Europa Base Alpha
- Designer:Garrett Herdter
- Publisher: Wizkids
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 14+
- Time: 45-60 min
- Game played on review copy provided by Wizkids
Europa Base Alpha is set, unsurprisingly, on Europa – one of Jupiter’s moons. In this game, each player takes on the role of a different nation trying to win control of the moon – by building the largest network of installations on the moon over the rounds of the game (enough rounds so that each player has an equal number of times being first player in a round).
Each player starts the game with a player board that has captions on each edge. The center of the board tells you the possible faces on each of the three colors of dice (green, blue, red) as well as the number of each color die that you start the game with. Players are also dealt a hand of 5 cards from a deck of action cards.
The cards seem complicated at first, but they become easier to read as you get used to the game. There are four sections to each card, stacked top to bottom, and when you play the card, you can use the ability from exactly ONE of those four sections. The topmost segment has the name of a base, the points scored if the base is built and icons representing the dice rolls required to build said base. The second area is an undermining section which can be played AGAINST another player to hinder them. The third area is for Ingenuity, which the active player can use to augment their die rolling. The bottom-most area is for future planning actions. More on these card actions as they come up in the turn.
There are six phases to each round – always played in the same order.
1] Play a Base Card – all players secret and simultaneously choose a card from their hand and place it face down next to the Under Construction side of their player board, and when all have chosen, they are all revealed. You will obviously be using the topmost section part of the card which has a base named on it, with the point value and the dice needed for construction.
2] Face Undermining – starting with the start player and going clockwise, each player can choose to play any number of cards from their hard AGAINST another player’s proposed base card. These Undermining cards are placed next to an opponent’s base card, and the hindrance noted in the second section will apply against that base care. There is a limit of two Undermining cards that can be played against any one Base card.
3] Attempt to Build your Base – each player rolls their dice up to 3 times. After each roll, you can set aside any dice that you want and keep them. If you keep a Star (wild) result, you must try to use this die in the building phase. It will be used as any face, but it will also earn you a “cut corner” token which comes with a VP penalty at the end of the game. After your three rolls, if you have not successfully rolled the icons that you need (taking into account any Undermining cards that were played against you), you may now pe were lay more cards from your hand to use the Ingenuity area action to help you. Additionally, if you had played cards in your future planning area on previous rounds, you could also use the effect from those cards if they made sense to use now. If you still fail to build the Base, you discard the unbuilt Base card and are done with the phase.
4] Maybe do it again? If a player failed to build his base in Phase 3, they are obligated to skip this step. All other players (who therefore successful in building their initial Base card) can choose to push their luck and try to build another Base card. The risk here is that if the second build fails, the first completed Build will also fail. Starting from the start player, each player decides if they will try to build again, and phases 1-3 are essentially repeated, then return to this stage to decide if they again want to further push their luck or not. If a player decides not to push their luck, they finalize construction, and they take all the cards which were successfully built this turn and move them to the right of the player board on the “built” side. These cards are now placed facedown (they had been face up when they were being built).
5] Future Planning – each player can play one card from their hand and play it face down under the bottom of their board on the “Future Plans” side. You may not duplicate a type of Future Plan card, but you are most definitely allowed to have multiple cards here.
6] End of the round – if this is the final round, the game ends and you count points. Otherwise, move the start player token one position clockwise. Each player decides to discard any cards from their current hand and then draws up to 5 cards in their hand (or whatever limit they have based on their Future Planning cards).
If this is the end of the game, each player scores points as shown on their successfully built base cards. Each Cut Corner token brings a -2VP penalty. The player with the most points wins. Ties go to the player with the fewest Cut Corner tokens.
My thoughts on the game
Europa Base Alpha is a game which admittedly brings nothing unique to the table, but it does bring a solid game to it. The strategy here is fairly straightforward – players must gauge their tolerance for risk by choosing what they want to build in Phase 1 of each round. More difficult cards to build will reward you with more points, but there is also a higher chance that you won’t be able to build it at all. In a game that has only 3 or 4 rounds, taking a big fat zero for any of those round can be a serious detriment to your overall chances of winning.
Once players have chosen what they want to try to build, there is a round of targeted attacks. Each player is free to play cards against any of the opponents, so long as there aren’t already two cards played against their target. There are no rules as to who gets played against – and I think you would already know your group’s tolerance for this sort of thing. The game at least limits how bad any one player can be hit. If you are late in turn order, you will at least known what cards have been played against you – and this might help you decide whether you want to play your own attack cards or if you’d rather save your cards for their ingenuity actions…. Or maybe you might even want to save your cards to help you possibly build an additional card in this round. Again, with there being so few rounds in the game, getting two small builds in a round might give you a huge advantage scoring wise.
And before you decide whether or not you’re going to try to build a second base card this round, it’s probably a good idea to look and see how many cards each of your opponents has left – or whether they have also chosen to try to build a second card as well – as this might give you some insight on what they’ll try to do with the cards remaining in their own hand. If they are also trying to build an additional Base card, it is very likely they will want to reserve some of their cards in case they need the Ingenuity actions on them. This, in turn, might make is safer for you to also go for it.
The graphics in the game are perfectly functional. The player boards have all the necessary information on them that you need, but the game will likely not with any awards for the graphic design. The cards can be confusing at first, but once you have played a game or two, you’ll find that you’ll be able to remember what function a card is being used for based on its relative position.
So far, Europa Base Alpha has been a pleasant enough push your luck dice rolling game, but one with adds in the element of targeted attacks. Again, everything in the game works, but there isn’t anything particularly novel in the game mechanisms. If your group enjoys Munchkin, this might be a good fit for you as well as a change of pace. If you don’t like people messing around in your sandbox, this may not be the game for you.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor