(2014 – Stronghold Games, Artipia Games)
“So build that wall and build it strong….because we’ll be there before too long….”
Vangelis Bagiartakis’ Among the Stars was originally published by Artipa Games through a successful Indiegogo crowd funding campaign in late 2012. Showing shades of similarities to 7 Wonders, Among the Stars provided much more variety with its various location cards and bonuses provided within each individual card, whether they be immediate or end-game bonuses. Though not originally published in the U.S., Stronghold Games acquired the rights to bring Among the Stars to North America in 2014.
The Ambassadors is the 1st expansion to Among the Stars and includes a set of Ambassador cards that are new the game, along with new location cards, objectives, and a new race. If you have yet to play Among the Stars and would like to learn more about the base game, I would suggest taking a look at my earlier review on the base game. For the purposes of this review, I will simply be taking a look at the Ambassadors expansion and what it adds to the game.
– Exodai race token
– Ambassador cards
– Ambassador reminder tokens
– New Location cards (basic & special)
– Bureau cards
– New Objective cards
– Location tokens
– Copy tokens
While the game comes with a wealth of new locations and other complementary components (which I‘ll cover in a bit), the main attraction and addition with this expansion is the Ambassador cards. On the back of each Ambassador card is either a “I” or a “II”. At the beginning of the game, these Ambassador cards are separated into a Phase I draw deck and a Phase II draw deck. Phase I cards will be drawn during the 1st and 2nd years (rounds) of the game, while Phase II cards will be drawn during the 3rd and 4th years
. The top 3 cards of the Phase I deck are then drawn and placed face up on the table.
As players assemble and construct their space stations, Ambassadors can be invited to come visit and assist in the stations completion
. Each Ambassador card contains a cost in the top right section of the card, along with a special ability listed in the main section of the card. On a player’s turn, instead of playing the location card he chose to keep for that turn, he can instead discard the card and choose to invite one of the face-up Ambassadors by paying its cost. There are 4 Ambassadors for each of the 12 races in the game. When choosing an Ambassador, that Ambassador can not be the same race as the race you are playing as. You can only invite Ambassadors of a different race.
The expansion comes with a set of Bureau cards that will be used along with these Ambassador cards. Each player receives a set of these Bureau cards and each set contains a Bureau that matches each of the five different types of locations in the game (blue, red, purple, yellow and green). Unlike Location cards, Ambassadors are not placed in the player’s space station when played, though they are technically in the station when visiting. Therefore, when acquiring an Ambassador card, the player will place the Ambassador card in front of him, and chooses one of his five Bureau cards to place it into his space station
. Since the player only begins the game with 5 Bureau cards, he can never surpass 5 Ambassadors during a game.
Each Ambassador contains a special ability that can range from an immediate bonus, to an ongoing bonus, or to an end of game bonus. Some of these bonuses affect all of the opposing players, therefore the game comes with a set of reminder tokens that corresponds to that particular Ambassador. Once an Ambassador card is acquired and played, that player will draw a new Ambassador card from the draw deck that corresponds to the current year (Phase I cards for years 1 & 2, Phase II cards for years 3 & 4). At the end of each year, all remaining Ambassador cards face up in the central play area are discarded and 3 new Ambassador cards are drawn from one of the current Phase deck. Let’s look at a few of these Ambassadors and see what they can do:
Gri is an Ambassador for the Vak race and costs 1 credit. When acquiring Gri the player will place 5 location tokens (1 token per location type) on the corresponding Bureau card. When he builds future locations, he can discard the matching token type and pay 1 less credit to construct that location.
Akira Lo is an Ambassador for the Humareen race and costs 1 credit. When acquiring Akira Lo, the player immediately gains Victory Points equal to the number of his least constructed location type (to a max of 4 Victory Points).
N-AG 17513 is an Ambassador for the Minireen race and cost a number of credits equal to the number of players in the game. In the Round following the Round in which he was acquired, the controlling player will receive a Victory Point every time another player discards a location card to perform an action (acquiring Ambassadors, gain credits, building power reactors, etc).
