It has been 8 hours of look at the screen and the methodical beat of the scanner is becoming soothing. As you blinks begin to stay closed longer and longer, you feel the sleep about to overcome you. A loud and quick beeping wakes you; the scanner is an array of colors. After 8 hours of scanning, and 1 of sleeping, you have finally found what you are looking for. This trip has not been a waste and this moon is even richer in materials and resources and original expected. Excited by the news you radio your superiors and send through the coordinates. Within the hour a ship leaves hyperspace with miles of your ship; it takes you a moment but you realise it is the jewel of your fleet in all her glory, the Stellar Leap.
There are actually 2 set ups for Stellar Leap, the player set up and the Galaxy Set up. The player set up is as follows:
- Choose a player board, a set of 4 resource trackers cubes, and a reference card. Take a set of 10 population figures, 12 chits, 5 action tracker cubes, and a Home Planet in your chosen colour.
- Add your population figures to the population track on your board and your action tracker cubes to your action track.
- Start with three of each resource by placing your resource tracker cubes on the 3 column for each of the four resources in the cargo hold.
- Remove the Trait cards and Player Dice Power cards which are not used for the current player count. Shuffle and deal two Trait cards and two Player Dice Power cards to each player. Keep one Trait card and one Player Dice Power and return all unused Dice Power and Trait cards to the box. Reveal your Player Dice Power.
Once each player has set up, you will need to set up the Galaxy:
- Arrange the dice cards with the arrows on the cards in the upper right. Each row of planet and asteroid cards represents a single Solar System. Shuffle and place the Event deck to the left side of the galaxy. Randomly choose a Community Dice Power and place it to the left side of the galaxy.
- The first player places their home planet into the galaxy with one chit and one figure. The figure will come from the 1 spot on your population track and placed into the of your home planet. Planets must always be placed in the solar system closest to the dice cards.
- Separate the three tiers of mission cards. Use all the Tier Three missions and two times the player count of the Tier One and Tier Two missions. Place these decks at the top of the galaxy. Reveal four Tier One mission cards.
- Set the Safe Planet deck and the Dangerous Planet deck next to the galaxy. These cards will be drawn when you perform the Discover action.
Once set up is complete, it is time to start the game. Each players turn consists of 6 steps:
- Recover exhausted population – Move all of your exhausted population from the Exhausted Area to the Planet Habitat. This population can now collect resources, if it is located on a planet that generates resources.
- Roll two dice.
- Apply one dice manipulation power – You may use either your player power or the community power to change the die values.
- Planets now generate resources if they are in the columns matching the die values and the sum of the die values (up to three columns) – Every player with at least one population on the Planet Habitat portion of any planet located in the chosen columns receives the resources noted on the planet card.
Planets containing at least one population from all players (or 3 players in a 4-player game) are considered overpopulated. Overpopulated planets generate less resources as stated on the card’s Overpopulated section. If both die are the same value, planets in that column generate twice as many resources.
- Population movement, activate High Command actions, and/or activate Divisions in any order:
- May activate two High Command Actions per turn.
High Command Populate: Spend 2 Food, 1 water to add a population to a planet that already contains one of your population.
Tax: Gain 2 Resource of Choice
Discover: Draw two cards from planet decks, choose one, and place it in an open space. Place the other on the bottom of its deck. Place one of your chits on the newly discovered planet or asteroid.
Attack: Have the majority on a planet and cause all other populations to scatter. Take a player chit from all attacked players.
- May activate each division once per turn.
Intelligence Division: Spend resources to complete a mission; receive Prestige and rewards.
Mining Division: Using normal movement rules, move any one of your population to an asteroid. Roll the number of dice indicated on the counter die that is on the asteroid. Gain the resources shown plus the highest single value of the dice roll as a bonus. Decrease the value of the die on the asteroid or remove the die if the value is one. The return movement is free and returns the population figure to the planet it came from.
Labour Division: Exhaust a population by moving 1 population to the Exhausted Area to receive immediate resources, as shown on the planet.
- Movement is Unlimited.
Pay Fuel equal to the Threat Level on destination and 1 Fuel for each solar system change and 1 Oxygen for each population.
- Check for missed Event conditions.
