"You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs."
Greetings, everyone, this is the first edition of the Apocalypse board game files review. What is a board game files review? The short, it’s a review focused on fan-made files and highlights points that board game designers should take note of. Visit the About page for more details.
Today we are featuring Star Wars Outer Rim, published by Fantasy Flight, designed by Corey Konieczka and Tony Fanchi.
I’ve played and enjoyed this game multiple times now. It has its issues, but if you are a Star Wars fan, I think you will find something appealing here.
One of the files I have been itching to test out is the bounty hunter AI decks, because, for some odd reason, the original designers made no attempt to add a way for players to play against bounty hunters.
For this playthrough I used game green’s modified solo AI decks v 2.3. Also, I wanted to play through karar2k’s Galaxy’s Edge campaign book. And lastly, I used my own popular stat chits and my Experience Token variant.
What a designer should notice
This one boggles my mind, how the designers thought it would be ok not to accommodate a bounty hunter AI (sorry guys). They should have known that any true-blood, solo-playing, Star Wars fan would want to play against Boba Fett. What a disappointment it was when I went to setup Boba Fett only to discover that bounty hunters were not allowed. But, thanks to the ingenuity of fans, this is now a viable option.
Not only did game green design a cohesive and functional way to handle chasing bounties but he also added some thematic elements to the actions these bounty hunters take. For Boba Fett, he never keeps his crew around for very long, which goes right along with his lone-wolf attitude. The thematics also add a bit of replay-ability. Even though I was playing against Boba Fett, I was hoping he would attain his famous ship, but he didn’t. So, maybe next time.
A few other fans have turned game green’s spreadsheet into cards and there is also a web app version that is up to date. Important Note: Don’t make the mistake I first did by using an older version (less than 2.3), with nice looking cards, as Boba Fett is basically unbeatable. He gains a fame about every 2 turns under the older rules and players will be hard pressed to keep up with that.
The main gripe I had was the setup for the first bounty. I designed my own setup that makes it so the starting planet and destination are similar distant apart when compared to the other character types.
Alternative Setup for bounty hunters... Keep all the one pip white contacts off the map as before and draw a random 90 bounty hunter card, this will be your starting bounty but ignore the starting location. Now shuffle all unused 91 and 92 cards together and randomly draw one. This will be your starting location and the destination is where you place your initial bounty. Put the drawn starting card in the box as it has no further use. Then randomly place all other white contacts. This will give your bounty hunter a more even start just like the other AI decks. Note: each 91 and 92 card's destination planet has a white one pip space except for the Heavy Lifters job. So either leave out Heavy Lifters during setup or If this card is drawn for the starting location simply move the green contact chit on Takodana to The Ring of Kafrene and place the required bounty on the two pip contact location on Takodana.
After the initial setup, the actions bounty hunters take is pretty straight forward. They move in the direction of their nearest goal and bounties are goals. If none of their bounties are revealed, then the nearest colored contact that matches a bounty would be a goal. They then reveal contacts of matching colors on the planets they visit, just like a human player would. Boba Fett also has a special ability that reveals a contact on the nearest adjacent planet if he has a bounty of that color. I like this as it helps to speed the game along at a reasonable pace.
While I haven’t tested all the AI’s I was really impressed with the design of Boba Fett. I am looking forward to playing against him again. Next time, I may do bounties myself and see if we can face-off in a good-ole-fashion blaster duel.
What a designer should notice
karar2k's campaign book is an excellent idea and works quite well. Each story in the campaign has a requirement that must be met before that story’s mission can be started. For instance, in the first story, you’ll need to have a fame of 2 and find Princess Leia’s contact token. These story missions play out just like an objective from a data card, but with more story details. There are branching story lines as well, and you do not need to experience all the story parts to complete each chapter. There is also 4 new playable characters for you to print out.
All players can attempt these missions and karar2k even added rules for cooperating on the story missions. Which, again, is an excellent idea. It can add to the immersion into the game as players negotiate for rewards and make other deals as well.
Here are the printed standees and character cards for this campaign.
Each chapter in the campaign has several missions. Sometimes players will fail a mission, when this happens any player can attempt the mission at a later time, if they meet the requirements. Missions require skill checks as usual; however, some missions give you a choice of skills which is a really nice touch. The base game never gives you such options, but it does alert you as to what skills will be tested and which ones are critical. This doesn't, however, alleviate the times when you are short a skill and the only jobs that keep popping up require that skill. So having a choice of skills, or abilities that let you change out skill checks with another skill would be a great addition to the game.
