Your Daily High Frontier
One small benefit of single-dadding this week: after-hours solitaire High Frontier!
Finally decided to tackle the CEO solitaire game. Basically, you have a timer running to force you to earn victory points every 12-year cycle, otherwise your board of directors pulls your funding and shuts you down. The game ends when you achieve one of the big Futures, and your margin of success — that is, your actual final VP minus the 10 point mandatory-per-cycle ticker — tells you how well you did.
It’s pretty intimidating when you first read the scenario. In some ways it seems even harder than multiplayer. The big one is that since many of the easier-to-accomplish Futures require an “extreme science op” roll (it’s called something different, can’t remember what), they’ve upped the requirement to make that roll. In the normal game, if you have a trans-neptunian object industrialized (i.e. a “TNO Lab”), or factories on four different spectral type bodies, or a Bernal with a science site dirtside (i.e. a “Bernal Lab”), any of those things would let you make the not-stupid roll: succeed on a 1-5 instead of just a 1. Well, in the solitaire game the only thing that lets you make the roll is a TNO Lab. Yikes. There’s just no avoiding the long deep slog out to the Kuiper Belt.
I’ve never succeeded in getting one of those. First time for everything!
I grabbed the European Space Agency, because they have a decent lagrange point position for their Bernal, which also promotes up to by far the most agile moveable space station in the game. They also provide a “push satellite” — I guess some kind of microwave thingie? — that boosts certain kinds of thrusters.
Eyeballing the map, I think the easiest way to get a lot of early points fast is to industrialize Mars. It’s pretty easy to get to — one burn — but hard as hell to land on safely. Either you spend a crapton of fuel because Mars is so big, or you cross your fingers and/or pay your “failure is not an option” money to deal with aerobraking down. Worked out fine and I got a lot of water grabbed quickly as well.
I moved my Bernal out to low Mars orbit (LMO) so I could take advantage of all that dirtside water. The rule is that you can always have one colonist, but if you have a Bernal with dirtside water you can have up to 1/2 of the total water in colonists “in space.” Not even at the Bernal. Boost ’em to LEO or whatever, doesn’t matter. That’s a huuuuge deal because colonists = actions and there’s nothing more dear in a race game than opportunity cost.
My first colonists are these space survivalist crazies with a Gadsden Flag as their symbol. They’re ultraconservative assholes but they’re competent engineers who protect my shit from space debris threats! So they got me an extra engineer action, which is handy.
I noticed pretty early that the solitaire game is quite a lot easier in some important ways because you don’t have to compete with anyone for perfect card sets. I was able to line up pretty much the only set of cards that are mostly produced at Mars factories (they’re all C spectral types, which is fairly limiting in a multiplayer game). In fact the only thing you can’t produce on Mars to further industrialize is a refinery. So I had to keep shuttling new refineries built on Earth and boosted to my Bernal. Fine, no big deal.
There’s also no … psychic time pressure when you’re playing by yourself, you know? I could sit there and pencil out a half-dozen scenarios. Very helpful. This became a big big deal when I saw that I could buy up a patent for a C-type freighter design. Ooh!
The Freighter module feels super weird and abstract to me in High Frontier’s advanced game. In the basic game it’s pretty straightforward: an automated tug that can haul a single card from a factory to anywhere else. But in the advanced game, mostly the Freighters are hard to use and very limited. They’re also one of the three sources for Futures. So I checked out the back of the C-type Freighter and lo and behold: just make one of those super-science rolls at a Bernal with atmospheric dirtsides full of people, and you’ll build a climate mirror. It’s perfect for a Mars-heavy scenario. It’s also a better-sounding deal than my promoted Tea Partiers, who become some kind of hyper-revolutionaries who murder everyone.
But hey…it takes that superscience roll. Well poop. That means I need a TNO, and the only way to get one of those is with a terawatt thruster. The only way to get THAT is to build a gigawatt thruster and promote it.
I take advantage of my Mars superstructure and grab two more colonists: good old Cousteau Society, which turns D sites and synodic comets into labs, and a hacking group called Siren that makes my “failure is not an option” rolls cheaper. Again with the total lack of competition, right? That’s a really sweet set of benefits on top of now four actions every year/turn.
In fact I have so many actions that money quickly becomes irrelevant and I can shop all the decks for just what I need. I’ve also bought myself a couple decade’s worth of breathing room by snagging up most of Mars (three prospected sites, two factories, two colonies). Just to seal the deal on a third decade of no pressure, I build a little side gig out of C-type parts to go prospect Ceres. That lets me claim the Space Elevator venture, which turns out to be super handy because all those colonists I bought? They’re just floating in LEO with no place to live. They will get fucking smoked the first time some space debris drifts through. So the second my weird little prospector rocket is done with Ceres, I claim/build a space elevator, zip out to L2 (which is now colocated with LEO thanks to the beanstalk), scoop up my colonists, and everyone goes home to Mars.
The whole middle stretch, a solid 25 years, is basically me working out the math on how to achieve that climate mirror future. So! I need a factory with a lab that can fabricate a super-thruster to get out past Neptune to where all the good isotope condensates are, fly my weird little Mars freighter to that lab and promote it as well, fly it back to Mars while I’m shooting out past Neptune, etc etc.
There are some neat little twists and turns in there, mostly in the one-two-three of building that lab-factory-colony on a synodic comet, leaving the Cousteau Society there to be transformed into nanites (no shit), fabricating both a D-class gigawatt thruster and a D-class generator to run it, in-situ fueling since my nanites are so very good at sucking isotopes out of the comet surface, blasting back to Mars in a few weeks (which has been busily re-fabricating all the bits and bobs needed to industrialize one more site EXCEPT THAT STUPID REFINERY augggh…sigh, okay, fly the goddamned Bernal back to Earth to pick it up), then spending the next three years grinding out the miles to the Kuiper Belt. Stick a flag out there, build my TNO lab, make the easy roll back on Mars to build that climate mirror, ta da!
I finished the game in 54 years with 29 surplus points, which is “excellent.” I’d love to play it again but it really does seem…easy? Ish? I think I’d need to make my own fun by finding even harder and more elaborate Futures to fulfill.
Total game time 3 hours or so. Not a bad way to spend an evening!