Alien Frontiers was put up on KickStarter back in 2010, and I had no idea the game even existed. Now it’s one of my favorite games to play. It has wonderful graphics, a great balance of luck and strategy, and keeps me coming back for more. I haven’t gotten to play it nearly as often as I’d like, but I feel that everyone should be aware of how good this game really is.
At its heart, Alien Frontiers is a game in which you roll dice and place them on the board in specific areas to perform actions or gather resources. Using these actions and resources, players try to achieve the ultimate goal of placing all of their colonies onto the planet. Before the game ends, however, different areas of the planet grant special powers and are also worth points.
On each turn, a player gathers their dice, rolls them, and places them into different sections of the board. When the next player goes, the other players’ actions may inhibit or block certain actions. For example, only one player can use the Terraforming Station at a time, and since the dice are not removed until the players next turn, no other player can use this area until it is cleared out.
Some sections allow the player to gain one of the two resources, fuel and ore. You can place a die on the Lunar Mine for one ore per die, but you can only place dice there if the number showing is equal to or greater than all of the other dice there. If one player has put a 5 down, all dice until that player’s next turn must be a 5 or higher.
Fuel can be gained from the Solar Converter. A 1 or 2 gives the player one fuel, a 3 or 4 gives two fuel, and a 5 or 6 gives three fuel. There are no restrictions on the dice placed in the Solar Converter, and fuel is usually more prevalent in the game than ore is.
Another area, the Orbital Market, allows you to trade a number of fuel for ore. In order to place dice here and convert fuel to ore, the player must use two dice and they must match. The number of fuel the player must trade in for one ore is based on that number. If you roll a pair of 1′s, you can trade one fuel for one ore for each fuel you have. If you place two 6′s there, you can trade six fuel for one ore. Sometimes this is the best way to gain the precious resource.
Fuel and ore can be used to build more spaceships at the Shipyard, represented in the game by dice. With more dice, a player can do more on each turn, but the costs to gain these dice can get expensive. The first die gained is at a cost of one fuel and one ore, but the third die gained costs the player three fuel and three ore. Producing a ship at the Shipyard also requires two matching dice, which can be difficult to come by with only three initial dice.
Alien Tech cards can be gained in the Alien Artifact area of the board by placing dice that total 8 or more. The cards gained here allow players to manipulate their die rolls, gain victory points, or place a field generators on the planet which have different effects.
Having only explained half of the areas on the game board, you can see this is not a simple game, at least at first glance. At the same time, once the dice have been rolled, each player’s turn goes fairly quickly based on the values of the dice and the available spots on the board. There is a luck element with the dice, but players can use dice in many ways, allowing them to play a strategy of their choice.
I enjoy this game for the quick player turns, the subtle interactions between players, and the sense of accomplishment felt while playing the game. The game starts slow for all players, but escalates quickly. This pace change is welcome as it allows players to make mistakes in the beginning of the game without it being too much of a penalty, but rewards smart decisions later in the game. The game ends when one player has landed all of their colonies. The first game played, each player only has 6 colonies to allow for a faster game. In later games, if all players agree, each player will receive 8 colony tokens. While a small change, it becomes a much more competitive game with more colonies.
Overall, one of my favorite games in my collection. It plays from two to four players, and works well with any of those numbers. If you’re looking to try this great game before purchasing the full board game, there’s a Kickstarter to help fund the iPad app that is in the works. Check out the Kickstarter by clicking on the ad below. They have 5 days left and you can get some really nice Alien Frontiers items.