Posted Thursday, 19-Mar-2015
Outpost – a game popular enough to earn a 20th anniversary re-release – showed decades ago that games don’t have to be bland, taking economy building into space.
In Outpost you play the masterminds coordinating settlement of a distant mining planet. Each of you is building up your own outpost, and the one who builds an effective colony the quickest is the winner.
But settling a planet isn’t as easy you would expect. You have limited people, technology and resources. You have to build up all of these, balancing the need to staff your new facilities with the availability of people.
This being science fiction, you have other options such as robots – not the unreliable drones of Robo Rally, but effective workers to staff your factories. But everything you do has a cost, and you can’t do everything. In space, no-one can bring you spare parts.
Outpost is played using a large selection of cards and tokens representing your base and its resources. There are two ways of making progress – developing technology and constructing buildings. Technology increases your options, while buildings produce resources to pay for everything.
Payment is done by bidding against other players for the things you want. It’s a system with one key catch – that you can’t get change for how much you pay. Want to outbid someone who’s offering five ore, and all you have is a ten? Then you’re going to have to pay the full ten.
What makes Outpost work so well is the level of randomness involved, which makes the play both satisfying and thematic.
As colonists mining a new planet, you just don’t know how much ore each seam will give you. Maybe it’ll be a huge amount, maybe just enough for the next advancement. It creates a sense of working in an unknown environment.
In terms of game play, the value of the resources you receive each round is random, but not wildly so. This means that you can plan ahead expecting to be able to pay for certain things, but not sure exactly how much you’ll be able to pay. These random card values in Outpost add to the challenge of the no-change payment rule.
It’s a level of randomness that creates interest but doesn’t completely derail plans, making it satisfying rather than frustrating.
In terms of theme and the challenges offered, Outpost has a lot in common with Race for the Galaxy. But this is the big game take on settling space, and will fill an afternoon’s gaming rather than half an hour. If you want the satisfaction of building and running your own colony, maybe it’s time to settle an Outpost.
Published by BoardGamePrices.com