Tuesday, 27 August 2013

UFO Hunter

Today I write to you giddier than a 12 yr old school girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Last week I received game to review, this game is going to be appearing on kickstarter in September and that makes this my first kickstarter review. I'm a little excited so without further adieu I bring you my review of UFO Hunter.

Players are trying to prove that UFOs exist, the player to collect the most evidence will go down in fame and glory while the others remain the paranoid crazy person or worse..committed. Evidence tokens work as victory points, when all of the Blue Evidence Tokens run out, players finish their current turn and then count points.

Give each player the action cards and cube of their chosen colour.

Give the tie breaker randomly to one player

Give each player a rumor and a map card

Starting with the tie breaker players place their rumor so that it remains hidden and the map card face up on top of it. Place map tokens on the corresponding spaces on the map board. Each player may decide as they place their rumor if they will "stake" it.
This particular rumor is only negative, discovering it will net you a loss of 3 coins, as a result you want other players
to be the one to discover it, stake the rumor so they think you want half the shiny reward. But be careful, your money is tied up this way and if someone peaks at it with research your coin could be stuck there. 

Important Note: Staking a rumor means you get half of the reward when another player successfully claims the reward from that rumor. If you stake a rumor that ends negatively for a player that discovers it, you get your money returned.

Gameplay: The gameplay in UFO hunter is awesome, the game plays around 2 phases, during each players will simultaneously select actions and must execute the action they chose once revealed.

Phase 1: Action Phase

During this phase players will each secretly select an action and then reveal and execute them in order based on which action they chose. When multiple players choose the same action, the cost to play that card goes up for each of them. Each action card has a number 1-6 in the top left corner, action resolution starts with 1, ties are broken with the tie breaker pawn.

Important Note: When multiple players play the same action card, the cost is increased by 1 for each other player playing the same card as you. This is another level of game play you can save some cash by knowing your opponent's next move.

1. Travel: Travel is the most basic card, playing it allows you to move 1 space and also faster than all the other actions, also playing Travel is free. When you end your travel action in a space containing a rumor you turn the corresponding rumor card face up and execute its text.
2. Air Travel: Only slightly slower than regular travel due to the TSA you can move 2 spaces and still claim a rumor but airplanes are expensive and as so it will cost 1 coin to play this card.

Important Note: When Rumor cards show the telescope they really mean any piece of equipment. 
Any of these are usable with this rumor card to pay and score 3 evidence tokens.

3. Buy Equipment: Proving that UFOs exist? Dam right your going to need some gear. Equipment tokens are a very important part of the game mechanics. You can use them as currency, to pass "tests" certain rumors require you to have specific equipment or a number of equipment tokens to gain a benefit. And at the end of the game you can convert them into evidence points if you have enough pieces of equipment. When you buy equipment it costs 1 more each time you buy a 'draw' from the bag.

This card really didn't want it's picture taken. The buy
card also shows you how much equipment is worth at the end of the game.
In this case the telescopes also represent any evidence, you are
buying a random draw from the token bag.

4. Research: This is one of the two ways to get new rumors onto the board, both are powerful in their own ways. When you play research you get to do the following
    a) Draw and place a new rumor card with a map card on top, then decide if you are staking that rumor
    b) Look at any face down rumor on the board, decide if you want to steak that rumor. The staking of already existing rumors adds an excellent level of deduction to the gameplay.
    c) Take the tie breaker pawn
Some example rumor cards

5. Publish: Publishing also allows you to draw and place a new rumor and map card, you now also have the option to stake it. However instead of peaking at an existing rumor and taking the tie breaker pawn, you simply gain 5 coins.

Phase 2: Open Trading Phase

This is where the bidding / auctions and yes bluffing comes into play. Players secretly select their action on the bidding card. Your options are to bid 1-11 coins or no action/sell. It is important to note that the winner of the bid gets everything in the pot.
The yellow player gets everything in the pot for 6 coins, the green player keeps his 2 coins that he bet, but does not gain anything and cannot sell anything.

When bidding, coins and equipment are all valued at 1 each.

When selling, equipment and evidence are valued at 3 coins each.
The finished game will obviously not be using office paper clips. 
End of Game:
The game ends when all the blue evidence tokens are taken, players finish their last turn and can still score evidence points in the form of black tokens. Players then count their evidence tokens and add any points scored from equipment.

What did I like about UFO Hunter?

UFO Hunter is a great game and I am very happy that my first kickstarter game review turned out to be so much fun. Not only is the game very thematic, but I can't really say I've seen never mind played another UFO game, aliens yes but only in a fictional sense. While playing it feels like you are traveling all around the world collecting evidence money equipment and getting yourself into hairy situations. Although the map was somewhat comical to me, but visually stunning very colourful and practical. I am not sure how many other gamers would notice, but there is an error in the map of Canada!

UFO Hunter mixes some great mechanics, staking rumors and the open trading phase add elements of deduction and bluffing while you have to make some hard economic choices to fund your expeditions. I love games where you get to choose from a set of action cards to play, this mechanic is really fun to me. I feel like sometimes the equipment tokens feel disconnected from the theme if you haven't drawn rumor cards that require a specific piece of equipment. However the scoring and mechanical aspects of the equipment are just phenomenal, they can be used as a bidding currency, to pass rumor "tests", sell to gain you more money, and the colours of them match colours on the map, when you complete a rumor and have the matching equipment token you score an additional evidence point.

UFO Hunter has a lot more going on then at first glance and I think the play time is just right, I was pleasantly impressed at how well the mechanics meshed together and even more impressed at how much my gaming group enjoyed UFO Hunter.

Who Would Enjoy UFO Hunter and Why?

Family Gamers: Cool theme, yes you have some firefights with aliens and occasionally problems with the government but just focus on the family friendly parts, like how aliens are cool and UFOs are awesome and its totally not crazy to believe in them...The mechanics are somewhat layered, deception and bluffing are actions controlled by players and as long as you don't fake out your kids into a government ambush I think everyone will have a great time.

Casual Gamers: Lots of player interaction and the turns go around quickly. I think that UFO Hunter brings bidding to a more casual atmosphere because its done quickly, stops players from losing interest bidding on each individual item instead you bid for the pot. UFO Hunter is a game that does great with casuals because it has variable difficulty based on who is playing, if your group is really casual the game will play that way and you can eat pretzels and drink beer on the other hand if your group is casual but sometimes play long deep games, you will really have some fun with UFO Hunter.

Gamer Gamers: Surprisingly, despite its playful appearance I think this is where UFO Hunter fits best. Staking rumors is a very deep mechanic that allows you to trick your opponents into a trap or bluff them into letting you get all the rewards. You then add another layer once you start using the research card, as more and more rumors come out it becomes hard to remember which rumor is which especially while you are paying so much attention to your opponents. Keeping an eye on your opponents' "stuff" is critical because as much as you need to play the game, there are only 2 phases and playing your opponents is much more important. Games like this always offer a lot of replay over games with a rigid set of rules.

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