Publisher: Looney Labs
Designer: John Cooper
Artist: OTHER Studio
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
The first page of the instruction sheet sums it up: "What Chess is to medieval warfare, Homeworlds is to Star Trek and Star Wars."
This game is fascinating. You're off to fight an interstellar war against an opponent, manage resources, planets and ships with just 4 types of game pieces. Insane, but it works. This is one of many games by Looney Labs which use the Looney Pyramids. The game includes 36 pyramids of differing sizes and colors, a board for the bank, the rule book and a token to indicate which player's turn it is.
Star Systems are indicated by an upright pyramid. Ships are indicated by a pyramid lying on it's side, your ships a;ways point away from you. Enemy ships point towards you. When a system is explored, a new upright pyramid is placed from the bank. When all ships leave a system, that planet is placed back in the bank.
Movement is simple. You can only move to stars of different sizes. Stars of the same size are not connected and travel is blocked. A binary star, two stars in one system is connected to stars that do not match either of the two star sizes.
Each player picks a color and builds their home world with a binary star and one large ship. The colors you choose at the start of the game controls your choices later on, so choose carefully. All of a sudden, your opening choices create puzzles to be solved by you. Color and size of the play pieces represent different options and limitations.
Players choose from a Basic Action, a Sacrifice action which puts a pyramid back in the bank or a "pass". Passing your turn isn't optimal at the start but I am told that no action might be the best option later in the game. There is a forced action called a Catastrophe when the players place 4 of the same color pieces in the same star system.
Each color means something:
Pretty simple? No.
Size also determines what each piece can do. It all gets very complex very fast.
These simple rules create a very rich system of game play. One of the nicer aspects of the game is it assumes loopholes in the rules will allow a player to create actual logical loops in play which may seem like cheating, but are merely built in options which may or may not be useful based on the pieces in play. This also makes the bank behave as a "third actor" in a two person game. What is in the bank creates or limits options.
There are 3 win options, destroy all of your enemy's ships, destroy his or her home world or force your opponent into causing a Catastrophe in their home system. There are also a draw and deadlock conditions which result in a tie.
I've only played 10 or 20 times and not always to completion, but the rule set is so ingenious, it keeps pulling me back for more. I really want to master this system and Home Worlds.