Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hexy Models: Star Scrappers - Cave-in Card Game Reviewed!


Today we have the pleasure of reviewing Star Scrappers - Cave-in, the first card game to be released by Hexy Models. Become a galactic entrepreneur, a ruthless mining boss carving his domain in a fast-playing card game of merciless mining! Explore this new card game and our own game experience during our review.


Game Overview

Star Scrappers Universe is space western setting where countless alien species explore the galaxy in search of wealth and glory. Last interstellar war between Terrons and Hy'drans broke out fifty years ago and since then peace treaties are in power. Trade routes are set, civilizations flourish, and new sources of unlimited power are discovered. New space nations arrive to influence history - cybernetic Bioss and mechanical Metanels. Old inhabitants of ancient planets - Weedlocks and Minneglers are pursuing their mysterious goals once again. Can fragile peace be maintained in the galaxy of endless adventure? 

In this cool futuristic setting, you take control of a mining company in a race to excavate the precious Xendryd crystals from the dangerous space mines of the known galaxy. Recruit experienced mercenaries and collect powerful artifacts in a search for the highly-praised Xendryd crystals. While competing with ruthless rivaling mining crews attempting to bribe your crew and snatch your bonus in this tactical “discard building” card game!


Game Components

The Star Scrappers - Cave-in card game by the Filip Miłuński and the Polish game design studio, Hexy Models contains an astounding amount of high-quality and nicely illustrated cartonboard components, much more than I had initially expected! In the box you can find all the necessary cards, accessories and tokens to play games for 2-4 players. In the following short summary we will take a quick look at all the different game components excluding the well-written 11 page rulebook.


First of all we have the 78 Mercenary Cards, 13 colored and beautifully illustrated cards for each mercenary faction of Star Scrappers. Each of these cards has a number of one to four representing their level along with their special skill which can be used during the game. The higher the mercenary level, the better its special skill and general usefulness during the game. Next to the Mercenary Cards we have the valuable artifacts that give the players extra benefits during the game or award more Victory Points at the end of the game. There are 12 Artifacts Cards available, each containing two artifacts allowing you to choose from 24 artifacts during the entire duration of the game.

The most important tokens of the game are the precious Crystal Tokens, the main source of Victory Points during the game. The game contains 60 Crystal Tokens divided in four levels of mining difficulty (1-3-6-10) and each token contains up to four symbols and values. As mentionned before the mining difficulty levels, faction symbols, Victory Points and Cave-in symbols. Following the Crystal Tokens, we have the Command Cards of which six are included in the game. One for each of the available Star Scrapper factions: Minegglers, Terrons, Hy'Drans, Metanels, Biosses and Weedlocks. These cards represent your given faction and a useful summary of the game turn sequence on the back.

Six Faction Totems are also included in the game again representing each available faction as a cartonboard token mounted on a clear plastic base. The control of these Faction Tokens are worth extra Victory Points at the end of the game and also give you an important discount on mining crystals during the gameplay. Last but not least is the Game Board which is the foundation of the Star Scrappers game. The Game Board is placed on the table and all other game components are laid around this foundation with the Mercenary Cards being placed above the board, the Crystal Tokens beneath the board and the Artifact Cards on top of the Game Board. The Game Board is also the place where you track the number of Cave-ins, when the Cave-ins reach a certain level the game is ended, Victory Points are calculated and the winner is declared.



How to Play

We played the Star Scrappers Cave-in card game with two players although the game can be played with up to four different players. Note that the described sequence as written down below, doesn't include all rules and features but gives a good impression of the gameplay.

Easy and Quick Setup

The setup of Star Scrappers - Cave-in is very quick and straight-forward yet this doesn't translate in a short summary but in the following rather long description of all the necessary steps. The most important step is to sort out all the necessary cards and tokens in an orderly manner to further speed up the game setup. Note that you need both sufficient space above, next and under the Game Board on your tabletop so keep that in account when placing the Game Board. First of all you separate the Crystal Tokens in four stacks according to their mining cost and then shuffle each stack separately. Then you place some of the crystals under the Game Board, creating a reversed pyramid with the low level crystals at the bottom and the highest level crystals at the tip.

After placing the Crystal forming the actual mine, you can now lay-out the recruiting base for your mercenaries named the Mercenary Docks. You first randomly choose 4 out of the six command cards which will become available during the game. The other factions are placed next to the Game Board. You then separate the Mercenary Cards according to their level and form 4 stacks above the Game Board, the stacks will be used to replenish the Mercenary Docks during the game. After this step you form another pyramid but now above the Game Board using the Mercenary Cards. The foundation is formed out of four level 1 Mercenary Cards and is topped with a single level 4 Mercenary Card.

To finish off the initial setup you place the Cave-in marker on the Game Board and place three four card stacks of open-faced Artifact Cards on the Game Board. The only thing left to do is to give each player two level 1 Mercenary cards and one level 2 Mercenary Card forming their starting hand along with a randomly given Command Card and according Faction Totem. Then the player who has most recently watched a Steven Seagal movie, may start. If nobody dares to admit to such atrocity you randomly choose the starting player. Must admit that, this rule generated some laughter among us!

Dangerous Race for Crystals, Mercenaries and Artifacts

During an intense game of Star Scrappers you have up to three different phases during each player's turn: the Starting Phase, the Action Phase and the Clean-up Phase which will be shortly described below to give you an impression of the possible actions and turn sequence.

The Starting Phase is the first phase of the players turn and is used to activate powerful Artifacts and special skills from your Leader if possible. During the first turn of the game, each player will skip this phase as none of the players starts with playable Artifacts or Leaders as these can only be acquired during the Action Phase.

The Action Phase is the most exciting phase of the game in which you may perform two out of four actions or can forfeit your actions and raid the enemy base and possibly steal your opponents Faction Totem! The possible actions are recruiting more mercenaries from the Mercenary Docks, mining Crystals from the Mine, collecting precious artifacts or using Mercenary skills and last but certainly not least you can forfeit all of the above and simply raid the enemy base!

The Clean-up Phase is as the name gives away used to clean-up the tabletop board and replenish the Mine and Mercenary Docks with fresh Crystals and Mercenaries from their stacks. You then also place all the played cards from your turn in their played order in the Base, the top card of the Base acts as your Leader during the Starting Phase. If there are more than seven cards in your Base, you remove the last cards being the ones that have been in the Base the longest.

Declaring the Winner

The game ends when the mine finally collapses, exhausted from the continuous delving for the rare crystals and intense power struggle of the rivaling mercenary factions. The collapse of the mine is tracked with the Cave-in marker on the Game Board and depends of the number of players involved. In our game the mine collapsed in turn seven so after seven Cave-ins. Cave-ins are caused by mining certain crystals weakening the mine or when stacks of artifacts are depleted by mercenaries. Note that when the mine collapses each player may still play their turn so each players has played the same number of turns. After the collapse, Victory Points are calculated, based on crystals, artifacts, faction totems and so on. The player with the highest amount of Victory Points wins the game and fame!




Game Experience

When I first opened the box and saw all the wonderful and colorful game components, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of them and though this is going to be difficult. But after careful reading through the rules and playing our first games, we quickly changed our mind as the game is in fact very simple to learn and also surprisingly fast to play. Star Scrappers - Cave-in is a tactical card game in which thinking ahead of your turn is very important as you must carefully plan your own strategy to anticipate and overcome your opponents actions. Although this sounds quite straigh forward, it might be more difficult than you think as the turn sequence is very fast and the number of strategic options is surprisingly large when taking into account the full amount of possibilities.

The core of the game is to collect the highest amount of precious crystals, this is best achieved by gathering mercenaries of the same color as the crystals you want to mine. The best approach is to recruit your motley crew of mercenaries based on which crystals you want to mine but taking into account the actions and mercenaries of your opponents. A useful feature is to raid the enemy base and steal his mercenaries, causing some serious mayhem in the strategic planning of your opponent. This last option in most cases includes some swearing by your opponent, resulting in laughter and great fun as players try to restore their carefully planned strategy and tactical options. Another cool feature are the Cave-in's that occur in the game when you mine certain crystals or empty artifact stacks. These Cave-in's are very important as they cause the ending of the game and counting of the victory points. You can influence these events, delaying or prolonging the end of the game when this suits you the best.

In my opinion, Star Scrappers - Cave-in's attractive high quality components also really enhance the game experience, immersing you in the cool space western setting with a lovely design and colorful artwork. Nothing beats some sturdy quality cartonboard tokens and lovely illustrated cards. Our game experience was very good, as we love quick and simple games with some serious strategic thinking involved and Star Scrappers - Cave-in ticks all of these boxes!


Conclusion

To conclude our review of the Star Scrappers - Cave-in card game, we can certainly say that we highly recommend the game to all players looking for some fast-paced, strategic gaming in a cool and interesting science fiction setting. The gameplay is easy to learn yet hard to master due to the immense amount of strategic possibilities and the quality of the game components is superb. The Star Scrappers - Cave-in card game can now be bought directly from the Hexy Store here for only €30 as an Essen Spiel Convention pre-order or for €34.78 as a regular purchase. Another cool thing is that you can also buy the Star Scrappers characters as miniatures from Hexy Models, that's just awesome!

Disclaimer - We received this game from Hexy Models for reviewing purposes. Please note that this doesn't influence our review as we always strive to supply you with our own independent and honest opinion about the wargame products reviewed.

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