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, 11 September 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- The Artemis Project


Game: The Artemis Project

Publisher: Grand Gamers Guild

Designer: Daryl Chow, Daniel Rocchi

Year: 2019


The Artemis Project was a private spaceflight venture to establish a permanent, self-supporting base on the Moon by 2002. It was named after Artemis, the goddess of the Moon. Grand Gamers Guild are bringing a board game based on this mission to Kickstarter in September 2018. In the game you are using dice worker placement to build a successful colony. The submerged cavern, known as The Pocket, conceals all the raw materials you’ll need to succeed. By constructing below the ocean you can improve your mining and abilities, but above the ice you'll need to build and staff your colony with specialists.

Through dice worker placement in this game for 2-4 players, your goal is to establish the most successful outpost colony.



Gameplay

The Artemis Project takes place over 6 rounds, in each you will roll dice and then take turns to assign them to worker placement spots in order to gather resources, build buildings and recruit staff to work in them. Different areas have benefits for different die faces, so a well-rounded roll of your 5 dice is often better than just rolling high or low. Worker placement slots are resolved in a specific order, so it's important to make sure you have enough resources for later actions. This is made all the more difficult by the events which change the way the game is played every round.

The first area is the exploration, each round there are 2 rewards that will go to the 2 highest dice placed here, if you have spare staff then you can use them to manipulate your/opponents dice to be better suited to your success. The second and third areas are identical except for the resource type. In both cases they start the round with a randomized number of resources by rolling 1 die per player. Any die placed here collect the number of energy/crystals equal to the face of the die. However the lowest numbers pick first, you may find placing a high numbered die leads to low results.

Building buildings is next and it works as an auction, if you place a 1 on them then you are saying you are happy to pay 1 crystal for it, but anyone can outbid you with a 2-6, so long as they are willing to pay. Buildings come in 2 types: underwater buildings are available in the first 3 rounds and they generate their rewards every round, while above ground buildings are worth end-game points. Both need to be staffed with the right people however, and that's where the next two actions come in. The step allows you to recruit people in a similar way to gaining resources: low numbered dice go first, but high numbered dice allow you to recruit more people. Finally the academy lets you change a member of staff to any of the 3 advanced types.



As you may be able to tell there are several occasions where you might get no rewards at all for placing your die. Fortunately The Artemis Project has accounted for that, should you ever receive no reward then you get to move up the compensation track, this track rewards you in various ways, starting with a  couple of resources, and ending with straight victory points.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

The Artemis Project is certainly a game with a big focus on player interaction, every round you find yourself trying to work out where you can place your dice top best get what you need without your opponents being able to steal them from under you. This kind of player interaction isn't for everyone, but it is well implemented and the compensation system means that you are never completely ruined. That being said there is a lot of randomness in the game, each round there are a random number of resources, a random event, a random exploration card with variable rewards, a random set of staff cubes, and a random set of buildings. Add that to the 5 dice you roll and you can see how it can be hard to have anything but a reactionary strategy.

The Artemis Project is a fairly low scoring game, with the score track topping out around 40 points, every way you can get a point is important. That's the joy of this game, every little action counts! There aren't many ways to score more than 3/4 victory points, even with the best end game buildings, so choosing between victory points or staff cubes early on is a hard choice. While you can build up an engine of underwater buildings in the early game they aren't powerful enough that you can rely on them to replace any die placement, and if you did you'd just be handed free resources to your opponents!


It isn't a perfect two player experience, while most things scale well there is certainly a lack of choice compared to a higher player count game. This particularly comes into play with the low selection of staff meaning you may struggle to get the colours you need, but also with the buildings and with the explorations which become nearly mandatory, as letting your opponent claim one single handed means they get both rewards and are almost guaranteed the bonus exploration end game points all to themselves! Other than that there is the potential issue of one player simply having more luck than the other, high numbered rolls are only useful when resources are abundant enough to use them, the reverse is true of low numbered rolls, and there is always the chance of rolling 4 ones and a two.

With a good art style and an interesting theme (colonizing Europa, the moon with a frozen outside, but a water ocean underneath) The Artemis Project drew me in from the start. There is enough dice rolled to ensure that bad luck shouldn't be a major issue, and enough manipulation to help you out on those bad turns. If you are a fan of worker placements with high levels of player interaction then you should definitely check The Artemis Project out when it goes live on Kickstarter.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

The Artemis Project is a compact game and it plays in just 6 rounds, but in that box there's a whole lot of challenging interlinked decisions. You're not building an engine in the traditional board gaming sense where one card might produce resources that power another card. Instead you're populating an engine that provides a place for your workers to live and then in later rounds becomes the focus of your end game points. You need to be very selective with the workers you take and the buildings you acquire to ensure that they're a good match for end game points, as well as a good mix which is also rewarded.

I am not a big fan of player conflict in games, or games where I commit to an action, only for it to be thwarted by other players. For me, this happened a little too often in The Artemis Project. Often I would find myself thinking that I needed to make my own luck, as is often the case in dice worker placement games, but then Amy's action would really feel like a direct attack against my only strategy for that turn. The Artemis Project does a great job of making high dice rolls and low dice rolls all have value in the game, with low dice guaranteeing you first pick, but higher dice guaranteeing you more resources/colonists or similar, but there is often still a way you can be screwed over eg. rolling all ones when you are low on all resources, or rolling all sixes which means you'll get last choice of resources and perhaps not be able to afford the building you need.

I did have enjoyable games of The Artemis Project, it's one of the most intense dice worker placement games I've played. It has a little to much conflict and a few too many luck elements to really hit home for me, but when it all comes together there are some really satisfying turns and games that I've had when I've had the chance to play in a slightly more solitaire way. If you're okay with jostling for position on the game board then I'd really highly recommend checking out The Artemis Project.


You might like...
  • The game is tight and there's no room for mistakes. Careful planning and prediction of other players is highly rewarded.
  • It's possible to make a good play with either high or low rolls on most turns.
  • Even the prototype artwork is striking and looks impressive. This promises to be a great looking game.
You might not enjoy...
    • It is possible to roll badly and be pretty trapped as a result, especially with high dice rolls.
    • If you don't enjoy player conflict, then you might not enjoy being outbid on a building or in the turn order for taking resources or new people cubes.
    The Verdict
    The Artemis Project is a tight dice worker placement with no room for mistakes and lots of player interaction. It's quick to play, but filled with tough decisions that make it engaging, even on other players turns!

    The Artemis Project was a preview copy kindly provided by Marc Specter at Grand Gamers Guild. It will be live on Kickstarter during September 2018 and you can check out the campaign here.

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