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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 23 May 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Space Base: The Emergence of Shy Pluto

Game:  Space Base: The Emergence of Shy Pluto

Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group

Designer: John D. Clair

Year: 2019

Space Base: The Emergence of Shy Pluto is the first expansion for Space Base - a 2018 release from publisher AEG which really gained a lot of popularity as a 'Machi Koro killer'. Space based is a tableau building game in which the cards you build are each assigned a number from one to twelve and will be activated on every turn based on the roll of two six-sided dice. If you roll a five and a four, you can gain the resource and ability of either your card in slot nine, or both your card in slot five and your card in slot four. Not only do you get activation on your turn, but you'll also activate any cards you've built over on all other players turns too.

The Emergence of Shy Pluto calls itself a 'saga expansion'. How this manifests is in an expansion that looks a lot like a legacy game, with decks that you are forbidden from opening and secret tuck boxes. The expansion provides a campaign with a narrative element, that introduces new rules, cards and components as you progress. After playing through the campaign you end up with a playable expansion in the final state as well as an option to play one of the modules as a variant.

The Emergence of Shy Pluto starts with an injection of 7 new cards into deck 1 that have a few new abilities. The game ensures that you experience these by giving each player one as their starting card. From then on you will follow the instructions in the story deck to explore the rest of the expansion. It's a lot more free-form than some campaign games, since you can unlock new content during a game or at the end of a game, depending on the specific rules at the time. Players are somewhat in control of the speed they explore this expansion, because it's often an objective, such as buying up all of the new cards, that triggers an evolution of the rules. If you want to explore slowly then you can just avoid triggering the condition in most cases. The rules will change four or five times during the expansion until you eventually have the final version of the game to play with. This is not a legacy expansion - nothing is destroyed and you can always turn back the clock and play with whatever game variant you liked the most.

I'm not overly convinced on the format of this expansion. Of course it's exciting to open mystery boxes and find out more about the game and get more components, but I'm not sure that Space Base warranted this. It feels like I'm being given the game in bitesize chunks so as not to overwhelm, when the reality is that this expansion could easily have been delivered in one large chunk and been very easy to comprehend. I guess each surprise just wasn't impressive enough for me and didn't deliver enough 'new-ness' to the game. Contrast this with a similar expansion like Scythe: Rise of Fenris where every game felt like a whole new board game, and it just doesn't match up. On the other hand Space Base is definitely a family weight game, so perhaps you can't deliver as much meat and complexity with that audience.

Whilst I don't want to spoil the game, I would like to note that there are two primary new components introduced in this expansion. One is a new resource - ships, whilst the other is more dice. Since Space Base is primarily a dice driven game, there is certainly a huge scoop of luck even in the base game. However, I think the base game really was my luck threshold and adding more really turned me off when the dice turned against me. Along your path through the expansion you are introduced to the new resource and the first time you use it, it seems to be worth collecting because whenever you use the resource you get quite a windfall of points, money or planets. However, in the final incarnation of the game, you might put a lot of focus on gaining this resource and then never get any return for the resource because of bad dice luck. This strategy then feels like a distraction and if you choose to pursue it, you'll likely be beaten by someone using a standard base game strategy. Not only is it frustrating to be hosed by dice luck, but to buy an expansion and then find that the strong strategies in the game don't encourage you to use it is just wasteful.

Every time we get an expansion for a game we enjoy it's a great excuse to bring the base game back to the table. Our approach to campaign games is often to play them in quick succession to keep in mind the overall arc of the campaign. The story in Shy Pluto is extremely shallow, so there's not really a lot to follow, but I don't think Space Base is a game I want to play quite so frequently. It's fun, but it's ultimately quite same-y. I enjoyed some of the new elements in the expansion, in particular the penultimate game and the ability to get an extra personal dice roll, but if a modular, campaign expansion still doesn't feel like it's giving me variety, then I don't know what will!

There's a lot of people out there who love Space Base and unfortunately playing The Emergence of Shy Pluto has taught me that I'm not one of them. With the expansion, there's just too much luck for me and not enough variety from game to game. For the Yellow Meeple, The Emergence of Shy Pluto is a 5.5/10.

Space Base: The Emergence of Shy Pluto was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £28.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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