Alien Frontiers: Factions, Faction Pack #1, & Upgrade Pack
Alien Frontiers really took me by surprise as I tend to shy away from dice games because of their luck factor. That game turned out to be a joy to play and remains to be one of my favorite games to bring out on family game night. I’m going to deviate a little bit from my usual review format so that I can cover all three of these expansions in one sitting.
I’ve already covered Alien Frontiers in a prior review, so if you haven’t heard of this game before now, go check that out first here:
Before we get started, I would like to thank David MacKenzie from Game Salute for sending me free copies to review.
Alien Frontiers: Factions
Factions is the primary expansion to the core game, Alien Frontiers, and features the following components:
Purple Dice and Colony Tokens – These items introduce a new, fifth player to the game. (The core game was designed for two to four players)
Scoring Tokens – The scoring tokens are shaped like rockets and include one of every color. My review copy of Alien Frontiers included rockets of the four player colors, though some owners of Alien Frontiers may still be using the round scoring tokens that were included in the game’s first print.
Faction Boards – There are eight factions to choose from, each having its own mini-board that players can assign their dice to. They also list two abilities…one that only the owner can use (owner benefit) and the other that anyone can use, but for the price of fuel (facility benefit). The owner of a faction may use their own facility benefit without having to pay fuel.
Alien Tech Cards – These eight new alien tech cards give players more reason to make use of the deck, as they provide players with a wider range of options. Each alien tech card is unique and has its own way of being used.
Agenda Cards – Agenda cards are ways for players to earn extra victory points, both during the game and at the game’s conclusion. Each agenda card has two agendas listed on it…one can be used during the game for an immediate score while the other can be saved (and hidden) until the end of the game. Players acquire them at the orbital market, but can not have more than three agenda cards. It should be noted that face up agenda cards (played for their points) cannot be discarded to make room for other agendas. There are twenty-four agenda cards in all.
Alien Frontiers: Faction Pack #1
Faction Pack #1 adds to Factions, so it goes without saying that you’ll need Factions first in order to benefit from this pack. The components that come in this particular pack can be summed up as follows:
Extra Faction – This faction comes with your standard faction mini board along with an REV vehicle that is used as part of its faction bonus. The REV vehicle comes as a miniature and is primarily used on planet Maxwell.
Tech Card – This extra tech card features the “Seismic Detonator” which can be discarded and removed from the game to move all of the colonies in a particular territory to an adjacent one. Needless to say, it’s quite the game changer.
Secret Agenda Cards – Two more secret agenda cards are included in this pack for a total of four new agendas for players to consider.
Alien Frontiers: Upgrade Pack
The Upgrade Pack is more cosmetic as opposed to adding new gameplay content. The Upgrade Pack consists of the following:
Colony Tokens – Colony tokens are used when claiming territories and for when you are temporarily using the colonist hub. The replacement colony tokens found in this pack feature a clear plastic dome cover.
Field Generator Miniatures – These miniatures replace the isometric, positron, and repulsor field tokens, which are used on planet Maxwell to change the accessibility of territories and their bonuses in different ways.
Dock Cover Chits – When playing a two or three player game in Alien Frontiers, you’d use dice of an unused color to block off certain spaces on the board to prevent the game from being too “loose.” These chits replace the need to use said dice.
These items are all found in the core game, so you won’t need a copy of Factions to use this pack. However, the colony tokens do include the fifth purple color, just in case you own Factions.
Alien Frontiers already has a lot going for it, but these three items certainly add icing to the cake. Factions adds an incredible amount of replayability, as players will be able to incorporate a particular faction’s strengths to the already wide selection of options on the original game board. In addition to adding more content, I appreciate that the Factions expansion allows for a fifth player to join in on the fun. A family of five will be able to sit down with this game without having to worry about individuals taking turns sitting out. I think one of the best features of this expansion, besides the new fifth player option, is that it can be used as a whole or in parts. Players can exclude the new alien tech cards and agendas and simply use the faction boards…or they could just use the agendas or just the new alien tech cards, just to name a few examples. I like the amount of customization available and how flexible these expansions allow players to be when setting up their game.
While the core game was a mix of luck (dice rolls) and strategy (dice placement), these expansions help strategy to take a lead on the luck factor. For one, players will have two agendas to choose from on a particular card and will need to figure out which agenda would score them the most points, if applicable. While a player can’t have more than three agenda cards, they allow players to focus their faction’s abilities and their overall strategy in different ways. Another new mechanic that players will need to consider is their opponents’ particular strengths and how they might be trying to score their points. While there were plenty of different ways to build colonies (and ultimately win) in the core game, the different factions adds even more strategies to think about. I found myself less worried about the dice roll and more worried about what I could do with it.
The Faction Pack #1 is a worthwhile expansion if you are getting a lot out of the Factions expansion already. Those who pledged their support for Factions on Kickstarter above a certain level will receive Factions Pack #1 automatically. The new playable faction in this pack is certainly for those who enjoy claiming territories on planet Maxwell for their bonuses in the core game…though now they’ll be able to benefit from territory bonuses without having a colony there by utilizing the REV vehicle.
The Upgrade Pack is a neat little cosmetic boost to a game that is already pretty to look at. It’s not a necessary expansion by any means, but hardcore Alien Frontiers fans might be interested in replacing some of the core components. It all comes down to individual player preference…are you someone who often upgrades the components to their games when they are available?
With all of that said, having all of these new features will add a bit of play time to your evening. Having more to think about might scare off the casual gamer (Jennifer likes simpler games better, for example), so I recommend taking all of these new features in baby steps…especially if you or someone in your group is new to the game. Try playing with only one of the following new features: either the alien tech cards, faction boards, or the agendas. When your family or group gets comfortable with one mechanic, add or switch one new feature out for another. Experienced gamers who play the core game a lot may be able to jump right in without an issue and experience everything that the expansions have to offer, but be prepared to make room for the new learning curve and the extra play time.
Anthony (16) and Vinnie (11) were “Dad’s Review Crew” for Alien Frontiers when it came in, so they joined me again and were excitedly going through the faction boards to see what they all had to offer. As experienced Alien Frontiers players, we decided to utilize all of the new features straight away. It took longer for them to take their turns as they had more options to consider, but they were happily rolling and placing dice from beginning to end without complaints. Anthony loved utilizing the new tech cards when he could where Vinnie was all about using the raiders to steal resources from other players. I opted to play in my usual way…maximizing resources and building colonies like no one’s business, ignoring the tech cards and swapping out agenda cards for most of the game. We all played differently, but it still came out to be a photo finish in the end.
Overall, I had a great time with Factions and enjoyed what Factions Pack #1 and the Upgrade Pack added to the game. Those who get a lot of mileage out of the core game already should seriously consider picking these up. If money is tight or if you just aren’t sure you want to invest, I’d recommend starting with the Factions expansion first and seeing if you like the new features. If you do, you can always pick up Faction Pack #1 and/or the Upgrade Pack at a later date.
Final Verdict: 9/10
You can learn more about these expansions to “Alien Frontiers” by visiting the following sites: