-length reviews on this website)

10. CV

CV is clever little Yahtzee-style game with a theme that really pops and artwork that compliments proceedings beautifully. Build your life through cards you buy with dice, giving you more symbols to pick up better cards. Will you be rich, decadent, and famous, or super healthy and green? Either may win you the game.

9. Eldritch Horror

There’s a lot to be said for this simplified Arkham experience, but it is still pretty stupid, long, and luck dependent. Then there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as Eldrich Horror is played in good humour and with the right people. I don’t get to play that often, but always enjoy what is certainly an experience. We even win on occasion…

8. Rococo

Rococo is a gorgeous euro game with an unusual theme. Put together your perfect tailoring team, make dresses and suits for a fine occasion, then sponsor fireworks and artists to promote your business. Clever area majority and action selection mechanisms keep things competitive, while every decision feels important.

7. Hanamikoji

This two-player ‘knife fight in an innocent-looking phone booth’ has you making decisions you don’t want to make every single turn. At its heart, Hanamikoji is a set collection game, but it is so tightly balanced a single error can see you lose the game. Every time you do one thing you’re giving up another, without ever having quite enough information as you’d like.

6. Handler der Karibik

The original version of Port Royal, Handler der Karibik initially released as a charity fundraising game before becoming a huge hit the following year. It’s almost identical, with the reprint having a few tweaks to the end game. But it wasn’t enough for me to give up my original, which still gets to the table on a pretty regular basis.

Board game Top 10 of 2013: The top five

5. Blueprints

Blueprints is a sadly overlooked dice placement game that should’ve been a hit. Four colours of dice score differently. You’re placing them on a blueprint that also scores points if you follow a pattern. While you’re competing with each other for round-end bonuses. The trick is, you’re building your blueprint behind a screen, keeping everyone guessing.

4. Bruxelles 1893

I’m not sure another euro game packs in as many elements that affect other players as Bruxelles 1893. Everything you do will have a knock-on effect on some sort of scoring or engine-building mechanism, making a mechanically simple game into a really fun and thoughtful head-scratcher. A unique look too, which works beautifully.

3. Caverna

For me, Caverna is a more expansive and enjoyable take on the excellent Agricola mechanisms, where the decisions on how to score points aren’t as front-loaded. Sure, it is a little more forgiving. But the best player, who makes the best decisions, is still going to come out as the winner. So what’s the problem?

2. Bora Bora

This brilliant Feld-designed euro would’ve topped the list if it had been released in most years, but in 2013 Bora Bora has to settle for the number two slot. It’s a bright and colourful take on the ‘dice for actions’ idea that perfectly solves the ‘small numbers bad, high ones good’ dilemma. Not seen as one of his best by many, but it is by me.

1. Concordia

Concordia is generally, and rightly considered one of the truly great euro games. Mac Gerdts was then the master of the short, snappy euro game turn and his rondel idea was great in earlier games. But he moved away from it here, adopting a take on the deck-building card system but keeping the pace quick. Along with a clever scoring system, it works perfectly.

Honourable mentions

The two games just below my Top 10 board games of 2013 would probably be Tash-Kalar and Amerigo. Both are great, and I owned Tash-Kalar for a long time. But neither would come off the shelf often enough now to hold a place in my collection, despite being top games. Nations may well have made the list, but I’ve only played once or twice.

I also enjoyed multiple plays of other euros including Coal Baron, Rialto, and Lewis & Clarke. In family games, Forbidden Desert is a solid classic and I had a lot of fun with The Little Prince: Maske Me A Planet for a good 20 plays. At the other end of the scale, stinky wooden spoons go to Luchador (not a game) and Firefly (utter and complete nonsense, which is such a shame as I so wanted to love it).

You should be able to find most of these games still available via Board Game Prices. And of course, let me know if I missed your favorite in the comments below.

Starship Captains board game: A four-sided review

The Starship Captains board game is an unashamedly Star Trek-themed euro game for one-to-four players which takes about one-to-two hours to play. The box lists it for ages 12-plus, but proper junior gamers a little younger than that should be able to play. It’s an action selection and contract fulfillment game that has a clever worker system at its heart. And while you can argue the theme could be anything, it has been very nicely implemented here. Which is no less than we’ve come to expect from publisher Czech Games Edition (CGE).