New Exodai Race
Included in the Ambassadors expansion is a new Race for Among the Stars called the Exodai
. Conveniently, the Exodai is specifically tailored to work with the Ambassador cards and will award the controlling player an additional 2 Victory Points for every Ambassador that he was able to invite to his station by the end of the game. Remember, that each player only has 5 Bureaus to house their invited Ambassadors, so the max Victory Points awarded for this bonus would be 10.
The original base game came with 18 different regular location cards (4 copies of each, 72 cards total), and 22 different special location cards (2 copies each, 44 cards total). Along with the 48 Ambassador cards, the new expansion also includes 15 new regular location card types (60 cards total), and 15 new special location types (30 cards total)
. The abundance of new location cards enhances a game that was already known for its variety and replayability. Although there are some clunky rules for how to create a new location deck once combining the cards from the base game and expansion, it is well worth it to have such diverse locations from one game to the next. Let’s take a look at some of the new locations:
The Shopping Centre is a basic location that allows a player to convert up to 7 credits for 7 Victory Points. The player also receives an extra Victory Point for constructing the location.
The Dreadnought Shipyard is one of the most powerful special locations in the game and counts as two Military locations. The shipyard cost 4 credits and 2 energy from a power reactor. After construction it will award the player 8 Victory Points, though no other locations can be placed beside it.
The Conference Room is a special location that will award 1 Victory Point at the end of the game for every Ambassador of a different race that the player has invited to his station.
The Ambassadors expansion also adds 4 new Objectives to the game, adding to the 8 Objectives that came with the base game. Let’s take a look at each new Objective and how they can be completed:
Long Term Planning
The player with the most delayed abilities on locations in his station at the end of the game will complete the Long Term Planning objective and receives a bonus of 5 Victory Points. Delayed locations are those with abilities (text with a gold background) that trigger at the end of the game instead of taking effect when immediately constructed, as with the normal location abilities (clear background).
The player that spends the most energy from his Power Reactors by the end of the game will complete the Technologically Advanced objective and receives 4 bonus Victory Points.
This 1st player to build four Military locations in his station will complete the War Preparations objective and receives a bonus 4 Victory Points at the end of the game.
Strengthening the Alliance
The 1st player who reaches their max of inviting 5 Ambassadors to their station will be able to complete the Strengthening the Alliance objective, and receives 4 bonus Victory Points at the end of the game.
The Ambassadors expansion not only adds an interesting new way to obtain bonuses in the game per the Ambassadors, but also includes a set of new location cards that nearly doubles the amount found in the base game. For a game that was already heralded for its diversity and replayability, these new additions only elevate the claim. The addition of the new Ambassador cards provides players with another option on their turn when choosing an action. While I’m a huge fan of the drafting mechanic in general, sometimes I find that the latter parts of a Round can become a bit stale, since most players are choosing amongst the less desirable cards (basically the leftovers), that are probably of little use to them. Now with the inclusion of the Ambassadors, players can discard these remaining location card outcasts in order to invite Ambassadors, construct new power reactors, gain credits, etc. Having these available options not only adds to the overall strategy of the game, but also keeps the latter parts of a Round from feeling diluted and wanting.
The only minor issue I have about the additional Location cards in the expansion is that there doesn’t seem to be a more streamlined way to set up a game using all of the cards. The new setup process is a bit cumbersome and it may be best to separate the different types of cards in the box to make things easier. However, the array of combinations and variations from game to game that result from the increased card count by far makes up for any prolonged setup steps.
It should be noted that the game does come with some updated rules on timing issues and some clarifications that weren’t available in the base game ruleset. Tokens used to assist more with gameplay are also included as well as a nice 2-player variant from BGG user Entwife, which is much better than the original 2-player variant. Overall, The Ambassadors expansion provides even more depth to Among the Stars by not only increasing the amount of locations and including a new set of objectives, but also with the introduction of the Ambassador cards. All around, this an essential addition for any fan of Among the Stars, and a great first step for what should be an ever expanding title.