Star Saga: The Erias Contract, Mantic’s sci-fi take on the traditional dungeon crawler, is a perfect point of entry for players new to the miniature and tabletop hobby, or those seasoned gamers looking for an easy to grasp adventure.
Star Saga, designed by Stewart Gibbs, offers a strong narrative-driven gaming experience for 1-5 players. The first thing that strikes you as you open the box is the number of miniatures and components on offer in this package. The high quality of the pieces, counters, cards and artwork really set this out as an exciting gaming experience.
Star Saga Gameplay
The players each take on a mercenary character, each with their own strengths, skills and abilities. The characters work well in complementing different styles of play, coming with different health levels and attack strengths. The player moves their character miniatures through a science-fiction styled location, using a grid system printed on the card sections representing the current location and a series of coloured dice to resolve attacks and defences from the game’s enemies.
The numerous enemies can be played in a single game using a series of pre-determined actions that are easily resolved in play, however I have found it much more enjoyable and rewarding experience when you have a number of player-controlled characters facing off against a player as the evil minions and manipulating the game scenario. The inclusion and ability to play with less players will be a bonus to some and whilst not the most exciting way to play the game, it is pleasing to see Mantic address this in the design.
Players move through each scenario, exploring newly revealed locations whilst picking up equipment, defeating enemies and moving to complete the specific objectives for that particular scenario. Star Saga operates on a simple line of sight rule to resolve combat, and the game comes with a handy marker for this to be used by players. Mantic have clearly wanted to add a cinematic feel to the action and the inclusion of a “lean” mechanic enables our heroes to lean out of cover positions to shoot at range toward the enemy. Cover is important in this game and characters can use their environment to protect themselves behind one of the many resin furniture pieces included in the game, or in the alcoves of the floor plans included.
What Mantic have done extremely well is conveying both the characters and setting of the game; with exciting scenarios playing out in ready-made maps (included in mission booklet) and the use of sci-fi styled resin furniture and door pieces are lovely to use. When playing this game I am regularly reminded of the classic dungeon crawler, HeroQuest, that many of the more mature players here will remember from our childhood.
Star Saga does everything it can to tell a strong narrative; surrounding our misfit group of mercenaries with stylised settings and monsters; with a series of scenarios which play out like acts in a movie and setting up events and plot points that impact on future objectives. The early scenarios have been well-written to give the player a chance to learn the rules whilst playing and familiarising themselves with the game mechanics. There is no need to get too bogged down in the rulebooks before play and all players will be moving through the story and implementing the core rules in no time.
For those gamers that love to paint their miniatures, Star Saga offers real value for money with a huge cast of characters to paint alongside the wealth of furniture items. There are also some fantastic boss monsters that have some great sculpt details. For many, the use of miniatures will be a real selling point to this game and it does enable players to easily set up their own role-playing scenarios using the components here to create exciting new adventures.
If there were any points that could be better, it would be that times the dungeon crawler mechanic at the core of the game is perhaps a little underdeveloped. One character in particular looks extremely like a Dwarf from your typical fantasy gaming, and when played has extremely similar skills, with a character background that does very little to disguise the fantasy-styled inspiration.
Likewise, whilst the wide range of map pieces add a great deal of atmosphere to the game, the inclusion of interlocking elements for the cardboard map pieces would have benefited the game during the most frenetic of battles; where tiles can be easily moved and knocked by players in the heat of dice-rolling and moving character pieces.
Final Thoughts on Star Saga: The Erias Contract
Mantic should be congratulated on their attempt to bring science-fiction to the dungeon crawler genre. So too should their decision to include the sheer number of components that come included in this game.
Star Saga offers real value for money and the miniatures helps create a convincing and exciting world in which gamers will enjoy their adventures. The map tiles and furniture offer the possibility of players creating their own adventures and the gameplay mechanics are intuitive enough that gamers will quickly be able to engage in the narrative adventures.