RelatedEssen Spiel 2022: Reviews incoming

In the box, you’ll find the main game board and 12 smaller boards, 140+ cards, around 100 plastic pieces, 150+ cardboard tokens, and a scorepad. Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices, you can find it for around $45 delivered in the UK. This offers tremendous value, considering the solid (if unremarkable) quality of the components and the fact they pretty much fill the Ticket-to-Ride-sized box. CGE’s games tend to offer good value for money and Starship Captains is no exception.

Teaching the Starship Captains board game

Starship Captains has a good rulebook that makes the game simple to explain. Also, while the central mechanism feels fresh, euro gamers will have seen most of the mechanisms on show before. Players have three main types/colours of workers (helm, weapons, and science), alongside cadets (who do repairs) and androids (wild, but can only be used to complete missions). At the start of a round, all but three of your workers are moved from your worker queue to the Ready Room. Players take turns using a worker until all players have passed. Rinse and repeat for four rounds and the player with the most points wins.

Workers are used for doing actions or completing missions. The main board has 14 locations (16 with four players), six to seven of which will always have a Mission Card. To complete a mission, a player goes to a location and commits the required amount of workers (one to three). All Mission Cards give victory points, while each colour-matched worker will give a bonus benefit. Three other map locations give resources to the first player to use them each round. While remaining spaces get Mission Cards as others locations are completed, meaning the board remains fluid throughout.

Worker actions and rotation

The basic actions are move (helm), fight (weapons), repair (anyone, including cadets), and take tech (science). You can move up to two locations along the board’s routes, taking a damage marker if you pass through a Pirate. Defeating a Pirate gives you one damage marker, but also some rewards. Repair removes a damage marker. Science lets you take a tech card, which will either give an in or end-game benefit or a new room your crew can use. Damage markers block a slot for either a tech card or a reward token.

When you use a worker, it moves to your worker queue. This gives you a certain amount of planning potential (depending on the order you use workers), while there are several ways to take workers out of sequence. Certain rewards allow you to promote workers, either from cadet to a job of your choice or promote a worker to be a Commander. Commanders get to do two actions, or give the second action to another worker by moving them from the queue to your Ready Room, extending your round. You can also gain rewards and bonuses from the game’s three factions, while rewards give actions, promotions, or end-game points.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I’ll declare here that I’m a friend of the designer, Peter Hoffgaard. But I’ve been a journalist long enough that I’m comfortable saying this doesn’t cloud my judgment. It surprised me how few genuine pick-up-and-deliver/order fulfilment-style euros we get, and this is a really nice take on that mechanism. The worker queue doesn’t have quite as much puzzle aspect as it might’ve done. However, the game flows smoothly. And, especially early on, it is a lot of fun trying to put an effective engine into place.
  • The thinker: I quite enjoyed the Starship Captains board game. But just when it feels like it should go to the next level, it ends. It is a much lighter experience than I anticipated, especially with the early tech decisions suggesting a deeper experience. It does feel like the best player wins each game, and that different strategies can lead to victory. But overall it is too light for me to commit to repeated plays.
  • The trasher: for a game with spaceships, battles, and a worker type that specifically fights, there is practically no interaction in Starship Captains. There can be a race to grab tech or get to a mission location first but beyond that, nothing. A fun little game though, but not really one I’d pick on game night.
  • The dabbler: I love map movement euro games and this one has lots of pluses! It’s colorful and looks great on the table, while the artwork oozes humour. Especially if you’re a sci-fi nut who will get all the little naming references on the cards. The puzzle elements of getting the right worker at the right time tax the brain but not too much. While your tech choices can really make each game different. This one was a big hit for me!

Key observations

Some argue the Starship Captains buard game lacks originality, leaving some experienced gamers a little flat. I can sympathise, as I feel not enough was made of the novel worker rotation mechanism. Where it should’ve been the driver of the game, it has less of an impact than it should. Everything seems too easy to mitigate, as you can usually get things achieved regardless of which workers are available. This takes the edge off for seasoned gamers, but on the flip side makes it nicely approachable for gateway and less experienced gamers.

