Sunday, 17 May 2015

Periorbis - the Asteroid Mining Board Game

Sunday, May 17, 2015

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Alright, so you're anxiously waiting for Planetary Resources to go public so you can by stock and you're wondering when Deep Space Industries are going to jump on the social media bandwagon so you can get more of an asteroid mining fix. Yepp, been there done that. Doing that!

So of course, even though I wanted to avoid posting about Kickstarters for a bit, I simply can't resist telling you about Periorbis - a bonafide asteroid mining board game, by Gareth Newton-Williams! Originally it was actually called Asteroid Miner but had to change it as there was already a game with that name. A bit of a pity as I think a more straightforward name than Periorbis (although I actually like the name!) might attract a wider audience. Anyway...

Game content. Lots of stuff and very nice looking too!
It's an economic game where each player is head of a fledgling asteroid mining company and need to hire crew, prospect asteroids, negotiate contracts and then actually go to the big space rocks to bring home the bacon, or ore in this case. The different crew you hire are good at different things so while some might be better at actual mining, others are better off staying at the base researching better propulsion methods or overseeing the contract negotiations. It's a bit of a mix of worker placement, pick-up and deliver and economic engine building. When reading about it my first thought was "hmm, so kind of like Power Grid... in SPACE!" which is aweseme in pretty much every way possible!

Game board.
With that said it's certainly not a bleak clone or PG wannabe, but very much its own game. For those looking for that particular stand-out mechanic I'd say it's all about the asteroids and their different orbits. Above you have a picture of the Periorbis game board and as you can see the main element is the band of asteroids circling... the planet (as it's obviously not Earth). The orbits are separated by three distance (or delta-V if we want to be correct, and we do) bands and separated into 12 sectors. Each sector represent one turn of the game and you start at 1. The asteroids in the closest band in a sector represent the ones that are easiest to get to and are available with the starting technology. To get further out you need to research better propulsion. If you compare sector 1 and sector 2 you can see that things have switched around a bit - the teal asteroid that was further out is now closer in and the red one is nowhere to be seen at all! This really is a great way both to represent simplified yet relevant orbital mechanics AND to make a dynamic arena of fluctuating resources. I was impressed by what a simple solution Gareth used to create this both thematic and interesting mechanic.

The crew cards. Great hard sci-fi art and you can see the skill values at the bottom of the card.
I mentioned crew earlier and while you start with a few basic office drones you really want to try and nab some of the more skilled workers that are out there looking for job. This nicely ties into player order and the overall economics as they need to be payed each turn and the more skilled they are the more money they want. There's also the player board (below) where you house your workers (on the numberd spaces) and then send them to work in the different rooms like R&D and contract negotiation. That is, if you're not rocketing them around the solar system to a small lifeless boulder devoid of air and other pleasentries. Speaking of rockets, you use your crew as pilots to fly other crew (miners) around and then there are ore haulers that dock to the station where you're located and need to be filled up with ore in different configurations. Here's where the contract negotiations come in as you want a skilled negotiatior to get you a good deal and then be able to deliver the actual ore in as an effective way as possible. Yeah, you'll probably have to upgrade the cargo capacity of your mining ships so you can bring more or (and miners!) back. Lots to think about!

Player board.
I won't try and explain the entire game (I'll leave that to Rahdo, below), but I want to impress on you, my dear reader, that I think this is an impressive game not only because of the really great theme and evocative art but because of the actual mechanics! I come across kickstarters all the time that has great concepts and look beautiful but when you actually check under the hood it just seems to be a mess of cables and gears. Not so with Periorbis - this to me looks like a tight and very interesting economic game where competition is fierce and the scores great. If I came across this with the old euro setting of merchants in italy or farmers in medieval Germany I would STILL be all over it!

There's still a day and a half left to back, shipping to the US and within EU are included in the very reasonable price of £44/$66 for a copy of the game. Of course, it's also already funded but I'm sure some extra unlocked stretch goals wouldn't hurt!

I'll put Rahdo's runthrough and final thoughts here for your conveniance. Check out the run through if you want to know more of the actual mechanics, and the final thoughts if you just want to know what he thinks of the game.

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