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Blueshift Kickstarter Preview

From the surface of Rhone Ishitar, Nagleen looks into the dark sky, lights as bright as fireworks creating an impressive show high overhead. Unfortunately, those lights aren’t fireworks. Nagleen knows what’s taking place above her planet, and her heart yearns to be there; instead, a recent injury kept her away from tonight’s battle. But if there’s one place she belongs, it’s in a fighter. Her very being demands to be in space, and she longs to be up there fending off whoever those invaders are.

The light show didn’t last long, perhaps only fifteen standard minutes. So that’s that, Nagleen thinks. But who won? Did her fleet come away victorious? Or are all of her friends and everyone she holds dear to her heart now floating through the stars as space dust? The answer to those questions came in a bright, lingering flash as dozens of thick columns of plasma bolts blazed through the atmosphere, lighting up the night around her. As the orbital bombardment descended upon her position, Nagleen knew for certain who emerged the victor of the battle high above her home planet of Rhone Ishitar.

Heads Up: This is a preview for Blueshift. As such, rules, cards, and components are subject to change before final release.

Fast Facts:
Designer: Adam Stevens
Artist: Kyle Merriman
Developer: Ben Stenquist
Players: 2-6
Age: 13+
Playtime: 90+ minutes (about 45 minutes per player)

Blueshift is a turn-based strategy game in which players explore the vastness of space, conquer and colonize worlds, establish trade routes, take over space stations, and engage in ship-to-ship combat and orbital bombardments in order to achieve the winning condition of 16 victory points. Once a player reaches 16 victory points—and manages to retain them until the start of his next turn—that player wins!

Victory points come from three sources:

3 victory points for each planet a player controls
1 victory point for each space station a player controls
1 victory point for each planet with whom a player has a trade alliance. (Note: Trade alliances on space stations do not award victory points.)

First, choose a scenario from the rulebook (i.e. pre-built sector layouts; see image below for a visual representation) to determine your play area. Once a scenario is selected, set up the play area by mixing up the unknown planet and non-planet sector tiles, then arranging those tiles facedown to recreate the chosen scenario.

Next, choose a species to control. Each species has various special abilities that will help you throughout the game. Once each player has selected their species, players choose a blank space and place their species’ base planet on the board.

Each player begins with 5 action cards, a destroyer, and a scout on their base planet, as well as 10 credits (which players will use to spend for new ships, buildings, and the like).

This is what a 2-player game looks like once everything is set up. Note how only the base planets are face up to begin with.

Each turn in Blueshift is played over a series of 7 phases.

Phase I: Play an Action Card
During this phase, the active player must play an action card, read what it says, and follow the directions thereon. After a card is played, draw a new one in order to maintain a hand of 5 action cards.

I like the looks of that "Improved Turrets" card!

Phase II: Collect Tribute and Check for Rebellions
Basically, get paid and hope your people don’t fight back. Tribute is collected from planets and space stations that the active player controls, as well as from that player’s trade alliances. Planets and space stations give out money equal to their population and prosperity. Trade alliances only give money equal to that planet or space station’s prosperity. If an opposing player blockades a planet or space station, then the player who controls that sector receives no income during this phase. (Truth be told, it’s always satisfying to blockade a planet that’s paying out 10+ credits each turn.)

If, after collecting tribute, that player’s planet or space station has zero prosperity, they attempt a rebellion. A successful rebellion returns the planet to neutral status, meaning no one controls it.

Gaining income from Serenelus would pay out 4 credits (4 Population + 0 Prosperity = 4 credits). Unfortunately, with 0 Prosperity comes an attempted rebellion... Time to roll the die and hope I remain in control of this planet!

Phase III: Moving the Fleet
In this phase, players move their ships from sector to sector, flipping over unexplored sector tiles as they reach them. Sometimes you’ll uncover space stations, and other times you’ll gasp in horror as you realize you’ve moved into a sector controlled by space pirates! No matter what you uncover, however, exploring is just as addicting as racking up all kinds of money (I’ll often go exploring rather than trying to conquer a planet, just to sate my curiosity).