This flows into another potential stumbling block: length versus complexity and game arc. In a game that can last two hours, it can feel as if the game’s important engine-building decisions are all made early on. You then run things for a short time, before it all ends rather abruptly. The arc feels a little off, as if another round and some way of the game throwing a few bigger spanners into the works would’ve made it a little more satisfying. But again, conversely, this simplicity and sense of achievement when you get things going well is a boon for more casual gamers.

Finally, it is understandable some have found the slightly dry euro experience too detached from the cartoony world the box, cards, and rulebook portray. It was a similar thing with CGE’s Dungeon Lords and Pets games, which put a cartoony sheen on two deep and thinky euro games. Here it feels less of an issue, but players shouldn’t come in thinking they’ll get laughs aplenty. This is not Galaxy Trucker, but once you’re all down with the rules it is a light and airy experience, if not a laugh-out-loud one.

Conclusion: Starship Captains board game

Starship Captains is a really well-designed and produced light-ish euro game, especially for fans of order fulfillment/pick-up-and-deliver-style mechanisms. While the puzzle aspects can see a good player rack up some serious points, showing it has more depth than some give it credit for. There’s a reasonable amount of variety in the box, although an expansion would certainly be welcomed. So, while not one for heavy gamers, I’ll certainly be keeping it in my collection.

Amsterdam board game: A four-sided review

The Amsterdam board game is a reprint and retheme of one of my favourite Stefan Feld designs, Macao. It is a dice-for-actions euro game with some really nice twists. And while the change of thematic destination hasn’t done much to change things it hasn’t done any harm. It’s a 2-4 player game that takes one to two hours to play, with a suggested age range of 12-plus. This feels about right, as it is a fairly complex medium-weight euro game with a lot of moving parts.

RelatedEssen Spiel 2022: Reviews incoming

In the box, you’ll find a large mainboard, six smaller sideboards, 100+ cardboard tiles, 150 cardboard tokens, 240 wooden cubes, 20+ other wooden pieces, 130+ cards. six dice, four roundels, and a cotton bag. The game is expected to arrive in retail outlets in January 2023. Expect a price tag of around £60-70. Anything above that would seem steep. Because while there’s a lot in the box everything could’ve been smaller (more on that later).

Teaching the Amsterdam board game

I’m not going to do a full rules explanation here as much is identical to the original. If you want more on the base mechanisms check out my Macao review. Instead, I’ll concentrate on the differences. Rolling and choosing dice, choosing cards, and the cards themselves are largely unchanged except for Office Cards (now District Maps). They are still randomised, but you draw them each turn from a facedown draw pile. Also, more expensive (three and four-cost) cards give better rewards.

Balancing is quite a theme overall. A significant change is you can hold one cube back each round, making tougher but more fun cards more alluring. There are now VP thresholds you pass on the turn order track. Plus, the old Joker tiles have been replaced with a Black Market that gives you the same options but at the cost of discarding a good when you pick it up (only one good of each type can be used in this way each game). Card activation and usage are pretty much unchanged.

How has sailing changed in Amsterdam?

One of the bigger changes is shipping, or barging as it is now. Commodities are delivered in the same way and boat movement is also the same, but you need to load them onto your boat at a dock to be able to deliver them. There are also spots that take any good and you can pick up and deliver passengers for additional rewards. You get a VP bonus for the delivery of goods in the early rounds now too. Finally, the annoying VPs for Gold system (where you worked it out from the cards) has been replaced with a set of Market Tiles, some of which offer slightly more interesting rewards.

