Mark got Space Corp a bit ago, and we tried it out ahead of a future group game. The is about the exploration and exploitation of space, and goes through three ‘eras’, starting with the exploration of the inner solar system. I think we’ll be able to squeeze in a full game in FtF with a little practice, but our first time out, will probably struggle to make it through the second era. Mark and I didn’t have any time constraints though.

I had the first turn, and blew my starting time card to immediately get a team to the Moon. I found abundant ores and set up a refinery. Mark did much the same, with an extra boost take him out to Sisyphus to find exotic elements and eventually build a refinery out there.

In the meantime he’d done some infrastructure upgrades, and I built a spaceport at Solar L2. That opened up possibilities for movement and I produced with the Lunar refinery to claim the first contract of the game. Another spaceport was built by me at L4, while Mark landed a team on Mars, and I used a near space probe to discover water there for him (claiming the bounty for the discovery), and Mark placed an industrial park there. I used intercept to get two turns, and sucked up all the offers with salvage, moving out to Solar L4 and building a research station there.

Mark moved to North Mars, and I took that discovery from him with another near space probe (exotic elements). I moved to Halley’s Comet to also find exotic elements, and then sent my second team out to the asteroid belt. Mark got the second beyond marker while I headed back to L5 and built another spaceport there (getting me a contract).

The deck had run out at this point, ending the era with me having a slight lead (adding in the bonuses as if the game had ended at this point came to 16T to 13T). Mark had gotten his genetics cube two spaces around the progress wheel (one of those from poaching a card I used for research), which turned out to be very important.

Part two starts with the first team to the asteroid belt having already explored Ceres (abundant ores), and the second one at Vesta. Mark quickly got a genetics action, which let him take cooperative empathy, which caused all sorts of havoc for me. You can always use someone else’s infrastructure, but it gives them profit. This lets you do it for free, and I had built up a fairly good set, which Mark could freely use, while I didn’t really dare use his (and it wasn’t nearly as handy, at least at this point).

Mark found water on Vesta and built a research base while I built a refinery as we explored more asteroids. Mark found a natural wonder at Huniea, while I found more abundant ores. Mark got to the final asteroid (Interamnia) first, finding exo-microbes (an e2 tile) and building a bio lab there, and picked up radiation resistant during this time. So I skipped out to Saturn with both teams. Mark naturally sent a team to Jupiter.

We both explored and developed our respective areas, and Mark got his third adaptation, low body mass. I used a combination of intercept and time to effectively get three turns in a row, which helped finish things off early (I started with an industry base on Titan to help the rest, and then built two research labs, a bio lab and a spaceport). Another time card then let me send a team out to Triton, and one in to Io, which Mark hadn’t gotten to yet. I built a secure base there to take advantage of all the bases Mark already had there (refinery, bio lab, and attraction), and he sent a team out to Titania rather than fight me.

Mark built a spaceport on Titania to transfer his second team out there, and then sent it to the Oort cloud. I finally got my first adaptation, and took energy efficient. I used another time card to send a team to Pluto while the other moved out to the Oort cloud. I was maneuvering to get the final couple of contracts, and we knew the era was going to be winding down. Mark managed to play three revelation cards getting him probe network (I had gotten two advances on that early with an alien artifact, and hadn’t seen anything since). I then built a P2 (+1) refinery at Pluto, closing out two contracts and finishing the era.

Mark had thoroughly dominated this era, profit-wise. I’d done some really good maneuvering (or so I thought), but it just couldn’t make up for problems like barely seeing any genetic actions, and no revelations, and we ended at 41T to 49T.

The third era takes you into the local area of interstellar space, with the first beyond token placing a team at Alpha Centauri, and the second getting a team on approach to Luhman 16.

“Approach” is a misnomer. I want to think of the three turn track delay upon arrival in a new system as the need to slow down from noticeable fractions of light speed to match the local system, but it’s really supposed to be an abstraction of time lag between Earth and the teams. Even though they should know what they’re supposed to be doing when they get there already. (Okay, yes, it would take time to tell HQ what they found. But it’s also the same three turn delay no matter where you are. And there’s accounting for perhaps setting up a satellite HQ at a colony. Or…. Let’s just say it’s too abstracted for me be able to fix any serious definition.)

