New Dawn is a sequel to the boardgame Among the Stars and is thus part of the Among the Stars Universe series which is enhanced by several expansions that are, to my knowledge, all separate entities from this latest edition, but some of or parts of which may be incorporated into New Dawn. If you already have a copy of Among the Stars it is quite possible that you will have a significant amount of, if not all of, the components and rules found now in New Dawn.
Among the Stars was published through a Kickstarter Campaign with these expansions and goals.
The Ambassadors. Revival. Expanding the Alliance. Indiegogo Promos. Hythian. Ambassadorial Shuttle. Wiss. Pre-Order Promo Cards. Stretch Rewards. Section Seal. Intelligence Agency.
In NEW DAWN the players control the various Races who are part of a fragile Alliance that is struggling financially. Around these Races are fragmented remnants of worlds destroyed and/or devastated during the War and the Purge that followed. It is now thought that some of these worlds still have enough resources that should they be revived under the current treaty there may be enough financial aid there to stabilise the Alliance.
Each game will be similar but also different because of these Races and their special abilities. There are 8 Races to choose from, but the game is only for 4 players maximum so unless you always select the same four Races the differences their abilities make is enough to make players change their tactics and strategies.
This is a game heavy on components but light on Rules. There are numerous cards, a massive double-sided map board, so designed to allow the players to take advantage of the optional rules – which I can say are well worth including from the first game onwards. There are also over 150 cardboard tokens for Credit, Military, Science, Victory Points, Dice Abilities etc. Plus there are 76 plastic pieces on two different types and equally split into the four player colours. 15 Bases and 4 Mobile Head Quarters (known throughout the rules as MHQ) in each colour, Red, Blue, yellow, Green. There are also 5 different coloured Dice; each for different situations during play and all bar two with a unique set of numbers: White and Black both have the expected numbers; 1,2,3,4,5,6. Yellow 2,3,4,5,6,6. Green 0,1,1,2,2,3. and Red 3,4,5,5,6,6.
The Rules Booklet is just 12 pages. One is the front cover which gives the back story and basic objective of the game. The next two pages plus the back page contain a detailed components description. Pages 4 and 5 are a double-page spread of the board and how to set the game up ready to play, leaving pages 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 as the entirety of the Rules of Play. As the text is complete with photo illustrations and large boxes of examples the rules really are sparse in comparison to many other games that are as complex or component heavy.
The players have their own reference boards which show the resources they will collect each turn during the Production phase. The three main rows, Red, Yellow and Blue each have five spaces on which, at the start of the game card tokens of the same colour as the row are placed. During play these tokens are removed and it is these empty spaces that determine the resources obtained. Each player has four MHQs, one on the board to begin with and three on their Race boards that can be brought into play at a cost. One of the Races, the Qualeen, only has 3 MHQs but the lack of the 4th MHQ is made up for by the Race’s ability to Attack and Defend from two spaces away instead of having to be adjacent. When the Qualeen are in play as one of the selected Races the game is quite different.
MHQs need to be adjacent to or on the Facility card they are attempting to control. There are two numbers on each Facility card, the cost and the VP value and these are added together to form a result that the attacking player must defeat (lower or equal is a loss) when attacking an uncontrolled Facility. Attacks on player controlled Facilities are by dice rolls; the dice being rolled are determined by the Bases and MHQs in the battle. Combat is quick and decisive. If the attacker wins they take control of the Facility and the defender’s Base is removed back to that player’s supply. If the defender wins then that’s all that occurs, their pieces are not removed. Having played and enjoyed the game several times we know this to work but there is a nagging feeling that the defender should at least gain a pat on the back reward, nothing particularly game changing but perhaps the opportunity to remove a Technology card they have in play.
Players always hold four Facility cards, making their hand up to four at the start of the next Round – games last 5 Rounds – and must play one out onto the board during their turn. One of the game’s excellent mechanics is that when a player puts a Facility card onto the board they immediately get the benefit of that card’s ability. They do not have to use the card’s ability but this is the only time it can be activated.
