Published on June 10th, 2016 | by Nicole Jekich3
Flying Solo in Tradewars
Our Preview of Tradewars
The universe is the place for ample opportunities to build up your new corporation, establish trade with planets and war with competitors. Tradewars is a solo game with multiple scenarios and the opportunity to combine multiple copies to include more players in the game. Tradewars is primarily a deck building game where those purchase cards are used to build ships or save for specialized tactics to use on competitors or to boost actions on your turn.
Shown above is one of two The Game Crafter copies we received. Tradewars is a solo game but can include two players if you have an additional copy. Please keep in mind that this game is still in the prototype phase and anything (or everything) could change before Tradewars first print run. If you are interested in learning more about the game and to learn when copies are available for purchase, please follow their updates on Facebook.
Before the game begins, the player(s) decide which scenario they want to try out. Tradewars is a race to be the first to collect 200 quicksilver of qS. Spacewars is combat-heavy option where players will try to destroy all other players’ homeworld and to be the last one standing. Days of Glory is a race to be the first to build all 5 Galactic Achievements. Each achievement earned will give that player additional benefits like a reward of quicksilver, improved Role abilities or the option to unlock ships earlier. The Derelict is a solo-only scenario where the player must survive the onslaught of The Derelict starship and eventually destroy it. Each of these scenarios will influence how and when players take certain actions throughout the game. For our game, Luke and I tested out the titular scenario: Tradewars.
Prepare for the Setup
Tradewars has a lot of space themed design and art packed into every inch of their cards, but I found their level of detail distracting more than immersive. For example the initial setup which includes separating the cards into their respective ‘buy’ piles is a confusing task when all the cards in those piles are double-sided and feature identical layout on both sides. Some of that detail is necessary like the glowing suns in the left bottom corner which indicate the starting cards in a player’s deck. The numbers in these suns are also the currency with which players will purchase cards on their turn. On the reverse side, those starting cards have a sun symbol with a letter in the center. As far as we could tell–that symbol and letter was not used for any purpose. Before it goes into final production, I would like to see a lot of the excess details removed and streamlined. Overall Tradewars is a simple deck building card game but it give the impression that it is much more complex.
Players enjoy freedom from a restricted turn structure as any actions can be performed in any order. A player can buy cards, play a role card, build a spaceship, attack an opponent (if using the Admiral role action) in any order. With the exception of the role cards, players have unlimited buys and builds on their turn. At the end, players may discard any unwanted cards and then draw back up to a hand of 5. Besides being a vehicle for some pretty sci fi art, the Role cards themselves don’t really serve a purpose. Players can only choose one Role on their turn and those cards aren’t shuffled into a deck or utilized at all. The game comes with a Role Reference card which explains each individual action so the individual role cards are redundant.
In the Tradewars scenario, the first ship doesn’t unlock until you gain 20qS. So the first few turns are very limiting and players are just focused on using the Treasurer to gain quicksilver to unlock their first ship because there is no other way to gain quicksilver in this scenario. I found this very boring as Luke and I switched off using the Treasurer Role, buying cards and drawing to our full hand on our turns until we hit the 20qS. If there were additional, maybe more interactive ways to gain quicksilver by doing damage to a player’s homeworld or rewarding those that successfully take down an enemy ship or possibly building structures that produce a number of qS each turn, that would make my decisions each turn more impactful and would offer some strategic choice.
Simplified Galactic Combat
Building your spaceship(s) was interesting as players could customize these ships using the many different card types in their deck. A ship would need a Starship, Crew and Weapons card in order to be a complete starship in your space lane. The numbers in the top right add to your attack or defense when in combat. Having ships helps the game get rolling as your Role actions become more useful especially the actions that let you switch our Crew or Weapons to help beef up your ship with better cards. The unfortunate part of the ships is that they don’t stick around for very long. If you or an opponent gets through the ship’s defenses-it is destroyed and all the cards go to the discard pile. I watched Luke build a single ship three different times and each time I was able to easily defeat it with a simple die roll–despite the number of Tactics cards scattered throughout his deck.
Yearning for More Complexity
Overall I was underwhelmed by the Tradewars scenario and overall strategy in this game. With so much detail I was expecting more meaty gameplay and more interesting decisions especially in a game that I could potentially be playing by myself. I don’t mind turns being repetitive and performing similar actions a turn, however in Tradewars I never really felt like I was accomplishing something to the galactic magnitude that was presented with all the different scenarios. Tradewars has great devotion to make their game filled with amazing, jaw-dropping sci fi art (see a preview of a card below) and I would like to see the same refinement and polish to the gameplay to make every decision and action feel more rewarding.