Kickstarter Preview: The Artemis Project

Designers: Daniel Roochi, Daryl Chow

Art: Josh Cappel, Dominik Mayer

Publisher: Grand Gamers Guild

Player count: 1-5 players

Playtime 60-75 minutes

 

Disclaimer: A prototype copy of The Artemis Project was provided by Grand Gamers for this preview. Everything you see in this preview is in prototype form and does not represent the final product. Now I should be clear that this publisher and I have what I would consider a personal/professional relationship, but that will not have any effect on the preview of this product. This is about informing backers and I’ll review the final product when that day comes.

 

Many Moons Away

In the last eight to ten years, scientists have discovered some signs of water beneath the icy surface of Europa, a moon of Jupiter. If our science is on point, then we have potentially discovered something that could help the future of mankind. I went big with that statement, but what if we actually landed on Europa? What mysteries will we discover? The Artemis Project’s theme is based on humans reaching Europa and attempting to make it inhabitable for human life. The Artemis Project is a medium weight euro game with dice placement, resource management and engine building mechanics. During the game, players will go on expeditions, gather minerals and energy, train specialists, and construct buildings above and below ground. This is the type of game that checks so many boxes and I had the Mr. Burns fingers when I got my hands on this prototype. Let’s take a deep dive into the gameplay, mechanics, and strategy The Artemis Project has to offer.

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When you get a much anticipated prototype in your hands

Overview

A game of the Artemis Project is played over six rounds. Players will roll their own five dice to use for placement during the round. Each round has three phases. During the Placement Phase, you will take turns placing one die at a time in one of the seven areas on the main board. In the Resolution Phase, all of the locations are resolved in clockwise order and players will gather awards and resources. If they are unlucky, they move up the Relief Track. As each location is resolved, there will be one Event card resolved based on the location shown on the card. The Upkeep Phase refreshes the resources for the board. Fully staffed buildings generate resources and points and some of the colonists and pioneers could potentially die if they are left without proper shelter and energy to keep them warm. I’ll touch on the importance of the Upkeep Phase throughout this preview.

 

 

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Above and Below

To begin the game, players will receive a player board, a Pioneer colonist, and a small supply of minerals and energy. The game board is filled with Expedition cards, resources, buildings, and colonists. Dice are rolled each round to fill the energy and mineral locations on the board. Colonists are drawn blindly from a bag and each type has their own ability. Pioneers raise and decrease die values (beyond 6), Engineers add resource rewards, Marines lower the opponents die, and Stewards earn VP. A complete building with the required colonists produces resources and points between rounds. The importance of each location on the board changes from round to round, so I’ll walk you through each of the seven locations.

The Hangars location has Expedition cards, where players can complete missions by placing a group of dice that meet or exceed the value on the card. What’s interesting about this location is sometimes players will need to cooperate to complete the required value. It’s more common to cut people off or slide in towards the end of a round to see if it’s worth investing your die. Completing expeditions, rewards you in two ways. Expedition tokens are awarded to the winner or winners, plus the rewards of the expedition are split or given to one player. Collecting the most or having the least Expedition tokens influences the final scoring, so this location is always relevant. Now the losers of an expedition have a decent consolation prize. If a player loses out on rewards, resources, buildings, recruiting, and expeditions as locations are resolved, they move up the Relief Track. There is a Relief Track adds an additional element to the gameplay that eventually rewards players for trying, if that makes sense. Players will eventually have a choice of consolation prizes to choose from as they slowly move up, that’s not the path to victory my friend. That track is for inefficient losers like me.

The Vents and Quarry are probably the most important locations in the game. They provide all the minerals and energy needed to build buildings, recruit and keep your Colonists alive during the Upkeep Phase. The amount of resources that will be available varies from round to round based on rolling two dice. The fight for these resources changes for round to round and players have to decide what’s going to be their focus if both areas are have minimal gains.

The Gantry is home to all the buildings in the game. Player’s need buildings to generate resources, scoring points, and provide shelter to their Colonists from death between rounds (Upkeep Phase). Players compete for buildings by bidding one die at a time. The winning bidder pays using minerals. What’s really cool is players do not have to have the resources until the previous locations are resolved. There is an opportunity for players to risk gathering the mineral needed from expeditions and the Quarry location because both need to be resolved before paying for building in the Gantry. It takes careful planning to pull this trick off and your opponents might spend a die or two to outbid you.

