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Skymines

Alexander Pfister's Mombasa (Pegasus Spiele/eggertspiele) has become a favourite game among several of the stalwarts at Board's Eye View. It's a relatively heavyweight 2-4 player game with a lot going on but none of the individual mechanics are overly complex, and, in the main, the various elements and options available to players dovetail together well so that there is no single favoured route to victory. Mombasa has not achieved the popularity of some of Alexander Pfister's other designs - for example, Great Western Trail (Stronghold Games) - because its colonialist theme reflects a period in history that's now viewed with shame. Mombasa doesn't of course celebrate colonialism but clearly some gamers would rather not play a game themed around the colonial past.



Fast forward then to Skymines (Pegasus Spiele/Deep Print Games), where Alexander Pfister shares the design credit with Viktor Kobilke. Instead of looking at past colonisation of Africa, Skymines looks to the future and is themed around the colonisation of space; specifically the moon and asteroids. It is, however, essentially a reskin of Mombasa, albeit with some significant tweaks that let you take the game on to the next level.


As with Mombasa, there are four companies that players can invest in, moving their shareholder markers up on the companies' tracks. The expansion of the companies' buildings on a lunar map that looks remarkably similar to the map of Africa, gives bonuses to players and generates the end-game multipliers of each company's share value. You'll be programming your action selection using cards, initially from your 10-card starting hand but better cards will be up for grabs in the market. In place of Mombasa's diamond and book tracks, players in Skymines are advancing along helium and research tracks, but they are functionally the same. The book track in Mombasa was always the least satisfactory but this was addressed with the Cooked Books mini-expansion that was made available as a promo. It's good to see that the research track in Skymines incorporates the changes introduced in the Cooked Books mini-expansion. Skymines also incorporates the additional alternative company tracks that, in Mombasa, were only available in the Holzbox limited edition version published by eggertspiele.



Tho' many will prefer the space colonisation theme, it results in a less colourful design. Tho' you're playing on a notably larger board, the board looks cluttered and the iconography on the board and on the cards is not as clear as in Mombasa. There are some big pluses, however. The board is double-sided and tho' the 'moon' side essentially replicates the board of the earlier game, the 'asteroids' side introduces new areas for the companies to explore and expand into. On this board, companies will need to place out satellites to connect asteroids and there will be 'threats': cards that give a reward for tackling them but which impose a penalty effect on the whole game if they remain unresolved. This adds to the dynamics of an already highly interactive game as for some players the game penalty may well give them a scoring advantage over others. Skymines introduces individual game objectives and the option to play as a 'campaign'. It also gives us the 'Luna' automata; not just to facilitate solitaire play but also as an option to play in a two- or three-player game. As an added plus, the game comes with six tuckboxes for sorting and storing the components.


If you're a fan of Mombasa, you'll want at least to check out Skymines to see the extent to which it builds on rather than merely replicating that game. If you've not played Mombasa, perhaps because of a distaste for the theme, then you've a treat in store with Skymines. It's a great game. The busy board may look forbidding but Skymines isn't difficult to play. There's a good amount of player interaction, but mostly not involving 'take that' conflict, and it's a game with huge replayability.




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