For decades gaming companies have been publishing games referred to as “4X” games. And still people ask, “What is a 4X game?” Lets first start at what the X’s mean. They refer to the action mechanics of the game: Explore, Expand, Exploit, & Exterminate. Basically a 4X game is a game of exploration, resource management, & battle.
Through the 1970’s & 1980’s Avalon Hill produced a ton of 4X style games. In the 1990’s through even today GMT Games has picked up that gauntlet & has impressed many gamers with their wonderful 4X titles. So when I try to explain what a 4X game is I always reach for Twilight Imperium III from Fantasy Flight Games.
Twilight Imperium is the perfect example of the art of the 4X system of gaming. Players take on an active rolling building & expanding all while trying to gain influence & to defend themselves against the other players.
There have been dozens of 4X style games that have reached the market over the past decade & they just keep coming out. A lot of gamers shy away from games that force you to go into combat with another player or they just feel like they don’t have the time to play this style of game since most 4X games can last two to twelve hours depending on how many are playing.
Well, I want to tell those gamers that they can come back to the table & play Sector Prime. A game of space exploration, space mining, & space station building. Sector Prime is for two to four player, ages thirteen to adult, & may take thirty minutes to an hour to play. Sector Prime will also be published by Two Men & a Giant (cool name, right?). The photos you will encounter through this review are of the prototype. The finished game components will much better.
In Sector Prime you will take on one of six roles (Designer, Diplomat, Engineer, Spy, Navigator, & Tactician). These roles will allow you to use different abilities to make the game easier for you to play. The abilities may allow you to acquire more when mining, add a bonus to your attack or to your defense, or may just allow you to lower the cost of building.
Setup is simple. The game will come with thirteen space sectors. The amount of sectors will be determined by how many people are playing. In a two player game it is seven sectors. Add three more sectors for each player after.
Players will begin the game by choosing their player color & a game screen which will help hide what resources they have from their opponents. Then they will receive their role card at random or they can choose. I think getting the role at random makes the game more fun to play. Once the role is acquired each player will place their card face-down making it a secret, for now.
Once all players are ready to move on, starting with the chosen first player they will set the first tier of their space station on a sector of space. One rule that all players must follow while doing this is that the station must be placed on an outer space sector & can not be on a sector next to or already taken by another player.
The object of the game is basically a race to see which player can completely build their space station first. Everyone will start off with the lower tier so throughout the game players will need to collect resources called Traxium Crystals by mining the sectors they have under their control. With the traxium in hand they will need to spend the crystals to build refineries, jump bridges, & force fields.
There are three basic phases to playing a turn. In phase one players will move a determined number of space by placing their mining drones. This will also depend on what sector they place the drones in. As an example a player might roll a five on their station die. if they do so they can place up to five drones on their home sector or they can split up the movement between sectors. For each additional sector a mining drone is placed it costs one extra movement. It is an additional two for each asteroid field in the path or an additional three for ion storms.
Once movement is done a players will move into phase two. In phase two players have one of two choices they can make. They can build in a sector if it is undisputed & only if they have the traxium to do it with or the can battle it out with their opponent. The object of the game is to build resources as fast as you can as best as you can & if this means stopping your opponent from doing the same thing then fighting is what you have to do.
If a player wished to initiate battle they must move into another player’s sector & have the traxium to spend for each mining drone they have in that battle. So in battle, players will roll off against each other. The loser of the roll off with remove half of their drones from the field of play & back to their supply. Battles can continue until the drones of one of the players is depleted. Or until a player gives up due to low resources. At the end of the turn those drones left behind of the losing player goes back to that players supply.
But if that player wishes to build they must have at least five drones & a fabricator in a sector. If the player has the required amount of resources they may continue on to building. The constructs they can build are refineries, jump bridges & force fields. Refineries give a player a boost to mining. Force fields can not be passed through or destroyed by an opponent but they must be placed on open space & never on an asteroid field or ion storm. Jump bridges are built to pass freely through ion storms. However players can not use their opponents ion storms. And last but not least if a player has the resources they can build the next tier of their space station.
In phase three players can actively mine their sectors that are under their control. There is a bit of a push your luck mechanic added in to this phase. A player can use the standard method & collect for each controlled sector with any bonus their refinery gives them or they can attempt an “increased production.” By increasing their production a player will roll their station die against the games algorithm die. If the player beats the algorithm die they will double up their mining production. If they lose, well they receive nothing. All players may not be allowed to hold more than twenty-five traxium crystals at the end of turn.
The phases start back around until one player completely builds their space station. There might be a little bit of a learning curve during the first game. The second game will go a whole lot faster. This actually goes for most games.
So a few things I didn’t mention above. Each player will be assigned three dice (d12, d10, & d8). These are the station dice assigned to each tier of the space station they have built. So as one player builds a tier they will lose a small part of advantage to rolling a smaller die. This gives other players a chance to hopefully catch up. In some 4X games once a player breaks way ahead of the others then there really is no catching up. It forces the player who is ahead to use more strategy to keep ahead of the rest.
I also didn’t mention the algorithm die. This is a d12 set aside for mining & building. With a player rolling a smaller die as they move forward they must use their resources to beat the algorithm die to keep charging ahead.
I do like a good 4X game. Most 4X games can take hours upon hours just to play. Some even take a good thirty minutes to an hour to just setup. Sector Prime is different though. A good different. It takes only a few minutes to set up & just up to an hour or less to play. Sector Prime satisfies the gamer palate when it comes to a one of the mighty 4X games already on the market.
Sector Prime is a new game to Kickstarter. You can take a look at the project here: Sector Prime.
Gear up to gather resources, build, conquer, & defend your space sectors & game on!