Frontier Stations is a game by Jeremy Lennert, published by Victory Point Games. It is for 3-6 players. In this game, players will be working together as they take command of a group of space stations that have to face off against numerous threats. They will have to keep the stations stocked up with all the vital supplies and make sure that they are sent where they are needed the most. If the players are able to survive the onslaught, they will be declared the winners. Otherwise, they’ll be lost in space where no one can hear you scream.
To begin, players should designate an area in front of them for their station’s key systems and an area on either side of them as their threat areas. The threat areas should be between two players so that each player has two areas. The game mat should be placed in the middle of the play area with all the tokens organized in their respective places. The cards should be separated into 4 sets based on their backs; Nexus cards, standard systems, early threats and late threats. Each player places a Nexus card in their station area. They will then place a shield, security, medical and engineering token on this card. The first player is chosen and is given the Captain card and 2 distress beacon tokens. The remaining Nexus cards are set aside not to be used. The systems deck is shuffled and placed on the appropriate space on the mat. A number of cards are drawn and placed face up in the shop spaces of the mat equal to the number of players plus one. The early threat cards are shuffled and placed face down next to the mat. 5 cards are randomly removed and returned to the box not to be used. The same thing is done with the late threat cards. Play now begins.
On a player’s turn, they will perform a series of 5 steps in order. Those steps are roll dice, activate threats, activate systems, purchase improvements and draw a new threat. The first step is to roll dice. The player will begin by rolling one die. Once the early threat deck has been depleted, the player will then be rolling 2 dice and adding the numbers together.
The next step is to activate threats. In this step, the player checks all of the current threat cards to see if the number rolled matches any of them. If so, then the player must work with the other players to discard the appropriate resources to be consumed by the threat. The two players that are adjacent to the threat will decide between them how best to accomplish this. There are no threat cards in play on the first turn so this step will be skipped. If at any time the players do not have enough resources to pay for the activated threats, they will lose the game. If they survive this step and the threat decks are empty, they win.
The next step is to activate systems. In this step, much like in the previous one, the players check the number rolled with all of the active system cards and activate them. Usually this activation will produce resources of a particular type.
The next step is to purchase improvements. This is done by purchasing an improvement that is equal or less than the value of the current die roll. They may also add energy tokens to purchase improvements of a higher cost. If the player rolled 2 dice, then they may purchase 2 separate improvements, one with each die, or may add the dice together to make 1 larger purchase. There are 3 types of improvements that can be made; install a new system, upgrade an existing system or destroy a nearby threat. To install a new system, the player chooses one of the system cards from the shop and places it in their station making it available for future die rolls. To upgrade a system, the player chooses one of the cards already in their station and place an upgrade marker on it, increasing it by one. The player must pay the same cost of the system card to be able to upgrade. This upgrade will increase the number of time the card activates and it increases the storage capacity as well. To destroy a nearby threat, the player pays the cost in credits as well as any resource cost and then flips the threat card face down. If the threat was upgraded, the threat is simply reduced by one increment instead. The adjacent player may also help to pay some or all of the resources required.
The last step is to draw a new threat. To do this, the player simply draws a new threat card and places it face up in the threat area to their left. If a card says “Reinforcements”, the most recently added threat card in the threat area to the player’s left will be upgraded much like when a player upgrades a system. A recent threat marker is used to represent the most recent threat in the threat area. If that card has already been destroyed, the reinforcement card brings it back, flipping the card back face up to wreak havoc on it’s next activation.
Once all the steps have been completed play passes to the next player in clockwise order. The Captain card is passed to that player. Any cards in the shop are placed onto the bottom of the draw pile and new cards are drawn to replenish the shop. One thing should be noted about the Captain. The Captain has 2 distress beacons which may be used to nullify one activation of one threat card. This can be used to keep the players from losing the game. However once the beacons are used, they are returned to the box and cannot be brought back. As stated earlier, if the players make it completely through the threat deck without losing before then, they will have won the game.
