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Pulsar 2849


Vladimír Suchý

Czech Games Edition

No. of Players:



G@mebox author Lutz Wildt writes about the game: Have you ever thought about alternative energies beyond wind power plants, utilization of solar power or hydro-electric generators? No? Neither have I. But, if we think the way Vladimír Suchý is doing, a time of interstellar energy is about to come. OK, it will still take some time until it takes place. Vladimír sets us about thousand years after the gold rush in California. But then he let us know that there will be facilities to transmit power instantaneously across vast distances. Pulsar 2849 is the name of the game from CZECH GAMES EDITION in which players try to expand the reach and economic influences of their corporations by building more and more megastructures in space. Gyrodynamic generators are spinning around pulsars to collect energy and transmission arrays redistribute this energy to remote planets. The rush reconvenes. So far, so good, but how can players manage this huge challenge?

Pulsar 2849 is a dice drafting and space exploration game. After several prosperous years of defeating zombies trying to exterminate the human race, the space theme is highly represented in the current game season again. Boardgames like Gaia Project, First Martians, Terraforming Mars and of course Space Defenders prove that there is a strong desire to leave or defend the earth. Maybe this is the result of the political mess in present times?

So how does the game work? It is quite simple: Players try to explore space with their spaceships in order to find new planetary systems, claim pulsars and score points by the use of different actions and production elements. Pulsar 2849 is played over 8 rounds with every round consisting of three phases: a Dice Phase, an Action Phase and a Production Phase. So let us have a closer look on those three phases:

The Dice Phase

Each round starts with a dice roll. The result of this roll is quite important for the further course, because it determinates the values of all dice for the entire round. Each die is placed on a corresponding space on a dice board and the median is marked too. This median plays an important part in the game as you will see later on! After the roll, every player chooses two of the dice for later use for their actions. The choice of the dice not only influence the available actions a player can take, but also the players´ positions on two tracks, the initiative and the engineering track. The initiative track determines the playing order and the engineering track the access to engineering cubes that can be used for additional actions.

Whenever a player takes a die he moves one of the two counters more or less steps to the left or right, depending on the position of the die relative to the median marker. Therefore players should carefully consider which die they pick. If a player is the first player in the initiative track, he has an advantage in the next round because he goes first picking his die in the following round. If however he is the first player in the engineering track, he will earn more engineering cubes than the others. As a result a player gets the possibility to copy a leftover die for example, which gives him the opportunity to use a third action in a round.

With all this talk about initiative and engineering tracks, you should not forgive that the two dice first and foremost give the players the abilities to perform two actions in that round. In other words: 8 rounds result in 16 actions per player in a single game. You think that this is not enough to explore space and make a run for claiming pulsars!?! So letís take a closer look on the different actions and their effects...

The Action Phase:

The most obvious way to use one of your dice in a space exploration game is, of course, to fly your survey ship through the space. The die you choose for that action also determines the number of spots the ship can move. This action gives players the opportunity to explore undiscovered terrain. If a player is the first one who passes through or ends on a planetary system, the corresponding tile is flipped over and will show a number of planets. If he is the first player to discover a system or a latecomer, he is to establish a station at one on the planets.

The planetary system also offers an exploration bonus (e.g. die modifier tokens or engineering cubes), but that is only available when the flight ends on the system and a station is established on a blue planet. Another option is to end a flight next to a pulsar in order to claim it. This is necessary if a player wants to develop this pulsar by constructing gyrodynes on it which continuously produces victory points for him. However, every action requires a certain die! And there are lots of possible actions a player may choose, if he has the right die.

Furthermore player can use a die in his headquarter where he can start projects to work on. A completed project gives a player immediate benefits he can use in the game from that point on. Additionally there is a common technology board where you can spend actions. When a die is spent on this board a technology is patented by the player and he fetches an immediate, or perhaps more powerful, a durable special ability he can use for the rest of the game.

And if fortune doesn't smile on him, because the die roll only brings useless dice, or no desirable die is left? Well than there is still the possibility to modify die result with special tokens in order to pick the most useful action.

You see, it is no too easy to stay on the top of the things! It may help if a player knows how to score points. This leads us to the next phase.

The Production Phase:

This phase in the end of every round brings all together! With the result of the dice picking and track moving from the beginning of the round, a new order of play is determined for the next round. Additionally the engineering cubes are handed out as the engineering track tells us. Afterwards players gain victory points or engineering cubes for online transmitters, spinning gyrodynes and special technologies that are patented. In this phase, players can check the results of their choices and they also should think about the further actions they want to use in the next round.

As mentioned earlier, the game ends after eight rounds and players will receive victory points for various accomplishments. Every game has three individual special goals shown on the goal tiles which are chosen randomly at the start of the game. If a player achieves a depicted goal, he will score the indicated number of victory points. Additionally there is the opportunity to buy bonus points with engineering cubes. Afterwards a final scoring takes place in which a player earns points for patented technologies, claimed pulsars and gyrodynes under construction for example.

To my mind, Pulsar 2849 is a great game! But if you want to play it, you have to make sure that your table is big enough to put the cheer mass of game material on it! When I played the game the first time, I tried very hard not to lose the overview. There are plenty of options you have to keep in mind and it took me several rounds to understand what benefit I can expect from my decisions. Sometimes it is better to have an immediate bonus, in other circumstances it can be more productive to invest a die, so that you get a special ability you can use for the rest of the game.

But remember that you are never free to take all options because of the limited availability of the dice lying on the dice board. Every player has to choose the best way to score points and he has to be flexible enough to change tactics. Fortunately, there are a lot of possible ways to reach objectives like flying the survey ship, completing projects in the headquarter and patenting technologies on the technology board. Because of the broad range of options a player may choose in a game, the replayability of Pulsar 2849 is really very good. Sometimes you win the game by flying the survey ship most skilfully through the unknown space, another time the one with the highest technology developments will prevail.

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