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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Astroforce: The Dice Game

Game: Astroforce: The Dice Game

Publisher: Word Forge Games

Designer: Carl White

Year: 2020


Astroforce: The Dice Game is coming to Kickstarter in October. The game has been developed from Star Trek: The Dice Game, a free print and play that won the Golden Geek Award for best print and play in 2016. Inspired by the designer playing Deep Space D-6, another solo, space themed dice rolling game, Star Trek: The Dice Game was a solo experience.

Without a license to use the Star Trek IP, Word Forge are launching Astroforce - a developed and re-themed version of Star Trek: The Dice Game, which also includes cooperative rules for two players. Players represent the crew members aboard the A.S.V. Pioneer during its five year mission of exploration.



Gameplay

Astroforce takes place around a central board which displays the current state of your ship, your current mission and how many missions you have completed. In order to win the game you simply have to complete each mission in sequence before you run out of fuel cells (turns). The number of missions required depends on the difficulty selected at the start of the game. Astroforce can be lost in several ways, you can run out of fuel, your ship can be destroyed or you can have all of your dice locked in place in the medbay.

Each turn you will consume 1 FTL fuel cell before drawing an event card from the deck. Event cards can have many effects such as locking dice slots or damaging your ship. You will then roll all available dice before assigning them to their relevant places on your ship, you can only hold 3 of each die face (2 of command) so any excess may immediately be lost. In addition any dice which show the sensor icon are locked in place on the sensors until all sensor slots are filled.


You then have a chance to utilise the dice. Dice are used in 3 different locations: to clear events, complete mission steps or gain upgrades. Each event has a required dice set to clear it, failing to clear events mean they will still be in effect for future turns. One or two events may be an annoyance, but they soon become rather deadly! Each turn you can complete 1 step of your current mission, often by spending dice. Once the mission is complete your fuel cells will refill and a new mission is drawn. Upgrades allow you to get temporary or permanent boosts to your capability. You can spend dice on them to gain the cards, with some of the more powerful cards needing several turns worth of assigning dice to earn. Finally all dice have a special effect: Engineering can repair the hull, science can repair the shields, medical can unlock dice from the medbay, security can free sensor dice and command can chance any die to any other face.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Astroforce: The Dice Game does a fantastic job of bringing the star-trek style space opera to a dice game. This can be seen in the missions including things like diplomatic interactions or lowering your shields to teleport crew. It can also be seen in the rather on the nose uniforms of the crew on the box art! While it's hard to make a dice game ooze with theme, Astroforce does the best it can for a game focused on rolling cubes with symbols on them.


The difficulty setting felt well tuned during our games, when all your dice are free and ready for use the game feels relatively easy. However, should you lock a couple of dice as a down payment on a juicy upgrade, and then have a couple more stuck on the sensors or the medbay, the game soon shows it's true colours. the events can cascade rapidly into a nightmare of barely manageable effects. With higher difficulties due to be released with the full game Astroforce won't be a game you sit down to assuming you'll win.

One big caveat about Astroforce is that it isn't designed with 2-players in mind. There are no unique player powers or distributed roles. The only way the game differs from the solo experience is you have someone to talk to. It feels like a huge missed opportunity, specially when the box cover shows 5 crew that were begging to be given unique abilities in the multiplayer game. Aside from that it is a solid solo dice game which is well worth giving a look when the Kickstarter goes live!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

I love cooperative dice rolling games. Flatline is one of my favourites and the frantic, real-time chaos that relies heavily on communication and collaboration is what I particularly enjoy. Astroforce is much like those games, but without the real-time element. Instead it adds a few different choices and constraints to the puzzle. Each turn you'll be managing your events, trying to complete a stage of the mission, dealing with bad dice rolls and deciding whether to invest in upgrades that might make your life easier in the future.


Whilst it really feels like a solo only experience, rather than a good, modern cooperative game, Astroforce is a  really pleasant dice game to play. The difficulty was a little too easy for us in most of our games, expect one, whether a couple of bad events coupled with bad dice rolls lost the game for us in under 5 minutes. The difficulty can be tuned, but sometimes it just seems to tune itself! While Astroforce doesn't feel too unique, it's a cool solo experience that tries its best to pack in some theme and tension and is worth checking out on Kickstarter if you're looking for a new solo game.




You Might Like...
  • If real-time dice games stress you out, then Astroforce provides a more sedate experience.
  • The dice allocation and manipulation, as well as choices between clearing events, advancing the mission or investing in opportunities provide some good, puzzly decisions.
You Might Not Like...
  • There's no real two-player variant - the game is a solo game that two people can choose to work together on.
  • The dice rolls or event card draws can really play against you.
  • Quite a lot of swing in difficulty so hard to 'improve' at the game.

The Verdict
Astroforce is a good solo game, reminiscent of games like Fuse and Flatline, but without real-time elements. The difficulty level can vary quite a lot from game to game, even when you're set to the same difficulty, but overall seems to give a few more wins than losses. The dice manipulation and placement is fun and it's one we enjoyed playing with two, but that we wouldn't class as a proper cooperative experience.


Astroforce was a prototype kindly provided to us by Word Forge Games It launches of Kickstarter during October 2019.

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