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The Artemis Project Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look: The Artemis Project


Designer: Daryl Chow, Daniel Rocchi
Artist: Josh Cappel, Dominik Mayer
Publisher: Grand Gamers Guild
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 60-75 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of The Artemis Project. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



Review:

tl;dr: Explore and plunder the arctic with light engine-building elements, dice rolling mitigated by a great new mechanic, and some pretty cutthroat action priority.

Getting to the Game: Setup is a little bit fiddly--there are lots of pieces that get scattered around outside the board, but my preview copy has an adequate amount of plastic baggies so that everything can have its own container. Each player takes a player board and their matching-colored dice along with three each of energy cubes and material tokens. The edge of the board has sequential letters which help resolve the end of each round--place the respective pieces and cards near their stations.



There's some very light engine building needed to excel here, but mostly you're playing a long game of navigating strict resource limitations between your fellow explorers. There are times you're all going to be working together to successfully complete an expedition, or avoid disaster from the round's event card. Victory points mainly come from your colonists and the buildings they work in. Every round there are new buildings that pop up in the gantry available to bid on, and new colonists arrive at the doorstep, ready to be a part of your bright future.

Playing the Game: There are seven action locations on the board, and each one nets you a benefit by placing one of your five dice there. Each player will place one die at a time on the location they want, the value of the die dictating what they get. Normally I'm not a fan of this mechanic, as it relies too heavily on dice rolling or overpowers the token that allows you to manipulate your results. That token still exists, but Chow and Rocchi have come up with a phenomenal solution in the Exposure mechanic. Let's take the example of the vents. In each of the game's six rounds, you will roll black dice equal to the number of players in the game, and place that much total energy on the vents space on the board. After all of the players' dice have been placed, they will gain energy based on the value of the dice played here. So far, pretty standard stuff. The exposure mechanic rules state that when you place a die on these spaces, the dice will always be placed in ascending order. In the photo, there are ten energy available this round. The red player assigned their 5-value die as their first action, hoping to secure half the available energy. The blue player then assigned their 4-value die to the vents, but they get to put that die in front of the red die, because its value is lower. Now both players are still going to get the value of their dice in energy during resolution...until the green player places their 3-value die in front of both of the existing dice. Green will now get three energy, blue will get four, and red will only get the remaining three, not the five they were hoping for. This method of valuing lower dice above higher ones helps to mitigate bad rolls and adds a fantastic sense of strategy to these proceedings. I'm a huge fan.



With only 5 dice per player, and slowly-collapsing options every lap, where to put the dice you have quickly becomes an exercise in risk management. Exposure will mean that some dice you place will get you nothing, but even in those cases, there's a relief track which gives you an ever-better consolation prize. If you want colonists for your buildings that you're planning to buy, you need energy to keep them warm, but also those buildings cost materials to build. Some buildings will set you up with energy and materials, but only do so at the end of the round, too late to use them until next turn. Artemis creates, using very simple tools, a sandbox of ever-narrowing good options leading to an appropriately feast-or-freeze atmosphere. There's even more compelling choices to be had game-to-game, I can't possibly describe them all. It's so good, I want to play it again immediately after it ends.



It's not all ice cream and sprinkles, though. There are complaints to be had here, but most are with the physical components of the game: The purple colonist cubes aren't nearly different enough in color from the brown. The individual player boards don't have any identifying colors on them, so when all your dice are out on the board, you might forget what color you are. There's very little player interaction, per se; you're mostly just getting in each other's way. That's sort of the same thing, but might turn some people off. The overall art is uneven. There's some phenomenal stuff happening on some of the cards, but there's some dreary and blah elsewhere.

I want to make sure I'm clear, though: most of this stuff I expect to get cleaned up before publication. The asset issues I'm sure are just due to getting review copies out the door and aren't going to be indicative of the final product. There's an option for metal badges in the Kickstarter--a sign that someone is paying a lot of attention to aesthetic. Still, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't at least give it lip service.

Artwork and Components: As mentioned above, Mayer's artwork tends to vary wildly. The art across the event cards is so good, with phenomenal lighting and color. The expedition cards are mostly good, with some that are just muddy and blah. The player boards are incredibly boring, and the game board is too busy. I see what they're going for, but with 7 different action spaces I already need to pay attention to, the background art becomes visually overwhelming.

  

The components, I expect, are just placeholder, so I'm not going to belabor that point again. I have very few reservations about this game and the feel of it on the table, and the problem with Kickstarter previews is just this--components for some people can be the difference between a good game and a great one. I think Artemis has the potential to be a great game. Everything about the KS campaign so far confirms this for me (I'm looking at you, Snowcat marker). I'm having some faith.

The Good: Gameplay is tense without being overly analytic, engine building is clear. The art is overall very good, with few exceptions. Plays quickly and even bad rolls have good outcomes.

The Bad: Game board is a little busy, visually. Player boards need to be differentiated between each other. Placeholder components are just that.

Score: I'm super high on this game, and even if the placeholder assets were final, while it would be disappointing, I'd probably still back it on gameplay alone. With time to spare, the acknowledgement that these components and art aren't final, and the very welcome addition of a fifth player, there's very little to be concerned with here. I'm giving The Artemis Project a score of Very Cool.



Check out The Artemis Project on:

                    

About the Author:


Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
The Artemis Project Kickstarter Preview The Artemis Project Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on September 24, 2018 Rating: 5

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