Stellarion

Stellarion

RRP: £24.99
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RRP £24.99
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You are the director of the Observatory. With your telescopes aimed at the stars, planets and nebulas of the Oniverse, you are ready to launch daring spaceships into the skies. Stellarion, the sixth entry in the Oniverse series, is a deck management game: all the cards you need are split into 8 decks, and you know the contents of each one. You’ll need to manage all these resou…
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • A more targeted solo experience
  • Included modules to expand play
  • The simple but refined gameplay

Might Not Like

  • The two-player limit
  • Base game alone is a little insubstantial
  • Rulebook could be more explicit
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Description

You are the director of the Observatory.
With your telescopes aimed at the stars, planets and nebulas of the Oniverse, you are ready to launch daring spaceships into the skies.

Stellarion, the sixth entry in the Oniverse series, is a deck management game: all the cards you need are split into 8 decks, and you know the contents of each one. You'll need to manage all these resources to ensure you have the right cards available at the right time.

Return to designer Shadi Torbey’s Oniverse with this pretty little space-age adventure! Stellarion, a decidedly solo deck management experience (though there are rules allowances for two people to play cooperatively), sees you take on the role of director of the Observatory. You will scour the cosmos for stars, galaxies and planets, then launch rockets to them on daring expeditions. One thing’s for sure: it’s bursting with solar flares of thematic gameplay and fun.

Blast Off

Setup begins with setting aside the four pairs of Travel cards – two cards of each colour – representing your galactic destinations. Your goal as the mysterious Observatory’s director is to launch two voyages to each of these four galaxies. To do so, you will have to map out the right route through the night sky.

To complete the simple setup, shuffle the remaining eight decks of eight cards and place them all face down, then reveal the top card of each deck. Now, the really rewarding strategy of Stellarion comes not from the fact that you don’t know which cards will be drawn from these decks; instead, it’s precisely because you know exactly which cards ARE in each. There are four card types: Rocket, Star, Planet, and Nebula.

Besides the addition of any expansions (which we’ll cover below) the compositions of these decks never change; they’re each always arranged by the same colour or type. Using your knowledge of their contents, on your turn you may Launch – discarding four cards of different types in the same colour – to place one of the Travel cards in your victory pile. You win the game when all eight are in this pile.

But you have more at your disposal than just flinging spacecraft into orbit! The main bulk of gameplay sees you discard two face-up cards of the same type to perform the Coordination action. Each type gives you a different ability, a Minor power, with an even more effective Major power if you discard a pair of matching type and colour. These allow you to execute various manoeuvres like choosing a card from a discard pile and shuffling it back into its deck, or placing a card in the Outpost. This secondary play area acts as almost an additional deck for you to draw or discard from, but in the base rules, Eagle Nebulae of a feather flock together: the Outpost can only contain cards of the same colour.

If you cannot perform either of these two actions, the mission is a failure! But, unlike traditional 52-card solitaire, this never feels like the game’s fault, that the right order of cards just didn’t come up that time. This is your universe; only thing that has led to a failed voyage is your own actions, and it’s that carefully weighed decision-making that forms the basis of any solid solitaire outing which is very much present in Stellarion.

Bright Shining Stars

The game’s picturesque aesthetic is definitely worth mentioning. It’s like the science fiction drawings of childhood, stuck up on your bedroom walls to make your own little solar system. The box reinforces this, with an almost a pop-up book frame upon opening. The charming hand-drawn style is really original for a sci-fi game; where most would opt for precise technical readouts, glistening metal, and digital text, this is a rich splash of paint across the darkness of space.

But, speaking of stars: to keep the base game fresh, you can also loosely adjust the difficulty by giving yourself a certain number of Shooting Stars, one-time-use tokens that you can discard in place of the missing fourth component of a Launch action. But if you really want to explore the far reaches of this universe, the game comes with four exoplanetary expansions to mix and match.

Event Horizon

The Black Holes expansion shuffles rips in space-time into the decks at random, allowing you to perform a risky Crossing action. If at any point you can discard four black holes at once from the Observatory, you may do so to obtain three Travel cards of your choice.

This module links its gameplay mechanics very tightly to its theme. The ability to instantly obtain Travel cards makes it really feel like you’re suddenly jumping through a wormhole when you manage to pull off a Crossing, as opposed to having to carefully plot an interstellar route.

