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Crews of Eridanus

Hunt down a secret base or destroy a rogue AI in order to save the solar system. But you can only work together so much, as only one player can be the victor.

Currently on Kickstarter, Crews of Eridanus is a science-fiction game in which players captain their ship, engaging in space combat. Recruit crewmembers, take jobs, and try to save the whole solar system on the side.

Gameplay

The game board shows a series of connected hexagonal spaces. Some have icons showing locations such as asteroids or space stations. At the start of the game, you place pirates on various locations around the board.

Each player has a ship on the board and starts the game with a captain and a cadet crew member. Your ship is on the board and during the game you will move around the solar system performing actions and completing objectives.

On your turn you can take three actions. There are a variety of actions to choose from. One action is to move. When moving your ship, you can move up to four spaces. However, if you wish to perform another action during your movement, you can move up to three spaces instead. Spaces with asteroids count as hazardous: you can choose to spend two movement points to move onto one of these spaces without risk. If you do not, then you have to roll a die, add one of your crew member's navigation score to the result as well as any pluses from other cards. If your number is equal to or higher than the hazard level of the space, then nothing happens; otherwise, your ship takes damage. There are also some solar flare hazard spaces on the board, which automatically cause your ship damage if you move onto them.

Players can agree to stack their ships, up to three ships in a stack. You can move together but will have fewer movement points. You can also use this to attack together.

Other actions include spending supplies to heal an injured crew member, repairing the ship, or attacking another ship (another player's or a non-player ship) that is one space away from yours. Some locations on the board also have unique actions, such as exploring a wreck, mining for supplies or visiting an anomaly space.

There are eight anomaly spaces on the board. When you visit one, you secretly look at it. Some might have you draw an event card. One will be the secret base. You do not have to reveal the secret base if you find it, but can instead wait to do so when you are in a good position to attack it.

Players can also visit the stations around the board. At stations you can recruit crew members or purchase tech cards, you can buy and sell cargo, and also pick up passengers to drop off elsewhere. Players are trying to gain morale, which every five rounds can be turned into victory points, and victory points themselves.

When engaging in combat, the fight lasts a set number of rounds depending on what you are attacking. At the start of the combat you choose one battle card for each round and place them in the order you will reveal them in, while an opponent does the same for the ship you are attacking. If you are not attacking another player's ship, then another player will simply select the cards on behalf of the non-player ship.

The cards are then revealed. Each attack card shows which area of the ship the card will hit and which areas it is vulnerable to a hit in, for that round. Some cards also allow you to board an opponent's ship, in which case your crew's melee ability points are totaled to determine your attack value.

If a ship receives damage, take damage tokens. If it ever receives damage tokens equal to its health, it is destroyed. A player can lose his ship this way, in which case he has to start over with a new ship, although after a certain number of rounds it is recommended that he simply be eliminated from the game. If you destroy a ship, you earn a certain number of victory points. If you boarded a ship and won, you earn credits or victory points, depending on whether it was a player's ship or not.

Until there are three or fewer pirate ships on the board, at the end of your turn, if you are in the same sector of the board as a pirate ship it will move towards you and attack anyone within range. Two pirates also start the game on space stations, and you cannot visit those stations until those pirates are destroyed.

After a certain number of rounds, the end phase is triggered. If the secret base has not been revealed, you reveal it now. You then place the mothership token on the board. At the beginning of each subsequent round, the mothership will move one space towards the nearest station. If it comes within one space of a station, all players lose the game.

There is only one winner in the game: the player with the most victory points. But in order for anyone to win, players have to defeat the rogue AI. You defeat it by finding the secret base and boarding it with two specific cards in hand, engaging in combat with the mothership and boarding it with one specific card in hand, destroying the mothership in combat, or with a fourth secret win condition that players must find for themselves within the cards or reading the game's back-story.

Crews of Eridanus components

First Impressions

Crews of Eridanus is an ambitious game that is trying to provide a sandbox, science fiction experience. It does seem to provide a lot of freedom with the choices you make, how you explore the game board, the goals you set for yourself, the crew you build, and the path you take to victory.

There are a lot of elements in the game to really convey the feeling of managing your own ship, from needing to make sure you have enough supplies for your various actions, to putting together different combinations of crewmembers and taking on passengers and cargo to deliver.

The secret base and mothership are a really cool mechanism, as is trying to figure out different ways to defeat them, while hunting down the base adds a nice goal to weave into your travels around the board. The secret path to victory is only hinted at in the rules and is an intriguing addition to the game.

Defeating the AI also feeds in nicely to the semi-cooperative element. Like at the start, when players have a reason to work together to defeat the pirates, you also might have to work together to stop the rogue AI base, since playing too selfishly could easily end up with everyone losing the game.

Players can be eliminated and you could be left out of the game for several rounds, but you can still have some fun controlling the non-player ships in combat in this situation, and we do appreciate the fact that the rulebook clearly states at what point it is no longer worth bringing a player back in with a new ship.

There are a lot of elements to the rules and little details to track, which probably makes this game too complex for a casual audience. But each step is easy to resolve, from combat to damage, to victory. Parts of the rulebook could also use some additional clarity — however, that’s something that is fairly easy to fix and hopefully will be before the game is fully released.

Crews of Eridanus is very thematic, a lot of love has clearly been put into it, and there’s a lot of room in it for players to create fun stories, have plenty of interactions, and explore for themselves. Check it out on Kickstarter if you enjoy a sci-fi setting and a slightly heavier weight game.

Pros: Sandbox experience seems well presented, thematic, lots of options on your turn

Cons: Too complex for a casual audience, some room for improvement in the rulebook

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