Master of Orion
Master of Orion is a boardgame for 2 to 4 players distributed by Hobby World and is designed by Ekaterina Gorn and Igor Sklyuev. In this game you take on the leadership from one of the races of Master of Orion. It is your responsibility to lead your civilization to prosperity by developing your race, conquering new systems and attacking your opponent’s civilizations. The player who is best at leading their civilization and scores the most victory points will be the winner of Master of Orion.
Setting this game up is done in no time. Each player chooses a color and then takes all the cubes of the chosen color. Next you choose the race you want to play and place a cube of your color in each starting space denoted by a circle on the different tracks (Food, Fleet and Production). You also place a cube on the top of your loyalty track and on the score track. The advisors are shuffled and five are drawn randomly and placed on the table, the rest is placed back into the box. The structure deck is shuffled and starting with the start player each player gets five structure cards. Now each player has the chance to discard any number of cards and draw back up to five cards.
Each round consists of 3 phases, the start of the round, the actions and the end of the round phase. During the start of the round each player first gets resources. The resources you gain are depicted in the top right of your build structures and you simply adjust the corresponding tracks on your player board. Next you determine your exertion which can be high, medium or low. This is noted by the resource that is farthest on the track and determines the number of actions you get and might have other benefits or setbacks. Lastly you resolve any start of round effects on your working cards (these are the structures you have built with their ability still visible.
Afterwards we go the actions phase. In this phase each player in turn order gets to take one action until all the action cubes have been used. The actions you can choose from are the following: construction, Exploitation, Research, Activation, Attack, Trade, Propaganda and Contract. These are a lot of actions to choose from but they are nicely listed on your player board for easy reference and you take an action by taking an available action cube and place it in the box of the action you want to perform. Usually you can take each action multiple times but sometimes you can only do a certain once in a round.
With the construction action you start building your systems. This is done by playing a card from your hand in one of your systems and paying its resource cost. You can choose to play it in one of your existing systems or start a new system with the restriction that you cannot have more than 4 systems and each system may not contain more than 5 cards. The next action you can do is the exploitation action. Here you can discard one card for its exploitation benefit, extra resources or extra cards. The research action lets you simply draw 2 cards. The activation action differs greatly in what it can do. This action lets you activate a card with an action symbol and get its effect. These vary from giving discounts to building structures, trading resources for other resources to converting resources into victory points and many more options.
The trade action gives you the option to trade your resources into other resources. Your loyalty can be increased by 3 by taking the propaganda action which can be chosen only once during a round. You can also hire an advisor by taking the contract action. Hiring an advisor costs 3 cards and you can have no more than 1 advisor at any given time, but you can exchange them when you hire a new advisor (except for one advisor which becomes a fifth system). Last but not least you have the attack action. For this your fleet size must be equal or higher than the fleet size of the player you want to attack. You simply declare who you want to attack and give your action cube to the defender (the reason for this will become clear very soon). It costs 2 fleet size to attack but you will gain 2 victory points and the defender will lose one loyalty. You can attack multiple times in a round but depending of the number of players you are restricted to attack the same player, for example in a 4 player game you attack each opponent only once.
After all actions have been done it is time to start the end of the round phase. First off you check if any of the game end conditions have been met. These are when the eight round is over, the loyalty of at least one player is 0 or less or at least one player has 5 cards in each of their systems. When any of these occur the game immediately ends and you proceed to the scoring, otherwise you discard down to 5 cards in your hand, you return your action cubes to their reserve and pass the first player token to the next player.
At the end of the game players calculate their victory points by adding the victory points on their structures and their current loyalty to the score track. The player with the most victory points wins the game and in case of a tie you first look at the loyalty and afterwards to the sum of the resources.
Now let’s talk about the game. First of the artwork looks great. It has a nice sci-fi feel to it yet still being recognizable. The graphic design overall is superb, everything is really clear on the cards without being cluttered. They even thought about colorblind people by giving each color its distinctive symbol. The player boards are what player boards should be. First off the complete round order is described on it. Next all the actions are listed on the player board with even a place to put the action cubes you have at your disposal. Each alien race has a special ability and even this ability is immediately recognizable by a different color on the applicable action or phase. The resource tracks are something that has been done before but the complete package of all these features makes it for me the best player boards I have seen by far. The game itself plays like a charm (also because of the great player boards) and gives for a whole lot of decisions. You can choose to play as a human which are generic or an alien race which have special abilities. Personally I would always play with the alien races because their abilities are so easy to understand that they do not make it more difficult to play. The only reason I would see people choosing the humans is to have the players start the same and see what they can do with the cards to make a difference. The card abilities are great and make for some sweet choices and strategies to be had. They have lots of different abilities with some nice combinations to be had. When constructing a structure it is sometimes hard to choose where to build it especially later in the game when all your working cards have sweet abilities. Using a card for many things again is one of the game mechanics I really love. You want to construct the structure for its effect, but you could exploit it for its resources or do I want that sweet advisor which costs 3 cards… There are also cards that mess with your opponent’s plans by reducing their loyalty or rearranging the structures in their system. It is this complete package that made us fell in love with the game from the beginning and we know we will enjoy for many years to come. Just writing this review makes me want to play this game…
Play with Honor