Certain galactic milestones trigger galaxy-wide events that affect all players. Immediately draw an Event card and apply its effects if any of the following occur:
- The last planet in a Solar System is discovered.
- All players reach a total of three, six, or nine population.
- After three, six, or nine asteroids have been discovered.
- A tier of missions is completed.
- A Planet deck is depleted
The last round is triggered after the 6th event. Complete the round and continue drawing events if more are triggered. Players end the game after having played an equal amount of turns.
At the end of the game, tally your Prestige from completed Missions cards, Trait cards, and player board achievements. The player with the highest prestige wins! In the event of a tie, tied players share the victory.
Stellar Leap is quite a fitting name for this game from Weird Giraffe Games, as if you compare their first little Tuckerbox card game to this, it is a Stellar Leap forward. I loved Super Hack Override, and have been awaiting their next game patiently. I expected either another card game or possible a light small box game for game number 2, but Carla Kopp has come out with an amazing and exciting 4X game that not only met but beat any expectations I had.
For those that haven’t heard of the term 4X, I have most often found it is more synonymous with the Video Game industry. Wiki explains 4X as:
‘4X is a genre of strategy-based video and board games in which players control an empire and “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”. The term was coined by Alan Emrich in his September 1993 preview of Master of Orion for Computer Gaming World.’
In the past, I have noticed making a 4X game work as a board game can be quite a challenge. As unlike a video game, adding scope, and the amount of layers required to make a great 4X game work, doesn’t always translate to the cardboard & meeples. That being said, Weird Giraffe Games have done exactly that, they have made a great 4X game in cardboard. They have achieved this by using several well know and popular board game formats, from dice rolling to work placement along with resource management. It is this use of layers that brings this 4X game to life as a board game.
I have played and even sent back a few games that try to mix too many formats into their game. The best way I can describe it is, think of it like a dish on a menu. A chef needs to play off all the elements on the plate; they need to understand how to prepare them and what each element adds to the plate and the exact way and amount to use. A chef wouldn’t say I like steak, chips, onion and balsamic and then put equal quantities of each and hope it tastes good. He would know that the steak is the hero of the dish and to build off that, using element to make that steak sing. He would finely slice half an onion; as he knows too much can overpower the steak. The Chef would then reduce the onions in the balsamic vinegar, to bring out the sweetness of the onion and the tartness of the vinegar. He would also know that with a slightly fatter cut of meat it would bring out and compliment the richness of the meat…..
Ok I may have gone a little overboard and now made everyone hungry, but you understand what I mean. It takes a clever and skilled hand to bring all these elements and formats together and make the end product sing. Carla and the team at Weird Giraffe Games have done this to perfection and for such a young game company this finesse is rare. This knowledge and understanding is normally only handled and perfected by a more mature designer. So hats off to them for not just tackling but achieve an amazing game.
Weird Giraffe games could have taken this to a very different place and made up alien races and a whole back story, but instead kept the game more light and family friendly by using everyone’s favourite creatures, Dinosaur of sort. Yeah the pilots of the different ships are Dinosaurs and the art of the different pilots in space suits are amazing. They have gone for a super realistic with the planets and asteroids but then with the player cards, taken a more whimsical feel with the Dinosaur adventurers. And through many might think this is a strange or weird angle to take with the game, it works so well and helps add an element of whimsy and fun to a game with such a beautiful complexity.
I had originally planned to play Stellar Leap with the same guys I played Super Hack Override with, but as non-gamers I though this may be a bit advanced and involved for them to handle. So instead took it to my regular gaming group, and they were blown away by the simple complexity of this game. Stellar Leap offers so much, but the rules are so detailed and leaves so little to question; it makes the intelligence and complexity of this game feel much simpler that what it is.
Overall my playing group and I loved Stellar Leap. The whimsy of the characters and the simple and elegant complexity blended with the perfect balance and harmony of multiple game formats make Stellar Leap a massive hit for me. The best part about this game is the balance; they have used an intelligence that knows exactly how much of each element to just make this game sings.
Stellar Leap hits Kickstarter on the 18ths of September and with a small funding goal of $8.5k, it is sure to fund on day one. So keep an eye out for some exciting stretch goals. Check out there Kickstarter here