Alien Frontiers Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher recommends 13+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • About 60 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Worker Placement & Area Control
  • Reading

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Competing factions vie for dominance in colonizing a planet through crafty use of their dice, or should I say, spaceships

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Alien Frontiers was designed by Tory Niemann and published by Clever Mojo Games in 2011.

The game components include:

  • A mounted game board depicting 9 orbital facilities (the areas into which players place their dice) around a planet consisting of 8 territories (areas into which players place their colonies)
  • A smaller board that serves as a victory point track
  • Six standard six-sided dice in each of 4-player colors, representing the players’ spaceships
  • Orange disc tokens representing fuel and gray cube tokens representing ore (these basic resources are used to acquire other improvements)
  • Nine dome-shaped colony pieces in each of the 4-player colors
  • A deck of cards representing alien technology (rule-breaking items)

Players start the game able to use 3 of their possible 6 dice (and can never be reduced to fewer than 3). On the player’s turn, they roll all available dice and allocate them as they see fit to one or more orbital facilities: the worker placement aspect of the game. In addition to the standard restrictions in most worker placement games (i.e., absolute limits on the total number of workers that can be placed in any one area), there might be additional requirements, such as placing dice with matching or consecutive numbers. As for the benefits:

  • The Solar Converter yields fuel tokens
  • The Lunar Mine yields ore tokens
  • The Orbital Market allows fuel to be traded for ore
  • The Alien Artifact yields an alien tech card
  • The Raiders’ Outpost enables the player to steal resources or an alien tech card from another player
  • The Shipyard allows the player to expand his dice pool
  • The Colonist Hub, the Colony Constructor, and the Terraforming Station establish colonies on the planet

The player with the most colonies in any territory controls that territory; each territory provides a specific bonus to the player who controls it. One very nice touch, the territories are named in honor of famous science fiction authors, such as Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl.

Victory points are earned for placing colonies and for controlling territories.

The game ends when a player has placed all of their colonies. The player with the most victory points wins the game.

Prediction

This game would have continued to languish on my shelf unplayed (along with half of my game collection) had I not joined in a pick-up game at a convention late last year. As the rules were being explained to me, my first thought was of Stone Age, another dice/worker placement game. With only 2 types of raw resources, Alien Frontiers strikes me as a simpler version of Stone Age, but with about the same playing time. My children love games with dice (Pickomino and Elder Sign, for example), so I was tempted to disregard the publisher’s suggested age range and try this with my six-year-old son.

Final Word

I played two 2-player games with my son, each lasting about one hour. He grasped the gameplay very quickly, although I made occasional suggestions about how he could use his dice. On the second play, he eked out a narrow victory over me. On the third play, a 3-player game, he beat my brother and me with only minimal assistance. I have realized that my son enjoys choice and decision-making in games, although he is also prone to analysis paralysis. Therefore, I have learned to set aside extra time for games like this so that the experience is unrushed.

This is an excellent match for his current level of gaming maturity, in terms of game duration, required reading ability, and complexity of decision-making. Although he is proficient in working towards short and medium-term goals, he has difficulty formulating a long-term strategy. Hence, he can be far more competitive in Alien Frontiers than in Agricola or Caylus Magna Carta (admittedly, he still enjoys those other games, too).

Playing the game - all smiles and victory points

Gamer Geeks, Alien Frontiers is too long for a filler and not meaty enough for a square meal (even if you’re vegetarian), and while that may sound like a double failure, it is a pleasant experience for the less hardcore hobbyists.

Parent Geeks, this game presents an excellent opportunity to play competitively and yet assist your child to choose from several options.

Child Geeks, you can focus on making definite progress through establishing colonies every 2-3 turns, while also ensuring that the dice pool (spaceship fleet) remains a respectable size. The game is not trivial; even so, each colony is worth celebrating as an achievement, win or lose.

About Meng

Board Game Fanatic, and Father of Two, Meng is an Australian who became hooked on board games at high school, with such classics as Talisman and Diplomacy. Years later, he rekindled his interest while living in the United States, both immersing himself in the local gaming scene and also taking advantage of mail-order to expand his collection to some 300 items. After returning to Australia in 2008, and with little time left after work, study and travel, the majority of his gaming nowadays is with his two young children. Hoping one day in the distant future to teach them to play a rollicking game of Die Macher, in the meantime he provides more age-appropriate fare and tries to discuss some life lessons along the way. Meng goes by the handle meng on Board Game Geek.
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3 Responses to Alien Frontiers Game Review

  1. Frank says:

    I can’t wait to get this to the table. Too bad my gaming group has been disrupted for the past couple of months…

  2. Pingback: Father Geek » Garden Dice Game Review

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