We played a 2p game of GMT games' Spacecorp
tonight! It's basically High Frontier but actually understandable, fun, and playable. It's also surprisingly euro-like for a GMT game, but there's enough theme there to distract from that. The nice thing is that unlike other space exploration games you don't have to worry about randomness destroying your rockets/ships when they take off or land - they just work so you can get on with actually doing things. You do actions by playing cards, the higher the value you get the more you can do with it - I'm not sure I've played anything with similar mechanics off the top of my head.
There are three different subgames played on different boards that can be played consecutively or you can just play one or two on their own, which means you can play a full game or a shorter game (or a much shorter game if you just play on one board). For the full game you start off on the Mariners board exploring the inner Solar System (not pictured here), then flip over to the Planeteers board to explore the outer system (pictured at the start and end), then switch to the Starfarers board to explore the stars near Sol and beyond (pictured at the end of the game, and closeup at the end to focus on the board). I thought that Mariners felt a bit like a simple setup for the other two boards, but Planeteers and Starfarers felt much more meaty (especially Starfarers).
Mariners and Planeteers gameplay is pretty similar to eachother (the distances are bigger in Planeteers but the cards scale up too). Starfarers is quite different in some key ways though and feels very different too, it's much more of a brain burner. The points went all over the place - I was quite far behind at the end of Mariners/start of Planeteers, stormed ahead in Planeteers, got overtaken in Starfarers, but clawed back at the last minute with some very jammy colony builds to win by 1 pt so it was pretty tense right to the end!
Time-wise this first playthrough took a while - Mariners took us about 3 hours, Planeteers took two hours and Starfarers took about 3.5 hours. **BUT** we were also figuring out the game from scratch at first and screwed a few things up so it should take much less time once we get some more practice in. I think we could get Mariners and Planeteers down to one hour each and Starfarers down to 1.5 to 2 hours, so a full game in 4 hours maybe? Which isn't so bad, but I suspect adding a third and fourth player would slow that down somewhat. Maybe 30 mins per player per board at most?
Anyway, It's a really cool game and finally I think I've found the Solar System Exploration game I've been longing for - High Frontier is far too convoluted and poorly explained, while Leaving Earth is more approachable but way too much of maths exercise. In fact Spacecorp basically IS]
what High Frontier should have been from the start had it been designed by someone who wanted to make an actual game
from the idea rather than a raw simulation (also the production values are way better in the GMT game, at least compared to High Frontier 2e) - and also I had to get two expansions to HF to get the outer system and interstellar boards, but it's all here in one game in Spacecorp.
So I would say if you're into space exploration games you NEED to get Spacecorp. It's the best of the genre by miles and I will definitely be playing this more!
End of Mariners/start of Planeteers phase.
End of Planeteers phase.
End of Starfarers (including breakthrough/adaptations)
End of Starfarers (closeup of the board).
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