I have mentioned in previous articles that space is a great location for board games. There are so many liberties you can take right now because our understanding of it is so limited. Today we will be looking at a game that looks at where the future of mining will go into space. In Periorbis, the players represent an interstellar asteroid mining company looking to mine and sell as much asteroid material as they can within the year. Players have to manage all aspects of the business from shipments, building mining bases and their employees in order to win the game. I have quite a few worker placement games in my collection and it will take a great game to make its way onto my shelf. Read on to find out if Periorbis makes the cut.
Periorbis is economic worker placement game for two to six players that plays in less than two hours. In my experience the game plays best with four or more players.
Like in most Euro games, players are attempting to earn as many victory points as possible. In order to do this, each player will need to sell or complete contracts with the ore they have mined from the asteroids. Throughout the game, you will improve your fleet of ships and hire specialized employees that are more effective at certain aspects of jobs critical to asteroid mining. The problem is you are not the only mining company looking to make money in this industry. Players will compete for the limited resources on the asteroids surrounding the planet, new employees, and those important trading ship contracts. Each round players will assign tasks for their employees to complete and after twelve rounds of play, the player who has managed their company the best and earned the most victory points will win the game.
When I picked up the game for the first time I was surprised how much the box weighed. This is no Caverna, but if you like games with a lot of pieces you’re in luck. This game comes with 107 cubes, over 120 cards, and just shy of 130 tokens. These bits as well as the main and player’s HQ boards are of high quality. Only slight issue might be with the cards. They have black edges that might start showing wear in the future, but that is a minor issue. I like the artwork they used in the game. The ships and character cards have a futuristic tone to them that works in this setting. I also wanted to mention how much I like the iconography on the cards. Both the employee and trading ship cards a very well laid out and allow for players to quickly see the necessary information.
One thing about the components that bothers me is the use of the cubes in the game. Each player gets a supply of them at the beginning of the game and a set of these are used as markers for different tracks on the main board of the game. Functionally they work, but I wish they could be custom tokens or figures to use on the tracks. This would give it more personality to the markers rather than just a sea of cubes on the board.
How to Play:
There is quite a bit of set up when you want to play Periorbis. First you have to return to the box any card in the employee or trading ship deck that has a player number higher than the number of players. Then distribute out a HQ player board for each player and their cubes, employee disk and their asteroid base tokens. Players will then get four employees at the start of the game and place them on their player board. The rest of the employee and trading ship cards will be stacked into piles according to the level on the back of the card waiting for the game to start. After placing ore cubes to reflect the number of times the three types of ore on the nine asteroids can be mined and players placing one of their cubes on each of the five tracks on the main board the game can begin.
I want to talk about the main board before I get into the phases of the game. Around the planet are three rings. Inside these rings are the different asteroids you can build a mining base on and collect ore. The issue is that these asteroids will move into different rings as you go further in the game. At the start of the game, you are only able to reach or send ore back from the closes ring to the center of the board. As the game progresses you can invest research to improve your fleets range as well as its shipping capacity.
Let’s get to the phases of the game.
1. Hire Employees
Starting with the second round, players will be able to hire new employees. These can replace old employees or go into open employee spots on their player board. There are five types of specialties in the game and they are engineer, agent, captain, scientist and miner. An employee that is not hired will then become cheaper to hire the next round. If after three rounds they are not hired, they are removed.
2. Employee Actions
This is where the worker placement aspect of the game takes shape. In turn order, each player’s employees can perform one of the following ten actions by placing employee discs into the appropriate employee action zones on the player board.
- Build a Mining Base – Also allows you to transport a miner to that asteroid
- Mine ore – Ore from an asteroid is converted to ore crates at mining base
- Develop HQ slot – Opens up a new employee slot
- Sign Contract – Opens a trading ship contract to allow you to transport ore to the ship
- Sell ore from storage – Sell ore for credits directly from your HQ storage space
- Research – Generates the research date to upgrade your fleet
- Sell Research – Sell existing research data for credits
- Transport cargo – Move employees and ore from asteroids to supply and trade ships
- Upgrade fleet capacity – Increases the amount your ships can carry when transporting
- Upgrade drive technology – Allows access to higher orbit rings
All employees can complete these actions but the specialists that were listed above can do it some of them more effectively. Players must pay credits for each of the employees they have used this round.
This involves getting things ready for the next round of the game. Any trading ship that has enough spaces filled on its card will leave. Players will earn income, and may receive victory points if they supplied enough ore to meet the contract amount. New employee and trading ship cards are drawn and the next round can begin.
This is a very high level look at how to play the game. If you want to flip through the rule book to get a better feel on how some of the mechanics in the game work please go to this link.
Whenever I get a game that is a first release for a publisher or designer, I’m filled with excitement and worry. I’m excited to see what new twist a fresh set of minds can bring to the board gaming hobby, but worry creeps in because they might make some rookie mistakes which might hurt the game overall. Recent first time releases like Viticulture and Freedom: The Underground Railroad have exceeded all of my expectations and after playing Periorbis, the game falls in the same category for me.
