Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Among the Stars with Stronghold Games

I normally don't write about "current" games if I can help it. I cannot stress it enough: the anticipation for new game releases is the first cobblestone laid in a great freeway of gamer suffering.

Because we all want all the games, don't we?

Among the Stars isn't really a new game, but its about to become one. Supposedly you could have owned a copy of Among the Stars since 2012. It came out 2 years after 7 Wonders, and attempted to take the basic mechanics of a 7 Wonders card draft and adapt it to a new game in a science fiction universe.

This image was taken by Artipia. From what I understand, the game 
doesn't actually float in interstellar space like that. Wait, or maybe it does!

I love 7 Wonders, it's one of those amazing games you can play with as few as 2 or as many as 7 and have the same quick, enjoyable experience. From the description on Board Game Geek, Among the Stars sounds just as smart and easy-going. But it adds a couple of things.

1) I like space. I'm a big fan of science fiction, space and space exploration. When I hear about anything space station or colonization related, I get excited. Imagine the tableau of 7 Wonders, only instead of technological and cultural advancements the cards you were putting into play were modules to a grand Babylon 5-style space outpost. Dedicated to peace, understanding, and maximizing your end game victory point totals.

2) The space station modules are interconnected. They are scored depending on the surrounding modules, and indeed the makeup of the rest of your space station. Geography is a new wrinkle I am eager to explore.

So since about 2012, I've had Among the Stars on the backburner of my mind, always gently simmering away. Birthdays came around. Christmas-times came around. And I discovered something.

Among the Stars was a really tough game to find. You couldn't even find it on Amazon. What other product can you think of that is unavailable on Amazon?

Part of the problem was Artipia. A small, growing game publisher from Greece with poor international connections. They have continued publishing the game mostly thanks to Kickstarter. Some companies use Kickstarter to start their initial project, make it into the big time, then use the left-over profits to start the ball rolling on their next project.

Artipia has used Kickstarter for every project. They used Kickstarter for Among the Stars, the expansion, even a pack of promo cards. They are using Kickstarter to fund a reprint of Among the Stars right now.

I'm not super excited about Kickstarter. I really don't want to "invest" my money in an elaborate pre-ordering process with the end result of getting my game 6-8 months down the line.

But there's a big change coming. U.S. publisher Stronghold Games has decided to handle the reprint, and to me this suggests Among the Stars might be showing up in an actual distribution network. Perhaps an online store somewhere here in the U.S.A.

Because no matter how good a game is, I'm probably not going to get it shipped from Greece. There are too many titles out there just as good, just as interesting. And I only have so much space on my shelf.

Before the announcement, the excitement for Among the Stars had come and gone. I substituted.

Race for the Galaxy is an excellent choice. The interplay of cards, and the card vs. card evaluations seem pretty similar. And it just keeps getting better the more you play it.

But now with Stronghold picking up Among the Stars, I'm curious all over again.

If you want to know more about gameplay, check out the convenient Radho Runs Through It video.

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