Updated: Mar 1
Following hot on the heels of Philosophia: Dare to be Wise and Philosophia: Floating Worlds, Solar 175 is the latest title from Cogito Ergo Meeple. Like CeM's previous games, it's designed by Joseph and Madeleine Adams and it incorporates a worker placement mechanic but Solar 175 is very different to the couple's earlier titles.
The setting for Solar 175 is a science fiction future. That too is a departure from the rich historical settings of the two Philosophia games but just as much care and attention to detail has gone into this game's world creation to give it an immersive theme. Even the preview prototype shown here on Board's Eye View has been lovingly produced with high-quality printed wooden tokens, plastic spaceships and even a glossy magazine, which contributes to the game's ongoing storyline but which also serves as record of the games played - important because this is a legacy campaign game... There are several boxes of extra components and 20 envelopes, all of which remain sealed until the game instructs you to open them to modify the components and your next play...
Solar 175 is played on a modular board made up of cards representing planets and asteroids in the solar system. You'll be building outposts and placing them at various locations to compete for area control in the inner and outer systems. You'll be collecting mining tokens and building biodome bases but most of all, game play involves bag building. Players start off with just four different worker tokens. You are mostly playing these to your individual dual-layer player board in order to assign them to one or more of various corporations. These will usually yield a bonus action but will also give you an additional worker token to add to your bag. Ultimately, you'll probably be drawing eight worker tokens from your bag each round, but you'll ideally want the right combination of tokens to support the actions you plan to take, and as your bag fills with more and more worker tokens (you're likely to be adding to your workforce every turn) so you can be placed at the mercy of an unlucky draw were you don't get the combination of worker types you were hoping for. Happily tho' there are mechanisms for managing a surfeit of particular workers: you can, for example, surrender a lobbyist worker for a vote: a secret ballot, filled in and dropped into a ballot box, that will help determine which scoring aspect will be doubled in end-game scoring. You can also part fill the requirements for certain actions - effectively carrying the workers over to the next round. When you do this you will find yourself alternating between a round where you do very little and the next round where you are taking many more actions. The game also offers players the option of recruiting AIs as workers: these can be used to fill any role. Their downside is that their recruitment doesn't come with any bonus.
There wasn't a lot of player interaction in our early games of Solar 175, other than players taking spots for biodome base building that another player might've been eyeing up, so, so far, this hasn't turned out to be a 'take that' game. There's very little blocking because players' ships can move directly to any spot on the board, subject only to them having a pilot worker assigned to them. Tho' there can only be one base at each location, players' outposts can co-exist at the same location. Of course, the dynamics could change when we start opening some of those secret envelopes and boxes, but in the early games at least, you can try to develop a strategy for play without having to worry overly about other players chucking a spanner in the works. Canny players tho' will be doing their best to keep track of how well they are doing in relation to others so that they can use the ballot box to skew the end-game scoring in their favour.
Solar 175 is certainly a pacy game: the players (2-5; tho' there's also a solo mode) draw their worker tokens from their individual bags and allocate them on their player boards simultaneously. Since the workers' positions on the player boards determine the actions to be taken, there's no hesitancy or faffing about as players take their worker placement actions: the only choices to be made after you've placed your worker tokens out on your player board are the order in which you take actions when you have more than one (as will be the case on most turns), tho' some activations will also offer you a choice of bonus actions. The net result is that turns are quick. When playing through a full legacy campaign, we'd envisage easily getting through two games per sitting.
This is an impressive package and, after our initial plays, we're eager to embark on the full legacy campaign. Tho' we're expecting the game to evolve and change as a result of the legacy elements, the publishers have made clear that this isn't a game where you'll be destroying or defacing components: tho' it's a legacy game, it can be re-set and so is fully replayable! Solar 175 is launching on Kickstarter on 1 March. Click here to check out the campaign and secure yourself a copy.