Thursday, 1 May 2008

Starcraft

On Fri 25 Apr 2008 Han and I also played Starcraft: the boardgame (as if with that box size it could be mistaken to be a PC game - it's huge!). The rules are available online so I downloaded and read them beforehand. It didn't seem too complex.

The first thing I thought of when the box was opened was "no wonder they needed that big a box". There are a lot of game pieces. The units in the game are very nice. There is a lot of variety. Starcraft is a multiplayer conflict game where you start with small forces, then you build up your army - developing technology, constructing buildings and modules, building new units, and then go around beating up your opponents (mostly). You need to compete for resources (crystals and gas), because these are needed for building up your army. There are three different races in the game, and there are two factions for each race, and all 6 of them have different characteristics. The Zergs breed fast and are low tech but they can swarm you. The Protoss are high tech folks which tend to be more defensive. The Terrans are humans, and that's all that I know since we didn't play the Terrans.

The objective of the game is to be the first to reach 15 conquest points, which are earned by controlling areas worth conquest points. If time runs out (there is a timer mechanism), the winner is the one with the most conquest points. Each faction has a different special victory condition too which its opponents need to be wary of. And lastly, of course you win if you kill off everyone else.

In our game, I played the Zergs (because they are green and green is my colour) and Han the Protoss. I started off already with an aggressive strategy in mind, since this seemed to be most suitable for the Zergs. I quickly land-grabbed and built units to go on the offensive. However I later realised that the Zerg units sucked. OK, maybe I should say I didn't use them well. A good leader should not put the blame on his/her subordinates. Anyway, my insects (that's what they looked like to me) got killed easily, and rarely caused much damage. The Protoss seemed to be quite robust. Soon the tide turned and Han started coming after me with a vengence. The Zergs were losing on multiple fronts. The only hope was to try to reach 15 conquest points before getting completely wiped out, or before the Protoss achieved its special victory condition of controlling more areas that any other faction. Thankfully I started with my base on a 2 conquest point area, and I conquered one of Han's 1 conquest point area earlier. That helped me to race ahead on the conquest point track. So it was a race against time for me.

Han attacked my home base, and defeated my army. Oops. 2 conquest point area lost. In my last ditch attempt I attacked his home base, which only had one defender because the other units had come over to my planet to kick me out. I could only mobilise a Zergling (the most basic grunt) and a Queen (which is just a supporting unit, nothing like the queen in chess). My Zergling was killed, and it didn't even scratch the Protoss what's-his-name-again unit. However, lucky lucky me had a nasty card up my sleeve (combat is resolved by card play; no dice), which allowed my Queen to kill the Protoss unit. I captured one more conquest point, and that allowed me to win, at exactly 15 conquest points. Else by the next round I would definitely have lost. It would have been the start of the 3rd Stage (when special victory conditions become applicable), and Han would have won via his special victory condition.

The personal player mat for the Zergs. This keeps track of how many workers (a.k.a. resource collectors) you have, in the top right corner, the buildings (the trapezoids) and modules (the 3 squares near the lower left) that you have built, and also reminds you of your special victory condition (the text on top). There are 3 types of buildings, and each can be upgraded up to twice. You start the game with one building already built.

The yellow Protoss units are so cool. They look very high-tech, and they are. But they are more expensive to build. My blurred green Zerg unit in the foreground is cowling in fear. The square yellow piece is a Protoss base. The hexagonal pieces are order tokens. You can place four order tokens every round. They are placed on planets, and allow you to move troops to / on this planet, build units and/or buildings, and research technology.

Three Zerg units. The ones on the transparent stands are flying units. Actually I made a big mistake. I wasn't supposed to be able to build these units yet. I made a mistake with my building. I couldn't tell the units apart very well.

Han choosing his combat cards for a battle.

Our universe was a long boring one. The two planets are both ends are actually adjacent, represented by the yellow cresents (unfortunately both are half obscured in this photo).

Another close-up of the units, which I find are very nice. The Protoss had taken over the Zerg home base. The remaining Zergling couldn't do anything except scowl at them.

After playing Starcraft, I found it to be rather so-so. There is definitely a lot of theme, but I found it rather tedious. The card based combat system seemed straight-forward enough when I read the rules, but during the game I found it to be rather tedious. So much text to read on the cards, and so many different unit types, flying vs ground units, etc to think about. Maybe if I get familiar with it it'll be easier, or if I'm very familiar with the Starcraft world it will be easier. From my first play, I thought it was a little tedious. From the rules, it seemed there were some original and interesting ideas, like attacker can bring more units than defender thus encouraging aggressive play, but after playing it, the game seemed to be nothing very special. So, probably this is a game best for people who are already fans of the Starcraft universe.

2 comments:

Aik Yong said...

i find the theme does indeed drives the game. but what i'm particularly impressed by is the LIFO (Last In First Out) mechanics in the orders placement. It adds uncertainty to a game which has a low luck factor due to the card-based combat.

It's probably as tedious as a wargame due to the number of rules and options available unlike a streamlined euro.

however i like it very much as compared to twilight imperium III, which has diplomacy and trading to distract the players from the true business of getting medieval on each other.

Race for the Galaxy caught on well with lots of people... it's sold out in malaysia already.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

The LIFO order placement is indeed an interesting mechanism, which forces you to think a bit and plan ahead a bit, and also allows you to do things like placing your order token on top of your enemy's and thus delaying his/her action.

However I didn't quite enjoy the overall game and feel that on the whole there is nothing that really attracts me (other than the wonderful units). Not that I mind a bit more rules than Euros, e.g. I enjoyed Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage and Hammer of the Scots, which are both more complex than Starcraft.

I wouldn't say luck factor is low in Starcraft's combat system though. It probably is lower than using a simple dice based system, but I think there is still a fair amount of luck. My victory was due to being lucky enough to have just the right combat card for my Queen unit that participated in that last crucial battle.

I haven't played Twilight Imperium III. I do remember trying to read the rules but I don't think I finished reading it. :-D