Tabletop Review: Space Empires: Close Encounters Expansion
by William Cohen on March 26, 2013

Space Empires: Close Encounters
Publisher: GMT GAMES
Pages: Rule Book(16 pages), Scenario Book(24 pages)
Cost: $59.00
Release Date: December 2012
Get It Here: www.GMTGAMES.com

Introduction: As I continue to do reviews, I have learned over the past six months that I will utilize a different format for board games than I do for RPG supplements. This review will cover an expansion for Space Empires: 4x. I will quickly add that Space Empires: 4X is a very entertaining board game, and one I highly recommend to those who like science fiction games which involve aliens, spaceships, and the conquest of territories to become the most powerful empire. This review will cover the FIRST expansion for Space Empires: 4x. It is titled Space Empires: Close Encounters. I was sent the expansion about three weeks ago, and I have managed to utilize it in over two dozen games since then. I will say that I am completely captivated by this expansion. It really adds to the basic game without having to add any more complexity that it already contains.

Purpose: The purpose of Space Empires: Close Encounters is simply adding more awesome content to the fine game that Space Empires: 4X already is. The main premise is for the players to take their alien empires and rule the galaxy by the 4 “X’s.” There are: explore the galaxy, expand through the galaxy, exploit the natural resources of the galaxy, and exterminate all other aliens encountered. Everything comes back to exploring, which, by far, is my favorite action to take, because no one knows what is in the next unexplored hex. It could be a black hole or some other type of spatial anomaly that impacts the way ships move through the area. The expansion clearly expounds more on that in greater detail.

Contents: As with most expansions for board games, this one contains a lot of components, and they are as follows:

Rulebook (16 pages)
Scenario Book (24 pages)
Three New Counter Sheets
Thirty Alien Technology Advantage Cards
4.5 Counter Sheets
Twenty-Five Racial Advantage Cards
Four cardstock Fleet Displays
One cardstock Battleboard
Four double-sided Reference Cards
Production pad w/o Facilities
Production pad w/ Facilities

As with most expansions for most board games, there will be improvements in the components and the materials constructed for the game. I noticed that the cardstock utilized in this expansion is a bit thicker and more defined, so, easier to read. Being that the material is of cardstock make, one should always ensure that the gaming area is clear of any liquids and/or anything that is damp, because cardstock is like a sponge; it will absorb it. When I get a board game, one of the first tasks I accomplish is to read the rulebook of sixteen pages and examine the contents. One noteworthy fact is the clarity of the rules. The rules contained within this expansion’s rulebook are clearer than that of the basic game. Further, in the event that I found some rule not making sense, I would simply refer to a number of sites that provide video explanations. The rulebook is fairly simple to read, with the first twelve pages dedicated to the rules, while the rest of the book covers the empire advantage and alien technology portions of the game. There is a scenario book of twenty-four pages, and it has some very interesting scenarios within, especially for the solo player.

Complexity: One of the new things that I will cover on a board game review is complexity. This is very important, because gamers will purchase games based not only on price, longevity, playability, support, or recommendation alone. Some gamers like complex games, and some do not. Space Empires: 4X, including the expansion, rates about a medium to medium high complexity. The game is full of nuances that are critical to the support of a player’s empire, such as construction of ships, added alien technologies, the racial advantages, strength of aliens, weaknesses of aliens, new combat systems, planetary invasions with troops, experience point systems to allow ships to be more powerful as they survive longer, and so on. The number of nuances in this game are just amazing, and add to the complexity but ensure a smooth game once competence of the rules is mastered.

Number of Players: This is a very important issue when it comes to a gamer purchasing a board game. Space Empires: 4x and its expansion are designed for one to four players. However, it is possible for more players to participate by having multiple copies and utilizing two sets of maps and placing them next to one another. The base game provided a number of scenarios for one to four players, however, the expansion has added to the list of scenarios by providing more solitary scenarios. I played the solitary game where I had to fight off giant space amoebas, and that was just a total blast.

Length of Game Time: The time to finish a basic game of Space Empires: 4X with the expansion varies on the number of players playing, experience of the players, and if any of the alternate rules are utilized in the expansion. Over the two dozen times that I managed to play with the expansion, the game sessions lasted on average about two to three hours of game time.

Negative Issues: When it comes to board games, very few have ever passed my inspection with minimal to no flaws or negative flags. I am a huge fan of this game and the expansion has only made it better. HOWEVER, one of the biggest complaints about this game is the paper trail. There is a pad of production sheets where each player must keep track of the materials their empire produces. It can be so tedious at times to keep track, but again, it is one of those nuances that make the base game and the expansion stand alone among the myriad of other games on the shelf worth leaving over this one. The price cost for the expansion is $59.00. This can be considered pricey for the average boardgamer. Board games as a whole are going up in price, but this is certainly one of them where the price is well worth it.

Overall: This is a really FUN game. I continue to play it on a weekly basis with my friends, and it really has everything I desire in a board game. It has longevity, huge playability factor, simple to understand rules once learned, extreme modularity, and is supported well with the expansion as awesome proof. There is no doubt that this game, with its storied history, will have more expansions in the near future.



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