The Doorstep is the arrival location where new colonists arrive to help staff buildings and add value to your die rolls on expeditions. You need to manage your energy to hire specialists and place staff in their shelters or buildings. Having a variety of colonist types will help players fill building requirements and activate them for resources between rounds. When the above ground buildings are filled with specific colonists, they award points for end game scoring. If you don’t have the right type of colonist to execute your plan, players can train their colonist by placing a specific numbered die in the Academy location. This location is the go to spot for the moments where drawing colonists out of a bag just isn’t working out. Depending on player count this is a first come first serve only location. This presents another interesting choice; do you wait for the next round and hope for a better draw or do you train a colonist now? Choices choices choices

The Outfitter instantly provides a player with one or two tool tokens that raise the value of a die by one. I initially thought the Outfitter location was a throwaway space, but there is an end game scoring opportunity for having the most tools. It’s so clutch to have the ability to use multiple tools to get the result you need at certain points of the game.

 

 

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Strategic Play

During the Placement Phase, every die placement is critical. Players have a limited amount of time to gather enough minerals  and use them to purchase buildings. You want to develop a small group of ocean buildings, because they produce tools, points, resources, and more between rounds. Depending the ocean buildings you have, there will be less to chase during each round. Get that tableau engine going baby! Later in the game, the focus shifts to acquiring surface buildings in the last three rounds to generate chunks of points. Everything costs a die or a couple precious dice to get what you want. The Artemis Project is absolutely not a solitaire euro with minimal player interaction. The game can go from kind to cutthroat after the placement of one die by any opponent. Players will and should use their dice to block off others from receiving awards, resources, buildings, and colonists. I like the pressure of knowing my choices have weight to them and I’m not necessarily safe to place my die wherever I want. One example of how the game drives high interaction is the Quarry and Gantry locations. During the Upkeep Phase, resource dice are rolled to reload each resource location. One round their might be enough resources for everyone, the next barely enough for one person. Dice are resolved in ascending order during the Resolution phase, so the timing and order of placement is crucial. The Exposure mechanism allows a player placing a matching die to slide into the next slot on the right. That means die or dice with higher numbers get pushed further down the line and left with no resources after the others take theirs. Rolling high numbers can be a blessing sometimes, but it can ruin your opportunity to gather resources. On the other hand, you can use higher numbered die to complete expeditions by yourself or outbid opponents for buildings if you have the minerals. You even have the option of using tools to manipulate a die to get the value down or up to juuuuuust the right value. I talked about how most of the locations are resolved during the Resolution Phase, but Event cards change the course of decisions during the round. For the most part you’re going to experience not so good results. Some of them requiring players to spend extra resources to keep buildings and your colonists alive. The positive events add more colonists to the Doorstep location and allow players to purchase victory point by spending resources. Event cards are resolved based on where the location on the card. If you don’t prepare properly, I’ve experienced moments where I’m not able to pay minerals or energy when I need it to pay for a building or to recruit. There are currently ten events in the prototype so expect a rotation of cards each game (ahhhh stretch goals?). Events cards are another small threat that keeps players on edge and forces them to make some more desperate decisions. I hope you don’t trick yourself into thinking The Artemis Project is a quick light euro game. There is more complexity to this game than I expected.

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Having a combination of building, stored resources, and badges is the key to victory!

Final Scoring

The game ends after six rounds and the scoring is similar to many euro game. You get points for the amount of buildings you have, full staffed surface building, having the majority of expedition tokens and tools tiles, remaining sets of colonists, and stored energy. The player with the most points wins. Games are usually pretty tight and I never felt like there was a one lane strategy to win.

Solo Play

Take a look at this quick synopsis of the solo player mode.

Why Should I Back This?

Each choice in this game matters. The weight of your choices with each die could come back to hurt you next round or the entire game.

The relief track is a nice way to incentivizes players to “go for it.”

The art design really sells the theme.

You would think this game is hard to learn, but it’s really easy. Once you play a round, everything comes together.

There are a lot of ways to mitigate bad die rolls. What’s a bad or good roll is based on the round anyways.

Any Concerns?

This game has some serious AP situations that will occur. Doesn’t depend on the crowd, there are points of the game where placing one die means a lot for the round. That’s not bad, more like a warning.

Faction powers and personal mission cards are missing from this game. This is a preference of mine that, when it’s missing, I have to say something about it. Update! missions have been unlocked

The Expedition token scoring is a little strange. I would rather have something similar to building like scoring.

Final Impressions

The Artemis Project is already funded and that’s no surprise to me. I like games where everything can’t be planned for. It keeps everyone on their toes and new set of difficult choices need to be made each round. I’m digging this theme too.Thankfully it comes through in the art, expedition cards, events cards, and exposure mechanics. I have a video of the solo mode in this preview to give you just a taste of the mechanics. The solo mode does an excellent job of simulating the tension, unpredictability, and weight of choice that you would experience in a multiplayer game. This game has a lot of positive things going for it even its prototype state. If you’re in the market for a medium weight euro with smart dice placement mechanics and solid solo mode, take a look at The Artemis Project. Thank you for your time. You da real MVP if you read this far, seriously you are.

I can’t tell you what to do with your money, but I hope this will help you make an informed decision. A direct link is provided below to the KS page.

The Artemis Kickstarter Link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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