This game looks rather nice and has quite a bit of pieces to it. There are lots of really nice looking cards that have a great space station feel to them, something like a combination of Eminent Domain and Netrunner. You get a real sense of the inner computer systems through the different system cards and the threat cards are like the Black ICE attacking those systems. The artwork isn’t overly dramatic but you really get a great thematic sense to them. The tokens are all thick cardboard and come on a large die cut sheet. Needless to say, it takes awhile to punch them all out. The thing is that they all have a distinct look and feel to them, so there is absolutely no trouble in determining which resource token is which. I really like these as well and feel that they simply add to the design of the game. There’s also a large game mat that has places for pretty much everything. It helps you to organize things really nicely. It’s made of thin cardboard but it gets the job done. The last pieces are the dice. They aren’t really anything spectacular but have no need to be either. All total, I’m quite happy with the look and feel of everything and find myself pleasantly surprised. A really good job.
8 out of 10
The rulebook is well designed and looks really nice. There are lots of pictures and examples of how to play the game throughout the book. There is a great example picture of how to set up the game as well. It includes a great section describing all the different cards as well as the resource symbols and explaining how each one works. All of the different steps to the game are detailed out quite nicely. There’s also a section detailing how to convert resources, something that I didn’t cover in the rules but are easily understood and explained on the cards as well as here in the rulebook. The book also has an additional set of rules on adjusting the difficulty to make the game either harder or easier. The final section of the book contains card clarifications with lots of pictures explaining the details of certain cards. I have to say that the book looks rather nice and is easily read in a short amount of time. Overall, I like it and find it very useful.
8 out of 10
This is a really fun game. In many ways it reminds me of Machi Koro but in space. Every turn, the player will be rolling dice and activating threats, paying the resources that they consume, producing resources based on that same activation number and then buying new systems and adding new threats. It’s really quite simple but the game has such a depth of strategy to it. Like Machi Koro, those dice rolls are the crux of the game. Each one of the cards have this really nice little area that tells how likely it is to activate on a dice roll. Of course if you know anything about probability, you’re pretty much aware of this type of thing. Still, it’s a really neat little addition. You really have to look at how to pay for threat costs based on what resource tokens are available at the time of the threat activation. If possible you will want to always use those resources from a full storage area as those cards will not produce any resources if the number rolls for them in later turns. You can really go around the table and look at what will work out best for you and go from there. Of course, you’ll have the other players to help with those decisions as well, especially since the game is co-operative. If one person loses, you all lose. I really like that the game has that type of semi-isolation feel to it especially in games with more that 3 players. While I can connect with the players to my left and right, I can’t do anything to help the other players further out. I simply have to hope that the other players can help them. Of course even in the 3 player game, you can get a little of that feel as you can’t affect the threats that are between the other 2 players. All in all the game is crafted quite well and it is really thematic looking and feeling. I’m really quite happy with this game and enjoy it quite a bit.
9 out of 10
Frontier Stations is a light weight co-op game of space station threat management. The game doesn’t take a long time to play with most sessions lasting around 30 minutes. The artwork is quite nice especially on the cards, giving a real space station systems feel kind of like Eminent Domain mixed with Netrunner. Everything looks really nice and really carries the theme quite well. The game is simple to play but has quite a good bit of strategy especially on knowing how to spend resources and what upgrades to purchase. The game feels a lot like Machi Koro in space, at least to me it does. Fans of that game should enjoy this one as well. I’d also recommend this game for fans of science fiction and resource management games. This is a really great co-op game and is one that can also be played solo with one player controlling all 3 stations. If you’re one that likes that type of thing, like I do. I would definitely recommend this game. It’s quite a lot of fun and will be one that will scratch that itch for Machi Koro when no one wants to play it with me. Give it a try, I think you will really enjoy it.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Victory Point Games at their site.