There are also four mini-expansions in the box, plus solo rules. The solo rules are OK, thankfully avoiding the ridiculously complicated efforts found in most euro games these days. The mini-expansions are largely forgettable, with the only one of note being an extra set of Market Tiles you can use. However, these seem to have been a little rushed and felt too unbalanced for us to want to keep playing with them. Luckily, the basic ones are fine.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I love Macao, but it certainly had its quirky faults. In almost every aspect Amsterdam has fixed them, while also making some old boring aspects of the game more involved. Overall the game feels more polished and a little more thinky while keeping the element of push-your-luck in the dice roundel that really set it apart. I found some of the production decisions baffling (see below), but mechanically it is simply a better game.
  • The thinker: Where Macao seemed like a slightly unbalanced luck-fest, which could degenerate into a boat-moving exercise in the later rounds, Amsterdam is a more measured product that loses nothing in the translation. However, it still isn’t the Feld game for me. Where most of his games have an often annoying push-your-luck element, this one revolves around it. And while Amsterdam does have more mitigation, it is still too swingy for me.
  • The trasher: While there are some elements of interaction in both Amsterdam and Macao, there isn’t enough to keep me interested. It’s a good game, and you do need to keep an eye on your opponent’s movements. But there’s no doubt that the core of the game remains in the engine building. It’s higher up the game list for me than most Feld games, and I’ll play it because it is a good game. But it’s not one I’d choose.
  • The dabbler: Amsterdam is more colourful and approachable than Macao, especially with the cards-with-words being replaced with cards-with-icons. But now everything in it makes you think, whereas before it had some easy bits around the puzzle complex ones. I wouldn’t have voted for that, but get why others like it. Amsterdam is now at the limit of my complexity chart, but I do enjoy playing it when I’m fully awake!

Key observations

Overall I see Amsterdam as being a series of small but significant improvements to one of my favourite games, which is all good with me. However, while I like the more colourful aesthetic generally, the main board is a mess and the cubes don’t stand out at all. And why does it have to take up so much space? You may as well throw the resource board straight in the bin and replace it with some little plastic cups.

And full-size cards? Really? They’re a ridiculous space hog which does nothing but makes the game hard to fit on all but the biggest of tables. And with all that space, why not also put text on the cards? It would beat the constant rulebook dives the unclear symbols create. This brings us to the price. Macao was pretty ugly, but it was at the right price point. Here you have loads of everything, including pointless expansions, all of which add to the price point while offering very little actual play value. It’s a shame that these production decisions take the shine off what is otherwise an excellent game.

Conclusion: Amsterdam board game

While it is going to be a genuine wrench to do it, I’ll be parting company with Macao and replacing it on my shelves with the excellent Amsterdam board game. The few issues I have with it are far outweighed by the positives. But would I pay what might be £80 to replace it if I had to pay for it? No. But if I had neither, I’d flinch but pay it because for me it truly is one of a top designer’s finest moments.

Electropolis board game: A four-sided review

The Electropolis board game is a light-to-medium-weight tile-laying game for two-to-four players that takes about an hour to play. While the box says ages 12-plus, gamer kids as young as eight will probably be fine with it. Thematically, each player is trying to balance the power needs of their own town against its pollution output by placing power stations and public facilities, while collecting energy tiles. But in essence, this is an abstract game with a theme that gives what you’re doing a thematic hook.

RelatedEssen Spiel 2022: Reviews incoming

In the box, you’ll find eight sturdy boards (one per player, two support tracks, plus turn order and score track), 38 cards, 144 tiles with a tile bag, 20 chunky wooden tokens, and a few cardboard tokens. All the components are of high quality and the iconography is simple to follow. However, the overall look of the game is a little grey and drab for my tastes, although some find it charming. Comparison site Board Game Prices shows it for around £35. However, for the UK, you’ll need to import it which adds another £10 or so.

Teaching the Electropolis board game

Electropolis is a simple game to teach, which is made all the easier by there being no hidden information. Each player gets their own 5×5-space player board, with the central space only used to show your player colour. Before play, you’ll reveal thereof the six Trend Cards and place them face up. These are end-game scoring cards for all players, so add a little extra variety to each play. A game lasts eight rounds, with four Development Cards being revealed each round. You also draw 14,16, or 18 tiles from the bag, depending on the player count.

The tiles are randomly placed in a circle (in the same way as Patchwork, if you’re familiar with that). Players then place their player pieces on one of six spots on the Turn Order track, which will indicate how many tiles they’re going to take this round (between two and six, with two ‘three’ spaces). The fewer tiles you take, the earlier you’ll get to place on this board next time. Then, in the new turn order, players take exactly their allotted number of tiles from the circle, plus one of the Development Cards. The wrinkle is the tiles you take can be from anywhere in the circle, as long as they are all in a row.

Placing your tiles on your player board

Development Cards have two pieces of information on them; either an immediate or end-game scoring condition/bonus, plus information on which section of your player board you have to place this round’s tiles. The size of the placement areas gets more generous as the game goes on, with unplaced tiles drawing a penalty. Only buildings (power stations and public facilities) go on your board, with energy tiles going to the side. You’ll want matching power sets to score (eg. a coal plant, plus a cola energy tile), but you must also manage pollution (most plants create it, while public facilities balance this by giving public support).

