Game Time: 2 hours
Hello my lovely Geeks and Geekettes! I hope you’re all well and wonderful. You might be wondering why we’ve posted yet another game review this week?
Dakota Ridge Games contacted us to conduct a review of their prototype game Crew of Eridanus by Steadman Watson which launched on Kickstarter in March. As soon as I found out about it, I leapt to the challenge as I had already backed the game. So what’s it all about?
The Edmar Gate in the Twin Star system has been destroyed by an unknown entity. This gate is your main control of traffic in and out of your star system. With the big supply chains gone, the stations are now stuck fending mostly for themselves and trading between themselves to keep things afloat. But no big supply ships means a reduction in protective forces too and pirates have started to take over. Your mission is to keep the pirates in check and keep an investigative eye open for the mysterious entity which destroyed the Gate.
The game is played in three phases:
Pirate phase - this is where the system is overrun with pirates. Your first and foremost task is to destroy as many of these ships as possible, ignore them at your peril!
Normal phase - a relatively short phase of peace in the system, there may be pirates, but their numbers are far less and much more controllable. This is the calm before the storm. . .
End phase - the Entity that destroyed the Gate reveals itself! It is now a race to either destroy the Entity or cripple it, Independence Day style, with a computer virus.
Every player starts with a ship, a captain and a cadet. More crew can be picked up at the various space stations around the system, but more crew means more wages, and you have to keep them paid somehow. As well as tackling the pirate threat you can take shipping jobs to move cargo, or take on passengers, this will earn you money to pay wages or buy parts for your ship.
Each round players can: move around the board, draw event cards (with varying bonuses or consequences), visit stations to pick up jobs and extra crew or attack pirate ships. Pirates that do not engage in combat each round will actively move towards the closest player marker. There are even salvage operations in the area from broken ships that can yield additional parts and funds. There is no shortage on things that you can do.
Moving around the board comes with its own hazards, if you’re not looking to do combat with pirate ships right now then they need to be avoided, there are also asteroids to contend with. Moving through asteroid belts is dangerous and tricky, as there is always the risk of collision. You can negate this by moving at half speed (moving half your allocated movement allowance), or you can roll dice and add the crew’s navigation score to see if you can avoid the asteroids. If you get hit, then your ship can take some pretty hefty damage. There are also solar flares that can damage your vessel. And of course pirate ships can, and do, interrupt your turn to attack if you fly too close to them.
Ships under attack can either blow each other up, or can try a boarding raid. But be careful, pirates are hard to take over and you could risk losing hard earned money if you lose, not to mention your crew morale will suffer from the defeat. The spoils however can be great. Pirates are known for their treasures, some pirate ships carry supplies, some special pirate ships can actually hold a discovery that could help in winning the game.
As time passes, the Entity draws ever closer, being revealed at a time selected by the players. For a short game, the Entity can arrive after 12 rounds, a normal game would be 16 rounds, and a long game would be 20 rounds.
When the Entity appears, it’s now in the end game, regardless of whether you tackled those pirates or not. Players will need to consolidate their actions to defeat the Entity before it takes out one of the Space Stations. There are several ways to do this:
Boarding raid - here you board the Entity Ship and upload the computer virus, which (hopefully) one of your team have picked up during the course of the game.
Outright destruction - Exactly as it appears, you get into an all out war with the Mother Ship.
Remote uplink - this can be done from a secret base that is revealed throughout the course of the game (salvage and mining style operations help to uncover this, so it‘s a great idea to try all the different action types in the game).
Mystery win scenario - possibly one of my favourite parts of the game is that you can read the fabulous backstory to the game. In the story, it hints at a fourth way to win, no spoilers here, so I recommend you check out their story.
If the ship reaches the nearest Space Station, it’s game over.
There's so so much to do in this game!
If you’re not much of a fighter you can focus on salvage (trying to find that secret base) and cargo runs, or you can try your hand at playing the Law Master and shooting out every pirate that crosses your path. You can engage in mining operations, visit the various Station Masters for trade. The game really brought out the life of the system. It isn’t simply a war game, there are multiple tactics to winning and playing. There is also a lot of replayability in this game!
At present, the base game prototype comes with tokens to depict the various ships and tokens needed for the game, but there are options on the Kickstarter to get the 3D miniatures too, which I will stay add very much to the gameplay.
The artwork is fantastic. I was really pleased to see a good representation of female leads for the artwork. There is a good selection of character profiles and overall the artwork was very balanced, making the game seem very much like you were humans against the Entity, rather than the whitewash of earlier space games.
The game is obviously in prototype at present for the Kickstarter campaign, so there are a few things I would alter:
Firstly, the colour choices for the game pieces were a little hard to pick up. The tokens are a tan colour and this made the yellow, orange and red ships difficult to pick out and differentiate between the colours. The dark blue and black ships were at risk of being mixed up too. I’d recommend switching out the orange for a purple or pink colour and the dark blue for a green, this would remove some of the difficulties with the pieces.
The Mothership token to represent the Entity was very underwhelming in the prototype, whilst the miniature for this looks amazing in the campaign video I would recommend they take a closer look at updating the token for those backing the base game.
In gameplay for combat, players can work together in a process called “stacking” to create formations of ships which give them better options for taking on enemies, this was particularly useful for fighting off the mothership. Whilst it worked fine for the tokens, I am intrigued as to how this stacking would work with actual miniatures . . .
A couple of edits are needed to the game rulebook, but nothing too crazy. Also, personally I’d like to see the ”Normal” phase changed to something like “Peace” phase, simply because there’s nothing really normal about the setting or game.
Lastly, I do have some concerns over sleeves. There are four different sized cards in the game, and not many of those are standard card sizes for getting sleeves, so if you like your card protectors this game could be a little tricky to keep in top-notch condition.
I’m really happy to have backed this game, it’s got multiple combinations of play, it’s both cooperative and combative, with the player who earns the most victory points being the winner, but also requiring some collaborations to ensure the Entity doesn’t crush you all. I’m giving this a solid 5 on the dice. The Kickstarter for this is in its final days so don’t miss out on this fabulous game by clicking here.
Take care everyone! Much love,