Alien Frontiers is a fantastic area control game for 2-4 players (or 5 with the Factions expansion). You are spacefarers colonising an ancient alien planet. In this game there’s always something cool and important to do on your turn and the winner is always shifting. Let’s get straight to the verdict: we highly recommend this game!
You start with three dice (which represent ships, and in the Kickstarter edition I got, actually look like ships). You roll them each turn and see which orbital facilities you can place them in (each has its own rules and benefits). Some of those facilities give you fuel, some give ore, some use those resources to build ships or colonies, others trade fuel for ore, allow you to build a colony for three ore, let you steal resource from other players, destroy one of your ships to instantly place a colony, or allow you access to the powerful and important alien artefacts deck.
It sounds like a lot to wrap your head around, and the board looks a little intimidating at first. But it’s actually quite simple. Once you get what each orbital facility does, the diagrams are enough to remind you, and the strategic options are clear round to round.
Your goal is to be the colonist with the most points, but that doesn’t just mean the most colonies. You can also gain points from special items you can build (see the photos for two of the three possible, that we built on our planet) or gain points with two unique alien artefact cards.
You get one point for landing a colony; you get another if you have the most colonies in a territory. That also lets you use that territory’s special power. One of these, in Burroughs Desert (all the areas are named after science fiction authors, which is a great touch) lets you use the clear Relic Ship, which gives you another die to roll – a great benefit. If an opponent manages to tie with you for most colonies in a territory, your point for having the most is lost, as is your special power. So it’s often worth contesting a territory instead of claiming a new one. As you can see, the points shift up and down as you play and gain or lose territory control.
As I said, there’s always something to do on your turn, and even once you have six ships (or seven if you control the Relic) turns are pretty quick. Alien artefact cards are really important. They have powerful abilities that break the rules in special ways, like letting you pay less fuel for ore, stopping players stealing from you, controlling one of their ships on your turn, or flipping a die from one side to another. Some even let you build or move those items on the planet (which have their own special powers). We both relied on our artefacts throughout the game, and also used the Raider’s Outpost to steal them from each other (to use their powers, or just stop the other player using them).
I have to mention the quality of the materials for this game. So good! Everything is beautiful and detailed. The board is really well done. Its simple diagrams and space icons are helpful reminders. Art for the whole board is great and each orbital facility has its own feel. When placing a colony toward the end of tonight’s game I noticed the terraforming station is actually shooting green beams down that hit the planet.
Colonies are my favourite thing in this game. So tiny! Little clear plastic domes with tiny little cities inside matching your player colour! A really great addition that adds to the whole feel of the game.
We had special dice, but the normal six-siders that actually come with game are very colourful and usable. The board is double-sided: one with ship-shaped spaces, once with die-shaped spaces. It even comes with little bits of cardboard to cover up the spaces you wont’ be using in a two or three player game.
Splendor is Suz’s favourite game we’ve reviewed this fortnight, but Alien Frontiers is up there for her. For me, too. It’s a little longer than some other games we’ve played, but it didn’t *feel* longer. Time flies when you’re having fun… in space!
We highly recommend Alien Frontiers.