Points come from your development Cards, the shared Trend Cards, and power plants (if you have matching energy tiles for non-green plants). You may lose a few points for empty spaces on your board, and potentially big points if your pollution outnumbers your public support. The number of points lost is the square of the difference, so if you have a deficit of five pollution, you’d lose a whopping 25 points. In a game where scores come in around 100, this can make the difference.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: While it doesn’t look like much on first inspection, the Electropolis is one of my favourite tile-laying games of the past few years. While the rules are simple, the decisions always seem tricky. Design-wise everything slots together perfectly, with just enough going on to keep you thinking but nothing extra thrown in for the same of it.
  • The thinker: While not deep enough to keep me coming back regularly, I did enjoy the game. The fact that you don’t know what tiles you’ll get if you’re not first is delicious. Taken with the fact early choices get you first dibs on a card, but that leaving blanks on your board means you want lots of tiles, is a fun conundrum. A good-looking, clever, and surprisingly interactive game that I’ll definitely come back to.
  • The trasher: From a distance, Electropolis looks like a heads-down boring euro-style game. But the importance of turn order, especially once the game has been going a while, really ups the score for me. You start to see what people need, and where they need to place. So going early and taking a particular card can mean a big point swing. This isn’t going to be a go-to game for me, but I’ll certainly always be happy to play.
  • The dabbler: While the look is a little dull (a bit more colour would’ve helped!), it only takes a few minutes to get totally engaged in this puzzly little game. You have to be aware of other people, sure. But just solving your own little board dilemmas was fun enough to keep me engaged. A really good game.

Key observations

One thing I really noticed is how different Eloctropolis plays with different player counts. There are no changes to set up or gameplay with fewer players, so only two Development Cards are taken with two, which makes it a lot easier. It also removes the tension of turn order choice, as there are so many spaces. But on the flip side, you won’t see all the tiles which means it is possible for things to get a little lopsided distribution-wise. I still enjoyed it at all player counts, but a bit more development to detail could’ve removed this quite easily.

I’m a little worried about replayability, largely due to the low number of Trend Cards. These make each game feel different, shifting the focus for everyone. But there are only six in the box, where it feels it would’ve been pretty easy to at least double that without much thought or added cost. Finally, while I really like the game, it didn’t wow many people. however, I only played with one person who was meh about it out of more than 10 who tried it.

Conclusion: Electropolis board game

Electropolis has been a hit for me and most people I’ve played it with, making it a definite keeper for me. It’s relatively small, simple to teach, and broad-ranging in terms of the types of players I would teach it to. While I would’ve preferred a bit more colour, the art, production and design are also top-notch. Overall, a pretty fabulous little package.

Space Expatriate board game: A four-sided review

The Space Expatriate board game is a sci-fi card game in the vein of Race for the Galaxy for two-to-four players. It takes around an hour to play, and the suggested age range of 12+ feels right. Players choose roles to take actions, playing cards into their tableau to chain effects and then banking them to claim colonies for end-game points.

RelatedEssen Spiel 2022: Reviews incoming

In the box, you’ll find 160 cards, 43 cubes, around 50 cardboard tokens, four thin cardboard player mats, and a slightly ridiculous yet equally glorious sturdy metal start player token. Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices you can find it for around £40 plus shipping, which is a bit much for what you get. Also, unfortunately, at the time of writing it is not available directly in the UK.

Teaching Space Expatriate

Teaching the Space Expatriate board game is relatively straightforward for anyone who has played a game such as Race for the Galaxy, or other action selection engine builders. The biggest issue is the rulebook, which was clearly written by someone new to the idea of rulebooks and then translated very poorly into English.

The game has four types of action cards (delivery, engineering, terraforming, military), plus colonization cards. Each is shuffled into its own draw deck, with a few colony cards always face up (player count dependent). Players get one card from each action card deck to make their starting hand. Players then draft four more cards from the four action decks until each has a four-card starting tableau, called your space station. To finish setup, turn over one card from each action deck to begin the first round.

