Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cloaking Device - "Quantum"

After we wrapped up Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars, Matt had to pack it in, leaving Chad, Jeremy, Mike and I alone with Quantum. I don't need to tell you what happened next.

Well, actually, yeah, I guess I do need to tell you what happened next since it's kinda like, my job and...stuff


Here's a warp-speed description for this one, right from the space-dock of publisher Fun Forge:

"In Quantum, each player is a fleet commander from one of the four factions of humanity, struggling to conquer a sector of space. Every die is a starship, with the value of the die determining the movement of the ship, but also its combat power – with low numbers more powerful. So a '6' is a quick but fragile Scout and a '1' is a slow but mighty Battlestation.

"Each type of ship also has a special power that can be used once per turn: Destroyers can warp space to swap places with other dice and Flagships can transport other ships. These powers can be used in combination for devastating effects. You’re not stuck with your starting ships, however: using Quantum technology, you can spend actions to transform (re-roll) your ships. Randomness plays a role in the game, but only when you want:
Quantum is very much a strategy game.

"You win by constructing Quantum Cubes – massive planetary energy extractors. Each time you build a new one, you can expand your fleet, earn a new permanent ability, or take a one-time special move. The board itself is made out of modular tiles, and you can play on one of the 30 layouts that come with the game or design your own. The ship powers, player abilities, and board designs combine to create a limitless set of possibilities for how to play and strategies for how to win.
 

"With elegant mechanics, an infinity of scenarios, and easy-to-learn rules that lead to deep gameplay, Quantum is a one-of-a-kind game of space combat, strategy and colonization that will satisfy both hard-core and casual players."

Looking for the full specs on all the ships of the line? Then click on the following link and you'll be privy to all the blueprints at the Utopia Planitia! 

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The Factions

Chad: Orion Republic (Yellow)
Me: Vulpes Alliance (Red)
Jeremy: Andromeda Confederacy (Green)
Mike: Kepler Imperium (Blue)

For quite some time, Chad lagged behind in the placement of Quantum Cubes. He kept running afoul of both Mike and Jeremy, to the point where he had absolutely no ships left at one point. He assuaged these wounds somewhat by investing in a couple of Research Actions.

Taking note of the mutability of Jeremy's dice he started to make his own incredibly sharp moves, first cozying up to my settlement on Upsilon 11 and then jockeying for position with Jeremy on Aldebaran QX 1265.

Jesus, this game is like Neil DeGrasse Tyson's wet dream. 

Anyhoo, Chad's surge was aided considerably by his heavy reliance on Gambit and Command Cards. Towards the end of the game he acquired the "Tactical" trait, which gave one of his ships a free one-sector hop. Armed with the potential to make sneak attacks, he then augmented this with the "Scrappy" skill, which provided a very handy ship and weapon die re-roll.

As a result, things really picked up for him, leading to a ridiculously-close finale. In quick succession Chad moved in next door to me on Odin Majoris, staked a claim on the highly-contested Concordia 8 and then landed a veritable freebie on Minum 2586. His comeback complete, he then surrounded Thor 6 with no less then three ships, putting him one Cube away from victory!


Mike destroyed one of my ships right off the bat, giving me plenty of incentive to be a lot more "fight-y" then normal. Even though I knew full well that a constant diet of warfare was critical to success, I thumbed my nose at expectations and played the game the way I wanted to play it. This meant quietly branching out from my home turf on 55 Librae to plunk a Quantum Cube down on Centor Tetis.  

My gambit paid off as Mike, Jeremy and Chad immediately started to cut the shit outta one another. The closest I ventured to one of these mid-board knife-fights was a quick Colonial Marines-style atmospheric drop on Odin Majoria. On those rare occasion when I was forced into a scrap, my "Strategic" Combat Support card gave my perpetually-clustered ships a beneficial -2 on their combat rolls.

Knowing that my rivals would eventually pick up on my Romulan-like strategy, I tried to leave myself as many options as possible by maintaining a fleet of at least three ships. Anytime I had some leftover actions, I invested in Research, which is to say that I probably only did this about three times during the entire game. Instead I concentrated on circumnavigating the board to land a terraforming team on Upsilon 11. 

My reasonably-good luck in combat combined with a few opportune Gambit Cards let me tip my Dominance die past "6",  earning me an Infamy point and the privilege of placing a new Cube! As I did this, all eyes were drawn to me, prompting Mike to dispatch an Interceptor to the far reaches of the galaxy in a effort to interdict my deep-space vessels.  


Jeremy was super-quick to exploit the shape-shifting attributes of the dice. He was particularly adept at using Flagships to Transport his other ships and Destroyers to warp vessels all over hell and creation. Thanks to some timely Card acquisitions, he pasted his immediate rival Chad in several  early engagements. This aggressive stance also earned him some quick gains on the ol' Dominance meter.

