As we explore further and further into space, human kind has , through the colonisation of worlds beyond our own front door (and by that I refer to our very own jolly old solar system as the front door), discovered crystals of purest green. Oh yes, folks. Purest green. Speculation as to its origins are as wide as space its self. Solidified alien mucus? Dried up Space mould? Or just a cunning use of French? Either way the prized energy source, sought after by all who seek power, is Vertium.
Press play to indulge in a Vertiumesque spacial ambience whilst reading
Now I favour the dear-stalker as my chosen form of head adornment and to stick with tradition, I have cunningly fashioned a zero-gravity/zero-atmosphere plastic coated teflon variation of said hat. So, pick up your own personal oxygen supply and accompany me as we set out into uncharted space.
What’s All the Fuss About?
‘Tis is how future history has recorded events…
The Complex crushed all opposition on Earth and banished the remaining rebel factions to Pluto. Although historical enemies, we worked together to survive the frigid conditions, stockpiling resources and launching probes across the Milky Way.
One probe returned compelling data from the Copernicus System in Quadrant 1. Coperhas a yellow dwarf star and an intriguing group of planets. A dazzling radioactive element, that we named Vertium, was discovered. Our physicists think it could heat our colonies, and upgrade weapons and armour.
As word spread, the rebel groups bolted for Coper. The fragile cooperation evaporated. Each faction is out for itself – claiming planets and mining Vertium.
A new board game of planetary colonisation has turned up on Kickstarter by Caper Games which sees various factions of humanity fighting it out to colonise, control and ultimately reap the boons, namely Vertium. This is a multiplayer game and I suspect you are wondering deeply to yourself why the ‘ecky thump I am waffling on about multiplayer games here on BSoMT? …well, as fortune would have it, a solo variant has come to light in recent days and this is where my story really starts…
Immersion or Subversion:
A very interesting part to begin with, this! The multiplayer game is a rather smart, swift colonisation/fisticuffs game that has an element of set collection, area control and down-right blatant invasive strategy about it. The solo game, however, is a somewhat different kettle of fish. The basics of the game are still there but the first phase of the game (games comprising two phases) plays rather differently. The set collection/area control element is replaced by a simple die roll…actually that has changed as the rules have been developed and a small draw deck may now be replacing this. At first glance this might make the soloist feel a little removed from the experience that multiplayers gain, but I have a theory that I shared with designer Randall…
This feels to me more of a solo sequel to the base game in that now that all the human factions have established who has supremacy in colonising the known planets, and now a new…or maybe that should be ‘old’ and fearsome foe has materialised to once again threaten all factions alike. Dom dom dooooom dromatic music…The robotic menace known as the Complex. They are systematically engulfing all life, all planets and consuming all Vertium in their wake. In the solo game it feels more like a necessity for all humans to band together to defend their worlds against this new threat. Viewing the game in this manner injects a greater thematic believability that explains the slight play differences in phase one.
(you never know it may find itself influencing the way the game develops)
Since going to press or publishing on line…or however the lingo goes, there has been significant work done to improve the solo game and develop a backstory, as luck would have it, something akin to my suggestion. More details will be available when the project goes live on Kickstarter 29th May 2018 (also see notes later in this article)
All in all this is a very simple game , both for solo and multiplayer, divided into two phases.
The solo game has a derivative variation being worked upon as I type allowing a co-operative mode allowing more than just the lonesome soloist to take on the dreaded Complex.
Phase one (solo) uses an alternating card draw to identify, firstly, which planet the Complex has conquered, then secondly which planet the humans have managed to retain control of. This draw occurs twice so the Complex and the humans both have two planets under their control. After this point te humans are able to retain control of the remaining planets. Once this control has been established there are orbiting moons with a number on them. This represents the quantity of our precious Vertium available on each planet. (This ranges from 2-6). At this stage it looks like we vastly out resource the Complex but don’t be fooled. They are massive robotic destroyers and rather tricky customers to dispatch. Now you may be concerned that there is not a huge amount of control over which planets we posess…not to worry. Let us imagine this is the result after the initial Complex invasion (because using the notion that this is a ‘sequel’ we actually controlled all seven planets to begin with, so the initial invasion lost us only two)
I nearly forgot about the blue moons…well they only happen once in a blue moon, don’t they? There are three which, having been randomly distributed amongst the larger planets, get revealed before the start of phase two. They affect the quantity of Vertum in positive or negative ways.
Phase two is where we get opportunity to instigate a tactical strike back. We can choose a planet we control, move one of our meeple chaps to a planet we wish to attack and conflict ensues. We have the use of three custom dice (I have just regular d6) whilst the Complex has a deck of twelve skirmish cards,
each with symbols found on our dice. When defending they draw four cards and draw just three when attacking. Combat compares die rolls/cards and Vertium is lost as a result of collateral damage until all Vertium is lost by one/both sides, then the final damage inflicted ends the Robot or human presence for good. There is a hedge your bets element here because a player may continue to attack other planets and risk losing valuable resources or hang fire and defend against the Complex attack.
There is a deck of Hidden Victory point cards which have an illustration of one of the seven planets. This gives bonus victory points if that planet is under our control at the end of play (some rule development may see this victory point card reward us with Vertium at the end of phase one) but also double up for the random control of the first four planets in phase one.
Once combat has been completed, a tally of controlled planets will establish if human kind has managed to survive or whether the Complex has once and for all established control.
