Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Metal Adventures

There are games that I walk away from a first play saying to myself, I really like this game. I can't wait to play more. Also in the spectrum, there are also games that I walk away from thinking to myself, Wow. I could like this game, but I need to play it more to figure it out.

Metal Adventures is in that second category. We played it a few weeks back, and I liked the game, but there were things we didn't do because we were learning the game. It's not that there are a lot of moving pieces, but it's because we didn't know.

Let's start with an overview.

Metal Adventures is a space combat adventure game.  Players have a handful of choices to make in their race to be the first to 9 Glory.

Players are Pirates. Members of the Brotherhood of Pirates, who gain Glory by preying on shipping, planets, and each other.

Each player has a display that has more moving parts than I've seen in a game in a very long time. There are four wheels - Main Power, Damage, Glory, and Judgment of Pirates.

When you move your Damage wheel, it lowers your Main Power. When you are judged by the other pirates, you lose Glory. Despite how fiddly it feels at first glance, it does make sense.

Each turn, you first decide if you wish to go adventuring or if you want to spend a turn to rest and repair or if you want to go pick a fight with someone.

If you take the turn off, you don't have to pay dues to the Brotherhood, you get money from the bank, your ship is repaired for free, your Metal Faktor die is reset to zero, you can swap your Trophies (which are a way to get bonus victory points), and you can buy upgrades at an inflated price.

Or you can take a "normal" turn.  There are two things you can do in a normal turn:

1) Take the Tour of Pirates
2) Pick a Fight

You need to do both, but you can do them in either order. But before you do so, you need to pay your dues.  It's just one money to the pot

The Tour of Pirates involves going to four different planets and taking advantage of the actions in those locations. The first planet, Exxalia, lets you gain Trophy cards and repair your ship. The OCG Counter lets you cash in sets of ships you've destroyed for money and Glory. You can also buy upgrades for your ship here.  Bazaar lets you buy upgrades that other people have discarded and pay off the Judgment of Pirates. And, finally, Karokum lets you swap ships that you looted with ships in the discard pile or turn in Wrecks and/or money for Glory.

You need to take these actions in order, so you can't (for example) go to Karokum to swap ships so that you have three of the same faction so you can turn them in at OCG that same turn.

It's straightforward, but there are ten different actions that you need to go through and decide whether to perform or not. It's a bit overwhelming for new players.

Then there is picking a fight.

You can pick one of three fights:
1) Ships from the Ship Deck. The top half of these are mostly merchants. The bottom half includes a bunch of Pirate Hunters that are tougher to beat.
2) One of the Planets you can visit on the Tour (with the exception of the OCG Counter).
3) Another player.

Battles are all handled in roughly the same way. You add your main power to a die. Your opponent does the same.  High number wins. But there is a little bit of finesse, here, too.

The first tweak to the rules is that every player has a Metal Faktor die. You may roll this when you are involved in a combat. It's not a normal d6, either. This number serves as a positive modifier to your roll. It's very nice when combat is going to be a near thing.  BUT (and this is potentially significant) that die is then "locked" to that face and provides a penalty to your next roll.

The second tweak is alliances.  You can ask another player to assist you. You see, preying on shipping (or planets or other players) can be very lucrative. You can earn Glory (which gets you closer to winning) or money or gear. And you can offer any of these things (other than Glory) to a player who assists you in your attack. You can only have one ally when attacking ships or planets, but you can have multiple allies when attacking another player.  There's a risk in recruiting allies, too, because they can turn on you.

For me, the most interesting part of the battles isn't the battle itself.  It's deciding what you're going to be fighting - because it makes a huge difference.

When you attack the Ship Deck, you can choose one of three ships to fight, which lets you choose your reward, really. Because these ships can give you Glory, money, and equipment cards.  You may also try to get a specific ship for sets you can turn in at the OCG counter.

When you attack a planet, you can steal its treasury, among other benefits.  So if your opponents are spending a lot of time spending money at Karokum, for example, there will be more money there for the taking.

When you attack another player, you grab the "dues" that everyone pays at the start of the turn, as well as gaining Glory.

There are a lot of things to keep track of at first, which kept me from relaxing into the game. And I suspect it'll be that way for a few games with new players. We didn't, for example, betray anyone during the game, and I have a hunch that knowing when to betray someone is a key part of the strategy.

I did like this game, and I do want to play it again. But it wasn't an instant win with my group because of that learning curve. With time, that will probably change. But we're already in that "getting ready for GenCon" time of year, so I don't know that it's likely to hit the table again until after the show.

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