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, 3 September 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Solar Storm

Game: Solar Storm

Publisher: Dranda Games

Designer: Ayden Lowther

Year: 2019

Solar Storm is a first published game from Dranda Games. We first encountered the game at Airecon in Spring 2019 and they've been building a great following in advance of their Kickstarter campaign.

You are crew members on board a ship that has had its energy core taken out by solar flares and the ship is still taking more damage. It is only a matter of time before your ship explodes, causing certain death. You and the other crew members must repair the ship whilst using resources to divert what little power is left, back to the energy core. You must work together if you have any hope of survival. Can you survive this Solar Storm, or will you perish in the burning abyss?


Gameplay

In Solar Storm you have to use your time and resources wisely to redirect power from all auxiliary rooms in order to super-charge your ships engines and escape the gravity well of a star. This is done by players taking turns taking 3 actions, then drawing one or two resource cards before drawing a damage card for the ship.


Actions are fairly simple, you can move orthogonally one space for an action. You can spend an action to repair a room, discarding a needed resource to add a damaged cube back to the card. If the room has already had its power redirected this fully repairs the room back to 3 cubes. You can also spend an action to give or take a resource card from an ally in your room, or to redirect power by discarding the 3 required resources in a fully repaired room. Each room also has a special power which can only be activated if it is fully repaired. Finally you can scavenge for resources, when you do so you roll a die and on a result of 3-5 get 1 resource and a result of 6 get two resources.

At the end of your turn you will draw 1 of the 3 face up cards from the resource market or two random face-down cards. In addition if you spent less than your 3 actions this turn you will gain action tokens which gives you extra actions on future turns, There is no limit to the number of action tokens 1 player may have, though there is a limited number in the game! Next you draw a damage card, at the start of the game these will simply remove 1 damage token from 1 room, but as the game progresses they start affecting 2 and then 3 rooms. If you run the damage deck dry then instead of more damage you start losing cards from your resource deck instead.


Players will win the game if they successfully redirect power from every room and then travel to the core of the ship and activate it. You will lose the game if you fail to do this before the resource deck runs dry, or if one room takes damage when it has no cubes remaining on it.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Solar Storm combines a lot of different game elements that I really like. The open market system reminds me of Ticket to Ride, though with the notable exception that you rarely want more of one colour! The ability to save up action points from round to round is something I remember from Flash Point Fire Rescue which is one of my favourite co-ops partially because of that system. Meanwhile the whole game feels a little like Pandemic in terms of running around sorting out cube-based disasters. If you know anything about my taste in games then you might be realising that Solar Storm is actually a bit of a greatest hits collection, taking some of my favourite elements from my favourite games and combining them into a cooperative experience that is actually damn hard!


The difficulty in Solar Storm seems to have been tuned perfectly, never did I lose when I felt I didn't have the chance to win, and when I did win I felt moments away from disaster. Winning a game of Solar Storm is something to be proud of. The one drawback here is scavenging for resources, I'm not a huge fan of dice rolling in a limited action per round situation as is. Having a situation where you have to rely on the benevolence of a dice throw or else have your turn entirely ruined is more frustrating than anything. Of course you know the risk when you make that roll, and you could always pass your turn, save up actions and then just take the card you need at the end of the round. This introduces its own risk of the room you wanted to fix getting more damaged, so in that way the risk for rolling is balanced out.

Honestly that's a small niggle, and a very personal one at that, most people will enjoy the thrill of the dice roll more than me! The key point to take away is that Solar Storm is a difficult, but highly enjoyable cooperative game with mechanics that all gel well .While it is different at altered player counts it's no less difficult. Some room special abilities become more reliable in a 2 player game, but others become less efficient. Solar Storm is definitely a game you should look out for when it comes to Kickstarter!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Playing Solar Storm has been really addictive! The game seems to be slightly easier with two players, but it still took us four tries to beat it on a medium difficulty. Every game has been close fought and the game mechanisms have the ability to make you think everything is fine and then suddenly turn on you, ending in a close defeat.

The special abilities of each room are what really elevate this game to slightly above a basic cooperative game experience. Even once you've diverted the power it's important to keep an eye on the damage level of all rooms to make sure none are destroyed, but you might want some rooms to have zero damage, allowing you to use their ability to quickly help the other rooms around the ship. You need to prioritise which zones to fix and play your odds based on the damage cards already drawn. The experience really changes with two players, where you can cover less ground, making some room abilities more powerful, whilst others are weaker. This gives the game more replayability if you have the chance to play at different player counts.


I'd recommend Solar Storm to gamers who enjoy Forbidden Island or Forbidden Desert, but are more excited by the space theme. Protecting different zones of the central board against damage will be very familiar, but the special abilities of each location give different value to them, adding a layer of complexity and a push-and-pull factor to whether you choose to protect or exploit certain areas of the board. Solar Storm is a great little cooperative game and I highly recommend checking it out on Kickstarter.


You Might Like...
  • Solar Storm is a simple system, that forces you to push your luck and make tricky decisions.
  • The artwork really makes the different rooms come to life.
  • The game carefully walks the edge of being a close game every time.
You Might Not Like...
  • It's not an easy to win cooperative game, although you can modify the difficulty level.
  • The game system is very compact, so replayability factor could be limited after you've mastered winning the game.

The Verdict

Solar Storm is a great 30 minute cooperative game, providing a real challenge to its players. It's very easy to teach, but difficult enough to win that it really keeps gamers engaged. Its elegant design makes it feel like a very classic cooperative game, whilst it still stands out among other similar cooperative experiences. It's a great, small package!


Solar Storm was a prototype kindly provided to us by Dranda Games. It launches of Kickstarter on 3rd September 2019.

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