During a round, each player will take one of the available action cards and place it into their space station before doing the related action. You’ll get to do the action you choose with a small bonus, then every other player gets to do the same action. Rounds continue until one player has 10 colonies, or all players collectively have 10/15/20 (for 2/3/4 players). You then work out your final score by cross-referencing your victory points gained versus your colonies created.

Card actions

Delivery cards represent goods you can collect, which come in six types represented by cubes. The delivery action sees you collect the cubes on your station’s Delivery cards, minus those in space garbage (we’ll come to that). As part of the same action, you then run them through your cube engine – which is all the Engineering cards you have on your space station. Taking the Engineering action itself allows you to play a card from your hand to your space station. Engineering cards allow you to turn cubes into better cubes or victory points.

Taking the Terraforming action gives you a card you can spend cubes on when you run your engine. But it also allows you to remove cards from your space station to form colonies. These buy you a colony card, giving both an ongoing bonus plus a victory point multiplier for the end game. But also reduces your station’s ability to create cubes and points. Finally, the Military card/action allows you to get more cards into your hand from the draw piles. Each military card has a symbol, and having supremacy in these symbols makes your military action stronger, sometimes allowing you to steal cards from another space station.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: There are so many good ideas in the Space Expatriate board game. But these are overshadowed by a lack of finesse. Ideas that stick the landing are held back by those that don’t. If they’d tried to reinvent the spokes rather than the whole wheel, this could’ve been a success. Instead, it is a brave attempt that stumbles over its own ambition.
  • The thinker: The central conceit of building/keeping your engine vs dismantling it for colonies, knowing you need to do both to score, is a fascinating one. some of the engine ideas also work well, such as space garbage. Cubes you produce but can’t use in your engine go in the garbage, and all players subtract all the garbage from the cubes they can produce next time. This can result in complex strategies, as the garbage empties after the next Delivery action. But unfortunately, too much else is either too random, ill-conceived, or underdeveloped to make the game fun overall.
  • The trasher: The competitive idea of the military cards seems sound, but it is a fiddly thing to work out every round. This is made worse by the fact you’re largely getting random Military cards, so you rarely get to choose who you’re getting ahead of. And I usually love a good dick move but being able to take a card from a player’s space station? It doesn’t fit the rest of the game’s feel and can be devastating. While again, who you do it to is rarely something you can dictate.
  • The dabbler: No thanks! And what a terrible name…

Key observations

The Space Expatriate board game has 17 ratings on Board Game Geek at the time of writing. This tells you just how under the radar this one flew at Essen 2022. I was talked through the rules at the press preview having heard nothing about it previously. And the clear comparisons to Race for the Galaxy sold me on the spot. Reading the rules gave me a good vibe, so I also looked forward to playing it.

The idea of engine construction, then deconstruction, is excellent. It is a hugely tactical game, with a large amount of randomness meaning you’re largely trying to make the best of the situations you find yourself in. Again, this is a lot of fun in theory. The engine itself is nice and simple, so you’re not having to construct something complex. Sometimes luck means it won’t work well at all, but hey – just deconstruct it for a colony and go again.

The problems

The problems start with the Military cards, which also dictate turn order (a very poor design choice). Working out who has supremacy each turn is boring and fiddly, and can swing between being completely arbitrary to creating (often accidental) game-changing situations. Working out the next turn’s start player can really screw you over, especially with four players. And military is powerful enough, without needing this extra bonus.

With four actions and four players, every action will be played each turn. This means the last player has no choice, which is a poor design choice. Also, there is no jeopardy the action you need won’t happen which removes the joy of this mechanism when compared to Race or Puerto Rico. Finally, the final scoring of the game feels underwhelming. Everyone ends up with between 0-9 points as you look along your number-of-colonies line and see what your victory points tally to on it. I expect this has been worked out through testing, but I’m not sure it ever feels legitimate. We were never left convinced the best player had won.

Conclusion: Space Expatriate board game

I wanted to fall in love with this game and so nearly did. But in the end, the poorer elements were enough to overtake the good ones and mean I’ll be moving Space Expatriates on. It leaves me wondering what would’ve happened if a top developer had got hold of the core concepts. Because the good ideas here are fantastic. Who knows? Maybe a bigger publisher will get a sniff of this and take a second look. I hope so. Because there’s a great game in here that I’d love to play.