In one of those weird twists of fate, I love board and card games with a science-fiction theme… but I don’t read a lot of science fiction books any more. (Back in high school, I devoured the first three Dune novels and huge swaths of Asimov and Heinlein… but that was approximately 40 years ago… or 21+ years on Mars.)
But, like I said, I love me some sci-fi board gaming… as my top 50 games (posted earlier this year on my personal blog) make abundantly clear:
- #48: New Frontiers
- #46: Core Worlds
- #40: Roll for the Galaxy
- #39: Quantum
- #32: Armageddon
- #30: Nemo’s War
- #27: Ascending Empires
- #24: Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit
- #17: Eminent Domain
- #2: Race for the Galaxy
One fifth of my list is sci-fi games… and that doesn’t even count Baseball Highlights 2045 (robots playing baseball) or Heroscape (since it’s a mish-mash of genres/tropes).
Between my sons and I, our house is filled with games about terraforming planets, fighting off alien hordes, asteroid mining, building space stations… and, probably the category with the most cash invested, fighting battles in the inky void of outer space. *
Enter Warp’s Edge from Renegade Games and the tiny epic mind of designer Scott Almes. Warp’s Edge is a solo bag-building game that harkens back to the “lone spaceship against a horde of invaders” video games of my youth.
And it does it with style.
How Does It Work?
The game itself is simple enough – draw five chips from the bag, then use those chips to blow up and out-maneuver a fleet of bad guy spaceships, eventually attacking the mothership and escaping with your life. Or not.
When you eliminate an enemy ship, you get a reward – sometimes drawing more chips from the bag, sometimes re-energizing your shields, and often putting new chips into the bag. When you’ve spent or banked all of your chips (your ship has a hold capacity to hang onto 1 or 2 chips per round), you draw five new chips from the bag and add enemy ships to the line… it’s like Space Invaders all over again.
Chips (lasers and maneuvers) placed on ships stay and accumulate if you don’t destroy the ship outright. Even a relatively weak “1” chip stuns the enemy so he can’t shoot you this turn – meaning there are a variety of decisions to make about when to plink away at certain ships and when simply blast them into smithereens.
When you need to draw chips from the bag and can’t draw enough, your ship warps back in time to the beginning of the encounter. In game terms, you put all of the chips back in the bag, reshuffle the alien ship cards and lay out a fresh row, and the battle continues with your damage just as it was before you “jumped”.
Chips come in four basic flavors:
- Lasers – values 1, 2, or 3… they let you shoot incoming ships
- Maneuvers – value 1… they help you evade those same ships
- Energy – values 1, 2, or 3… they let you buy other chips to add to your bag
- P.O.W.E.R. – special action chips that vary depending on which ship you are piloting
Motherships each have special rules and a certain number of available warps… run out of warp opportunities and you’re defeated. (I guess it means you looped back on yourself too many times and winked out of existence.)
The other more traditional way to lose is to have your craft destroyed by barrages of enemy fire. It happens to the best of us.
What I Like
- Variety – the game comes with 4 different player ships (each with its own mix of P.O.W.E.R. chips and special rules) and 5 different motherships. That’s 20 different games set-ups right out of the box… and the Viren Invasion expansion adds two more player ships and two more motherships to the mix.
- Ease of play – the basics of the game were locked in by the end of my first play… and it was incredibly simple to teach to my son in a “play & learn” kind of way.
- Clear rulebook – I haven’t found anything missing that I needed to know – which is much appreciated.
- Useful special powers – Pilots get extra “special power’ cards… which have a cost to utilize but make sense both thematically and in game terms. So far, they all seem costed correctly as well, which is evidence of good development work on the design.
- Storage solution – Renegade designed the game with plastic trays that hold the chips. They work not only as storage but actively make the game easier to play by keeping everything sorted and organized. (The box insert for cards and wooden tokens is good as well.)
- Balance – solo game design is tricky… the game system has to be smart enough to win but not so smart that the player feels like they have no chance. The choices a player has to make need to feel meaningful… but not so difficult that it bogs down the play of the game. Warp’s Edge does a great job of balancing both of those objectives.
- I wish they’d put the icon key for reward effects on a playing card or separate cardboard piece so I didn’t have to find it in the rulebook.
- I wish there were some kind of markers for mothership and player ship special rules to remind me of those functions so I don’t miss them.
- I think the “choose your own adventure” set-up storybook is a neat idea, but I’ve only used it once. (The game is strong enough without adding it.)
My copy arrived last week… and it has already been played 11 times – seven by me and four by my 15 year old son. We both are fascinated by the puzzle of beating the various motherships and how enjoyable it is to play.
The designer, Scott Almes, is well-known as the designer behind the “Tiny Epic” series (which has contributed more sci-fi themed games to my collection). Warp’s Edge doesn’t feel like a re-purposed Tiny Epic design… it is very much its own game.
As my faithful readers know, I wrote an extensive write-up a month or so ago about solo gaming… Warp’s Edge is a worthy and welcome addition to my quiver of solo games.
Kickstarter Note: Backers had the option to order the playmat and high-quality printed tokens – which I did. (That’s the version you see in my pictures of the game here.) Some of the tokens evidently came already worn/scratched – and Renegade Game Studios proactively jumped in and has promised to reprint and resend to all of the folks who bought the upgraded tokens. This is an incredibly classy act of customer service that deserves recognition.
Writer’s Note: In case you were wondering, the games referenced in the asterisked paragraph near the beginning of the review are Terraforming Mars, Space Cadets: Away Missions, Septikon: Uranium Mining, Among the Stars… and, in no particular order: Battle Beyond Space, X-Wing, The Battle At Kemble’s Cascade, Stellar Conflict, Ascending Empires, and Space Alert.