Wednesday we played over at the community rec room hosted by Dave Wallace, since Rich’s house was unavailable. Jay, Dave, and Kern warmed up with a quick game of Man Bites Dog, a game in which players try to form plausible tabloid headlines out of various word cards they draw. On the very first round, Dave was unable to draw a verb, and scored a zero. Kern jumped out to an early lead with the help of an Exclusive, which doubles the score of the remaining cards, on each of the first two rounds. After three rounds, we called a halt when Tim arrived. Dave tried to battle back into contention with the help of the headline: “Missing Lady Falls For, Hits Lawyer,” but Kern closed out a good round with “Model Hero Saves Romantic Nun” for the win. Final scores: Dave 165, Jay 185, Kern 310.
We then moved on to the main event of the evening: the game Outpost by TimJim Games. In this game, the players represent various groups colonizing a distant planet, each trying to grow their colony’s production while bidding against each other for various upgrades dropped off by a rather erratic supply ship. The winner is the first player to accumulate 75 points of working factories and upgrades.
Heavy equipment came out early in this game, with two out of the three possible heavy equipment upgrades being available on the very first turn, and the third following shortly after once we started buying upgrades. These upgrades, which enable titanium production, were snapped up by Tim, Dave, and Jay, leaving Kern to focus his efforts on building a water mining empire with the help of the Warehouse and Nodule upgrades. Kern turned out to be the first to hit the ten victory point threshold on turn 9, which triggers the second phase of the game. Tim grabbed the ever-popular Robots upgrade on turn 10, allowing him to expand his titanium production faster than his neighbors. Dave used the Data Library to outbid the others for the Scientists upgrade on turn 11, giving him an early lead in Research, which he tried to leverage into a lead in New Chemical production. Jay bought up the Laboratory on turn 12, giving him a Research factory and the ability to build more. Jay and Dave spent the next few turns racing to build out their New Chemical factories using the results of their Research.
Kern, who had been shut out of titanium, research, and new chemicals, picked up an Orbital lab on turn 12, giving him some high-value Microbiotics production to supplement all his water factories. He picked up a second Orbital lab around turn 15, dominating Microbiotics. The scores were extremely close through turn 14, where we stood at Tim 21, Dave 20, Kern 20, and Jay 19. Tim started to pull away at turn 15 with 28 points by picking up a new Laboratory and another upgrade. Dave battled back on turn 16 by picking up the first Ecoplants upgrade uncontested, as both Dave and Tim crossed the 30 point threshold to trigger the game’s third and final phase. At this point, the scores stood at Time 33, Dave 32, Kern 27, and Jay 24.
Ecoplants proved to be providential when the game’s first Outpost upgrade finally showed up on turn 17, allowing Dave to win the resulting auction with the help of the Ecoplants and Heavy Equipment discounts. Kern meanwhile used his Microbiotics cards to pick up the first phase 3 upgrade, the Planetary Cruiser, and take the turn 17 lead: Kern 41, Dave 39, Tim 38, Jay 24. Two more phase three upgrades came out on turn 18, as Tim surged back into the lead with the purchase of a Space Station while Jay used the cards he had been saving up to snag the Moon Base, leaving the scores Tim 53, Dave 47, Kern 46, Jay 43. The final two Outposts came out on turn 19, snagged by Kern and Dave, as Dave hired a bunch of cheap labor with the help of his Ecoplants/Outpost combination to staff all his factories and take the lead while Jay saved up more cards: Dave 63, Tim 61, Kern 57, Jay 43. But in the end, Tim’s killer Robots carried him to victory with 34 points worth of staffed factories by turn 20, as the supply ship proved particularly stingy with the turn 20 upgrades. Final scores: Tim 80, Dave 74, Kern 67, Jay 43 (Jay declined his final turn, as we were running rather late by then).
Overall, the game was quite competitive, with four changes of lead in the final four turns. But the last few turns started to drag out, as the mental arithmetic got complicated just as we were all getting a bit tired, leading to multiple pauses to count and recount our points as we tried to optimize our bids and purchases. If there’s a next time, either calculators or the game’s optional Cash variant might be helpful in avoiding this slowdown.