You play as an alien from one of many difference alien races, with the goal of colonizing planets and controlling the galaxy.
The mechanics of the game are simple but the variety of characters gives it depth. Each game is unique and relies on cooperation with other players.
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Pro Every game is unique
The basic rules of the game are background noise. The alien powers, both individually and as they interact with each other, determine the dynamic of each game you play, and each dynamic is radically different. It's almost like a genre of games in and of itself.
Pro The social component of the game requires you to strategize with other players
It's almost impossible to win on your own. When attacking or defending, you will get the chance to ask for allies on your turn, or assist others when they are engaged. Allies can help you win the attack or defense, but they will also gain benefits if successful. It is a team-based game, although each player is out for themselves in the end.
One of the neatest parts of the game are the negotiate cards - instead of laying down an attack card you can try to negotiate. If you both play negotiate cards, you have 1 minute to come to an agreement which can include creating new colonies, trading cards, or virtually anything. If the player don't come to agreeable terms within a minute, they both suffer a hefty penalty (4 of their ships are sent to the warp).
Pro Fun illustrations
Illustrations on Alien Power cards are beautifully rendered and imaginative.
Pro You have some influence over the theme of each game
At the beginning of each game, players are given 3-4 alien powers to choose from, usually taken at random. The set of available powers given to all the players can be pre-determined to generate interesting games that have specific themes to them or heavily revolve around a particular strategy or resource.
Pro This is an exercise in social dynamics as much as a board game
Pro Excellent expansions
The expansions offer new alien races with new powers, and they are all very fun.
Pro Potential for very satisfying, creative plays
With so many unique combinations of alien powers, skillful tacticians and rule lawyers will find all kinds of extremely clever or amusing plays to be possible if they think deeply enough.
Pro Not as complicated as it might sound
After you play one or two games, the basic mechanics are trivial to work with. Additionally, you only have to worry about learning as many alien powers as you have players in the game, so your personal knowledge and experience with the powers can grow slowly over time. Most alien powers take a minute or two to really understand, then the fun begins of finding creative or unique ways to develop strategies around them.
Con Some alien powers are difficult to parse
Some of the cards have walls of text that look intimidating at first, and may take a slow read and group discussion to really figure out. Thankfully, the alien powers are divided into three sets based on "difficulty" which translates roughly to "difficulty to understand, and how much it disrupts basic gameplay." Green (easy) cards are usually simple enough that a child of 12 or so can understand them.