Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
You arrive in a lander on planet Kaimas-2 as part of the forward landing teams for a colony ship, exploring and setting up the base in advance of the rest of the colony. Can you ensure your company will have the edge in the new settlement?
Lander is space-themed strategy game for 2-4 players. In its longest version (out of three) will take about 45 mins per player.
There are three different difficulties to play the game at, though the longest version where players play five full years of preparations is the default game. The two shorter versions where you play to seven points, or where you trigger end game at the end of the year when someone hits 10 points are only intended for teaching and easing new players into the game mechanisms. As such, by default, the game will typically be in the 40-50 minute per player time frame.
Play begins with constructing the planet out of 18 triangular Sector pieces, each of which creates variable amounts of one of three resources: food, power, and titanium. Players begin with three of these sectors claimed for themselves, and once a player has a structure on a sector, no one else can build there. There are several other types of cards that can be earned besides the basic resources: action, item, and training cards which are all also called activity Cards, as well as the accolade cards and mission Cards you are trying to claim to secure victory. Some action cards can be played anytime, including during other player’s turns, and accolades can also be claimed whenever they are earned, even out of turn.
A player starts by playing as many free actions as they want, which consists of attaching training cards and item cards to their crew, and performing matter conversions to swap two resources. Then a player gives an official order, after which their turn is immediately over. There are many kinds of official orders, including playing most action cards, gaining a new crew member, using a crew leader’s unique power, gaining items or training, exploring new sectors and upgrading your previously claimed sectors to make them produce more resources, or claiming a mission objective card. Players can also use their official order to trigger a negotiation phase.
Wait, come back! We all know negotiations in other games can be a bit rough because players are often less than rational actors. But Lander solves this problem in a pretty interesting way. If you use your official order to trigger a negotiation, you begin by asking a single question of the group—something like “Does anyone have any titanium they want to trade me?” If everyone says no, you are not allowed to trade this turn and must pick a different official order.
If anyone says yes, you begin negotiating with them. Each player in the negotiation offers up a single, secret collateral card that cannot be part of the negotiations. If the players fail to reach an agreement in one minute, they are forced to swap collateral cards. To negotiate, players pass cards back in forth in secret from the other players until both players agree, at which point the players reclaim their collateral. There are still upper and lower bounds to how many cards can trade hands in a negotiation so a player cannot extort another too hard or give away a card too cheaply either.
Setting up the modular board promises something more than your usual static set collector. You genuinely get the feeling you’re constructing something, much like a first settler. As you proceed through the game you’ll continue building, supported by a unique connection system that ensures tiles won’t continuously get jostled across the table.
The variable player powers in Lander offer unique approaches for each player to the gameplay. Additionally, the characters are diverse giving the game some nice replay value.
Comparisons might be made to Catan with one big difference—limited negotiation keeps this phase from being a freewheeling nightmare. Additionally, having secret negotiations keeps your hand secret from other players as well as limiting coercive table talk. I have to admit I had some reservations when I was in ‘negotiation’ as a phase but this approach keeps it interesting and quick.
Level up your crew, explore your new home and position yourself to be the best the colony has to offer. Lander will likely be a hit with players looking for a deeper strategy experience based on familiar mechanics.
Lander launches on to Kickstarter this year. But if you’d like to check out the gameplay before then, you’re in luck. Lander is part of a “play before you pledge” campaign, so head over to their website for locations where you can try the game out in person.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.