Critical Review - Among the Stars

I took a leap of faith this weekend and decided to personally jump into my first game project on something like an or site.  I had done some reading about a game called Briefcase, and through the research, came across a game called Among the Stars.  Allow me now, to introduce you to it!


Designed by Vangelis Bagiartakis and released by Artipia Games, this gem has already achieved it's primary goal of $8000 on it's site, located here.  It is a 2-4 player card drafting game, that can be played in about 30 minutes and is suitable for ages 12 and up.


As a backer of the game, I was able to obtain a copy of the Print and Play version of it.  I used that to play several games with my local gamers and have developed the below opinions.  Due to the print and play nature being very "beta" I am not going to be showing pictures in the video, or below in detail, but rather I've used images from their sites and for reference on the style and atistic nature of the game.  First, I'll share my video, and then below, is more of the review in written format.

Not mentioned in the video is the art styling of the game. As you can see from the images in this story, there is a unique feel to the art work.  First, the use of square cards is eye catching, but after playing, you get the appreciation for the designer's use of them, as if they were normal size playing cards, it could get hectic on the playing field.


In addition to the physical style, the bordering, the coloring, and the artwork itself is very eye catching as well.  I enjoy games that look like eye candy, but even more so when they are great to play!  This one, hits that mark superbly!


In terms of gameplay, each "year" or round, each player gets 10 credits, draws 6 cards, and then drafts one and passes the rest.  During set up, you'll choose (randomly or by agreement) Racial Abilities, as well as objectives (usually chosen randomly) which will greatly alter the game's goals and your own play style.  This was something I came away feeling very satisfied with.  The differences in the Racial Abilities and the goals made each game different and gave a unique feeling, even if trying to draft similar cards, as they may not work as best in the new situations.


Replayability = goodness and this game has a lot going for it in that category.


After selecting your card, you can choose to build it (providing you can pay for it's cost in Credits and Energy), exchange it for a Power Reactor, or ditch it for 3 Credits. One thing, as mentioned in the video, I was concerned with, was the potential to run out of credits early and have to ditch a lot of cards you wanted to play, in order to keep a stash.  Thankfully, I can say the design of the costs, and the abilities of cards to gain you Credits is very well balanced.  I think over the course of several games, the most cards I ditched in a single "year" (the game term for a round) was 2.


If you build a card, you place it adjacent to any card already in your space station, which begins with a simple Main Reactor, providing you energy as well.  Depending on the card's abilities, some are scored immediately (white box) and some are scored at the end of the game (yellow box).  


Additionally, there are cards included that allow you to play in a passive environment or a combat heavy environment.  In the latter, extra cards are added that see you play them to gain victory points and decrease your opponent's based on the amount of certain types of cards you have.


Overall, this game is a beautiful looking game that has a lot of substance to it!  I was very surprised to see the depth of the strategy in the game, just between drafting cards, let along different games and rounds.  There is a lot in here, and with some very well flushed out mechanics and options for changing gameplay, there's not much to NOT like about it.

Going into this endeavor, I was concerned about a few things.  The online rulebook quelled man of my concerns on gameplay, but beyond that, I had concerns about just how much room this game would take up, placing these little squares next to each other.  Don't be miss-informed, while it does take up some room, my measly 42x42 gaming table held up just fine in terms of 4 player games with everyone adding on in every which direction!  


Additionally, I was concerned if this would be a rip off of other card drafting games.  Would the mechanics be lame and uninviting? Would it be hard to understand?  Beyond that, would it be something that once you learned the cards, you could easily manipulate the gameplay?


I'm happy to say all my fears have been answered playing the Print and Play version.  Rip Off?  Aside from drafting, no, the card abilities make it very unique.  Uninviting and lame mechanics?  Nope, the ever changing atmposphere and interaction of the cards is refreshing and fun.  Hard to grasp?  Not even close.  We were up and running in 10 minutes with very few times of having to reference the rule book even on our first play. Manipultive? Potentially, but with the different Racial Abilities and Game Objectives each time you play, every game feels unique.


This is a fast paced, fun and exciting game that will pull you in, even if you aren't a fan of science fiction.  That was probably the most fun thing to me playing this print and play version.  This version has minimal artwork, and even without that, we were fully enthralled with the game!  Like I said, eye candy is fun, but deep gameplay makes it even better!


I'm very excited to give this game a Crit, and not just because I personally backed it.  Easy to learn, fun to play, looks great, strategic depth, and a great amount of replayability makes any game leap into the Crit category, and Among the Stars definately does all this and more, at light speed!


The references below will offer links to their project and sites, but even if this type of thing (backing projects) isn't your thing, I highly recommend you check this out, if for nothing else, than to learn how small publishers/designers are making great games for everyone to enjoy in unique ways!  Also, feel free to click on the images below for larger viewing.  Until then, we'll see you... Among the Stars!


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