Your Daily High Frontier

Your Daily High Frontier

Get Learnin’

Folks who have been following my ridiculous obsession with High Frontier and want to learn/play themselves, this post is for you.

First off! the complete third edition rules are available here in PDF: They’re clickable links way down under Project Contents. Yes, it is a terrible page. OSS has been pretty iffy about the whole project:

The way they’ve structured the books in High Frontier’s third edition is pretty smart. The “basic game” is playable if simplistic, and teaches you most of what you’ll use in 20 pages. And bigger type than you get in an FFG rulebook. I’d say it’s comparable to learning an FFG game.

Then they break up the advanced game into modules, which are mostly independent of one another. Like, we just don’t bother with the Combat module, which does undercut one of the factions a bit but is mostly not missed. And you can totally play toward factories and not Futures from the Endgame module.

There are a few good recipes online for how to teach a group of players. There are even various recipes based on the gaming experience of the group!

For an experienced group of gamers, I’d go with:

Basic + Support for two games. I wouldn’t bother with the quickstart rules if you’ve ever played anything even mildly complex. 10WT to start, and run with the Idea Phase opening where you just buy individual cards.This also requires you use the Advanced Game setup, which adds a few things atop Basic: slingshots/moon boosts, radiation hazards, space government (which in turn affects policies and the free market), fungible fuel tanks, and events.

Add Bernals + Colonists for one game. That gets you used to moving multiple things on the board and managing multiple actions.

Add Freighters + Gigawatt Drives for one game. Mostly to reinforce the previous addition (Bernals + Colonists), but also this expands the map in realistic ways. It’s very hard, maybe impossible, to really get any further than Jupiter/Saturn without a GW drive.

Finally, add the Endgame and play toward a Futures ending. This step has a lot of implications to it, and I think four previous games is probably about right. You flip over the achievement cards (glories and ventures), you have to start evaluating the Promoted purple backsides of cards, and you have to start piecing together multistep operations (factories, dirtside operations, deep exploration, a lab, etc.).

Each module is pretty compact tbh, like 2-3 pages each. You do it that way and the game is quite approachable.

A couple pro-tips now that I fancy myself a semi-pro:

* Play in a semi-cooperative way. Help each other out with ideas on ship builds and routes. Audit each other’s builds, not only to make sure they’re legal but to see how the bits can be used in interesting ways. Rewind obviously poor choices, which might only become obvious once you’ve executed.

* When you add Colonists, prioritize getting one or more of them. Their value will be immediately obvious.

* Just build missions and get flying as quick as possible. If you can go scout lots of sites, do that while you sit back at home assembling your giant god rocket. Whatever. Just get moving. Flight is as much an opportunity cost as Operations.

* Leave out the Combat module until you’ve actually completed a couple Futures games. It will drag the game out and make it pretty hard-nosed and confrontational. The game is already so brutally unforgiving that, well, we don’t have specific plans to add it ourselves. Maybe someday.

* If you have time and space — say, via the Tabletop Simulator version at Steam ( — run through the solitaire games. I started with Hermes Fall (save the world from the comet), which taught me that some of the game can be “solved” and then filed away. Then I ran CEO, which makes you use allll the modules but it puts constant pressure on you to track your victory points and assemble a Future. There’s one more I haven’t done, Werner’s Star, that looks interesting but also adds lots of scenario-specific widgets.

14 thoughts on “Your Daily High Frontier”

  1. No Paul Beakley, I’ve been reading these with interest but you’re not hooking me:

    1. The game is unavailable for a physical copy

    2. My list of high concept board games that rarely, if ever hit the table is too damn long as it is.

    Back to your cave!

  2. Ohhhh so it actually is for you. :devil:

    It’s definitely the 10-hour experience of your dreams and nightmares. And it’s very good solitaire.

    I’m not sure if any of the cards changed between 2nd and 3rd edition. You could probably pick up 2nd, maybe splash out for the big megamap (available 3rd party), and run it off the 3E PDFs.

  3. Ooh poop, I was wrong. Just looked at the rulebook once more and they do have a whole big paragraph of physical differences between 2E and 3E (this is important to you too, jeff fearnow). The big one is that there are 34 new cards. The fuel strip is also different now.

    Sooo then you’re back to the Tabletop Simulator. I wish it felt less like playing a (very very complex) game underwater. There’s also a VR mode for folks at the way-bleeding-edge of gaming tech.

    (I have thought for more than 10 minutes about the practicalities of picking up VR gear just to play High Frontier online. What is wrong with me?)

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