It’s Not Rocket Science

The Discoveries and Theories module has you tinkering away at your space-faring abilities like an engineer. You start the game with a random Theory token, displaying three icons of the same kind. When three cards of that same kind (three Stars, for instance) are in the Observatory, you may turn over a Discovery token. These amplify your Coordination actions, unlocking upgrades like allowing the Outpost to contain cards of more than one type, or letting you place cards on top of their respective deck in an order of your choice instead of shuffling them back into it.

The best part is that these new technologies all have tantalisingly thematic names like Inflatable Biodomes and Reversible Repellents. It adds a very satisfying game-ified progression system to a base game which has none.

Upon Reflection

Adding a decidedly ethereal, Space Odyssey feel, Mirrors and Orbits adds a Mirror wildcards to each deck, which can be discarded during a Coordination action to mimic the same type as the other card you’re discarding, but not the same colour, so only the minor power is triggered. But these intergalactic looking glasses are also reflected in the difficulty of your voyages: the Travel decks become two columns rather than separate decks, and you can only launch to the destinations at the bottom of each track.

This expansion will appeal to the challenge-seeker, launching the difficulty into the stratosphere because it limits your options. It’s nice to have the safety net of some wildcards, but you can feel trapped in a hall of mirrors by the alteration to the Travel decks.

Dark Side Of The Noon

Finally, the most expansive module is the Glaucous Sun, looming over the galaxy on the game’s box art. This solar saboteur will progress in its orbit every time you take a Minor or Major Coordination or a Launch action, each advancing the Sun one, two or four spaces on the track respectively.

However, you may stay ahead of the Sun’s creeping rays by giving up the benefit acquired from a Coordination. Forfeiting a Minor power pushes the Sun back four spaces, a Major power a whopping eight spaces. If one of these retreats lands the Sun on any of the four Meteor spaces, you may take a Meteor token. Discard a pair of these crafty comets to blast through the atmosphere and immediately obtain a Travel card.

This module adds the deepest layer of strategy to the game, like the thick mantle over a planet’s core. It opens up more options and therefore more complexity, and I found that after an initial practice run without any expansions, Stellarion plays best with the Glaucous Sun on its horizon.

Successful Launch

For such a small game, with its disarmingly painterly aesthetic, Stellarion feels surprisingly like an elegant race against time. As you utilise the components of each voyage, you will also be diminishing your constellation of options to discard and gain abilities; by the endgame, two entire decks will be gone, a quarter of the total. This all makes for a pleasing planetary puzzle.

The expansions, like an asteroid belt, add varying degrees of risk and reward to the game; the fact I’ve been able to talk about so small a box at such cosmic lengths should say enough.

If the first game in the Oniverse, Onirim, is the series’ home planet, Stellarion is truly the charming little moon you’ll want to have orbiting it.

In this post, I’ll explain how to play Stellarion and give you some handy hints on which parts are important and which rules can be easily missed. So, between this and the rulebook, you’ll be flying into space in no time.

What’s It All About Then

In Stellarion, you have eight decks of Celestial cards arranged in a 2×4 grid with the top cards turned face up. You’ll be manipulating these decks to get the right cards at the right time and go on 8 voyages (more on these later). Do this and you win the game.

Anatomy Of A Card

Now, I’m going to spend some time telling you some technical details about the Stellarion cards. Then at the end, I’ll tell you to forget most of it and make it all at least 17 million times easier.

·        The symbol in the top left corner tells you what type the card is, either a ship, nebula, star or planet. The art on the card also shows the type of card in a stylised way.

·        The symbol in the top right corner tells you which galaxy the card comes from, Alpha, Beta, Gamma or Delta. An easier way to tell which galaxy they come from is to look at the overall colour of the card. Alpha cards are black, Beta cards are purple, Gamma cards are blue, and Delta cards are orange.

·        The symbol at the bottom is to remind you which deck the card is from and which discard pile to put it in when it is removed.

·        Two cards with the same type and galaxy symbols but a different deck symbol at the bottom of the card are considered to be identical.

In reality, the only symbol you’ll look at for 99.7% of the game is the type symbol in the top left corner. You can tell the galaxy at a glance because of the colour of the card. You never even really need to know that this card is from the Delta galaxy. It’s orange. It’s the orange galaxy. That’s it. Job done.

You’ll only occasionally need the bottom symbol and that’s when you’re discarding from the Outpost (more on that later).

Anatomy Of A Galaxy Deck

Each galaxy has its own deck. So, let’s have a detailed look at the Alpha deck. All of the cards are black, they are all from the Alpha galaxy. The deck consists of 2 ships, 2 nebulas, 2 stars, and 2 planets. The other galaxy decks contain the same number of type cards but are a different colour. For example, the Delta deck cards are all orange and also contain 2 ships, 2 nebulas, 2 stars, and 2 planets.