If a newly revealed planet is uncolonized (i.e. zero population), then you may move a colony ship to that sector and immediately take control of it. Since those are fairly easy to take control of, you may have to act fast before an opponent colonizes it first!

Now, do I risk moving closer to the nearby enemy destroyer and see what secrets that tile of unexplored space has to offer? Or do I play it safe and--Nah, explore FTW!

Phase IV: Space Combat
Space combat is one of the aspects of Blueshift that gets me jittery with anticipation—or dread—every time. If any player moves one or more ships into a region already occupied by another player’s ship(s), then a space battle commences (after all the ships of the active player have moved). Players may choose to flee the battle, which can save their fleet from devastation.

Players take turns rolling dice for each of their ships. Whenever a dice roll matches or exceeds that ship’s power rating, a hit is scored. Ships have a certain amount of HP (hit points) before they go out in a blaze of glory (i.e. blow up and die). After the attacking player attacks, it’s the defender’s turn, then back to the attacker, and so on and so forth until only one player has ships left remaining in that sector due to complete destruction or one player turning tail and escaping.

Party time at Rhone Ishitar! The enemy's two puny interceptors, a colony ship, and a lone destroyer are no match for my 2 destroyers! (Spoilers: They were, in fact, quite the match for my ships and the damage was severe, although the damage done to my ego was far worse...)

Phase V: Land Combat
Land combat takes place when your ship orbits a planet or space station that you do not control. There are two types of land combat: bombard and invade. Bombarding requires a battleship or destroyer and, after rolling dice, can potentially lower a planet’s defense, which is what keeps invading forces at bay.

Once a planet’s defense is sufficiently low, the active player may roll a die for each destroyer, battleship, or infantry-loaded colony ship. If the die result is equal to or greater than the planet’s defense rating, that planet becomes under the control of the invading player (and adds another 3 points to that player's total).

Phase VI: Purchases and Repairs
Now is the time to buy new ships, infantry, or buildings such as spaceports, orbital turrets, and power links (which help that player’s ships move farther during the movement phase). One of the neat aspects of this game is that players may not purchase more ships than their species has allotted them. That means no matter how rich a player gets, he may only buy one battleship. Likewise, destroyers, scouts, colony ships, and all other units are also limited.

Of course, space battles are going to take its toll on your ships. Ships with more than 1 HP may become damaged, and therefore easier to destroy during any follow-up attacks. Players may spend 3 credits to repair one damage, bringing them back to fighting shape.

Do I save for a Battleship, or build a few smaller ships? Decisions, decisions...

Phase VII: End of Turn Events
Basically, update your victory point count on the point chart if you haven’t done so already.

This is what a 2-player game looks like when I win with 20 points (booyah!). The destruction during the previous turn was incredible, might I add.

While first appearances may make Blueshift sound like a complicated game, it’s actually quite streamlined and straightforward once you’ve played a handful of rounds. One might think set up would take a long time with a game of this depth, but setup time is actually pretty short. There is a lot going on during the game, so it will take some getting used to, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly I came to understand the ins and outs of the game.

Now, let’s get to my deep dark secrets about Blueshift. Do I like it? Is it worth it? Do I get a certain satisfaction whenever I destroy my opponent’s entire fleet? (That last answer is an overwhelming YOU BETCHA.)

What I Liked
First: theme. I love a good theme, and this, folks, is a good theme. You’re not just exploring new worlds in this game; you’re exploring and conquering! This game has everything you love about sci-fi epics—deep space travel, ship-to-ship combat, terrorizing and conquering worlds, visiting space stations, and amassing the largest fleet in the galaxy to impose your might and will on all those who stand in your way. Blueshift is an engaging epic that keeps me thinking about it long after I’m done playing.

