Preview: Space Piracy Meets Poker in Antematter | Casual Game Revolution

Preview: Space Piracy Meets Poker in Antematter


Players are smugglers, competing for a coveted seat with the mysterious organization the Booth.

Loot planets, plunder the stars, and go head to head with your opponents over several rounds of Texas Hold ‘em-style poker in this board and card game, currently on Kickstarter.


Each player starts the game by choosing a crew. Each crew represents a different faction and has different strengths, and each comes with a different deck of twenty-five cards, three ships, four bridges, and chips worth three hundred nephelium (the game's currency).

The board is set in the center of the table and each player takes one of the bases along the edge. Each base is made up of three hexagons, and you can place your ships in any configuration within those three spaces. The planets are then placed around the board, each in its own orbit around the center space that is the engine star. Plunder tokens, which are nephelium chips, are placed around the board, as well as dive bar icons.

Each round of the game is divided into two phases. The first phase is the loot phase. Each player has three points of burn to spend on moving their ships. They can assign this burn as they see fit, spreading it out across their ships or using it all on one. You have two different types of ships: one roc and two ravens. Each roc moves one space per burn, while a raven moves two. Once a turn, a raven can also place one bridge token within one space of itself. When a roc lands on a bridge, it can move an extra space if moving onto another one of your bridge tokens. Planets also move at the end of each round. If a roc is on a planet when it moves, it moves with it, and next turn gets extra movement if moving away from the planet.

When a raven lands on a plunder token, you take the nephelium chip and add it to your supply, you also draw a crew card from your deck and set it aside, adding it to your hand at the end of the loot phase. Rocs cannot collect these chips, however you can land on a planet and plunder it. When plundering a planet, you earn nephelium and also a cargo token matching the planet's color. Your roc can take cargo to the engine star space in the center of the board to sell it. Your roc can only hold one cargo of each planet color at a time. Cargo sells for one hundred nephelium, and you earn an additional two hundred and fifty if you sell all five colors of cargo at the same time.

Both rocs and ravens can land on a dive bar. When you do, you either draw until you have seven crew cards in hand, or choose to discard all your current hand and draw up to seven. Crew cards can be played both during the loot phase to help you as you navigate around the board and during the second phase of the round.

The second phase is the poker phase. The poker of Antematter follows Texas Hold 'em rules. Each player is dealt two cards from a poker deck. Everyone takes turns checking, folding, calling, or raising. Next, three cards are revealed face up from the deck and placed on the table, there is another round of betting, a fourth card is drawn, followed by another round of betting, and finally a fifth card is drawn, followed by a final round of betting. Players then reveal their two cards, using the five cards on the table together with the two in their hand in an attempt to create the strongest hand, with the winner taking all the nephelium bid. There is, however, an additional twist in that there are two jokers included in the deck. If one is in your hand, you cannot win with by creating the strongest hand but if you successfully bluff all other players into folding, you earn extra winnings. If a joker is drawn among the five cards in the center of the table, an enigmata card is dealt out which will change the rules for the hand.

After the poker phase, a new round begins and the board is resupplied with plunder tokens. If a chip was not looted during the previous round, another token is placed on top of it, making that space even more valuable.  The winner of the poker phase also gets to move first in the looting phase.

Once you earn a certain amount of nephelium, you earn a token of respect. In order to win the game you must hold the token of respect for an entire round. If two players end a round with a token of respect, then the player with the most nephelium wins the game.

Antematter Components

First Impressions

Antematter is a unique combination of mechanics, with two separate but nicely fleshed out phases that complement each other. Moving around the board, you’re collecting money to bet with during the poker phase which in turn, if you win, gives you an advantage on going first during the loot phase.

The looting phase gives you lots of opportunities to plan out fun movement combos in order to spread out faster and race other players to reach particularly valuable spots on the board. Its fun that you can set up a line of bridges, calculating where the planets are going to be moving, and combo these with certain crew cards to really cover a lot of space on the board in one round.

Fans of poker will appreciate that Antematter does not water down the rules. You’re playing with a full deck and all the regular hand combinations are still included in the game, while adding some new twists to it such as the enigmata cards and the crew cards. If you are not very familiar with poker, the rulebook catches you up on the basic rules, and a reference card for the different poker hands and their strengths is also included in each crew deck.

Depending on how each player’s luck holds, the game could in theory run a little long. However, the win condition is also nicely balanced to avoid anyone running away with victory off of one hand while giving other players a chance to catch up. Also, since you cannot lose the token of respect once you've gained it, you also can't lose the victory off one hand either.

Giving each faction its own unique crew cards adds some interesting variety. The game also looks great, with a really attractive board. For those with a love of lore, the rulebook gives some detail on the game world and factions, creating a fun story, while still keeping the rulebook structured in an easy to read format.

Antematter is a unique combination, and for fans of poker who are looking for something a little more thematic, it should be a great fit. Also, since most players are familiar with the core concepts of the card game, this makes Antematter, in general, pretty easy to pick up. Check it out on Kickstarter and get ready to plunder the stars!

Disclosure: this preview is based on our first impressions of a draft of the rulebook and game components, which are subject to change prior to publication. We received a modest payment to write this article.