In space no one can hear you apply sun screen..
Apologies for the frankly dreadful attempt to start off a first thoughts piece for Dranda Games and their game Solar Storm. A disaster averting sun spot of an adventure where factor 50 isn't going to cut it and winding down the window to let in a breeze might just cause slight chafing or actually third degree burns.
Though bad intros aside, what we have here is mixture of card game and resource management with a theme that places you in red alert, trying to avoid an impending disaster as you attempt to restart your stalled spaceship as it crashes towards the sun.
The ship is represented by a 3 x 3 grid of cards with the energy core in the centre, awaiting patiently for the other surrounding cards to divert power to it so you can get the hell out of there and save your burning soul. Each card has three spaces to represent potential damage as well as information on what resources are required in order to both repair and send that power to the energy core.
When starting off, random areas of the ship will start off being damaged and need resources to repair them, and then require another three different resources to divert the power to the energy core. Resources are dealt to each player in the form of cards, that they then decide to use to repair whatever room their pawn is currently situation in. Each round a player will get three actions to use, but if they decide, they can actually keep actions back for the next time that they play. This allows you to consider saving actions for the next round when you can hopefully use a combination to repair and possibly divert power to help save the ship. The pressure continues to mount because at the end of every round, the ship takes more damage, sometimes causing you to have to go back and repair previous rooms while making sure you are mindful of holding on to resources for power diversions.
The game ends when you completely damage a room, or the resource deck is exhausted and you crash head first into a blazing ball of fire. Cooperation is the key to success here, as you'll need to consider exchanging cards between players in order to match the resources each room needs, and plan out who is better tackling what room as the round progresses.
There's pressure here, as a couple of badly timed damaged cards can effectively finish the game off for you if you do have an unlucky couple of rounds, but at the same time it's not really luck here as you can see in front of you where the potential pressure areas can be and it's always up to you to manage that effectively.
Solar Storm is pretty much Pandemic in space, that is, if you're looking for some kind of graspable comparison, and the fumbled mess of words above don't make any sense, the globe based infection marvel is the game I kept coming back as I played more and more. And while I confess I haven't put the hours in to work out all the intricacies and the strategies, I've certainly witnessed the snowballing of a series of bad decisions have the ship erupting into a fireball as risks were taken and misjudged. At the same time, I've also seen the game run as a well oiled machine, where victory was cemented through some well planned organisation.
First impressions are favourable indeed and I'm looking forward to seeing how a solo variant might work in a puzzle format. If you are looking for something where its all hands on deck, and you like the pressure of resource management while courting and avoiding disaster, then you should consider checking out Solar Storm when it hits Kickstarter later this year in September . However as always, don't just rely on this old astronauts opinion and make sure you do your own ground work before you pledge.
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A prototype of the game was provided to us to give our first thoughts. The components may not represent the final version.