Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 90-120 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR-Eclipse by way of Among the Stars. 90%
Basics-We’ve gone Among the Stars, Expanded the Alliance, sent Ambassadors, and now have a New Dawn for the galaxy. In New Dawn, players take the roles of the same alien races from Among the Stars, but now have moved from the joint space station to exploring the galaxy for resources.
In terms of overall play, New Dawn plays a bit like Eclipse. This game has three resources that players must spend to dominate the galaxy: economic, science, and military. Each race/player starts with a player board with 15 bases in their color. Each base covers up a resource of that type with the fifth base covering up a resource and a victory point. Players choose one base to uncover and place on the central alliance start point. Then, each turn goes as follows: 1) draw up to four tiles to explore 2) place one tile and get its placement bonus 3)buy a research card 4)Move one of your military headquarters to any space 5) take three actions in turn 6) Send aid to the alliance. The tiles are the different sections of space to explore and are split between science, military, economic, and hostile (a mix of all three that is high risk/high reward). Each tile has a placement bonus which ranges from getting resources, placing more tiles, or attacking a tile for free. Research is interesting as each race has its own deck of cards that allows each player to customize how each race plays in each game and allows limited responses to other race’s/player’s actions. Military headquarters are the main movement pieces of the game. You start with one and use it to buy or conquer other tiles. You never lose them, but you can buy more to give you extra power and points. This all said, the main game itself is the actions. Actions are as follows: gain one resources of any type, buy a tile, seize a tile, use an ambassador, or buy a new military HQ and move all the HQs you have. The resources are self explanatory, but the ambassadors are new. Ambassadors are tokens that you place on any tile and then do the ambassadors action. These actions are all written on the cards themselves, but are mostly better versions of the actions discussed above. Of the actions you have, the two biggest and most important are the buy or seize a tile. Buying a tile is simple. Each tile has a cost in economic resources and a victory point cost. You just pay the economic cost. Seizing is more interesting and MUCH more random. If a tile is is not controlled, you add the victory points and the cost and then roll dice according to where your Military HQ’s are. For each military HQ’s on a tile you roll the yellow die (a d6 with numbers 2,3,4,5,5, and 6) and for each military HQ adjacent you can roll the white die (a d6 with numbers 1 through 6). Some powers and abilities give you a green die (a d6 with numbers 0,1,1,2,2, and 3) or the RED AWESOME DIE (a d6 with numbers 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, and 6). The attacking player must beat the defence, not tie. If he/she wins, then that player places a base on the tile of the same type as the one from his/her player board. Combat against a player works exactly the same way with a base on a tile giving you a yellow die in addition to all the Military HQ on or around the tile as above. This can lead to some epic dice roll offs as player can also get rerolls and bonus dice from other powers as well. If the defender loses, the he/she takes his/her base of the tile and covers up the right most resource on the player board and the winners get to place a base as before. In addition, at the start of the game four random bonuses are placed around the board. These bonuses range from extra defence, free movements of Military HQs, to rerolls and extra dice. Each tile typically has some arrows on it. When a tile is bought or seized, the player gets to change the direction in which it is facing, and the arrows the tile points to give a bonus to the owning player. The last action of each turn is to send aid to the alliance. This is buying victory point cards using the three different resources as printed on the card. After five rounds, the points for bases, aid, uncovered resources, and purchased tech and military HQs are added up, and the player with the most has conquered the galaxy and provided the most aid to the alliance!
Mechanics-First thing first, let’s deal with the elephant in the room-Eclipse. Eclipse is a great game, but not my favorite 4-X space game. This game and Eclipse both have the multiple bases and resources concept, tech trees, exploration, and color-based dice combat. And all of that is done a bit different but well by each game. However, Eclipse goes about one turn too long. This game is MUCH shorter, easier to recover from some early game problems, and actually provides much more player control. AND, this game at it’s highest price is $60 while Eclipse still retails for about $100. How New Dawn handles everything is fun, fair, and a great way to manage a galaxy. It’s something that new gamers can handle, and older gamers will enjoy. It’s not perfect as the randomness can honestly destroy your enjoyment of a game and combat is a bit more powerful than other strategies, but if you play American-style games, you know that pain all too well! Don’t let those minor problems keep you from this game. 4.75/5
Theme-This game changed a few key things that I think hurt the game a bit. The theme of the first game was alien races working against each other, but not on an overly aggressive scale as the war was fresh in their mind. This game is all about combat. It will be extremely difficult to win the game without conquering a single base or engaging in combat. It’s a massive departure from the first game. The second is the race descriptions. The first game Among the Stars is a pretty simple drafting and tile laying game, so the designers spent the second half of the rulebook describing the universe and the races within. This game is a bit more complicated, so the rules need a bit more description. But the races and world only get about a half pages description on the first page. I really miss the world building of the first game. The game itself is well done and you do feel like you’re conquering space and your friends’ bases. But, I’m not sure that’s exactly what I wanted from the second game in this series. 4.25/5
Instructions-I mentioned in the theme section, the rulebook doesn’t have as much description as I would like, but overall the rules are well explained by the book. There are a few problems that I think need a tiny bit more explanation like the arrows on location cards. The rules tell you about the different cards placed on the board at the game start, but they don’t give you as deep a working description of that mechanic. You will figure it out on your first play, but it’s a slight problem. If you can apply your best logic to the game, you will do fine with the rules in the box. 4.5/5
Execution– This game doesn’t come with a ton in the box, but what’s there is done reasonably well. To see all the pieces in the box, see my unboxing video here: https://youtu.be/EnMeLhB9Ods The board is two sided with a simple and complex game, which is a nice added layer of gameplay and replay-ability. The tiles all look like the same tiles from Among the Stars which is a nice call back to the first game. I even like the new plastic tokens in the game. What I don’t like is that the gameboard isn’t big enough. There are spots for some tiles but not others. I’d like one more row on all the sides to give enough places to place all the parts that game has. Also, I’d like the box to be a little thicker cardboard. Stronghold Games typically makes their game boxes of a lighter material which is nice when I carry five of them to a con to demo them, but the boxes don’t stand up to too much punishment. These are minor quibbles, but there are things to consider. Overall, it’s a beautiful game that has some good parts to it. 4.5/5
Summary-This might not be my favorite 4x game, but it’s quickly made a spot in the top few of them. It’s got all the things I love in a game: strategy, depth, speed, and ease of learning/teaching. I’d like a bit more story and cardboard, but that isn’t any reason to not pick this one up. If you like Sci-FI games, 4x games, or simply want a good game to play at any gameday that won’t eat the whole day, then this is an excellent game to buy. I can’t wait to play this again and to see the expansion that will come and further develop the ideas that came out of this game. 90%