Expanded Play of The Expanse Board Game (WizKids, 2017)

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Courtesy WizKids

The weekend RockyMountainNavy Game Night this week was The Expanse Board Game. I wrote before about this game and how I see as the consummate Eurogame. To date, we had not played a full 4-player game. That was remedied this weekend.

For the game, the Middle RMN Boy went first as the United Nations (UN). Youngest RMN Boy was the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) and I took ProtoGen. Since ProtoGen is not used in the 3-player game it was a new faction so I took it so as not to burden the others. For the Oldest RMN Boy it was his first time playing The Expanse Board Game so we gave him Mars since that faction plays the most “direct” of the four.

Scythe taught me that I must be careful with new factions, especially with the Middle RMN Boy and his Autism Spectrum Disability. He has difficulty quickly grasping a new faction and their powers jso it is safe to let him play a “known” power. There was no way I could allow him to pick up ProtoGen for the first time. Oldest RMN is a video gamer so he should groan new situations but as we will see the game is not balanced between players of different experience levels.

I gave Oldest RMN a rules walkthru as the others were cleaning up after dinner. We also placed him last in the turn order so we could talk about the other player’s actions and let him see a bit before his first turn.

Getting through the first three Scoring Cards took over an hour as we all were slow relearning (or learning) the game and analysis paralysis kicked in. The Middle and Youngest RMN Boys brought the Cold War directly to Mars, all but eliminating Martian influence at home. The OPA had established dominance in the Outer Planets and took the first two Scoring Cards in that Bonus Sector. The OPA ended up far ahead of the others in CP.

After the fourth Scoring Card, the only Bonus Sector left was the two The Belt. The fifth Scoring Card came out pretty quickly but all tried to avoid it as we jockeyed for influence in The Belt. The draw deck dwindled down until there was only one card; the last Scoring Card (the game immediately ends when the last Scoring Card is turned up). None of us were ready, and the game ended with a runaway OPA victory (99 pts against UN and ProtoGen in the 60’s and Mars in the 50’s).

There were many rookie mistakes made. Oldest RMN Boy was more focused playing Events than Action Points and as a result fell far behind. He ended the game with eight influence cubes still on his player card. As ProtoGen, I waited too long and ended the game without playing either of the Protomolecules.

Taken as a whole, the game was a bit disappointing. We played for nearly 2 hours and a lot of it was boring. Given our slower pace of play and analysis paralysis there was just too much downtime between each player’s turn. The Expanse Board Game strikes me as a game that is best played when it is played; familiarity breeds speed. The Expanse Board Game is not alone here; in my experience other games like Terraforming Mars or Scythe (especially Scythe) need to be played often to maintain familiarity and understanding of the game mechanics.

I was also mildly surprised to see that this game was the fifth logged play of The Expanse Board Game. This makes it one of my five “nickel” games in the past sixth months. Amazing, considering I only rate it a 7 on BoardGameGeek (just slightly above my 6.41 average). Maybe that’s because I want The Expanse Board Game to work even when it doesn’t.

 

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