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 20 June 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Space Gate Odyssey

Game: Space Gate Odyssey

Publisher: Ludonaute

Designer: Cédric Lefebvre

Year: 2019

It’s not often that we’re surprised by a big new release. I generally have a good idea of the upcoming games I’m excited about. However, Space Gate Odyssey came out of nowhere and its beautiful box artwork, along with some interesting sounding mechanisms and a space theme that both myself and Amy enjoy, made it a must try game for us.

In Space Gate Odyssey, each player will build a space station from modular elements over the course of the game. The purpose of the space station is to teleport you earth dwelling species to one of the exoplanets that have been discovered, once the five exoplanets have been colonised, your space stations will teleport to the central exoplanet and the player who exerted the most influence in the colonisation phase will take control of the new planetary system and its new society.

The gameplay is centered around the Odyssey board – a mandala style action selection track. On your turn you will move one worker to a room, activating that room for all players. The level of activation corresponds to the number of workers located in that room in your colour. Three rooms provide points of movement that let you move people around your space base, one room regenerates workers in your airlocks and the final room lets you add new modules to your space station from the supply. The types of rooms include air locks, space gates in three different varieties and corridors which add more workers to the Odyssey board, but then become vacant space in your space station. The new modules come in three colours which is important because your movement points correspond to moving towards a specific colour, and also has some influence on end game majority scoring.

The Odyssey board
If, after any movement phase you have a full space gate then you can launch those workers onto an exoplanet of the corresponding symbol. Each of the 8 exoplanets has a different way of scoring and a different trigger that activates the scoring. All of the planets have an element of area control and higher points are available for majorities or occupying specific spots. When a planet is complete it scores and a new planet is added to the pool of three active planets. When the 5th planet completes, it triggers game end.

Space Gate Odyssey combines a few very distinct elements, each one of which is very robust and quite thinky in its own right. The action selection, planning and building your space station, optimal movement of people around that space station and then focusing on area control on each exo planet is really quite a lot to think about. Whilst I admire the complexity of the design and really enjoy some of the puzzly elements that get my brain working hard, I do get an overall feeling that Space Gate Odyssey feels a bit like work.

I think a contributing factor is that all of your efforts and optimisation ultimately fulfil the final step, which is driven by one of my least favourite mechanisms, area control. For me that’s just no reward. In terms of an area control game, Space Gate Odyssey is an example that I don’t dislike – it’s both a smaller aspect of the game and it also doesn’t have too many take-that elements. You can’t oust anyone, you can only plan better than them, move faster and be more optimal in terms of focusing your energy of teleporting people to a planet you’re competing over. I wouldn’t tell anyone to shy away from the game because of area control,  it’s just a bit of an anti-climax for me after all the hard work and planning in earlier phases.

An early stage space station and an exoplanet
If Space Gate Odyssey were just a little bit more suited to my taste, then I could see it being a game that people will love getting their teeth into, with lots of different possibilities to explore each game. In our first play, many mistakes were made – it wasn’t obvious how to build your space station, with the right balance of airlocks, space gates and corridors that put enough workers on the Odyssey board. In my second game I thought that I got a better balance, but in game three I went heavy on workers and lost the game because it took too long to get my engine running. I think you could get a lot of replayability out of trying all of the different strategies to build you base. The downside might be that the 8 exoplanets start to feel quite similar. In spite of their differences, there only seems to be two types for me – planets where you want a small number of people to land multiple times in quick succession and planets where you can dump large numbers of people with no detrimental effect.

Space Gate Odyssey really stands out for me as being quite different to games we have in our collection. It’s action selection, map building and route building mechanisms seem fresh whilst still reminding me of some of the fun I get out of puzzly games of network building and even engine building. It looks fantastic on the table and there’s a lot of game in the 60 minute session of a 2-player game. However, something about the combination of mechanisms is just too much for me and kind of makes me stop caring and give in about half way through. I don’t think it’s a heavy game, but it feels like one specifically for me and I think that means it’s the kind of game I’d be happy to play again if someone offered, but that just isn’t going to one I suggest. For the Yellow Meeple, Space Gate Odyssey is a 6.5/10.

Space Gate Odyssey was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £47.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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