Friday, 14 December 2012

Alien Frontiers

Alien Frontiers is one of my favourite worker placement games, I am a fan of dice rolling if it's done correctly and I tell you Alien Frontiers has a pretty awesome way of integrating dice rolling and worker placement into one game.

I wrote a session report in a short story format, if you have played Alien Frontiers I would highly suggest reading it :) Here.


The goal of the game is to be the person with the most points when one player runs out of his/her colonies. You score points for each colony placed, each territory controlled and for having victory 'tech' cards. Ties are broken by the player who owns the most 'alien tech cards

Your workers (spaceships) are your dice, and at the start of your turn you will roll all your ships. Your ships can go to any location although some require doubles / triples, a certain number or a run. The location determines what action you will carry out, and the number on your ship determines the details of the action. The details would be how much of a resource you collect, the trade value of your resources, if you can launch a colony, and if you can buy an alien tech card.
This game has so many different strategies to it that there is a way to play that suits each player's personal style. There are 3 different ways to place colonies onto the planet and each of them can be activated by a different combination of dice and resources. In Alien Frontiers you are not 'screwed' by your dice rolls instead your dice rolls leave you with strategic choices and a good player can turn the crappiest rolls into a victory!

Each location however can only have a limited number of ships in it. This makes for even more strategic choices especially when you are blocked from the resource or location that you really want.

Locations at a Glance:
Adding a die here gives you fuel according to the die's value.

Each die you add here moves your colony 1 space along the track.
When it reaches the end you may pay 1 fuel and 1 ore to
launchthe colony token and place it on the planet.

The orbital market allows you to trade fuel for ore. You trade x
fuel for x ore where x is the number of your doubles. Example
The yellow player could trade 1 fuel for 1 ore any number of times,
the red player must trade 6 fuel for 1 ore any number of times.

Adding doubles here lets you construct a ship, the cost of a ship
increases with the more ships you have. Once constructed
your new ship goes to the maintnence bay and is collected
with the rest of your ships next turn.

Adding 1 die of any value here allows you to discard the current
alien tech cards and put 3 new ones up for sale. Adding 2 ships with
a combined value of 8 or more will allow you to buy the alien
tech cardof your choice.
Each die added to the lunar mine gives you 1 ore. You can only
add a die with a value greater or equal to the last die added
 (the die on the right), as players collect their ships shuffle the dice
to the left.

Placing 3 dice that make a 'run' allows you to steal 4 resources
from any player(s). You can choose to steal 1 tech card instead
and you can split the 4 resources between players.

Getting the Edge:

There are lots of mechanics that allow you to tweak the way you play this game and give you the edge over your opponents. This works great to counter 'being blocked' out of a location or resource.
There are two different ways to get the edge over your opponents other than building more ships (dice):

Alien Tech Cards: You can purchase these by docking ships with a value equal or greater than 8 at the alien artifact. You can discard the current cards for sale and get 3 new ones by placing any value ship in the alien artifact. In addition to granting you some powerful abilities Alien Tech Cards can also be worth victory points.

Territory Bonuses: The player with the most colonies on a territory gains its bonus. If there is a tie the player who previously had the bonus must return it to the territory until the tie is broken. In addition to giving a bonus action, dominance over a territory also scores you a victory point.


Although the colony markets are kind of cheesy they serve their purpose. The tiles awarded to whoever asserts their dominance over a territory are good quality and they have their special ability printed right on them. The cards are fairly standard although they are a pain to pick up I would recommend sleeving them for sure. One thing that sets this game apart from others to me component wise is there is no colour I don't want to play. The dice / matching colony tokens are all a sort of off colour that I find more attractive than most games.

Alien Frontiers is clearly not for everyone, or is it?

Family Gamers: Although this is not family friendly where anyone can walk up and buy it off a shelf take it home and play with their kids, if your family is experienced with board games this one isn't too hard. After a couple turns pretty much anyone can get the hang of it and with the right guidance this can be a great game to improve critical thinking skills. The space theme works for some kids / families, for others it doesn't if your family is experienced with board games and or enjoys the science fiction theme you should check this game out.

Casual Gamers: There is a lot of strategy, planning and thinking in this game so if you plan on playing a game with some dinner guests this is not the one. However if you are trying to lead some casual gamers towards more in depth games this is a great game to use. It is pretty rewarding to see your strategy come together and after a couple turns, tech cards, more ships, and a territory bonus you can see your plan come to life. This is a great part of any game and is what gets people 'hooked' and wanting to play more of that game. There is enough customization / personal strategy that there is room for multiple play styles, however because there are a limited number of spots at each location you are sometimes forced into locations and this keeps the vast amount of choices available to you from becoming overwhelming.

Gamer Gamers: This is a great worker placement game, there are lots of different strategies that can be used to obtain victory. One thing Alien Frontiers does better than other worker placement games is it really gives you the ability to 'screw over' your opponents. In a family setting this would obviously not be your first choice of action however at the local games night with a group of avid gamers this is what turns this game from your typical worker placement into a game for strategic masterminds looking to find a balance between blocking opponents and scoring points yourself. Dice haters might be turned off but usually if you low roll in a game you are stuck with crappy results and thats why dice haters hate, however rolling low is not always a bad thing and tech cards allow you to add, subtract, flip or move points around your dice and your workers being your dice actually adds a unique element to Alien Frontiers.

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