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The Warp

The Warp, from Jumping Turtle Games, is a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) space game designed by Thomas Snauwaert where players are ultimately scoring points by completing a variety of missions. The 2-4 players each start with three (hidden) missions and they'll be picking up others during the course of play. The missions each have varied points values and the end game is triggered when a player scores 9 points. Play then continues for three more rounds; so the player who triggered the end game may well not end up as the winner... There's a Big Boss alien who is the Warp Guardian, and defeating them and holding onto control of the Warp hex will earn you a hefty points bonus, and we found in our plays at Board's Eye View that the end-game trigger often prompted players to set off in pursuit of the Warp Guardian, which certainly gave the game a distinct story arc.

The Warp is played on a modular board made up of double-sided multi-hex pieces. Wormhole markers mean that the board wraps around for the purposes of movement. Players will be collecting and using resources (gold and energy) and various combinations of these resources are used to pay for almost all actions, so building an economy and resource management are central to success. Players' individual boards are made up of tracks that show inter alia how many resources the player receives in each round's income phase but, like their starting mission cards, players' horde of resources is hidden information. Players can alternatively recruit troops in the income phase, adding them either to the board or to their hidden reserve. You can add laser cannons to kill and clear out aliens from nearby hexes and so facilitate your expansion, with combat determined using standard six-sided dice. You may have modifiers that affect some rolls but unmodified combat rolls have a 50% chance of scoring a hit.

Players start off with a number of 'archive' cards and they'll draft two more each turn, subject to a maximum hand size of eight. Some of these cards can be used, along with the indicated resources, to add or upgrade buildings, but you can also discard archive cards to add more resources to your reserve.

Most of the actions you take on your turn can be 'followed' by other players. For example, when you play an archive card to take a build or upgrade action, other players can follow the action by playing one of their build/upgrade archive cards and taking its corresponding action. Where players take a follow action, it's on less advantageous terms, and the active player additionally benefits by receiving a bonus, but it's an aspect we liked because it increases players' involvement on each other's turns and so reduces the down time that can be an issue with some 4X games.

Players also have involvement on another players' turn when they make troop attacks, as they have the option to play a card to aid the aliens being attacked. This offer of aid will often be beneficial, and not just by slowing the progress of the attacking player. It also opens up scope for a brief negotiation and diplomacy as you can seek to extract a bribe of resources, cards or even troops to discard the (face-down) card you've played to support the aliens. Combat cards offer a range of options for the number of combat dice rolled and whether or not they can be flipped to their opposite side, depending on the resources committed to supporting the attack. The other interesting aspect of combat is that the attacking players' dice rolls from an adjacent area are multiplied by the modifier of the hex from which you are attacking, with the defenders' dice rolls multiplied by the modifier on their hex. Among the actions you can take on your turn is to 'terrashift' modifiers up or down, so the board becomes quite dynamic as it's subject to change through the course of the game as players prepare the ground for their expansion and defence.

Tho' The Warp has its share of fiddly rules (particularly taking account of the various aliens' powers and abilities), individual turns are relatively straightforward so the game is accessible. Our plays have mostly taken 2-3 hours. The game comes with a plethora of alien races and these each have different characteristics. Tho' these contribute to the game's complexity they also add of course to its replayability. We especially liked tho' the terrashifting dynamically changing hex values in The Warp and the effect on combat of their manipulation, the resource management and the options on each of the archive cards, and the scope for corresponding actions and interaction on each others' turns. If you're a fan of 4X games, you should certainly check out The Warp as a distinctive addition to the genre.

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