Wooden Chits and Cardboard Bits:
I have been playing with a PnP copy thanks to Randall sending over the files. This explains the unusual pawns and a distinct lack of green…as I only had clear glass beads at the time…picture, if you will, vast piles of shiny green crystals and this should be the sight you are greeted with every game).
The Kickstarter page (old link.) (new link) will have far more details of actual components. That said, the artwork, when seen up close and personal, is pretty spectacular on both the planet sets and the numerous decks of cards.
I think I have touched upon most points re: the solo game already. There are noticeable differences in phase one so we, as budding soloists, do not get the full multiplay experience but, if we take the previously mentioned view that this is more of a sequel, we get to experience similar mechanics, gameplay and conflict but are actually having a game experience the multiplayers don’t get…so one up for us. This is now a game of survival and reclamation for all human kind.
Edit: There have been significant updates and improvements to the solitair rules...
…now the soloists amongst us can fully experience the whole Vertium experience. There are new mechanics that govern the Complex during Phase One , and so a competitive colonisation phase is now available as well as the existing combat phase. With the updated solo rules Vertium has suddenly become a solo gaming experience and worthy of checking out.
The real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: This solo variant is winnable ( haven’t but I notice Randall has in playtests, but it is a tricky ordeal taking on the complex. There is a lot relying on your tactical choice of managing resources and choosing the right time to battle
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The current rule book has increased recently from about ten pages of text with an additional page for the solo game to 18 (rules link) This was initially unformatted and without illustrations as certain elements were still being refined. Now, thanks to Silke, they explain what is going on well with a multitude of newly added graphics/illustrations and, as the game itself is not hugely complex, will never melt the brain when trying to digest the information it conveys
- Lucky Buggers: There is a large amount of luck in this game. Firstly in phase one, the luck of the draw for which planets the Complex gets (will they be the highest value or not) but this sets up for an unpredictable and varied playing field for Phase two. I like that element of uncertainty…and it is only two planets after all is said and done. Secondly combat relies on dice throwing, not a favourite of some folks. It is not all bad as the dice we will be using have 2x three symbols. A defensive symbol that negates one opponent attack, a photon attack that does one damage per symbol and sonic beam that does one damage per two symbols. Luck still plays a part but this is by no means a complete dice fest
- Highs and Lows: It is tense, knowing all our hard work is about to be undone by the devilishly cunning Complex, but the theme is somewhat abstract due to its scale…in that we are controlling whole planets, but the look of the game and how it plays will not leave you with a feeling of doom and gloom
- Footprints All Over The Table: Very much dependant on how you like to spread the planets out, this is actually quite a small footprint game. There has been a recent reduction in planet size (several cm’s from my copy) and as the player boards are also compact, everything fits comfortably well within a half metre by half metre space so the vastness of space is actually rather smaller than scientists first thought. As a result of certain component changes (including the planet size) layout is more user friendly for those of us with smaller playing surfaces. It is now feasible to fit a solo game well within a 80cm x 80cm.
- Build It Up just To Tear It All Down Again: The game has a good number of components but the orange moons, blue moons, personal objective cards and solo AI combat deck are the only items that require sorting and placing in deep space. Planets do not need any specific layout restrictions and, if well packed from a previous game, all tokens, markers and Vertium are quickly located to the appropriate pools. I would be surprised if players take beyond ten or, at an outside, fifteen minutes to get straight and blast in to deep space action.
Me, Myself and I:
Initially I started the initial Kickstarter campaign by joining a discussion about the potential for solo rules as I liked the look of the game. This lead to more in-depth discussions and finally in the files for me to give the solo rules a test. (I will add at this point that I am not actually part of the project and it was merely my interest in the goings-on that lad to my playthroughs)
This is not a big, heavy 4X kind of game but is very quick to get into, has colonisation, interplanetary conflict and has tactical use of resources. I found that me and myself really enjoyed this game. It has a challenge but without brain burn and, at the same time, looks really great on the table. There is a little way to go before the solo rules are truly finalised, I suspect, but as it stands so far it is already a very good solo experience. (And since going to press I have been in communique with Caper games regarding aspects of the solo development. It really is shaping up to be a great experience) This is more of a gateway game to a genre but slapping a label on a title such as this should not diminish the pleasure playing the game brings.
Yay or Nay?
This is not a complex decision as I am sure the Complex will meet its, their…oh, I don’t know which pronoun they prefer, demise allowing humanity to colonise a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (6) ..and as the solo rules Tie up their little loose ends and smooth out their edges, it may be worthy of more.
Edit: as the game stands, having now successfully funded on Kickstarter, the new changes to Phase one for solo play now give a more involved game experience which means that this suddenly becomes a serious game to consider. It is light in difficulty making it a very accessible game, especially for non-gamers, but it has the thrills and spills of more in-depth games. As a solo experience we can now achieve something much more akin to multiplayer variant which is excellent news. Judging the game on play experience, fun and accessibility a re-roll of the BSoMT 1d8 die finds a modified result of (7)
Now where was I? Ah yes…the compusary application of thick, fluffy sock to allow for a space walk…I took the forethought to completely cover my shuttle in velcro. Happy days. Now, on to Copernicus and to face the dreaded Complex…
I so wished I brought my deep space rucksack…having half a dozen great homping crystals of Vertium in my trouser pockets is no fun at all…
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Vertium on Kickstarter: https://t.co/SKccSjfso
Caper Games on Twitter:
Shiny Happy Meeples Review
Teach The Table: How to play Vertium
Geek City USA review: