Tau Ceti: Planetary Crisis
Sort of forgot I backed this, like, two years ago on Kickstarter. It arrived this week so I punched everything and pulled together an ad-hoc game day with my unemployed and summer break people.
It’s…okay. The tl;dr is that it reminded us of a lot of other games without adding anything magical to the mix.
First off, the rulebook is truly awful. They left out fundamental rules and have already errata’ed stuff for balance on boardgamegeek.com. For balance! After publication! Jesus.
The information design aspect of the materials is also not awesome. You have like…10 options every turn, and they’re all reduced to three letter versions on your “interface” (player board). They’re all fairly easy, and in actual play after maybe a dozen actions they’re all fine, but it made the learning curve that much harder right out of the gate.
As I mentioned a second ago, everything about the game evoked a “this reminds me of X!” reaction. You build a map and zip around in your “command ship” very much like Xia. You can also carry out goofy little “interstellar missions” that are very much like Xia. You upgrade your ship designs an awful lot like Exodus: Proxima Centauri (except you have only one ship, rather than a whole fleet). You abstractly project your influence on the board an awful lot like Hegemonic. You explore goodies and battle NPC ships revealed on the map like Eclipse and share around roles each round like Twilight Imperium.
It’s a mash-up of everything else out on the market and doesn’t feel like its own thing at all.
There is one thing the game does that feels unique. The full title is “Tau Ceti: Planetary Crisis,” and the planetary crises are in fact central-ish to shaping each round. At the top of a round (full of individual turns in which you take a single Major action and all the Minor actions you want) you set up a crisis (…like Battlestar Galactica, sigh) by paying cards into a central deck. There are six different kinds of crisis and six different kinds of specialist. If a specialist matches a crisis, boom, crisis doesn’t happen. The highest-numbered crisis that remains unresolved then hits one of the player race’s homeworlds, generating a game-wide effect and leaving behind an ugly green marker. Anyone who can resolve that marker later gets a nice payout of points.
The races are asymmetrical-ish in that each race comes with three personalities that grant you skills and special abilities, and you choose one. There’s also a different cost schedule for each race’s Major actions. I’d have to play more to see if those asymmetries played out in an interesting way. In our first game, we seemed to be simultaneously drawn to non-incented strategies and punished a little for doing the ones we’re “good’ at. Like, I’d stand to lose points if my warmongering race picked a PvP battle. It penciled out to be way more points-profitable to build my economy and explore the map, which was the most expensive action I could take.
Iiiii dunno. Maybe it could stand one more play, now that we’ve shaken out all the badly explained rules and learned the errata. Maybe. I think I’d rather just play Xia or Eclipse or Hegemonic.
Super pretty production, though! I think I may sell it. It’d be a super nice game for anyone who didn’t already have one of the games it’s based on.