|Designer & Artist:||James Tomblin||Player Count:||2 – 4|
|Publisher||Thunder Vaults LTD||Play Time:||90 – 150 mins|
Defection “should” hopefully be coming to Kickstarter in the first quarter of 2018, this review and the opinions expressed within are based on two full demos and a long conversation with the designer at EGX in September of 2017. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway) the version I played was still in development – albeit late development, so between writing this and the final article, the game and art will change somewhat. Now, disclaimer over with, this is Defection:
War has ravaged the galaxy, with factions vying for dominance where the only guaranteed losers are the innocents trapped in the middle. Enter the Defectors, the “heroic” captains who will try and save as many of these innocent souls as they can – and yes, maybe they’ll transport some cargo and earn a few credits in the process. And yes, maybe they’ll pick up some contracts too. OK, yeah, they may just transport goods around to the highest bidder, or maybe even just become a Space Pirate (let’s face it Pirates are cool – fictional ones at least). This is the world of Defection, an almost-4X sandbox-esque game where you really can choose your game.
The principal mechanic in Defection is that of Pick-Up and Deliver – which is the easiest way to accumulate victory points is by transporting civilians from the central planet Keleressa to one of the other inhabitable planets on the edge of the system. Doing so will put your Faction in governance of that planet, which you’ll ideally want to equip with all the cool tech and equipment too. But that means another trip.
We have the technology. We have the capability
Upgrading your ship and crew is a super important consideration, but also increasingly costly. Tailoring your ship, your crew to fit the way and manner of your individual play style and the tone of your gaming group. Buying a brand new ship is another option, one with a different specification altogether. Between crew, weapons, armour, and cargo capacity there are plenty of possible ship configurations to choose from to best suit each game.
3 – 3.5 X
Defection isn’t quite a 4X game, it comes pretty darn close, but it’s not trying to be one either, some of those elements of the well known and much loved Eclipse and Twilight Imperium are there, hinted at even, but this is a very different game. Exterminating being the main aspect which isn’t there, though that isn’t to say you can’t or shouldn’t go on a warpath. You’ll be exploring space each time you move around, flipping the large array hex tiles and thus having to deal with whatever you reveal – only to have that tile replaced by a new one, so each time you make the trip, the journey is different. There are but a few resources in the game for you to exploit/manage, but how you control the ebb and flow of these few directly impact your options – especially when you begin stealing cargo from an opponent’s planet for one of your own.
Make it so
So, what does Defection have which, I think makes it different and unique? Scope. Lots and lots of scope. With a side of scope and sweetened mini-scope for dessert. As the captain of your ship, you will literally decide how you to play this game – of course, there are rules, and there is a suggestion that delivering the most civilians will win you the game – but it is only a suggestion. You don’t have to do that at all. There is no card drawn to tell you your motives for the game, not secret winning conditions etc. The first half of the game you could play as a humanitarian, and then at the drop of a hat become more of a Privateer – collecting contracts and shipping goods to the farthest reaches of the system. How you interact with the other players is also completely in your remit, attack them, don’t attack them, you could even buddy – one as a caravan and one as a guard. The choice really is yours.
Oh, and then there’s the War, acting as both a narrative backdrop to your game, but will also impact it, creating keynotes of your individual “story”. This is masterfully and simply orchestrated via a deck of news cards, drawn at various times throughout the game.
And I mustn’t forget to tell you about the aliens. All of those aliens you will certainly encountered in the deepest, darkest parts of space (all of it) that are just there because aliens just love to f*ck everything up. True story, watch any movie with aliens in. You’ll see!
Ah, I nearly forgot the really simple, really quick combat system with custom dice!
There is more, so much more to this game, but for me to tell you, I first need more of it – and that is something I simply can’t wait to do. I played this on the Friday of EGX, on the train home I was strategizing for my next game. On the dog walk of Saturday morning, I had it all worked out. I tried it out on Saturday, again at EGX, and lost horribly. Now I, like you, have to wait for the Kickstarter to end, for the game to be produced and shipped for my next fix – and that can’t come soon enough!
James has also been keeping a development diary on Board Game Geek which is well worth a read.