I will admit I was intimidated when I opened the game box. Even as a seasoned gamer, the amount of bits and extensive rulebook was a lot to process. Once I flipped through the amazing rulebook I started to get a feel for the game. I wanted to make a quick mention of how well the rulebook is put together. So often I find rule books that don’t explain well enough how to setup the game and I can’t find answers to questions easily. Not the case with this game. Ok, back to the game.
The theme and mechanics work seamlessly together in this game. There might not be a current asteroid mining company but I have a feeling they would have to deal with similar issues that you will encounter in the game. I really enjoyed my time with this game. The elements of this game work well together to form a puzzle for the players to solve. This is a required thing for Euro games to be worth your time. At no point during any of my games was I not enjoying what I was playing. Like I said in the how to play section, there is a ton of rules in the game, but I want to highlight the mechanics that I find the most interesting. Starting with how the worker placement is handled in the game.
In traditional worker placement games, turn order is a crucial element to the game. Because typically, once you claim an action, the other players might not be able to use it, like in Lords of Waterdeep. This gives the first player a huge advantage to take the action they want first. In Periorbis turn order doesn’t have as big of an impact to the worker placement mechanic. This is because instead of a communal area for assigning actions, you are taking actions on your game board. Players have the freedom in Periorbis for any of their employees to complete an action. This gives the player a seemingly endless amount of options for what to do on their turn. This also removes the moments in a worker placement game where you are glaring at the player across the table because they took the action that you wanted. That doesn’t mean there isn’t player interaction during the game. Players will constantly be competing for new employees, the limited spaces for mining bases on asteroids, the ore on those asteroids, and trade contracts.
I mentioned before that turn order isn’t a crucial element to the worker placement element of the game. While that is true, turn order does matter in other elements of the game. Each round the player with the least victory points goes first, ties broken by credits, and this gives them a huge advantage during the next round. It allows them to be first in line to hire new employees and have those people take actions. When you start the game, you have three basic people. They can complete any task, but they give nothing in the way of bonuses to actions. Hiring new specialized employees allows you to do things cheaper and produce more from actions you take. This area is something you constantly have to monitor and make plans to adjust as the game goes on. The issue is hiring new people is extremely expensive as you go through the game and is not something you can switch out easily. It is finding the right mix of people on your player board will allow you to beat your competition.
I have thrown a bunch of greatness at this game, but it’s not without some issues. It is a very heavy Euro game if you couldn’t tell. This is great for a person like me who loves this sort of stuff, but this is a game I wouldn’t bring to a group new to the hobby. It does suffer from some analysis paralysis as you go through the rounds. Because you have to complete all of your employee’s actions in one fell swoop, players will take their time analyzing every action they can take. This can cause the game to slow as you progress in the game. The game plays best with at least four players. When you play with two or three there isn’t enough player interaction for me. One other thing I want to mention in the negative column is that the game doesn’t take off until the third round. In the first two rounds everyone does very similar things. They will build bases, hire a new employee or two, and then start filling the first few contracts on the table. That being said, everything ramps up amazingly after that. Players will have a diverse enough group of employees to start doing different things and their strategies for the rest of the game will emerge. Even with this ramp up round, the remaining rounds make up for this shortcoming.
A few more things about the game I want to touch on before we’re done. I really like the orbital mechanic in the game. In each round, asteroids will move around to different orbital rings. This means that unless you have fully updated your drive technology you won’t be able to ship back ore or build a mining base on every asteroid. This forces players to think many moves ahead to know when they will be able to get stuff back to trade. I also like how the game never feels the same when you play it. Each game the cards in the employee and trading ships decks will come out in a different order and greatly affect how the game plays.
Last thing, I promise, trading ships. Sure building the perfect company with amazing employees is great, but if you cannot complete trading contracts from the ore you have collected you are doomed. These contracts are the main way to earn money and those precious victory points. What I like about these cards is how they are constructed. There are a set number of spaces in each ship, but the number required by players if all of the contract spots are claimed is more than the capacity of the ship. This leads to intense competition between players to make sure they can get enough of their ore on the ships before they leave. This can lead to some disappointing moments for players when they lose out on a big contract.
While I was playing Periorbis, I kept thinking about the game Last Will. While very different games, they share some of the same mechanics. I struggled with deciding which one I like more and the nod goes to Periorbis. The game is filled with interesting decisions for players to make. The different employees, orbital asteroid mechanic, and the unique worker placement mechanic all meld together beautifully to create one of the better Euro games I have played lately. I will never bring out Periorbis to play with casual board game friends because the complexity will make them want to go back to games like Sorry!. But for me, Periorbis will find a place on my gaming shelf for a long time.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it is currently in funding on Kickstarter for a fresh printing.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A high level strategy Euro worker placement game that melds theme and mechanics to create a great space resource collecting game.
• Unique worker placement mechanic
• Fresh experience in the later rounds every time
• Quality components are artwork
• Not for new gamers
• Can suffer from analysis paralysis during rounds
• Wish there were custom tokens for some of the scoring tracks