Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Harnessing the power of the stars:- Pulsar 2849


Game: Pulsar 2849

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

Designer: Vladimir Suchy

Year: 2017

Pulsar 2849 is a 2-4 player dice drafting space game in which you will race other players to explore the galaxy, harvest energy from pulsars and construct satellite relays to transfer this power back home. You'll have to balance your investment of time into all of these activities, while also improving your technologies and investing in your home base if you want to succeed.

At the start of each round of Pulsar 2849 the first player will roll all of the silver dice before placing them on their spaces on the game board. At this point you work out the median roll for the round and place a marker there. Players will then take dice, should they take a dice with a face value below the average then they will get to move down on either the engineering or the player order track. If you take a die above the current average then instead you move up the track. This works as a really nice counter to the inevitable luck swings in a dice game, sure you still have rounds where high dice rolls are rare, but while the first player will get the chance to take the best dice, that comes with an associated cost.

Once you have your two drafted dice, you are able to use them. Players take turns using both their dice on the numerous activities, they may also earn a bonus red dice once per turn allowing for an additional action. The main circular board in Pulsar 2849 is where the space exploration happens, each player places a ship onto this map at the start of the game, you may use your dice to move this ship along a number of routes according to the face value of the die. Should you land on a pulsar then you are able to claim it, though you'll still need to construct a gyrodyne to harness it's power. If you pass through a planetary system then you may place a base on a barren planet, bases are worth end game points based on the number you have so it's important to get these down. If you instead end your movement on a planetary system then you can place a base on a habitable planet, allowing you to take take the bonuses printed on the planet card in addition to your base. Finally you can perform a gate run, should you have one available. Gate runs reward you points for every gate of the relevant colour you move through that turn, so it's best to use one when you have a nice high dice to move quickly.

There's no doubt that Pulsar 2849's board is iconic, but it does take up a little more room that you might like.

You can also use dice to patent technology, there is a limited selection of tech at the start of the game, but these begin to open up as turns pass. Some techs provide ongoing rewards, some provide instant bonuses and others provide end game scoring. Each player also has a home board which performs very similarly but with no risk of your opponents getting their first! If you have a pulsar claimed with one of your rings then you can look to set up a gyrodyne, you will need to buy one from the board, and then pay a second dice to build it, but once you do it will produce points for you at the end of every turn. There are 3 types of gyrodyne, each producing more points. Regardless of what kind you have, every turn their is a modifier varying from +0 to a potential +6 per gyrodyne. Satellite relays are another option, these can be constructed in order to reap their bonuses, some require 1 die to build, while others require multiple. Many provide instant bonuses, while others provide ongoing income. They also provide a way to get bonus red die once you have built 2 or more.

Each game there will be 3 global objectives that you can aim for, typically these will have 3 tiers, a first level for simply achieving it, with the ability to spend engineering cubes at the end of the game to double or even triple your points from them. This works as a very nice balancing act to the engineering cubes, as these cubes are also used to buy the red bonus die. You often find yourself thinking if the bonus action will be as valuable as the bonus points you could have gotten at the end of the game.

Claiming technology and advancing your home board can be very useful, but every dice spent doing those is a dice that could have been used elsewhere

Pulsar 2849 is a massive table hog, while the circular board looks lovely, when fully laden with all the little side boards placed along the outside many tables will struggle to fit the board comfortably. But it is very much worth finding a table big enough to play on because Pulsar 2849 is a great game. The limit of 2/3 actions each round can make decisions incredibly hard, but you can usually plan ahead enough to be able to achieve most of what you want. The dice drafting is done incredibly well, the way you don't get penalized for taking high numbers per se, but instead for being greedy and taking  above the average. Should you take a 1 when the round average high dice then you get instant rewards.

Scoring seems to be very balanced, with many ways to get points. Gyrodynes get you points over time, but can be unreliable and take time to set up. Satellites can give you large numbers of points for little effort, but if you focus on them too much you will have no presence on the board. If you race around the baord setting up bases and doing gate runs you will get a large number of end game points, but your rewards for landing on planets will be randomized, and you have to invest heavily in your base to get the good gate runs. Pulsar has a great amount of replayability, with random bases for each player, random technology trees and random objectives all keeping the game fresh.

7.5/10

Pulsar 2849 was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £39.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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