The Kardashev Scale is a theoretical measurement of cosmic civilisations based on a civilisation technological advancement and, more specifically, its energy usage. A Type I ‘planetary civilisation’ has the capability of using and storing all of the energy on its planet; a Type II ‘stellar civilisation’ can control energy at the scale of its planetary system; and a Type III ‘galactic civilisation’ can control energy at the scale of its entire galaxy. For the record, humanity is currently only about a quarter of the way towards qualifying as a Type I civilisation!
OK, that’s the background to this 30-minute Civ-themed engine-building game designed by Stephen Avery and Eugene Bryant, and published by WizKids. The 2-6 players are competing to create the most advanced civilisation. You’ll be collecting resources to buy advancement cards from a display. Note that the display is in the form of a pyramid so that each stellar card is positioned above two planetary cards and each galactic card is above two stellar cards. When you buy a card to add to your individual tableau, you need to be able to place them out in a similar fashion. As you might expect, the more advanced cards generally demand a higher price in terms of resources. But when you add a card to your display, you aren’t just racking up victory points; you’re also triggering abilities and/or set collection bonuses; so the trick in this game is to collect advancement cards that synergise well with each other. And, be warned, some of the abilities can be remarkably powerful and several have a strong ‘take that’ element; for example, enabling you to steal resources from other players.
Each round starts with a ‘Summit’ where players each choose one of four icons on their individual dials: three for the game’s three resources and an ‘Advance’ icon. With three or more players, you then compare your icon with those chosen by the two players adjacent to you: Trade beats Conflict beats Research beats Trade… If you chose a resource that beats that of a neighbouring player, you collect two of those resources; match your neighbour's selection and you collect one. You don’t get any resources for icons beaten by a neighbour. If you choose the Advance icon, you don’t collect any resources (and your neighbours automatically ‘win’ their rock/paper/scissors comparison with you whichever resources they chose) but you get to spend the resources you’ve previously accumulated to buy an advancement card from the display.
Players cannot ordinarily end a round with more than 10 resources, so canny players will keep an eye on how many resources their neighbours have collected as a high total probably signal that they’ll select Advance in the Summit, giving you a chance to up your own resource haul. Bear in mind, tho’ that Kardashev Scale is an engine-building game, so some advancement cards will be more valuable to you than others in relation to those you already have in your tableau. Getting first dibs on the cards in the display can sometimes be crucial.
There are cards that let you take the Advance whenever you collect a particular resource. These can be especially powerful because they can, in effect, give you an extra turn each round, but they rather broadcast to other players the resource you are most likely to choose. Likewise, there are cards that let you burn a particular resource in return for victory points, which will again make a player more likely to select the resource which they can 'spend' in that way. Note tho' that there are other cards that let a player destroy one of the cards of a rival, so cards that prove exceptionally powerful could prove to be 'take that' targets...
Watch out against hastening the game end (getting to 25 headline points in your tableau) because if you have high-value cards at the expense of a poor set of combos, you could well find their better set collection and other bonuses take the scores of rival players above your seemingly leading score. The criteria envisaged by Nikolai Kardashev may have been predicated on energy but be warned that success in this game is likely to demand synergy!
At Board’s Eye View, we’ve greatly enjoyed the mix of mechanics in this mostly fast-playing game. There’s an option to play with two players (modifying the number of resources collected in the rock/paper/scissors Summit) but, for us, Kardashev Scale is at its best with at least three players. The game usually plays quickly, tho' you'll need to take the time to peruse the changing cards in the Advance display.