Facility cards have to be placed adjacent to any previously placed card – the game begins with a central card, the Alliance Base, in position, so that there is always a space where a card can be placed. Also, the game uses Space in a sensible way by calling all 8 spaces surrounding a card adjacent, so yes, diagonals are adjacent. The only minor discrepancy in Space is whether 2 spaces away from a card is only in a direct line – in Chess a piece is 2 spaces away from a Knight if you count actual spaces but the Knight’s move is a dog-leg; this isn’t accounted for in the rules.
When a player takes control of (seizes) a Facility (not when they originally place them as this has no bearing on the game) they can rotate the Facility card so that the arrows on it (each Facility card may have arrows on its edges pointing outwards) face towards the required edge(s). At the beginning of the game 2 Orange and 2 Green Base Benefit cards, randomly chosen, are placed around the board, one on each edge, and these bonuses are gained only when the Facility is seized, not when it is first placed. If there is more than one arrow on the Facility then the player may take the bonus for each Base Bonus card aimed at. These Base Bonuses aren’t particularly powerful but they are often a very useful reward.
Each player has a Race specific set of Technology cards. They are marked A or B which determines when they can be used. These cards are played beneath the Race card in the spaces provided. Once placed they can be activated once per Round (flip them over when used and back at the beginning of each Round) but they cannot be changed, so careful consideration of which Tech cards you purchase is necessary. Another very good and important to remember rule is that you can use as many of your available (face up)Tech cards as you wish in your turn.
Players can perform 3 Actions per Turn and these Actions can be repeated. These Actions are: Get a Resource, Establish a Base, Seize control of a Facility, buy a MHQ (as long as you have one available on your Race card), or use an Ambassador. There are several “actions” such as placing a Facility, buying a Technology card or moving an MHQ are not considered to be one of the 3 available Actions.
Ambassadors are another interesting aspect in the game. There are 8 Ambassadors available but only 6 are used each game. Each Ambassador card is augmented by a token bearing its likeness. These tokens are taken by the player using the Ambassador and placed on one of their Facilities. Only two Ambassadors may be on any one Facility. Unfortunately the reasons for this or any use of these Tokens are not described in the rules booklet, in fact Ambassadors are almost treated as an afterthought, which is curious as they can be very powerful allies and are always worth considering on your turn. Players may not use the same Ambassador as another player unless they have an ability to do so, but after the end of each Round the Ambassador cards are flipped back face up ready to be called on again, they’re Tokens however stay on the Facilities where they have been placed.
Throughout the game other Tokens are available to the players but once again the number that can be held for use by each player is restricted by the two spaces on their Race cards. These Tokens can add +2 to a die roll, re-roll a die, add a Green die to the combat or are simply VP Tokens. These Tokens are all one use only and discarded after use.
After five Rounds the players add up the VPs they have scored. Facilities with their Bases, Five Bases of the same type, Technology slots filled, MHQ acquired, Aid given to the Alliance (players have a chance to spend Resources to buy VPs during play, this is called Aid to the Alliance) plus any VP Tokens held.
As you will have noticed from this review, there are several random elements, Races, Dice, Ambassadors, Technology cards, Base Bonuses etc. However, these are all sensibly incorporated into the play and do not make the game as a whole just a series of random events. In fact what they do is to ensure that every game offers something a little different and keeps the game fresh.
The Modules or optional variants are Stations and Sectors. Stations are cards like the Alliance Base card that are placed randomly onto the board at the beginning of the game (determined by rolling the Black & White dice and placing the card at the meeting point on the grid. Sectors are coloured borders on one side of the board and each Sector has its own special rules that apply to Facilities placed within them. These coloured Sectors are only on one side of the board but to be fair, if you don’t want to use this Option then you can still use this side of the board, just ignore the borders. Our view is that both of these Options add to the game and are worth including from the beginning; we don’t think they are game changing enough to actually be thought of as Options.