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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Thursday 25 January 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Pulsar 2849

Game: Pulsar 2849

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

Designer: Vladimir Suchy

Year: 2017

I'm not sure what it is about the cover art of Pulsar 2849, but it's a game I initially has no interest in. There were demos available at the cons we attended, but I had an impression that it was a big heavy game with a large board and a lot going on, that wouldn't be my style. I've enjoyed other games by Vladmir Suchy, especially Last Will. Dungeon Petz from the same publisher, CGE, is one of our favourite games. So, in terms of pedigree, Pulsar 2849 had a good standing and luckily we've had the opportunity to give it a try despite my apprehension.

Pulsar 2849 is a game of space exploration where you each play a rival corporation, poised to exploit the riches of a pulsar rich star cluster. Each player can forge their own strategy in this 'point salad' style game - choosing to either travel vast distances, exploring many planets, to claim pulsars and set gyrodynes spinning to distribute energy, or to build an 'energy transmission megastructure array'.

Pulsar is a game for 2-4 players which takes place over 8 rounds. Each round begins with a dice draft where each player will select two dice to use to activate actions each round. The 9 silver dice are rolled and sorted by number and the median dice value will determine the position of a marker on the dice track. If you draft a dice lower in value than the marker position you can increase your standing on either the turn order of bonus item track. If you take a dice value higher than the marker you'll move down one of the tracks. With the dice values you've drafted you can either travel around the galaxy or activate different spots on the central player board or your personal player board. You can also buy gyrodynes and some dice modifier tokens, or take components into your array. Two dice per round is really tight, but there are a number of different ways to acquire a third bonus red dice, which can really open up your options.

Those that read my reviews a lot will know that I like a game with focussed goals and a 'point salad' game typically falls outside these parameters. Fortunately, Pulsar gives you 3 different end game goals to work towards each game and if you identify some synergy with the technology tree it can really help solidify some goals. There's at least 3 major strategies that I have seen win this game and it's often about identifying the right one that complements the specific variable setup you have in front of you. Points will be scored throughout the game, primarily through either the megastructure strategy or by scoring your spinning gyrodynes each round, but the end game scoring can account for perhaps 60-70% of your final score and will mainly be based on the end game objectives as well as the number of planetary systems you have explored.

I initially though the board art was quite generic, but its visual appeal is definitely increasing for me.
This game is a table hog! I really like how all elements and different boards wrap around the edge of the circular board. Having the technology tree as a separate board element allows for a lot of replayability as each game you'll introduce different boards and they are double sided. The game certainly looks big, complex and intimidating, but our two-player games have gone at quite a fast pace and typically last around 1 hour. Some of the decisions are quite agonising at times because you really need to ensure that each dice counts and I'm sure a higher player count game might slow down and down time could start to become more of an issue.

The game is definitely mechanism driven and the people who are going to love this game are going to need to enjoy some analysis and mathy-ness. In my opinion you need to focus on a strategy from the start of the game, based on the setup, and then be adaptable throughout the game as the dice will sometimes not roll the exact numbers you need to activate the elements of your plan. It's always good to have a contingency plan in place or try to keep a small stash of modifiers to allow for some dice manipulation.

Overall Pulsar 2849 is a really engaging two player experience and the amount of replayability you get in the box makes it great value for a quite meaty board gaming experience. There's a lot to explore here (no pun intended) and so far I've been quite rigid in sticking to one strategy, but I'm keen to break out and try some other paths to victory. What makes me really happy is that I don't feel like we own a game quite like this. Dice drafting is not a commonly used mechanism and even of the games we have played with dice drafting, such as Seasons or Blueprints, I've never seen it used in this clever way where there is real value assigned to what you choose. Right now I'm a little bit addicted to Pulsar 2849 and it's definitely earned a place on our shelves. For the Yellow Meeple it's an 8/10.

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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