Launching off from Upsilon 2, Jeremy went on a warpath, cutting a Borg-like swath of assimilation right through the heart of the galaxy. Thor 6, Aldebaran QX 1265, Concordia 8: one system after another fell under the thrall of Jeremy's, shall we say, scientific insistence. Only his escalating war of attrition with Chad and then Mike seemed to curtail his efforts, leaving a minimum of two unfinished ships perpetually in dry-dock.

Keen on optimizing the Gambit and Command Cards, Jeremy flirted with the Research action more then the rest of us. Between his creative, three-dimensional dice-play and chaining together several lethal combat rewards, Jeremy quickly became the scourge of the galaxy, especially when he cleared the orbit around 55 Librae with an Interceptor and a Scout.  


Mike came out a-swingin', vaporizing one of my ships as a warm-up but his luck immediately went south from there. After starting out from Concordia 8, he managed to plant two costly flags on both Ursus Minor 2 and Centor Tetis before he become the galaxy's favorite punching bag.

After his fleet was nearly decimated by Chad and Jeremy, Mike forced his shipyard engineers to work overtime to produce every possible ship save one. Unfortunately, towards the end of the game he lost both a Frigate and a Destroyer to his rivals, who were still treating poor Mike like a Infamy-piñata. At least the "Stubborn" trait that he picked up around this time helped him regain some of his lost Dominance.

Eventually Chad and Jeremy got bored with slapping Mike around and turned their attentions toward placing their final Quantum Cube down whilst denying each other the same privilege. So preoccupied were they that they didn't notice that I'd sequestered myself in a far-flung corner of the galaxy, out of range of my rivals. It was here that I hoped to place my final Quantum Cube and win the game.

Only Mike had a ship close enough to stop me. Grudgingly, he accepted the unenviable role of "Space Cop" and dispatched an Interceptor towards Proxima Borealis in a last, desperate bid to stop me.


But even Mike didn't have the movement points to get there in time so it literally came down to one die roll. If I could just Reconfigure my Transport into a Destroyer I could combine it with my already-in-orbit Interceptor and meet the required eight-pip prerequisite for a Cube drop.

Undaunted by this one-in-six chance I tentatively picked up the die and hucked it, my innards aflutter with anticipation. It spiraled gracefully in mid-air and seemed to hang there for a second, oblivious to the weight of eight eyes intent on its augury. Eventually it clattered to the table, bounced around for a little bit and then eventually settled on...

 ...a "3".

I WIN!!!



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REVIEW

PROS
  • The production is impeccable: you've got beautifully-illustrated cards, thick, high-gauge map tiles, temptingly-edible, Jolly Rancher™-style Quantum Cubes and four Command Sheets which clearly and succinctly summarize most of the rules. Oh, and then there's all of those cool six-siders that look like they're made out of beach glass.
  • I love how each die plays distinctly different from another: you've got the slow-but-deadly "1"-pip  Battlestation, the aircraft carrier-style "2"-pip Flagship, the teleport-y "3"-pip Destroyer, the nebulous "4"-pip Frigate, the speedy and agile "5"-pip Interceptor and the ninja-like "6"-pip Scout.
  • There's a pronounced intuitive streak running throughout the entire design which makes it easy to teach and pick up. For example, just by looking at the pips on the Interceptor die you're unconsciously reminded of its unique diagonal movement traits.
  • There's no shortage of dynamic player interaction. And by "dynamic player interaction" I mean that you'll constantly be wrestling with the impulse to push your opponents to the floor and jam Quantum Cubes up their nose.
  • The modular, interchangeable maps can be configured into a whole slew of different designs, adding to the game's re-playability. 
  • Combat may be slightly counter-intuitive but at least it's easy: just roll a die, add your number of pips and the lowest roll wins. 
  • Between all of your ships, your three actions and those free-to-play Special Abilities, the amount of options you'll be presented with on any given turn are boundless. Factor in the Gambit and Command Cards and you've got a mind-bending amount of possibilities. A really clever and creative player can work wonders with these options, literally creating board game art right before you eyes.   
  • With attackers winning ties and the Dominance rule handing out Infamy, the game is clearly slanted towards aggro types. Having said that, if your opponents get bogged down in a protracted royal rumble you can take advantage of this with some subtle Cube drop and some clandestine Research.
CONS
  • At the end of the day the "ships" are still plain 'ol crappy six-sided dice. As a result the game feels more like an abstract, spacial-relations puzzle game to me then a galaxy-settling epic space romp.
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At the end of the day, Quantum is still an admirable and innovative little design. Even if the theme doesn't totally spring to life, at least you can credit designer Eric Zimmerman for thinking outside the box.

In the face of such inspired creativity, I give Quantum five pips outta six with a tilt up towards Ursus Major 2.


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Wanna be "Righteous", "Warlike" and "Arrogant" (I.E. "Republican)" all at the same time? Then click on the link below to learn more about Quantum and help this blog soar to stellar new heights!

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