Monday, April 20, 2015

Another look at Starbase Jeff


We recently had a chance to play Among the Stars, an interesting space station building game that reminded me of a cross between Race for the Galaxy and Starbase Jeff, so much so that it made us wonder whether we need a game that combines the two.

We love Race for the Galaxy, but our original review of Starbase Jeff was a bit lukewarm, which is a little surprising because I've always had a lot of affection for the game. I like the basic "Water Works in space" idea, and I feel that it improves on Water Works by having all the players build on a common pipeline, rather than each building his own and racing to see who can finish first, with the only real player interaction being the occasional "take that!" play of a leaky pipe on your opponent's pipeline, forcing him to spend time and resources fixing it. Among the Stars had a similar lack of direct conflict with the other players, relying on card drafting at the start of each round as the only real way players interact with one another.

In Starbase Jeff, the goal is to earn money, primarily by being the player that closes off the station and wins the pot, but also by building long, unbroken strings of station tiles and forcing your opponents to connect their tiles to them, paying you for the privilege. There are a lot of decisions to be made during the game regarding when and where to play your tiles, in an effort to both build the station to your advantage, and control when the game ends. Each player's randomly shuffled stack of tiles provides just enough chance to keep the game from being predictable.

As I mentioned in my previous review, the only part of the game that is a bit of a let-down is the end game. The game keeps score in a poker-like fashion, with counters representing money being paid into a central pot when tiles are put into play. Playing an end cap pays one from the pot, and the player who eventually closes the station off so that no more tiles can be played wins the entire pot. It's meant to be played over several "hands" like a poker game, with the game ending when one or more players run out of money, or just get tired of playing.

One thing that definitely enhanced our enjoyment of the game was printing out the full color print-and-play edition available at the Cheapass Games website. The color artwork is much nicer than the kind of drab, black and white on colored paper tiles that came with the original edition, and it gives you enough different colors for six players.

Read the original review.
Original rating: 3 (out of 5)
New rating (pass or fail): PASS

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