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Drop Drive

You might be forgiven for thinking that Phase Shift Games' Drop Drive was merely a dexterity game. You set it up by dropping components from a height and letting them scatter randomly across the play area, and players are similarly dropping their space ships. Appearances can be deceptive, however. Tho' it uses dexterity game mechanics in its set up, Scott R Smith's design delivers a fully fledged pick-up-and-deliver sandbox space game.

For starters, the 2-4 players have to create their ships: you combine cards representing a front and a back half - giving you a ship with its own combined stats and combination name. Other cards in the game can give you an additional middle part to expand your ship (and its name), as well as passengers and 'specimens' for your ship to carry and which will reward you when delivered to their various destinations or in end-game scoring. In addition, you'll take a captain with their own special ability.

Your ship stats will show the power of the ship's drive. This is represented by a tool built from interconnecting links. Outstretched the tool shows the height from which you drop your ship but you'll mostly be using the tool to determine the path you'll take through space: you fold and shape the tool to create the route from your ship to its destination and you can then pick up any and all items that the route touches. These will be from the resources dropped in setup: various colours of asteroids, fuel and salvage debris that you take on board as cargo, just provided you have room for it on your ship. Plot a route in this way to one of the planets where you can sell your cargo.

Each planet has its own market, and those markets are fluid in that the price paid varies for each subsequent sale, so Drop Drive is an economic game too where you'll want to plan your routes to take advantage of the best prices. The passenger and specimen item cards that you carry can also affect your planetary sales. The game ends when all the planetary markets have been saturated.

There's more. You'll come into contact with other ships, including non-player 'pirate' ships. When this occurs both sides choose whether to go into the encounter by 'arming weapons' or by opening 'hailing frequencies'. This opens up a kind of Prisoners' Dilemma mechanic: if both open 'hailing frequency' channels, they each collect a nearby asteroid; if only one maintains armed weapons, then they get to steal an item of cargo from the ship that has surrendered. If both ships go in with weapons hot, there's a battle - adding a d6 die roll to the ships' battle stats and comparing the totals. If you've picked up fuel, you can jettison it for a re-roll. Battles can result in damage to the losing ship, necessitating planet-side repairs...

The Board's Eye View team have hugely enjoyed our plays of Drop Drive. Players have mostly gone into the game expecting dexterity-game silliness but have quickly become immersed, just as when playing that other sandbox space game Xia: Legends of a Drift System (Far Off Games). It's a light game, so there's no hefty rules overhead to put off casual players. The only complaint has been that Drop Drive games can be over too quickly (our games have rarely gone to 60 minutes). The game comes with some optional extras, including space anomalies and 'long-range scans', but the rules additionally invite players to 'be creative' and devise their own house rules and variants. Xia: Legends of a Drift System is a much loved game at Board's Eye View but our gripe in that game is that there's too much downtime. That's not an issue with Drop Drive, even if you add in the '5th Captain Pack' that expands player count to five. We're going to experiment tho' with incorporating Drop Drive into our Xia games so that players Drop Drive on a separate table during their downtime in Xia. We just need to work out an appropriate exchange rate so that the credits earned in Drop Drive can contribute to a parallel Xia game...

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