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El Mariachi

First Shards Playthrough- Impressions

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 Hi everyone,

 

I thought I'd add another first impression topic here as I had my first game with Shards last night and all the other topics covering this are over at BGG or the TI3wiki. 

So yesterday was a 4 player game (the good old fashioned birthday event game at that!) using both Shards and Shattered Empire. We pretty much used all the options except for leaders, space mines, Age of Empire and early simulated turns. There might have been one or two others but we pretty much used everything and it was great. On the objective front, we used a mix of the vanilla and SE objective cards but with no Imperium Rex. 

The 4 races in play (everyone drew 3 randomly then selected one) were the Nekro Virus, the Ghosts of Creuss, the Brotherhood of Yin and the Embers of Muatt. It was a really good game although I as the brotherhood kinda got the raw end of the galaxy set up but the battle report is for another time, this is an analysis of the shards aspect of the game after one play through. So in no particular order:

The Ghosts of Creuss

I really liked these guys, they didn't seem to over powered but they are definitely up there amongst the better races. The guy playing them wasn't very aggressive which was a shame as he had a lot of wormholes in which he could strike at people home's systems very quickly but he was the least experienced player with only one other game under his belt (the rest of us have about 6 or 7). I could see the potential use of his flagship and I believe that the FAQ ruling is definitely the way the flagship should be played but he didn't really use it all that much. None the less the Ghosts are very quick and despite being new, he came second with 9 VPs (the winner came first with 9VPs but seized a precursor space station at the last moment). I can't comment on the Ghosts racial tech as I never saw it in use but certainly reading them makes initial impressions good.

 

The Nekro Virus

The race that won the game. These guys are true monsters- a great thematic race which can quite happily be the target for all the other players out there and still have a good chance of winning. In our game the Embers player on their left was so afraid that they kept negotiating with them for peace when really they should have helped the other 2 races take the Nekro out. These guys produce command counters like there's no tomorrow and basically just assimilate everything. A very good tactic for the Nekro player was whenever he was speaker he would take the Technology card to gain his command counters instead of leadeship- meaning people rarely got the opportunity for a free technology. Another thing the Nekro player liked about his race was that he could be a complete **** and people wouldn't get suspicious about him because it's how the race needs to be played- meaning he could get away with certain actions that would have torn down any chances of a non-nekro race making an alliance with another race if they did the same thing. He found it very liberating. Long story short, these guys are great and will definitely impact any game of TI3 they're in- you need to ally with other players if you want to take them out. 

In regards to specifics, their flagship is great and not only a brilliant deterrent, it easily wipes out entire fleets when sent in by itself on a suicide run. It's essentially a floating Nuke and certainly needs to be respected. Careful teamwork with other players is needed to counter it successfully. The Nekro also have some very interesting political representatives which certainly makes everyone cagey (although to be fair because of that, the Nekro representatives rarely worked as they were usually the target for an attack but when they did work,  they were very good but more on that later). Overall, (after one play through anyway) I would consider them a top tier race but you have to be aggressive with them. 

 

Mercenaries and Trade III

Overall we liked the Mercenaries- they're quite fun especially when you consider they each have their own special ability. We only saw them in combat for a bit but they're definitely quite good and their special abilities can throw in unexpected twists to a battle. As a group we also saw no problem with planets reverting to neutral if a Mercenary ground force is there by itself. You can explain it thematically through a manner of different means but more importantly it's a good balance modifier because otherwise the Mercenaries would be too much of a sure bet choice. They're also relatively cheap. Having said that I made the mistake of getting some too early which meant I wasted resources using mercs I didn't need at the time.

