Boardgaming in 2019!


It is a somewhat light 4x style game, with a deckbuilding component that works pretty well and plays fast, imho. Rules can be a little ambiguous, but they are not complicated

Compared to things like Eclipse or TI4, it is dead simple in terms of rules (one single ship type and one single base type. All the rules fit in one page, with explanation of card effects in a second one), but it is cleverly designed to actually allow for quite different styles of builds through deck and tableau building. Each race gets a handful of starting cards that might not seem like much, but do help to define possible strategies. The deckbuilding picks up from there, with the possibility of placing cards in reserve (building a tableau) and allowing for some powerful late game strategies.

I think the combat is great (you just commit fleets and energy to the combat and whoever commits more wins. Commitment is alternating). Attacker suffers half loses unless defender never managed to be on top. It is simple and feels like a high level view of the military operations (emperor and not admiral).

The variable setup can sometimes screw up some players, and the game does not really have a catch up mechanism other than a defender advantage in combat loses (in that way, it is certainly wargamey) so you can have a runaway leader problem. So some people feel it’s a little bit too random. I don’t agree, the wild swings in setup is what motivates trying new strategies.

It is a very simple design, in a good way. It is not as elegant as other 4X games (understanding elegance as interlinked simple systems that generate interesting dynamics, here you don’t have as many systems in play), but that allows it to have a much lower rule weight and a much simpler learning curve (in terms of reading the board). And it does give a feeling of a sweeping space opera. So for me it’s a keeper.

Theming is a little meh, though, in that you can tell the designer does not really care that much about sci-fi (race names are Aggroloids, Technoids, Culturemoogs… at least its easy to get what the primary strategy can be for them). This also means very little chrome in the rules (no central planet to fight around ala Eclipse or TI4) and a little bit of a wasted opportunity, imho.

Overall I really like it, and would recommend it, but I read FFG did buy the rights to the system to publish their own version. This game, with FFG strong theming (Twilight Imperium, probably) and some expansions to add a couple of additional systems would be even better. So you might want to wait for the FFG reissue, if it does happen (it was a while ago they got the license and I heard nothing about it since).


Wow, I appreciate the prompt and thorough write-up!

I think I will go ahead and pick it up. I’ll let you know what I think when I eventually have the opportunity to play it.


My kids and I pulled Photosynthesis off of the shelf and dusted it off last night. It’s been a few months since we played it, and I was going to get rid of it because the box is gigantic and it seemed too strategically complex. It always seemed like you had to plan 5 turns ahead, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the board’s geometry.

Last night, it finally clicked, but now the problem is that I fear the strategy may be too linear.

We discovered three principles:

  1. Do not sell your big trees off early. My son did this, and the loss of both income and the ability to shade other players is devastating. He never recovered–spent several rounds collecting 2 light points per turn, while my daughter and I were pulling in a dozen or more.
  2. You only really need to look one turn ahead. Sell your trees when it’s strategic to do so: when it’ll remove shade from your own trees on the next turn of the sun. Grow trees to get them out of the shade on the next turn.
  3. Make sure you maintain a good inventory of trees on the board. Use extra light points to buy and/or plant seeds.

These apply to the basic game, so strategies may open up a bit with advanced play. I may keep the game now. It is absolutely gorgeous and elegant, but I still really don’t like how much room it takes up.


The advanced modes biggest change is not being able to grow stuff in the shade, which will bring you back to having to think 5 turns ahead again. You’re solving the same style of problem, but really have to watch other players to make sure you don’t waste sun on a tree that won’t be able to grow for a long time.

It also makes the higher point spots a lot more dangerous. Since they’re more often in the shade they’re really hard to ever get a chance to grow. A strange side mechanic pops up where you plop seeds down to claim locations and just not grow them to make sure there are light paths to get to your trees. This is especially important if you’re trying to grow in the central spot that’s super gloomy.

I think the game feels a bit too short in basic and a bit too long in advanced, though. I wish there was a way to speed it up without losing the tension.


Played nemesis. Need another play, but it totally captures the alien vibe. I will say, that how well or poor this game does in your group will depend on your group more than on the game. We had a blast playing it.

Oh and if you like gugong or are interested in it, the deluxe version is drop dead gorgeous.


Hmm, interesting. Tactical superhero game. Definitely something I’ll have to look into.


My Nemesis is here ready for first ply!


Branching campaign, card-driven combat (each character gets a unique deck that they construct over the campaign), etc. So, basically FFG is doing the first real Gloomhaven competitor.

Uses an app a la Mansions of Madness 2e to drive the thing, too.


Interest level rising…




When they turn the game into an app, will you still need a separate app to drive it?


Eh, I liked the app in MoM 2e and the Co-op Imperial Assault. Never played their Fallout or Xcom boardgames- they had apps, right?


Can you elaborate on why an app-assisted game turns you off? Have you played Alchemists?


I would like to know as well. Mainly because I’m interested in picking of MoM 2e (have not played 1e) but I’m unsure about how needing an app to play would affect the experience.


Is the app actually required, or can you play without it? We played Gloomhaven with an assistant website, and while it wasn’t necessary, frankly I wouldn’t want to go without it.


It improves it quite a bit.

If it’s like Mansions of Madness, it’s mandatory - the scenario and all the enemy turns are handled by the app.


I’m actually really happy with the app for MoM. First edition required a game master player which meant you couldn’t play solo and sucked for lower number of players. Plus the app has cool music and voice acting. It’s also neat to have things like hidden timers.


I love the app usage of Alchemists. There’s the same information hidden from all players that they slowly discover, and I can’t think of a way that would work without an app. I also just really love Alchemists, which predisposes me to loving the app. One of the best thematic Euros out there.


The game actually comes with an app substitute, but requires someone to referee the game and tell you what happens for each experiment.


I have not. I haven’t played X-Com either. The only games with apps I’ve played are Mansions of Madness and Imperial Assault. Seems to me any boardgame that needs a computer to track or express what’s going on doesn’t need to be a boardgame. I play boardgames because I like the complete transparency. But my reaction against games that rely on apps is based on theory more than experience.

Also, get off my lawn and take your fancy smartphones with you!



Well, yeah, ok, I get that a boardgame is not a video/mobile game, and there are good reasons not to introduce videogame tropes into boardgames (not knowing the rules probably being one of the worst).

But I think there’s a lot of scope for apps to make boardgames easier to play, understand, track, etc. without actually making them videogames.

My personal dream is that you turn on your phone’s camera and point it at the game, and it makes an alarm noise whenever you make a rules mistake.