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Board Game Review – Alien Frontiers

2012 January 15

Review copy kindly provided by Game Salute/Clever Mojo Games.

Clever Mojo Games does a good job at exploring alien worlds in, Alien Frontiers.

Alien Frontiers by Clever Mojo Games

Alien Frontiers by Clever Mojo Games

Designer: Tory Niemann

Number of players: 4

Age: 13+

Time: 60 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

Do you have what it takes to be a deep space colonist? An alien frontier awaits the brave and daring! This new planet will be harsh, but if you have the skills to manage your resources, build a fleet, research alien life, and settle colonies, the world can be yours.

Roll and place your dice to gain advantages over your opponent and block them out of useful areas of the board. Use Alien Tech cards to manipulate your dice rolls and territory bonuses to break the rules. Steal resources, overtake territories, and do whatever it takes to get your colonies on the map first! Don’t dream it’ll be easy, though, because the other players will be trying to do the same thing.

Basic idea in my own words…

Alien Frontiers is a strategy game about colonizing an alien planet, using dice (I don’t know if the designer would appreciate this or not but I’m comparing this to Kingsburg) as your ships, in the hopes of achieving the most points by the end of the game. The largest thing about the game play that I enjoy, is the sense of racing or urgency, more towards the end of the game. What I mean is, the game ends when a player places his last colony (Half a peanut M&M) on an alien territory, so you will be anxiously watching and playing against your opponents placement of these colonies.

Throughout the game, you will be rolling your dice/ships and depending on the outcome of the dice, you have options of where you’re going to place these ships. Surrounding the alien planet on the board, are orbital facilities that gives the player an action or advantage. And many of these spaces have restrictions on placement, which can be part of the strategy when playing.

Main Board

Main Board

How do you play…

The game plays pretty simply, which is something I have minor issue with. But on with a summary of the game play.

After first player is determined, play begins with him/her by that person rolling their dice and placing the dice in the appropriate docking bays or blank spaces on the board in the orbital facilities that is legal and desired. As soon as the player places the required dice on a facility, they receive the benefit immediately. For instance, place your ships/dice on the Solar Converter and you’ll receive fuel. So you go around, placing all of your dice legally – you must place all of your ships, if you can’t, the dice that can’t be fit anywhere go into the maintenance bay (which does nothing).

Now, part of the strategy of the game is, is that your dice you placed stay where they are until everyone has taken their turn. So if your not the last player, depending on what you need some of your ships for, you may have the option of placing some of your ships in a way in facilities that will screw over other players.

Also during placement, the player has the option of placing an alien tech card.

Finally, the player must discard an excess of 8 resources.

After placement, the next player can place his ships, and play repeats around the table. When everyone is done, everyone starts this sequence again by rolling their ships and starting all over.

Game setup

Game setup

Thoughts on the game:

So, in this game, you are utilizing the pip count on your dice to place your ships around the board in the hopes of maximizing your potential, with those dice, on the orbital facilities. There’s too much to explain about each orbital facility in the scope of this review, but to explain a couple, I can detail out the thought process of one path to victory points in this game.

Your goal is to get your colonies out onto alien territories (you start with 6 colonies for a 4 player game), so one facility that allows you to place your colony out is the, Colony Constructor. The Colony Constructor has 6 spaces available. A requirement to place your ships here, is that 3 of the dice have to be the same value. And you must pay 3 ore. So, once you do this, you can place your colony out on a territory. Now, I said 6 spaces. So 3 are taken up, the other 3 are for another set of 3 equal dice. Now tracking back, I mentioned ore. Ore is obtained primarily through the facility…Lunar Mine.

So you need to land that colony, well, to do that, aside from the 3 matching ships, you need ore…3 of them. So to get that ore, you need to land ships in the lunar mine. The lunar mine gives you one ore for each ship docked there. But a rule to place your ships there is that your placed ship, must be a higher or equal pip count than the highest dice currently there. So if there’s a 4 sitting there that’s the highest, you must place at least a 4.

Placement on Territory: So when you finally place your colony on a territory, you may choose any territory you wish but if you have control of that territory, you get the bonus of that territory. Bonuses of territories give you effects such as, pay 1 less ore when docking in the colony constructor.

Controlling a territory means you have more than any other player in a territory. If you lose control, through a tie or worse…you lose the bonus and go down a point. The points in this game are in constant fluctuation.

Breakdown of points: 1VP for each controlling territory; 1VP for each colony placed; 1VP for possession of the alien city card; 1VP for possession for the alien monument card; 1VP for controlling the territory with the positron field


Components: 4/5

One of the best parts of this game is the production quality. The both is smooth and of good stock, the dice are one of the highest quality I’ve seen; the colony markers are nice smoothed wood; my only gripe is the card feel. I’m not complaining about the quality of the cards but for some reason, I just don’t’ like how they feel, so I sleeved them.

Theme: 4/5

The theme is one that any nerd likes…space…alien planets…technology. Of course, I think the theme isn’t one where I’d want to play with my parents, and there may be a bit of a barrier to entry with the theme to some non-gamers but for the hobby, its great. The artwork on this game too is also fitting and it’s a neat retro style. I must mention though, tow of my friends commented that they didn’t feel like they were colonizing a planet (more on this later).

Luck Factor: 3/5

There’s a good chunk of luck in this game based off the dice rolls, but there’s still plenty of options to do with them, so I didn’t often feel that I was screwed based on luck.

Strategy: 4/5

There’s a good amount of strategy in this game. There’s a lot to think about in the dice placement because you have to look at the other players dice rolls and see where you can balance screwing up their placement options and maximizing yours. Trying to anticipate what they are going to do based on their cards, also complicates things. There’s a facility that allows a player to steal a card or resources from multiple players. There’s also cards that let players move things such as colonies or the positron field…which as you know, awards points.

Overall Feelings: 3/5

This is a good game, with a great theme, great production quality and lends a sense of tension. I give the game a 3 because I feel like there could be more though. I feel for the theme, I was itching for more beef in the game. It feels just as light or even lighter than Kingsburg at times. So keep that in mind. I’m sure many will disagree with me but this is my review. I also feel that in the beginning of the game, you really don’t know what you’re doing, especially if you’ve never played before. What I mean is not game play, but what you want to do or should do. So I generally go right for grabbing fuel or ore. Also at times, it was just too quiet between the players. Even though this game has more elements of player interaction through the screwing over elements…it still feels really Euro-ish…but what’s funny is, I love euro’s. I think the game feels like it may not go anywhere for awhile, but as the game progresses, and you look at the number of colonies players have left, you’ll start to feel some tension – is what I love. Also to mention is I don’t know if this was our one game or happens more, but the one player that was ahead, just plowed us over. I felt there was a runaway leader issue. So overall, its a good game and I’ve enjoyed it, amidst some of the issues. If your interested in the theme and want a strategy game that makes you think but has a strong element of dice, I’d recommend it!

Notes: Thanks to those who posted photos, of which I have used for this review and to Game Salute and Clever Mojo Games!

One Response leave one →
  1. March 27, 2013

    I been giving this game an eye for a long time, but there is something that doesn’t convince me and it’s the art. I don’t like this old times SciFi aesthetic.
    Whit so many and so talented artist out there, why go with this old style?

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