Small Star Empires
Small Star Empires is a boardgame for 2 to 4 players created by Milan Tasevski and published by Archona Games. In this game you take on the role of the leader of a species who just discovered interstellar travel and is out to colonize and dominate the rest of the galaxy, thus becoming the greatest Star Empire of the galaxy.
During setup each player takes all the ships, colonies, trade stations and home world sector of his color. After this you shuffle all the main sectors and form a space map. You can choose the ones depicted in the rulebook or make up your own. All tiles are double-sided so you will rarely play on the same space map. The tiles consist of different star systems and nebulas. After you have done this you have the option to include the wormholes, black holes or unexplored systems which are placed on the empty spaces on the tiles. When this is done you place your four ships on your home world and you are ready to go.
During a turn you have two mandatory steps to complete if you still can. These are move one of your ships and establish control of the system you landed on. It is as simple as that.
A ship’s movement is always in a straight line and you can move as far as you want. You may move and stop in any unoccupied system in your line of movement during which you may pass a system already under your control or a wormhole, although you may not stop at such a system. A ship may never move into or pass a black hole system. Also you may not move into or pass a system that is already controlled by another player including its home world.
Whenever you want to use a wormhole you need to be adjacent to it at the start of your movement, afterwards you may choose an eligible spot adjacent to any other wormhole to move too and that is your movement for that turn. When playing with the unexplored tiles it might be possible that your ship gets damaged, depicted by laying down your ship. A damaged ship only has a movement of 2 spaces until it is repaired. This can be done by returning to your home world at which point your ship is set upright again. You may only enter your home world to repair a ship.
After you have done your movement it is time to establish control of the system. Establishing control can be done in two ways, by placing a colony or a trade station. The main difference between these are the scoring. A colony scores the system it is controlling. A trade station not only scores the system it controls but gets an extra point for each adjacent system controlled by an opponent.
The turns continue until all players are unable to move their ships at which point the scoring happens. The star systems give you 1, 2 or 3 points as depicted on the system. The nebulas are scored a bit different. You get respectively 2/5/8 points for controlling 1/2/3 nebulas from the same color. A trade station as stated above scores 1 point for each adjacent opponent controlled system. You also get 3 bonus points for having the largest territory. When playing with the unexplored tiles there are even more bonus points to gain. You can keep score on an included score sheet but I would recommend that you download the official app for scorekeeping. The player with the most points wins and has the Greatest Star Empire of the Galaxy.
To be honest, I already fell in love with this game when I first played the prototype. I know it has similarities with Hey, that’s my fish and battle sheep but this is the better game of the three, especially when you start including the special systems. You have to make the right decision where you want to go. The 3-point planets look like the best option to go too but you have to keep the long game in mind. You are always on the lookout for what your opponents do and how it will impact the next move you are going to make. Knowing when to use your trade stations can be crucial because they can potentially score a lot of points. The nebulas are also a nice touch and is something to fight over between the players. We always play with the unexplored tiles because it adds that little bit of unpredictability which we love. It might be that you find another civilization, a refueling station or enter an asteroid field. The components are of good quality and we especially love the ships, colonies and trade stations. The game plays like a breeze and before you know it, it is your turn again. I also love that they made the time to create an app that includes the setup and allows for easy scoring. All games we played so far have been nail biters where scoring has been very tight. All in all a great fun strategy game with meaningful decisions that is easy to play.
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