|Game Name:||Farlight||Published Year:||2017|
|Game Publisher:||Gamesalute||Player Scale:||2 – 5|
|Game Designer:||Nick Sibicky||Run Time:||45 mins|
In the not too distant future, you’ll be able to pop off on your jollies to visit the Sea of Tranquility instead of Lanzarote if what Mr Branson is selling comes about, in the meantime, you can conquer that pesky atmosphere and go boldly into that void with Farlight. Much like Branson, Musk and Bezos, you’ll be running your high tech aerospace company in a tight, and faced paced race, attempting to outmanoeuvre, outwit and outclass your competitors.
Farlight is an auction and tile placement game in which each round players will bid on parts for their ship, to then connect those parts before attempting one of the all-important missions. This is as simple as it sounds, in turn, each player will place two of their 5 bidding tokens – ranked from zero to four – on any ship upgrade or facility at Farlight Station, with the option of adding one of their scarce and valuable crew to the bid to increase it by one. Once all bids are placed, the winner of each is revealed, losers who bid more than zero gain one additional crew for their trouble and then parts are added to the ship.
This is a victory point game, with only one real way to gain points (there are also bonus points and as the name suggests, the bonuses are just that, they’ll make the difference between finishing second or third, they won’t win you the game). At the top of the board, there will be a selection of Mission Cards, arranged into three columns, and missions ranked from lowest value to highest and then the game ending Climatic Mission.
These missions form the focus of each game, and there is a nice assortment of them, as missions can vary with their requirements as a mixture of, or a sole requisite of Science, BioTech and/or engines. And it is here that we encounter the most interesting, and most frustrating aspect of this game: getting the right parts at the right time. At the beginning of the game the board is filled with parts, and then at the end of each round, anything that was ‘sold’ is replaced. However, since there is no seeding of the deck, nor a separate deck for each part “type”, the draft is very random. So, important, game-necessary cards, like, I don’t know, engines, for example, don’t appear quite as frequently as one would hope
Now kids, remember getting into space is really difficult because you have to break away from the Earth’s gravitational pull. Which is really, really hard. In order to do that you need really powerful engines. So when only one appears in Farlight Station, it becomes very highly sought after. Even Two engines mean that most players are going to be bidding on both of them, and probably bidding high, this essentially creates a bottleneck of bids, since only empty slots are replaced, you can end up with only two or three cards being drafted. So the “issue” is not only exacerbated but is self-serving.
Is it really a problem? For me, it’s not a deal breaker, it is frustrating, and I think there are some easy ways around it, or even a little House Ruling to make it flow a little better. But, for others, this could be too much. It does create an individual economy per game, in the same way that a scarcity of one resource in say, Splendor does alter how everyone plays, but unlike Splendor, there is no way to get around not having an engine on your spaceship (although you can get around Science and BioTech, which is odd). And if you ever hope to achieve one of the Climatic Missions then you need engines. At least two, but more likely three.
So let’s do the maths. In a five player game, each player is going to really want/need three engines, so that will be fifteen engines in all. Of a possible sixteen, and to me that seems pretty tight, and in the games I’ve played, it has been.
The Climatic Missions themselves also present their own quirk, and that is a linear narrative. These missions almost force the game to move in a specified direction – which really does feel like your choices are being stricken off as you advance through the game. Normal missions are stacked in front of these, so the Climatic Missions can’t be attempted until the stack is clear, meaning that as soon as two of the normal missions are resolved, all players now focus on that column, making the others more or less redundant, since winning a climatic mission will pretty much bag that player the win.
Since these missions are so high scoring that in some cases it can be the only mission a player accomplishes and they still end up winning. Obviously, this does sour the milk a little for everyone else playing. That being said, you can stop a player running away with the lead, you can outbid them as rarely will an opponent just need one part. It is within every player’s power to stop and hinder that winning bid, but again, by doing so, this limits your choices.
You could argue that the game is broken, or that it isn’t balanced, etc. and I could argue with you, but I wouldn’t argue particularly hard or for very long. However, and it’s a big HOWEVER, the game is really good fun. I’ve really enjoyed playing it, each and every time. Unlike Steampunk Rally (which has a similar feel, and tile placement mechanic), where all the players are building at the same time, in Farlight you have time to take stock and see what everyone else is doing. You can bluff and inflate the cost of a valuable piece for your opponents that you know they really, really want while you pick up that other thing. And there is a great sense of satisfaction when you win a tile on a low bid because you’ve misdirected everyone. Or when you bid here, and then there, to do that, so that next turn you can do the other thing. It’s a game that wants you to plan and more importantly to it wants you to scheme. It creates a wonderful market conflict and for a game with only indirect player interaction, there is usually a lot of trash talk too.
Farlight makes for a very enjoyable experience, perhaps a little too random and linear for some gamers, but I’ve found it to be just the right amount of fun to counterbalance those failings.
A thought-provoking economics game
Really good fun to play
With the right crowd, it will have some great player interaction
Doesn’t feel very balanced,
Can suffer from a runaway leader
Has a linear and predictable conclusion
This game was purchased/ backed on Kickstarter so some of the contents may vary from retail editions of the game