The campaign gave me the idea of adding mini-stories for each character. These stories would have their own set of data cards and starting requirements. One or more mini-stories would be randomly added to each game based on what characters are not used. Then players would interact with the standees of these characters to complete these new missions. There could be missions such as, challenging Han Solo in a cargo run, or help Doctor Aphra do a job for Vader. Just writing about it makes me want to stop with this and start with that.
Throughout the campaign scores are recorded with points awarded for your fame, credits, reputations, and a new bit called story spotlight. Certain missions will reward the story spotlight when complete and the player with the most gets a bonus at the end of the campaign.
Now, I will add that I started the campaign solo but I adapted karar2k’s rules fairly easily. If a mission had an applicable goal, I would add that goal to Boba Fett’s options. If it required rep, I would ignore options that made him lose rep like the gain 4,000 credits but lose rep with the nearest faction planet.
Saying this for the third time, this is an excellent idea that greatly increases the replay ability of this game. I hope that other designers will take notice and consider adding such story elements to their games as well.
karar2k has created several other story campaigns for a variety of games that you can find here.
Now, karar2k’s native language isn’t English, so I will not hold the writing against him. His presentation is very well done with the story easy to follow with the skill checks and requirements fitting the story quite well. It’s entertaining how he integrates his stories with stories from the comics.
I do worry about the requirement difficulty of some of the missions. One was to have positive rep in all factions, which, unless you’re very familiar with all the places to gain rep, this may be an extreme challenge. I changed it to just 3 positive reps and let Boba Fett complete this part as he had somehow acquired that much (remember, the AI automatically completes jobs which can easily increase rep on many missions).
Playing through the story can increase the playtime, especially if you fail certain missions. The game already takes quite some time to finish so you may want to concentrate on the story to get that complete as soon as possible. Some of the story parts reward fame, so that helps.
All that said, It's about having fun and enjoying the game so improvise as you will.
What a designer should notice
I developed these chits to help speed up calculations for skills checks and just over all game play. For example, If you have gear that gives you a +2 bonus to ground combat, and your ground combat is 3, then place the 5 Ground Combat stat chit on your character card.
Any designer working on a game where the player will need to keep up with bonuses to stats needs to plan for a convenient way to keep up the changes. Outer Rim comes with a peg to track fame and 4 sliders to track rep, but when it comes to your other stats, you’ll often be pausing to re-calculate them. There are five other stats to track and having sliders, dials, or pegs to track these would be super helpful.
Will I critique my own stuff? I sure will. The chits are designed to be printed out and applied to cardboard in such a way to have two stats on each chit. I was attempting to reduce the number of chits needed, with that design.
The ship speed chits are the only ones where the highest value is not an even number. It just happened to work out this way, but from a design perspective, it would have been nice if all of them were like this so that players would know to get a new chit for the next higher value if the even side was showing.
I attempted to create my own slider boards to track stats but this was quite time consuming so, end the end, I went with the much quicker to make stat chits.
Anyway, I would say to designers that it’s the little details that sets your creations apart in a variety of ways that makes lasting good impressions.
Here is an excerpt from the forum post...
There are a few reasons for this variant. For one, to speed up the game. But, more importantly, to alleviate the randomness of the die rolls. It also adds some thematic new choices. Overview Players will now gain experience from failed jobs, bounties, and illegal cargo runs. They can then use that experience in future attempts to help complete those tasks. Thematically, this represents the player learning from their mistakes, taking different approaches, or spending extra credits to ensure success.
The link above will take you to the forum post for more details.
The problem with all games of this sort is that the law of randomness can completely ruin your game. In Outer Rim you can literally spend the whole game just trying to complete one Illegal Cargo run. You have a 3 in 8 chance for success, so unless you have some way to mitigate the luck then you are more apt to fail than succeed. As noted in the post, this variant alleviates the randomness.
What a designer should notice
I really like how the rules don't just give you the success as there is still a touch of randomness, but failure becomes greatly diminished with each attempt. Every designer should consider how to alleviate failed attempts.
Having a background in programming I know all to well the fine line between fun randomness and frustration. You don't want your players frustrated to the point they don't want to play again. You have to consider the player who is going to have consistent bad rolls or draws. How will your game encourage players to stay engaged and keep going?
This variant encourages players to keep going by giving them something for their efforts, but doesn't just give the reward away.
The one thing I'll say here is that I haven't taken the time to up load the graphic I have shown here to BGG files. Procrastination is an unnecessary evil.
As mentioned, the purpose of these reviews is to point out files, variants, and other points of interest to game designers that can serve as inspiration to their own designs. So, if you've played any fan-made additions and have points of interest to share then please let us know in the comments. Now, let's race through the next parsec.