Trade III on the other hand we found to be very...clunky. I didn't want to prejudge the card based on what has been said on forums. I wanted to give it a fair chance and didn't tell any of the other players what the general '1nt3rw3bz' consensus was. We all came to the overwhelming conclusion that the card is very poor- having Mercenaries recruited through the trade card is fine in of itself but once you take that out you have a very clunky trading system which in our opinion removed all the subtleties of trade strategies. The fact of the matter is that trade becomes a guaranteed income and the secondary ability to cancel a trade agreement is generally a waste of a command counter as it's too easily re-established in the next turn...for no loss of income for the partners who had their agreements cancelled. This is assuming that the trade strategy card isn't taken by the player who did the cancellation but this never happened as someone else would pick the card up (this might be more of a problem in 4 player games when all the strategy cards are going to be selected each turn- annoying when the majority of our games are 4 player). Normally we'd try something we didn't like one more time before deciding to change it as we like to play as close to the rules as possible but we are strongly tempted to go back to Trade II and link the mercenaries with that. Maybe there's something we're missing but why change Trade II so massively? In summary, Mercs: great, Trade III: poor to the extent we're willing to house rule it after one playthrough which we don't normally do.

 

Mechanised Units

Never saw any combat in our first game which is a great shame. However we did build some and for what they do they are very cheap and I can see why we're hardcapped to just 4 of them. The Nekro was within striking distance of my Home System so I immediately built all 4 on my homeworld which was strong enough to deter an invasion completely. I would have liked to see them in action but I see no reason not to use these guys, they seem like a lot of fun and are pretty simple.

 

Political Intrigue (Assembly II) and Promissory Notes

I know the internet things this option is a bit 'meh' but we really liked this option. We though the use of the representatives added a whole new mini game to the process. Admittedly it makes an assembly last a bit longer but we're the kind of group that feels disappointed if a game of Twilight only lasts 5-6 hours. Not knowing quite what your opponent is going to send is fun and it gave the game a very 'cold war' feel to the early stages with no actual wars being fought but with political representatives quietly 'disappearing'. We also had some pretty major laws come out which was really good fun and changed the flow of the game quite dramatically each time. The Nekro added a whole new dimension to the process as well with all of us being paranoid as to whether Beezlebub would show up. The potential is there if an entire group of timid players kept playing that nothing but bodyguards would keep showing to the assembly but that would be fairly easy to counter with a councillor for an important law.

The Promissory Notes didn't actually see much use to be honest except right towards the end. I think they're a good option to get you out of a particularly tight spot but I don't see them being used that much in our group. 

 

New Technology, Racial and Otherwise.

Not really much to say here at the moment because it would take a lot of games to see all of these in actual use. Duranium armour was nice though.

 

New Spaces

Having the planet within a Nebula was a great defensive spot to have right next to have my home system, plus the gravity rift (which occurred due to a Final Frontier token) was great. It's a really nice addition to the special system plus it saved my bacon as due to some un/lucky (depending on how you look at it) rolls, a Nekro fleet of 5 cruisers and a carrier was wiped out in its entirety trying to escape the rift whilst en route to my space. Good stuff all round and the double tech discount planets were good.

 

Final Frontier Tokens

We really liked these but then again we really like Distant Suns. If you are going to use them we recommend using Territorial Distant Suns instead of straight Distant Suns as the Final Frontier tokens can make basic space exploration quite a dangerous/expensive prospect. However, if you like Distant Suns like us, you'll love these. Will definitely be using them again. 

 

Flagships

You'd have to judge these on a case by case basis I'd imagine but we really liked these and they help to further add flavour to the races. The Nekro 's Flagship is brutal yet brilliant as noted above and the Ghosts Hill Colish looks very good (although it was under used in our game) and the Yin's Van Hague which allows on-board ground forces to fight like fighters was useful. I wouldn't say Flagships are a necessity to the game but I would say that not using them as an option would be a great shame as they're a lot of fun.

 

So there you have it. Overall I can strongly recommend Shards. I'd like to offer more insights into it but that will have to for now until I have some more games in the future!

 

Cheers,

 

El

 

 

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 i enjoyed reading your experiances with shards, cant wait to find someone to play with me lol.

 i checked after reading the last couple lines.

i do belive the yins flagship says "all groundforces in this system" and not just on board... if im right that included carriers loaded with groundforces and defending forces on planets with this ship in the system. although keeping track of where they came from will be important.

and i simply cant wait to play the virus lol, now i have a reason to attack for no reason j/k 

cheers 

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