Your Daily High Frontier

Your Daily High Frontier

No really. I’m back at it.

Had a quiet lunchtime so I busted out my box, contra the promise to myself to leave it be for a month. Just to, you know, take a look at that solitaire CEO mission again (earn at least 10 VP each cycle after the first, end with a completed Future). Ten minutes later I had it laid out for the day so I could stop in once in a while and fiddle with it.

I lost twice in a row, at the intersection of hubris and bad luck.

The hubris was looking for ways to solve the CEO mission in a different way than I did the first time. The first time, I’d quickly colonized Mars, hired tons of colonists, went crazy with lots of actions each turn, and terraformed Mars with some weird climate mirror ultratech thing. It was very straightforward, and now that I’ve done it, surely there must be other ways, right?

Yeahhh. Well, so one interesting thing about the High Frontier map is that there are target-rich clusters of prospecting opportunities. You can hit Mars, no problem. It only gives you C-type factory sites but puh-lenty of water. In a multiplayer game it’s kind of a dead end but in solitaire I really think it’s the most efficient route, because you can set yourself up with plenty of VPs to keep the game going, while buying up all the colonists you can because of the delicious water available from exploiting Mars.

But what if you don’t hit Mars? The asteroid belt is the next best option, but then you’re looking at a longer trip to and from Earth, iffier water opportunities, and the risk of having spread-out factories. It is by far the most logistically challenging and fraught with novel new ways to eff up your mission.

Then there’s Jupiter, which is awesome but also really, really far away. And dangerous as hell to approach, unless you plow tons of money into the “failure is not an option” option of bypassing hazard spots. There’s also, I think, a colonist that lets you bypass the hazardous aerobrake spots, and there are lots of those if you take advantage of the Jupiter flyby/slingshot thing to get out to one of its tasty moons.

Bad luck totally boned me on my first attempt. Ignoring Mars, I started researching patents that could be factory-built in the asteroids near Vesta: there are two different flavors of claim spots and a zillion little wet-but-tiny (therefore hard to prospect; you gotta roll at or under the size of the body and they’re all 1s) targets. Sent a fast little robonaut prospector out there, which glitched out. Decommissioned that mission, putting the cards back in my hand, and started to rebuild for another shot. Budget cuts took a vital patent out of my hand, so I couldn’t recreate the mission. Then I finally got back out there, effed up every one of the 1-in-6 prospecting targets (beating the odds), got good old Vesta prospected but ran out of time to actually industrialize it. My stupid short-sighted board cut my funding and I was out of the game. 🙁

Second attempt, similar approach and result. Bad luck would fry a colonist with radiation or space debris would take out a vital rocket part. The money was dead slow to rebuild, mostly because losing an early colonist hire is very hard to come back from. But I did get a little traction out there! I got a factory built, which kept me in the game for another cycle. That factory started spewing out fancy ultratech widgets for the next round of industrialization, and once again the bad luck just would not give me a break.

I think I need to take the devastating effects of each phase’s bad luck results much more seriously when I play. Happily, it’s only bad luck 2/3 of each 12-year cycle: either budget cuts making you lose patents, or solar flares frying your gear.

It is definitely an interesting challenge to try and take on the game in a very different way. A little frustrating, given it’s also sort of solved, if you resign yourself to returning to Mars every time.

I’d love to dial in a faster industrialization path to Jupiter, because you can pretty much leave Earth behind at some point and build literally everything you need out there. Honestly it’s the better choice, just expensive and/or slow to line up.

There is a way-outside-the-box idea I want to try sometime, and that is to use solar sails to boost goodies out into deep space one load at a time. They all rely on solar winds so they’re utterly useless anywhere beyond Earth. But you can get super tricksy and slingshot around the sun fast enough to get carried all the way to Jupiter. That’s an idea for another attempt.

3 thoughts on “Your Daily High Frontier”

  1. Question for you Paul Beakley. Playing time… give me some statistics. The box says 180minutes… Usually, that means 3-4 hours. But I’m hoping you can be more specific. Also considering different playercounts.

  2. Total horseshit. It’s maybe an hour per player for the basic game. More like three hours per player for the full meal deal.

    Solitaire can be pretty fast because often you’re just taking money and advancing the turn counter.

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