Now, let’s talk about exploring, shall we? As I mentioned during the Phase III portion of this review, I really like exploring. As in, I’ll explore much farther away than I should really be venturing, just to find out what’s there. I have been surprised by space pirates (which destroyed my poor scout ship), and even came across an unstable star that also threatened to destroy my very existence. There are space stations, asteroid fields, and various other things hiding in the depths of space. Uncovering those unknown wonders is one of the things I love about this game.

The scenarios in the rulebook make setup quick and easy. However, the beauty of this game is that you can completely ignore the pre-built scenarios and place the tiles however you want, making for new and exciting games with each setup. While I do find the scenarios to be fun and enjoyable, there comes a time when building your own board will be one of the highlights of the day.

I can’t end this review without mentioning my love for space battles. Whether it’s one-on-one or six-on-one, ship-to-ship combat is an excellent addition to Blueshift’s gameplay. Ship-to-ship combat seems like a pretty balanced and effective mechanic, and the battles are rather enjoyable. So much, in fact, that I get a rush every time one takes place. I also like how even if it’s one ship versus an entire fleet, there’s still a chance that one ship can do massive damage before it burns into bits. In one game, my opponent’s lone scout took out one of my destroyers before I could do away with the pesky thing. That puny scout also damaged another destroyer before it was finally silenced for good. That right there shows that even if a player is outnumbered and outgunned, there’s still a chance. The odds of that chance happening is still fairly small, but it’s hope that keeps us up and fighting when the going gets tough, right? Right. One more thing about space battles: Since the attacker attacks first, you may think that the opponent is out of luck if a deadly result is rolled. Not so! Well, they’re still out of luck in the fact that their ship is destroyed, but a defending ship gets to counter attack before their ship is officially destroyed, making it possible for exactly zero ships to remain in the sector where the combat took place (that’s happened to me a couple of times).

What I Didn’t Like
As I left off with space battles on the previous section, I figure I might as well start with it here. First, a disclaimer: I do like space-to-space combat a lot. That being said, I do wish there were more ways to mitigate the luck that comes with rolling dice. There is a lot of luck involved, but the ships are constructed in such a way that the more powerful ones (battleships and destroyers) have a greater chance of rolling a hit. It kind of balances the luck factor in this way, but there’s still a part of me that wants a bit more control as to the outcome of a battle.

While I do enjoy the gameplay of Blueshift, I found that games can go on a bit too long. Still, I enjoyed each experience to the bitter end, but a few of our games took 3 hours to play with just two people. After two hours of one play through, I was one turn away from winning when one of my planets got taken over (curses!), and it was another hour after that before I finally won. Perhaps this lengthy playtime had to do with poor strategies or us being unfamiliar with the game, and most games take longer to play their first time through due to the learning curve, so that, to me, is acceptable. However, subsequent games still took quite some time. All that being said, this would not keep me from playing Blueshift multiple times over. I would, however, need to make sure I had enough time allotted before beginning a game. I was also unaware of the average game length going into it, so I might have had some different expectations which made it seem longer than it was. All in all, the games didn't necessarily feel like three hours, and that tells me a lot about the game's design (hint: it's a good thing).

Final Verdict:
Yes, Blueshift is the real deal. It covers everything any space saga would want from space battles to trade agreements. The game feels streamlined and flows well. The space battles are exciting, exploring is all kinds of addicting, and the subtle nuances of the game make it one I’ll be playing for a long time hereafter.

Overall, I give Blueshift an 8.5/10.

Check out Blueshift on:


Now on Kickstarter!

About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He’s a copywriter, social media manager, freelance blogger, and SFF author. When he’s not writing, Benjamin loves to lose himself in the wonderful world of tabletop games, especially those with a rich, engaging theme. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Blueshift Kickstarter Preview Blueshift Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on June 01, 2017 Rating: 5

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