6th Dec - The Starfarers of Catan

I couldn't make it this week due to the lurg, got this great write up from Matt:

We were at Richard's on Tuesday for a game of deep space world colonisation and management non-human resources. there were only three of us us Garry was affected by a foul respiratory and Ben was suffering from brain fatigue. Richard had decided to break the shrink wrap on his copy of Starfarers and expose me to the dazzling components as I'd never played before. Steve had and gave me a brief primer in the car, although in typical fashion talked at length about
the mechanics and differences from standard settlers without actually, you know, mentioning that.....


(to those unfamiliar with the game, all five of those exclamation marks are completely warranted. Four would be too few).

The rockets (mother ships) are, singularly, one of the best game components I have ever had the pleasure of playing a board game with. Frankly, even if I was the Escape from Atlantis spinner I would jealous. I would love to have been at the meeting where it was pitched:

Klaus Teuber: "My latest design must _necessarily_ come with 5" plastic rocket ships with clip-on components. The rocket ship must also be hollow and incorporate a decision-making mechanism where balls drop into a viewing window."
Publisher: "....well.... that sounds interesting. Certainly, very interesting....maybe cardboard markers and a chit pull mechanism though...? Players could have their own bags...? Velvet (effect) bags maybe...? That could be classy...."
Klaus Teuber: "I see. Well it's been nice talking to you. I've still got a couple of other publishers to talk to about publishing my new design: Starfarers. OF. CATAN. Thanks for your time, you've been very cordial."
Publisher: "Five inch plastic rockets."
Klaus Teuber: "With clip-on components"
Publisher: "With clip on components"
Klaus Teuber: "Throw in four optional 2" pre-painted miniature alien race markers and we have a deal"

Anyway. We ripped of the cellophane and set the game up as instructed whilst Steve read through the rules and called out salient bits. Richard was red, I was green, Steve blue and yellow was the dummy fourth player. It came to my attention that fuel was going to be a problem- I couldn't produce any. Still, the first planet dead ahead was a gas giant brimming with the stuff so it seemed like a plan to head that way. Richard gets some early booster rockets and sets off to investigate another planet in that cluster, but doesn't really like what he finds there. Equally, Steve bypasses his first cluster and heads to next. Working on the principle that any fuel is good fuel, I care not that the site doesn't meet Richard's approval and rocket up to the fuel brimmed gas giant-

-it's an ice planet.

Oh, this isn't a good turn of events at all. I change course and head to the mid-board cluster. Those planets produced on a 10 and a 3. Any chance of any resources was good by this point My next plan was to cobble together another colony ship and head for the abandoned cluster that Steve had passed by. However bad it was, it was still a chance at fuel. Still strapped of fuel, many colonists died of old age on that founding flight. Unfortunately the stingy wallet-clenched inhabitants of that cluster only gave their fuel and ore on a 2 and 3 respectively. Fantastic. I reticently founded New Scotland and hoped I'd get a couple of resources by game's end, whilst bitterly trading for fuel at increasingly favourable rates.

Meanwhile Richard was running away with it: having been gifted a free trade ship by a passing merchant he then investigated a worm hole that got him to the other end of the board and opening trade negotiations with the Scientists for alien booster rocket technology. Pretty soon Richard was open colonies like burger joints all over the galaxy. Nowhere producing anything was safe from his galactic reach. Steve, on the other hand, had arrived at the decision that cannons were the future. He had several before setting up a trade relationship with The Green Folk (no relation) to produce more carbon to feed his ordinance addiction. Having got all these guns, you'd have thought that he'd big the most most pirate-feared trader in the galaxy. Not so. In fact, after agonising with himself he let pirates run off with his resources or in one spectacular case gave them away willingly. Richard was equally falling foul of piracy in that he appeared to have his name on the wrong kind of mailing list. Word had had got around in the pirate community that if you dressed up as a merchant Richard would give you resources in exchange for only the fumes from your rocket boosters as you legged it with the goods. Other than mortally offending a passing traveller, I got off rather lightly.

Back with me and my clockwork rocket ships: I sent a trade ship into deep space on a mission to forge links with the diplomats at the far edge of the galaxy that, perversely, promised a chance at obtaining a catch up mechanism. The children of those I sent did well and I found myself with two victory points. I had been buying whatever I had the resources for when I had the chance (with the exception of cannons), and so I suddenly found myself with as many victory points as Steve and only one behind Richard. I was a little shocked by this having been languishing in last place since the start. I had initially planned on stealing cards from the other players as I was behind, but had a last-minute crisis of new-found confidence that winning was perhaps not out of the question. I decided to take the Galactic Relief Fund as I was not producing on a 4, 5, 11 or 12 and they seemed to have been rolled a bit so far.

Ahh, probability: you fickle mistress.

Having taken it, obviously my luck started to change dramatically with 3 re-asserting itself as the magic number. On the down side, no relief fund, on the other hand I was suddenly coining it in. I invested heavily in freight rings and hatched a daring scheme to win the game:

1. Crush the ice planet.
2. Establish a colony and space station there.
3. Fill up the trade slots at the merchants.
4. Win.

Operation SlushPuppy swung into effect immediately: I got a colony ship out to the ice planet with a trade ship going the other way round the cluster to get a food trade agreement set up. The ice planet was thawed and found to produce fuel on a 4, which with the carbon world next to it producing on a 5 made my decision to take the relief fund even more useless than it first appeared. Poised to set up a second and pivotal trade post with the merchants Richard rolled outstandingly well. So well in fact that he didn't need to use his second free trade ship that he'd recently acquired, instead he built and piloted a trade ship into the third merchant trade slot with the freight ring he's also bought this turn.

In a parallel universe there's a Matt Green that got the second trader into the third merchant slot then epically won on Steve's turn when he encountered two Wear and Tear/Galactic Trade Federation cards in a row and got a winning VP with two fame rings for have the most freight rings on his mother ship. He's probably still celebrating now.

Alas, I in this universe now that Richard had dumped all his copious hand in building stuff we rolled four 7's in six rolls and I didn't have a ship to move. I was one trade good short of a trade ship but didn't increase the number of cards in my hand over two turns. The fickle finger of fate wasn't finished with Richard's yet though, and gave him one last poke: Steve had cleared out a pirate base ready for colonisation and an epic three-vp-in-one-turn win on his next turn (7's permitting). Knowing it was now clear, Richard launched a colony ship and jetted off at top speed. Along the way he traded his last trade good to a Traveller who gave him the fame ring he need for the win. It was smoothly done in the nick of time- any of us could have won one the last round had the rolls turned out even slightly differently.

Final scores:

Richard: 15, Matt: 13, Steve: 12

What a great game.

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