Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 1-4
Amount of time to play: 90-240 min
Age requirements: 12+
Set-up time: 10-15 minutes
Space Empires 4X is a board game in which you must destroy your opponent’s home colony. You will build ships and discover new technologies and minerals to grow your empire and your power.
The 4X in Space Empires 4X stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. You perform all these actions in the game. You start the game with a home world and a handful of ships. You must explore the unknown space surrounding you (called your Home systems) and deep space to engage your opponents.
You begin your turn by moving. The number and type of ships in a fleet are hidden. You can even build decoys to mislead your opponents.
If you move to a hex with enemy ships you fight. There are different class ships, their class determines their firing speed, attack and defense values. The better ships cost more. When you attack the player with the most combat ships can screen some of them. Screened ships cannot fire or be fired upon. Your ship’s attack value is subtracted from your opponent’s ship’s defense value. You must roll that number or lower on a 10-sided die to hit. Once a ship takes damage equal to its hull value it is eliminated. Damage does not carry over from battle to battle and you may choose to retreat your combat-class ships between combat rounds.
Your Home systems have planets you can colonize, minerals you can harvest and nebulas and asteroid fields that may help or hurt you in a fight. Once in deep space things are more dangerous, you can get lost, find inhabited alien planets and even have your ships instantly destroyed.
After three turns there is a simultaneous economic phase. You collect income from colonies and recovered minerals then pay to maintain your ships (based on their hull value). After that you can spend your money, called construction points (CPs), to upgrade technology or build new ships. In fact to build better ships you’ll have to upgrade your ships sizes and ship yards. You can also upgrade your ships’ movement, attack and defense values. All this information is recorded on your Production sheet.
The game end will depend on the scenario you play, but usually involves destroying another player’s home world.
There are a couple solo scenarios included. And although there is no need for bluffing with these rules, the scenarios are still challenging.
Space Empires 4X is a sci-fi themed war game that upon first look is rather intimating. There seems to be lots of rules and a good bit of bookkeeping. Thankfully the system is intuitive and actually a lot less complex than it seems.
This game comes with a ton of chits, a large hex-based board, some 10-sided dice and a rule and scenario book. Everything looks great and all the components are high quality. The rules are well laid out with good examples to follow.
If you plan to teach this game to your friends I suggest reading the rules, trying a solo scenario and then re-reading the rules. This should give a good feel for the system and help you give your friends some tips. Even still you should plan for your first multi-player game to take a while.
The playtime might stop many from trying this game, but experienced players should be able to keep the game length reasonable. Taking early turns (before encountering enemies) simultaneously helps.
The bookkeeping might also scare some players away (but might attract others). The charts and bookkeeping are simple and after a couple economic phases easy to record. The one fiddly thing with the bookkeeping is that old ships do not automatically get new technology. This can add some burden to managing your fleets. Thankfully there is optional rule to automatically upgrade all ships when new technology is purchased.
I like the bluffing and empire building in this game. The first time you attack an opponent’s fleet you may have no idea what you’re facing. When combined with decoys there can be a lot of cat-n-mouse tactics in this game. It is also fun to watch your empire grow and try different technology builds each time you play.
Space Empires 4X is a fun game with a lot in the box. You will need to invest some time to learn and play the game, but it is worth it. If you have some friends that want to dedicate some time to a war game with a sci-fi theme, pick this up. Even a more casual group can enjoy this game, but if you don’t often have repeat players, this could get tiresome teaching over and over. If you are a solo war gamer who occasionally plays with friends you should definitely try Space Empires 4X out.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 5 out of 6
Luck 4 out of 6
Player Interaction 5 out of 6
Replay Value 5 out of 6
Complexity 4 out of 6
Fun 5 out of 6
Overall 5 out of 6