Like many of you Starcraft fans out there I've been doing a number of things to get myself psyched up for the release of Starcraft 2. One of them was that I finally got around to purchasing the Starcraft Board Game, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find how strong this game is. I'm surprised I haven't seen more written about it in the huge Starcraft community; this game is a work of art and a very worthy addition to the Starcraft universe. Anyway, I've been through six games now, and thought I would take a moment to share my thoughts on it.
The game does a lot of things very well. For one thing the modular planet playing surface was a great idea as it makes for high replayability. Indeed, of the six games I've played no two have been too much alike. For another the combat card system is a great way to resolve combat without having to resort to tedious die rolling. The system also gives the players a lot of options and can be unpredictable and exciting. The event cards were a stroke of genius. Not only can they make the game exciting and wildly unpredictable, but I love how they also serve as a game clock to keep the game from going on indefinitely. Also, I like the fact that there are no negative events, but rather negative events are positive events used by other players against you. Also, I love how the SCV's. workers, drones, serve as money to be used in purchasing units, buildings, and technology. Speaking of which, having technology as additional cards to add to the combat deck was another stroke of genius. Finally I really like how so many of the elements from the Starcraft PC games have been worked into the board game. Very, very cool. I think the only thing missing is a Kerrigan unit! lol
Graphically and artistically the game is a feast for the eyes. The artwork on the game boxes, the planets, the thick cardstock pieces, and the cards are uniformly excellent, very appealing to the eye, and not made cheaply. Ditto for the units; they are so cool!
My only complaints (and these are relatively minor ones) are that firstly the learning curve is rather steep. I think it took me about 5-6 readings of the rules before I felt confident enough to attempt to play it. Also, it was a little bit of a chore and required super glue in attaching the flying units to the clear plastic stands. In fact one of the stems broke off of one of my guardians and is going to require some tricky work to fix. Also, although I like the artwork on the interior cardboard box liner, it doesn't seem very functional for storing the game components. In fact if not for the artwork I would have probably thrown it out.
Thus far I've only played the game solitaire, and I was pleasantly surprised to find how well it plays and exciting it is. After all, like most board games it's not meant to be played solitaire. The card system, however, seems to lend itself very well to solitaire play. I also added a few of my own rules. First of all I pick a side to represent me; usually the Queen of Blades , and I usually take longer thinking out her moves. Secondly I pick the orders of the other factions at random, and this has indeed led to some interesting situations. Finally, I discard the combat cards of the other factions randomly. Admittedly Kerrigan suffered two early defeats, but has won pretty consistently since then, although there have been some very close calls. The only negative I've found in solitaire play is that I think three factions is my limit. Any more than that will tax my ability to keep track of everything. In any event though I don't think my kitchen table has enough room for more than three factions.
I think the thing I like most about SCBG though is that it is sort of a grand strategic take on the Starcraft wars as opposed to the small-scale tactical battles of the RTS games. In fact conceptually it is closer to Star Wars: Empires at War and Sins of a Solar Empire, though on a smaller scale than those games of course. I think Starcraft fans would love to see Blizzard do a grand strategic take on Starcraft like the board game, but of course those kind of games are not Blizzard's forte. At the risk of sounding ingratiating, Fantasy Flight did a fantastic job on SCBG, and again, it is a work of art.
Seven days and counting to the release of SC2! I am, however, going to try to find time to learn and integrate the SCBG: Brood War expansion between now and then.
I'm leaving you with a beautiful painting of Kerrigan at the Battle of New Gettysburg, shortly before her capture and transformation by the Zerg. Wish I had this painting in my house.