The good news is you get three teams instead of two for the final era. However, movement is much more difficult. Multiplier cards help, but the start of the era is another struggle. We both used time cards to get our final two teams out, with me going to Epsilon Eridani and Lacaille 9352, and Mark going to Tau Ceti and Groombridge 34. After initial exploration, and waiting for new arrivals to report back, I got a second adaptation, hybrids. Finding alien ruins at Epsilon Eridani let me take finally get a breakthrough, and I went for matter shifting to try and make up some lost time, though Mark also took hybrids and enviro tolerance around this point.

I built the first extra-solar colony at Epsilon Eridani, and went for the 6 CP colony that gets increasing rewards for every colony you build. I finally built at Luhman 16 and took a 4 CP colony that gives a bonus whenever an opponent builds a colony. Then Mark colonized Tau Ceti for 6 CP and the 2T bonus whenever an opponent colonizes.

I finally got to exploring Lacaille 9352 (Philes!, which got me sensory focus), and building facilities there, but then Mark moved to Epsilon Indi. This upset my long-term plans of course, since I’d been hoping to work my way along the chain of ‘nearby’ systems in that corner. On the other hand, a b20 system is quite a challenge. I did build the 5 CP refinery colony there, and picked up entangled transmitter a couple turns later.

Epsilon Indi had Introvs and an alien outpost, which didn’t affect Mark at all, and he soon had energy efficient and entangled transmitter as well, and then picked up jump drive before I could. I managed the 4 CP bonus for colonizing colony at Lacaille 8760 (where I went after Mark went to Epsilon Indi), and Mark had finally built at Epsilon Indi and took the same colony type there shortly afterwards, and then built a 3 CP no ability colony at Wolf 1061. I built the 6 CP progress card bonus colony at Kapteyn’s Star. We were staring at the end of game, as we were down to two contracts, and we were both close to fulfilling the bases in six regions contract. Mark sent a team out into the Orion spur from Wolf 1061, and put a basic 3 CP colony in Groombridge 34 (taking him to the 4+ colony end game bonus), right after I claimed that last contract as I saw no way to close the gap with him (and there were only four cards left in the deck).


Final tally was 67T to 60T, Mark’s favor. This was a lot closer than it had been early in Starfarers, but I just couldn’t make up the gap. I might have done better if I’d been allowed to work my way through the upper right corner, but Mark wisely cut that one off.

The frustrating part for me was feeling largely locked out of the progress cards. I did have six by the end, and there were some opportunities I passed up, but not that many, and Mark was up to nine by the end. The main thing is he got all the early opportunities, leaving me to go after something else (which I generally did) or miss the invention bonus. I find cooperative empathy especially evil, and have to wonder just how balanced it is in a four-player game, where you can probably count on someone having a decent infrastructure. It certainly twisted me in knots here.

I tried compensating with positioning, and while it helped, it didn’t do nearly as much as the use Mark could get out of a couple of progress cards. Planeteers was where I really fell behind and my colony strategy helped close the gap in Starfarers, but you just can’t build as many as I needed, since the contracts are largely concerned with bases instead of colonies (if I could have built a colony in Groombridge 1618, I could have possibly won, since the colony itself would have gotten me to 2T behind, and if I could manage 6 CP, I could claim another 6T bonus for held progress cards).

After one play, it’s been fun. I want to see it with a full four, and see how that changes things. I assume with more people to interact with, it’ll get better, but I don’t exactly what it’ll do to the game; I’m not even sure if contracts will tend to get finished earlier, or if it will end up relying on running out the deck more. There’s not enough space exploration games out there, and the overall structure of this one is quite solid.

The Vassal module is pretty good, with some nice automation. I’d like to see the ‘draw a different tile’ discoveries get implemented properly (they have the same base-building menu as the others instead of a ‘draw tile discard this one’ action), and support for Sensory Focus’ ability to draw two.