Before the Earth Explodes-Green Couch Games-Review

Theme and What is it?

The Earth is dying and you are competing to race against time to find a more suitable world to relocate the planet’s inhabitants.  In this game you are one of two factions seeking to find the best place to save the people while also ensuring that the other faction doesn’t do that before you.  Recruit ships, colonize worlds, improve your technological proficiency, and gain resources to get the edge over your opponent to save the people.

Gameplay Mechanics

Goal

There are 4 ways to win this game:

1. You colonize 7 planets
2. Reach Level 7 on the Technology Track
3. Your opponent reaches Level 7 on the Damage Track

4. You meet the Victory Condition listed on one of the ships you have acquired

Setup

 

     The players are given their Action cards, Damage/Technology Track card, and two Resources drawn from the Resource Bag.  The Quarry cards are seeded with Resources.  The available Ships and Planets are drawn and placed face-up with their decks put nearby.

Turns

 

Players don’t take individual turns, rather they complete their actions at the same time.  In this game, the players perform their tasks during each phase, if they are allowed to do so.

Phase 1: Reactions – Players secretly choose from the four Action cards in their hand, placing it face-down on the table.  Revealed together, these Action cards will impact what the players can do for the rest of the round.  Play in each phase is done in alphabetical order (A, B, C, D) of the Action cards played.  In this phase, the Reaction effects, denoted in the middle of the card, are immediately resolved.  If a ship is acquired, then its effects are immediately resolved (acquiring resources, causing damage, new Victory conditions for players, etc.).

Note: If the players reveal the same Action card, the player with the tie-breaker token resolves his effects each phase first.

Phase 2: Actions – Players, if their Action wasn’t cancelled in Phase 1, resolve their Action effects denoted at the bottom of the card.

Phase 3: Colonize – Players acquire planets.  To do this, players who didn’t have their Action cancelled may pay the indicated cost (Resource jewels or Technology Levels).  When acquired, the effects of the planet are immediately resolved.

Phase 4: Maintenance – Players reseed the Quarry cards with Resources (if possible), available Ships, and available Planets.  If both players played the same Action card, then the tie-breaker token is passed to the other player.

Initial Impressions

I like the size of the game, few components and even a neat bag to hold the Resources.  Its size is deceptive – though a travel-size game, it does take up a fair amount of space on the table for the setup.  The rulebook is small too, but goes through the rules needed to play yet could’ve done with more detail on a few things as we had to re-read some things a few times to be sure we understood the mechanics.

Game Build Quality

The game components consist of playing cards, jewels for Resources, clips for the Damage/Technology Track card, tie-breaker token, bag for holding the Resources, and rulebook.

The playing cards are of good quality, and hold up to multiple shuffles.  You won’t shuffle the cards most of the time anyway because the cards are broken up into smaller decks or used individually.  The Action cards will see the most use.

The clips used for tracking are a flimsy plastic so be careful with their use.

The jewels are made of plastic, found in a variety of other games.

The tie-breaker token is made of painted wood.  The design has a couple of small points that could break off but only with abuse not coming from gameplay.

The bag for Resources is made of cloth, usually found in high-end games or promotional items.  I like the inclusion of it but it being the size of a standard dice bag can complicate putting the components away in the box with the jewels in it.

Artistic Direction

The card art and design nicely follows the apocalyptic sci-fi feel.  I’ve not come across the artist/designer before but do like the flavor art.  The gameplay art though is simple and clean but the iconography is confusing as the rulebook doesn’t define what they each mean.  However, there is a textual explanation in it so you can infer what the symbols mean from that.

Fun Factor

This game plays fast, maybe too fast sometimes.  That can be a good thing though if you’re looking for something that you can quickly pull out and play with a kid.  The setup is easy and you can get into it with little effort.  I don’t believe the game mechanisms are particularly unique or evocative of the setting itself but the game effects align with the winning conditions of the game.

Age Range & Weight

Age range shows as 13+.  After playing the game a few times with my youngest, who’s 14, he believes the game could be played with younger kids and I agree.  There isn’t anything in the subject matter I believe would preclude younger players and the mechanics are fairly easy to understand.  With four distinct phases of a round and few options to perform with each, the complexity of the game is fairly low but with the multiple win conditions, some strategy is needed.

Conclusions

I like the game as a micro-game: simple rules, nice art, and low component count.  My son liked the options to win and quick gameplay.  I have to say part of what we like about it is also part of what I think is lacking.  The fewer cards and restriction to two players won’t lend itself to constant long-term replayability and variety to the game for those more experienced in board games.  Luck of the draw impacts the game more than personal strategy as the game can take only 4-5 rounds.  Also, the rulebook needs some work on how it is structured and what information is missing.

I would recommend this game as a filler game in between other games or while waiting for other group members to show. It also works as an intro game into bigger card-based games that use similar presentations of gameplay (symbology on cards), resource management, and learning to read other player’s strategies.  After playing a couple times, I kept wanting more from it.  I would be more interested in this game if it were to be expanded into a full-blown 2+ player game that allowed for more depth of gameplay.