Unfortunately Spock Is Not Present Here - AtS Ambassadors/Promo Expansions Review

Well you've seen my review of Among The Stars............what, you haven't? Then go read it now, I'm not just writing for my own personal viewing! Now we have the two expansions for this game, Ambassadors and Promos (which I believe has been renamed to Expanding The Alliance since the Kickstarter).

Both add more locations, conflict sets and races, but there are key differences between the two. The first adds the Ambassadors which are a new card type that you can bring in to your space station that have unique special abilities or scoring opportunities. Expanding the Alliance has the components to add a 5th and 6th player to the game, something I'm always scared of when publishers add this to games.

So if you're reading this review, presumably you are already partially keen on or already own and like Among The Stars - but do these expansions improve the game or can you do without?


"Still that great artwork, though my vote goes to the second one"

Designer: Vangelis Bagiartakis
Publisher: Artipia Games / Stronghold Games
# of Players: 2-6
Ages: 12+
Play Time: 60-120 Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 308 / 7.33
Dice Tower 2014 People’s Choice Rank: 85 (base game)
Category: Expansions to base game

  
Welcome Ambassador Spock!


Ok, there's no Spock I'm afraid, but the main part of the first expansion are the Ambassadors. This is a new card type that gives players a fourth option on their turn. Instead of building a card, they can discard it and choose from a selection of ambassadors available to all players, paying the credit cost if necessary. A player can only have up to 5 in their space station, but they are all unique and there's plenty available for variation between games.

It's a relatively simple change, but suddenly you have a lot more to consider as those extra special powers can make a significant difference to your game plan, but you're sacrificing a location card to do so, so make sure it's worth the trade, but don't wait too long because someone else may take it first and trust me that's happened a lot of times to me!

"The same cool artwork is ever present, you would almost think they'd feature in a Star Wars film"

This is easily hands down the best part of these two expansions. It doesn't complicate the basic mechanics of the game, simply discard a card and add an Ambassador, but it does bring in a lot of new choices and variation to add to what was already present. I'm almost at the point where I would refuse to play Among the Stars without this expansion element, that's how good it is.


Feng Shui Gone Mad!



Both expansions include some more locations to the mix and more great things to build in your space station is always a good thing right, what with the gorgeous artwork and everything. . . . . well. . . . .yes and no. The added variation is great, however there is a problem that arises with having more locations and that's the setup issue. In the base game you used every single basic location and a selection of special locations. Now here, adding the special locations is easy, you just mix them all together and draw as many as required. But the basic location deck has to be a fixed amount and you only choose so many basic locations. Previously you used all basic locations and just filtered for 3 or 4 players. Now you not only have to do that, but you have to only select so many basic locations in general and to keep the game balanced, you ideally want to select a certain amount from each colour type.

"More locations are "almost"  never a bad thing and there are some cool additions here"

All this adds up to a very fiddly and time-consuming setup, one which requires a fair few plays to get down quicker, but even at that point it's going to take some time. And add the 5th and 6th player and it gets even more fiddly. Some BGG users out there have some specific ways of setting the game up and I recommend you check those out, but it's a small niggle that this process couldn't be more streamlined somehow. That being said, the added variation is great and if you can conquer the setup hurdle, they are great to have if you're playing this a lot.


This Space Station Isn't Big Enough For The Six Of Us!


Now in a lot of games I prefer to not add more players if I can help it when it's offered, as it extends the time length of games to a point where it outstays its welcome. 7 Wonders managed to survive quite well even with a table of 7 players which is quite an achievement for an in-depth game. Now as I stated in my other review, Among the Stars is more complex and requires more thinking on your turn. As a result, adding in the 5th and 6th player doesn't have the same effect as in 7 Wonders; it's going to extend your game and make it a long one unless all of you are AtS veterans and can think in seconds rather than minutes. And let's not forget the increased fiddly nature of setting up the location deck and oh yes, I almost forgot.......the table space! If you thought your table wasn't big enough for four players, then you haven't got a hope in the universe of fitting five or six.

This is one of those games where I prefer to keep my player count at 4 max and so I wasn't bowled over by adding two more players. So I leave this to you, if you like the sound of adding more players despite the time length issue, then the Expanding the Alliance set is going to appeal to you a lot more.


Verdict


Neither of these two expansions is to be considered essential, in fact Expanding the Alliance could easily be avoided unless you're a die hard AtS fan and want to add more players. They mainly add more of the same with the exception of the Ambassador cards which are easily the best feature to be implemented and possibly worth the cost of the expansion alone. Those extra unique powers really can have an effect on the playing field as well as give a potential last option on a dead draw.

The new locations are a welcome addition to add variety and longevity to the game, but it's a double edged sword. The extra basic locations mean that setup becomes more fiddly and time consuming as does take-down at the end. A good organised system is key to not being frustrated as a result and even then if you find yourself switching between 3 and 4 player games often it can still be a time sink. Get past this hurdle however and the new locations will pay their way.

And of course there are the extra races, conflict sets and objectives, which are all fine, but in no way a reason alone to grab these expansions as they are small additions. The two biggest questions you need to ask are "do you want an extra choice to make with far reaching consequences" and "do you want to play with 5 or 6 players"? Each question relates to one expansion and if you asked me now without having bought into the Kickstarter, I would say Yes and No.


You Will Like This Game If:

  • You want more decisions to make in Among The Stars each turn with the Ambassadors
  • You want to add a 5th and 6th player to the mix via Expanding the Alliance.
  • You want to increase the variety in the locations available.

You Will Not Like This Game If:

  • You don't like long setup times and already thought Among the Stars took a while.
  • You hate long games. The Ambassadors add extra thinking time and more players is insane!
  • You have a small table - the original problem with the base game applies even more now!

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