4X games

Exodus: Proxima Centauri (2012) is a well loved 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) space empire building game for 2-6 players by designers Agnieszka Kopera and Andrei Novac, as well as a recipient of a Dice Tower Seal of Excellence. NSKN Games has just launched a massive reboot of this classic game along with its two expansions, Event Horizon and Edge of Extinction, on Kickstarter. The new Exodus Chronicles, designed by Rainer Ahlfors and Andrei Novac scratches all the right itches, with 6 different player factions, a robust tech tree system, 45 custom dice, 350 wooden cubes, 280 acrylic gems, 33 large sector tiles, hundreds of tokens and cards, and over 130 detailed ship miniatures. Exodus uses a lead-follow action system, minimizing downtime, while still competing with other well known space opera 4X games such as Twilight Imperium or Eclipse, often in a shorter time frame. This time tested game system keeps improving with each iteration, and Exodus: Chronicles is no exception, keeping the game tight, modern and involving. The Kickstarter for Exodus Chronicles continues through April 12, and the game is expected to ship to backers in April 2020. For more information, check out the live Dice Tower playthrough of Exodus Chronicles here.

Petersen Games and designer Sandy Petersen (Cthulhu Wars) have a new asymmetric 4X space game on Kickstarter, Hyperspace. Hyperspace is designed to be a fast moving (1-2 hours), 2-4 player space epic with little downtime, selling itself as having no upkeep phase, keeping everything continuous actions until the end of the game. Players have 3 actions on their turn, choosing from move, build, battle, produce and research. The base game comes with 4 very unique aliens, each with its own weakness, bonus super ability, super tech, super unit, and a victory ability just for that species. The board is comprised of hex tiles, each of which is unique. All of the mechanisms are simple, elegant versions what you expect in a space game. The outposts, which produce resources, have slots to place cardboard tokens, denoting which resource they produce – Metal, Atomics, Organic, or Hyper. Battles are swift and decisive – ships attack with a specific die type (d6, d8, d10), and defend with a single value. Of note is that attackers decide who they are shooting, picking from any of the defenders units. Movement uses an action, but a single action can move ships as far as you like through player owned territory, as long as you have the Atomics to fuel it. Like most Petersen games, the components are a thing of beauty – Hyperspace comes with 100+ gorgeous plastic miniatures, 42 planets, 122 cards, and more than 300 cardboard tokens, rings and dice. 22 more expansion species are available as extra buys, making the variability and replayability extraordinary. The Kickstarter Campaign for Hyperspace continues through February 21, and the game is expected to ship in August 2020.

galaxy command

Designed by Robert Bartelli and published by Worthington Publishing, Galaxy Command is a 4X card game for 1-4 players. Each player takes on the role of a galaxy commander, trying to build up their resources and military power, explore and conquer far flung star systems, and be the one commander who can take the most credit for saving their collective empire. It plays in 15-45 minutes, depending on the number of players and features beautiful artwork by Sean Cooke.

galaxy command board

During a turn players reveal a system card (starting with near systems) on their mission path and try to overcome its obstacles.  Next they collect wealth and resources and build military strength and technology.  And finally a random event card is drawn that may affect one or all players in the game.  The event cards are also the timer on the game.  When the event cards run out the game is over.  The Galaxy Command (all players) saves or fails in its mission by reaching enough far systems to sustain its empire.  Each Galaxy Commander (individual player), provided the empire is saved, can be the best among peers by his contribution (score) to the overall mission success.

You can find more information on the game at Boardgamegeek, the online board game database or go check out the Kickstarter campaign here.

big bang theory

Gamers to this day continue to look back on titles like Master of Orion 2 and Civilization with nostalgia. After listening to a recent 3MA podcast on 4X games, board game designer Olver Kiley (Hegemonic) was inspired to dive back into the subject and try to figure out, exactly, where the whole genre took a wrong turn.

Image from Big Game Theory's Web Site

Image from Big Game Theory’s Web Site

What Kiley found was a number of diverse factors that all help explain what happened to 4X games. These include fragmentation of the genre into sub-genres, vacillating interest in simulation vs. toy-style game elements, and paralyzing devotion to the very nostalgia bringing people back to those famous older titles.

Personally, I find a lot of truth in the idea of sub-genres. Much like the dinosaurs, 4X games were awesome, mentally dominating spectacles for my growing high-school and college brain. Nothing in the gaming ecosystem could compete against them. But the dinosaurs changed. Some of them died out. Some turned into birds. What we enjoyed about 4X games can still be found, just not all together in precisely the same way.

And when people do try to create the experience, you end up with a terrifying chimera, holding the outside appearance of everything you wanted but with inner workings mostly pasted together with ostrich eggs and frog DNA.

But Kiley brings up some things to be hopefully about, notably the explosion of indie publishers and the kickstarter fundraising phenomenon. More and more ideas can be made into real things, and as long as people do not grasp too tightly to the past there is no reason for a bright 4X future.

Just as long as we don’t care too much what the X’s stand for. But who can remember, anyway?

To read Kiley’s work, in all its 13 pages of blogtastic glory, check it out here. Listen to the Three Moves Ahead podcast on 4X genre here. And try to keep an open mind.