Designed by Elam Blackwell and published by Mark IV Games, Factions of Sol is set in an alternative timeline where space exploration and, significantly, its exploitation began in the 1920s. Players are competing to amass the most victory points (VP) in order to inherit the economic empire that appears to function like an interplanetary Amazon.
The game is played on a two-dimensional representation of the solar system where each planet moves counterclockwise around the sun in its own circular orbit. This means that planets vary in their relative positions over the course of the game, making for an inherently dynamic game board.
The 2-4 players each control a space ship that they'll need to move between planets to collect resources and rack up ways of scoring VP, and, as you might expect, space ship movement demands energy. Space travel, however, is deemed to clog up space with debris and detritus, represented by dumping the expended energy in the sector into which you move. This gives rise to the game's fascinating mechanic whereby the movement cost into a sector is the energy already in that sector plus one. The cost of movement then increases exponentially! Since your ship can't initially hold more than 16 energy, it's easily possible to get stranded. The game allows players to teleport their ship back to Mercury, where energy is freely available, but that's at the punishing cost of -20 VP!
Each planet offers a different action. You can refuel at Mercury. On Venus, you can gain exploration cards; in effect personnel that can be used to explore exoplanets. Earth allows players to vote and choose between the two rule-changing options on an Event card, and also to benefit from the resources offered by that card. Mars allows players to burn two resources to buy an upgrade tile. You'll want to collect these both for the VP they give and because they allow you to trigger your faction's unique special abilities. The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter offers the opportunity to mine for resources. Jupiter offers exoplanets that give you VP if you have the personnel to meet their exploration requirements. You can pick up VP-scoring secret objectives on Saturn and tech cards on Uranus, and travel out as far as Neptune and you can pick up 'research': a kind of lucky dip of cards that mimic the functions available at other planets.
During the course of play, you will find players using matter transportation, wormholes and even temporal mechanics to transpose planetary positions; all of which can upset other players' carefully calculated plans. But that, of course is part of the fun of this game, following in the noble tradition of Cosmic Encounter (FFG). If your game play matches the pattern of most of ours at Board's Eye View, you'll start off quite cerebrally, carefully planning your movement to optimise your all-too-finite onboard energy but after a few turns players' various asymmetric factional powers kick in, everything changes and you realise that the clue was always in the Tintin-like cartoon art: Factions of Sol is a game to be savoured for its creative chaos.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of Factions of Sol ahead of its launch on Kickstarter. The game will include an AI to facilitate solitaire play. Click here to get on board the KS campaign when it blasts off today.