Anatomy Of A Type Deck

In Stellarion, each type also has its own deck. Let’s look at the ship deck. Every card in the ship deck has the ship type in the top left corner. The deck consists of two Alpha cards (black), two Beta cards (purple), two Gamma cards (blue), and two Delta cards (orange). Again, the other type decks have the same number of galaxy cards but are a different type. For example, the star deck cards are all stars and contain two Alpha cards (black), two Beta cards (purple), two Gamma cards (blue), and two Delta cards (orange).

You may have noticed there are multiple identical cards. For example, if you look at the ship cards from the Alpha galaxy, you’ll see there are two of these cards in the Alpha deck and two in the ship deck. This holds true for the other cards.

Take some time to familiarise yourself with the contents of the decks. It will help you massively during the game.

Set-Up

Sort each deck by the symbol on its back. You will have 8 different decks. Set out these decks as shown in the photo above. The Galaxy decks make up the top row of 4 decks and the Type decks the bottom row of 4 decks. These decks form what is called the Observatory. Leave space for discard piles and a zone called the Outpost.

Place the Voyage cards at the side along with one shooting star token, and a space for a Victory pile.

Reveal the top card from each Stellarion deck.

Launch!

Each turn you have to choose one of the following two actions:

·        Launch

·        Coordinate

To perform the launch action you have to discard four different Celestial cards belonging to the same galaxy (one ship, one nebula, one star, and one planet all from the same coloured galaxy – see photo above).

You can use a shooting star token to replace any one of the cards required. So, for example, you could perform a launch with one orange ship, one orange nebula, one orange planet, and one shooting star.

Once you have successfully performed a launch, take the matching voyage card and put it in your victory pile. Get all 8 of these and you’ve won!

Coordinate

To coordinate you have to discard two cards of the same type. For example, you could discard two star cards. If the cards are from different galaxies you will then perform a minor action. If they are identical, you perform a major action.

Ship Coordinate Power

·        Minor – Search through any one deck for the card of your choice. Shuffle the rest of the deck and then place your chosen card face up on top.

·        Major – Do the minor power twice with two different decks.

Nebula Coordinate Power

·        Minor – Choose one card from a discard pile and shuffle it back into its deck. Note – you can look through the discard piles at any point.

·        Major – Choose two cards from the same discard pile and shuffle those back into their beck.

Star Coordinate Power

·        Minor – Choose a deck, shuffle it and look at the top 2 cards. Put one face up on the top of the deck and the other face down on the bottom of the deck. Do this twice. This could be with the same deck.

·        Major – As above, but rather than doing the power twice you will do it four times.

Planet Coordinate Power

·        Minor – Put one card from the Observatory into the Outpost.

·        Major – Put up to 2 cards from the Observatory into the Outpost.

The Outpost

This is an area that lets you store cards for future launch or coordinate actions. It is effectively an extension of the observatory apart from two rules:

1.     The cards in the Outpost have all got to be from the same galaxy.

2.     The Outpost cannot hold multiple copies of the same card at the same time.

Pay attention to these two rules in particular as they are easily missed in the first playthroughs. Discarding from the Outpost is pretty much the only time you’ll use the bottom symbol on the cards. It lets you know which discard pile to put it in.

End Of A Turn

After performing either the launch or coordinate action when playing Stellarion, you’ll have some piles where the top card hasn’t yet been revealed. Turn these top cards face up.

Note that this happens at the very end of the turn and not during a coordinate action.

End Of The Game

You’ll win if you manage to get all 8 Voyage cards into your Victory pile. You’ll lose if you can’t perform either a launch or coordinate action.

Note On The Two-Player Rules

Although this is mainly a solo game there are some two-player rules. One omission from the rulebook is that players take turns in performing either a launch or coordinate action. Apart from that, the only real difference is that each player has their own victory pile and can only collect Voyage cards from two different galaxies.

Expansions

There are 4 little expansions contained within the base game that I’ll leave you to discover on your own. You can play with just one expansion or even combine them. Good luck if you try to combine all 4. Your brain will probably melt!

That concludes our guide on how to play Stellarion. Did this help you? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • A more targeted solo experience
  • Included modules to expand play
  • The simple but refined gameplay

Might not like

  • The two-player limit
  • Base game alone is a little insubstantial
  • Rulebook could be more explicit