1-4 players, Competitive, Space Adventure
Designer: Simone Cerruti Sola
Artwork: Alana Bishop
Publisher: Renegade Games Studios
Overview of Gameplay
In Kepler-3042 you are exploring our galaxy, discovering new planets, colonizing and perhaps even terraforming them. You are doing all this by activating certain skills on your player board each turn in the hopes you will have the most points by the end of the 16th round in which the game ends and points are calculated.
Win Condition /Length
Winning is a matter of being the most efficient player bottom line. Each player has the same player board (just different colors) and the only difference at the beginning is that you pick 2 of the 5 technologies on your personal tech board to advance 1 space each. So for example I could choose to bring my movement up to one which allows me to be able to move my starships on the board and I could bring my energy development up to one which allows me to gain energy if I take that specific action. This is a very tight game. The actions you can take and the way your limited resources are applied are extremely clever. SO clever actually that there have been instances when I thought I broke the game rules as I couldn’t acquire any “Matter”. However after going through all my options I found there was another way.
The resource management is critical in this game. You are only given just a small amount to use during the 16 rounds which consist of three kinds: Matter, Antimatter and Energy. And as you colonize more planets it starts getting spread thinner and thinner, luckily you can only colonize five total planets during the game. Which is by design as there is a nice balance between the game length and just how much you can do. You will find out very quickly that you won’t be able to do everything you are wanting to do, so it’s up to you to decide what avenue you want to take to try and get the most points.
The game takes about an hour to an hour and a half which is pretty standard playing time. I’ve heard a lot of people say the game plays too fast but I actually think it plays at just the right amount of time. The 16th round WILL creep up on you and before you know it, you will be hustling to try and do all these things to wrap up your master plan of galaxy domination. Just go in knowing you probably won’t get to everything and you will be fine and the next time you play you can try out a different strategy.
Setup is so-so. There is a variable amount of sorting to do based on player count and that honestly is what takes the longest amount of time. Playing at less than four players and you will have to shuffle through all the planet tokens and remove certain numbered planets. Other than that it’s just a matter of shuffling the event cards, removing two and placing them on the board. There are 18 event cards so you would remove two as the game runs 16 rounds, one per round. That gives the game a tiny bit of replayability as well. Deal each player a secret objective card which has some task to complete for bonus points so you never REALLY know just how well your opponents are doing exactly. The player boards house a few of the resource cubes and your action cube which you will move around that board to show which action you are taking. Takedown is much the same but quicker. You will need to bag up almost everything and I highly recommend just bagging each of the 4 player’s tokens and cards into individual bags for ease of setup.
Let me start off by saying that this game board is just gorgeous. I love the color schemes they went with and how the purples and blues mix. Toss in the different colored stars on there and it just looks absolutely fantastic. It’s a rather large board as well and folds up into many sections so you will want to take care that you don’t accidentally damage it while trying to figure out how to unfold it.
The components themselves are pretty good. Most of the pieces are made of wood and are painted to differentiate the 4 players. The cardboard pieces that you use for the planets on the board are solid and thick and the random assortment of other tokens are all of a good quality, so far no problems. The player boards are a thicker cardboard as well and haven’t had any warp on me. All in all a good assortment of components, not premium but they are good.
The box in the newest edition is actually much more compact that I thought it was going to be. It’s on the smaller side when compared to the average box size and holds everything pretty secure. There is no insert, well there is this cardboard spacer that’s just meant to hold everything in place and it surprisingly works very well! The board folds up and fits nice and snug and the bagged up tokens and pieces all fit next to the other boards on top of that. Once you get that lid on nothing is going to move, it’s like a brick. Surprisingly weighty for such a small box as well.
Visual Appeal /Theme
Visually the game is great looking, mostly due to that board. Once you get the planet tokens on the board and start uncovering them to discover what planets are out there, the board comes alive. As far as theme goes, this is your pretty standard space theme. It does it well though with all the discovery of the planets and building up an engine with the new technologies you can research which just add to the overall spacey-ness.
The rulebook is also so-so. The setup section was a slog to read through but workable. Actually the entire rulebook was kind of a slog now that I think about it. Some rulebooks keep you engaged whether through the use of varying colors or pictures, just something to keep your eye focused and brain entertained. This one was all adorned with darkness, the darkness of space. Lots of words, endless words…..like space. Now that’s not to say there are no examples because there are and they are generally good examples. It’s just…..it was a boring read which in turn made the game harder to learn. Also the solitaire rules are pretty confusing. Going through those I had to keep going back and re-reading them whilst playing a solo game to try and make sense of what I was doing as far as the way the “levels” work.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
So the game is competitive but not in a direct sense of the word. There is no combat and for the most part you are going about your own devices with little concern for the other players. The only real interaction other players would have with you would be them colonizing a planet that you may have had your eye on as each planet can only be colonized once. The other thing you may see some talk over would be the two tracks on the board. These represent your technological or political prowess in the game. Basically the more planets you colonize, the faster you will move up one track and the more techs you research the faster you will move up the other. There are tokens along each of these tracks that you can collect if you are the highest along that specific track at the end of the round, and these tokens are worth precious victory points at the end of the game. It’s up to you to decide if going for those are worth it over advancing other aspects of your overall engine.
I had a ton of fun figuring out the best possible way to gain points and even after multiple plays of trying different things, I still don’t think I have a perfect formula to win yet. There are many different actions you can take each turn and a few of them I dismissed as being weak when I first started playing only later to realize just how powerful they can be when used in the right method. Earlier I mentioned how we had some issues gaining Matter and it did take a few minutes for me to look over everything but I discovered I had to colonize a particular kind of planet and then use an action that produces resources on that planet to gain the Matter. Is was a cool revelation and it was fun working through just exactly how to gain it.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
I haven’t tried it yet but I can see this game being REALLY fun at 4 players. You can utilize all the planet tokens on the board so it is fully filled out and I bet it’s even more strategic as multiple people are going after those planets. Not to mention the race up those two tracks for those tokens. That said two player is super fun and I have a blast actually defeating my wife on this one, well, I beat her once. BUT I beat her!!! I wasn’t much a fan of the solo play with the current ruleset. The leveling thing is confusing, but you can easily just play a standard game with some house rules and enjoy discovering planets and testing out different strategies for when it comes time to try to defeat other players.
The Fuzzy Llama Silver Seal of Distinction
I had been looking for a good space game for a while and had bought a number of them but none seemed to scratch a particular itch that I had. I am happy to say Kepler-3042 has successfully scratched the heck outta that itch. It gives me the exploration aspect I was wanting with a bit of engine building but doesn’t run too crazy long like so many other space games so we can sit down and enjoy a random game without having to plan an entire day for it. It’s a keeper for sure and I highly recommend it!