Your ship has been hit by a solar flare and your energy core has been damaged. To make matters worse your ship is caught in the sun's gravitational pull, causing further damage to your ship. You have limited time to repair your ship and use what little resources you have and divert what little power you have to the energy core and escape with your life. Time is running out!
In Solar Storm, each turn players can perform three actions; move one space, repair one level of damage, divert power, perform the room ability, gain resources, share resources, or save actions for a later turn. Resources come in four different types and are drawn from a deck of cards. Each room of the station will have three resources depicted on it and a player must be in the corresponding room and discard a matching resource card to repair the room. Every room has a combination of three resources that must be discarded to divert the power to the engine core. Each of the rooms also have a special ability that can be used to perform a range of special actions.
At the end of each player's turn, the ship will take damage with the level of damage increasing as the game progresses. To win the game players need to divert power from all areas of the ship back to the power core. However, if too much damage is taken or if they run out of cards from the resource deck
Take a Chance
The game has a quick setup and is quick to play, yet the choices you make are tense and tough. You have limited actions per turn and figuring out what your priority is and how best to optimise those actions is key. You can take chances and push for the end game or play it safe. However, the longer you take the more damage you will sustain each turn, making it harder to complete the objective. I love this tension and the push/pull of figuring out what to do.
There is also some randomness to the game with the draw of the damage cards. This adds a level of uncertainty that you will have to deal with each turn. It feels slightly chaotic but in a good and controllable way. The random elements add to the decision making in the game. You can set yourself (or your fellow players) for some powerful next turns but then a damage card will throw a spanner in the works that you have to deal with or ignore. As the game progresses you will be drawing damage cards that affect two and even three rooms at a time. However, as you start to divert power from a room you can repair that room fully with a single, matching resource card. The game forces you to take those calculated risks due to the ever growing pressure of more and more damage cards being revealed.
Easy and Hard
Solar Storm offers a good challenge and has ways of adjusting the difficulty. There are "wild" resource cards and depending on how many you add, or remove, make the game easier or harder. The easiest mode is still not a walk over and I have lost more games than won so the game is a challenge. The difficulty feels challenging yet beatable and, for me, is pitched just right. Usually when I have lost it is because I didn't spot something or took too many risks.
I find running the true solo, with one hand of cards and three characters, to be harder than playing solo with multiple separate characters and hands. Some of the room actions playing true solo are not applicable such as trading cards etc. However, the interaction between the characters when playing with multiple separate characters feels more interesting. Running multiple characters is not difficult and the upkeep is fairly minimal so it's totally viable to play this way.
Overall, Solar Storm is a fantastic small box game. It has a ton of replay value, ways to change the difficulty is great solo or as a co-op. It has a simple ruleset and a great flow to the game. If you like small box games that have depth and great gameplay then you must check out Solar Storm.