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 19 February 2019

Find a crew, find a job...:- Scorpius Freighter

Game: Scorpius Freighter

Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group

Designer:  Matthew Dunstan, David Short

Year: 2018

Scorpius Freighter is a 2-4 player resource management game in which you take the role of a crew of space freighters looking to skim more than a little off the top of their delivery jobs. As you play you'll upgrade your ship, pick up cargo and deliver it either to your official contracts or to lucrative side jobs. If you can best use your crew's unique set of abilities and best arrange your freighter's construction then you could be the richest pilots around!

Each turn in Scorpius Freighter you will pick one or two of your crew to activate by sliding them under your player board. These crew members will act like pilots, moving one of the 3 ships on the central board in their orbits around their planets. Each space is a different action so you'll often want to move father to get the action you desire. However the strength of your action is determined by the number of crew who haven't been used so moving faster results in weaker actions. Eventually you will have only 1 or even no crew who aren't slotted under your board. If this is the case at the end of your turn then all of your crew are pulled out from under your board refreshed and ready for action. Every time a ship completes a full rotation of the planet it will confiscate a cargo cube, once a single ship has confiscated enough cargo the trade route will go into lockdown and the game ends.

The main board of Scorpius Freighter with the 3 planets and the ships that patrol them giving you the varied actions of the game.
Each of the 3 planets have their own distinct actions, although all planets give you the opportunity to upgrade your crew. The first planet is all about upgrading your ship, you can use one of it's action spaces to acquire new cargo spaces on your ship. Performing this with a highest strength gives you more cargo containers to choose from. The other action space allows you to purchase upgrades, while these typically don't store cargo they do allow you to build interesting combos of their special abilities. The second planet is focused on using your ship, one of it's spaces allows you to fill your cargo containers. When you do this each cargo container of the same type that is orthogonality connected on your ship board gains one cube of it's respective colour. Performing this action with greater power lets you fill multiple cargo sections, or the same section multiple times. the other action on the second planet lets you use your upgrades, activating their powers, performing this action with greater power lets you activate more upgrades.

The final planet is where you go when you want to trade in your goods. This is where you can perform side jobs and contracts. Side jobs are a market of 4 available tokens each of which require 1-2 cargo cubes. Performing this action with greater strength lets you fulfil more side jobs in one action. Contracts are similar but typically require more goods for less points. You can only own 1 incomplete contract at a time, but when you complete it you'll either gain a one-use power or some bonus points. The final, shared action, is upgrading your crew, this requires you to pay an amount of money (with discounts when you perform the action with more power) to flip your crew over to their 'experienced' side giving you access to new abilities. Each crew has a different set of abilities and requires a different play style to win with.

Your ship's layout is governed on the player boards by placing down tiles representing cargo storage and upgraded facilities.

The way actions are selected on Scorpius Freighter puts an emphasis on reactive play. As you are limited in your ability to move ships to two spaces sometimes you simply cannot perform the action you want. Even if you could you might find you don't have the strength left in remaining crew to perform it efficiently. You could waste time so that your crew are refreshed, but then the action might not be available at all. While this is noticeable in a two player game if you played with more players the layout of the board would only change faster. The game therefore becomes on of seizing opportunities, and that is really satisfying, in fact it's even thematic. You really get that 'wheeler and dealer' feel of speculating on actions when the chance emerges only to hope it pays off later on.

We did notice a slight issue on a two player game which is the comparatively stagnant main board. While the movement of the 3 ships was dynamic enough to keep you on your toes, the other elements tended to hang about a bit too long. Contracts didn't vary enough between turns, side deals often stayed the same for a long time and cargo containers aren't taken fast enough to ensure that all the cargo types were well represented. We had one game where victory was largely determined by being the one player who had access to the grey resource as almost all the contracts and side jobs demanded it for a good half of the game. This did only happen in one game though and the score wasn't a complete whitewash, so perhaps we were simply falling victim to a terrible shuffle.

Overall I enjoyed Scorpius Freighter a lot. The action selection mechanic created a unique experience that gelled really well with the theme. There were no special rules or set up that ruined the two-player experience, though perhaps a small adjustment to refresh the markets more frequently might have helped improve matters. Still this didn't detract from the fluid, fast gameplay and high replay value.


Scorpius Freighter was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £57.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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