New Frontiers

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Rating Summary (3 Total)

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Almost two...

by Brent

Almost two decades in the making, and we have finally arrived back at the station that Puerto Rico launched us from. If you've played PR and Race, there will be few surprises here. Only the culmination of 20 years of iterative design into the one of the tightest, most fluid, buttoned-up strategy board games to come out since... well... Puerto Rico. There are many strengths New Frontiers has over its stodgy great-grandfather of a game with Spanish colonists (definitely not slaves, amirite?). First is player count scaling. Two-player Puerto Rico makes a mockery of itself. It's either missing a central point of the strategic/tactical push-pull of the game (official rules), or it injects way too much capital into the game, making effective engine building trivial (Craftsman Angst). Two player New Frontiers is played on a knife's edge. With only one development of each type out, it's much easier to leave your opponent in the dust. Tactical denial and strategic flexibility are crucial in the 2p game. Setup variability is an obvious benefit, too, but with the PR expansions (reprint slated for April 2019, btw), this is kind of a push. I love, love, love the variable turn order. While I don't see fixed turn in PR order as a "design flaw," here it adds an entirely new flavor of strategy and tactics. I was originally skeptical of the goals, but I've come to see them as integral to the game. Not only does it give a second option for manipulating turn order, it creates a slight information gap that can keep opponents a bit off balance for a round or two. Well-timed phase activation is still crucial to success, but the one thing PR fans may miss is the destructive nature of Captain. Forcing an opponent to ship goods they don't want to ship or lose goods they can't ship is at the very heart of Puerto Rico's source of tension. Overall, though, New Frontiers is dynamite. It's the game I never knew I wanted, and a game I will be playing for the rest of my life.

1/23/2019