Flying solo in the deep, deep, deepest of Tau Ceti system space. Alone in space, surrounded by an infinite vacuum of nothing. Isolation, no companionship and only an on-board computer with the most irritating sardonic attitude imaginable. Adrift in the void…
Meat & Potatoes:
But that is all such nonsense. Tau Ceti space is absolutely teaming with life. In fact you can’t bloody move for other-worldly beings carrying on in an unruly manner or just you try and vent your space-suite without bumping into oddly formed alien life, asteroids, planetary crisis, hostile encounters or living starships. It’s a veritable nebula boiling pot of activity…and I really am referring to just the solo variant. It’s interesting to know that the solo version of this 4x-ish multiplayer game not only facilitates any number of AI opponents, but also has any number of independent living starships milling about the place chucking a spanner in the works when you least expect it…and as most space vessels tend not to rely on old-school mechanical infrastructure, getting a spanner stuck in your subsidiary conduit is not something you ought to experience alone in space.
A quick glance at he rule book may fool the casual bystander…byfloater, it should be, as gravity is in short supply unless we find ourselves firmly planted on the surface of a rock such as Earth.
Don’t be lulled into believing that the solo variant is an afterthought tagged on to the end as a mere fleeting fancy to pacify the soloist fraternity. There is a mere 2 pages or so dedicated to some dedicated solo rules but don’t fall into this cunning asteroid-laced trap. Oh no! The surface has only just been scratched. Each of the Alien Races has a solo card that accompanies its Race dashboard. Each of these cards has a series of actions the AI will take dependant on a die roll and influenced by the choices you have made as the only live person in the universe, as you go blundering through the void.
Each race will act differently and if you play, as I usually do, with two AI opponents, life can get pretty competitive. Admittedly there has to be an element of book keeping to be undertaken on behalf of the AI (managing its Energy and Tau (currency) and a hand of cards) Now this isn’t as daunting as it appears. The hand of cards is just a growing pile of face down cards that needs the occasional shuffle and an occasional card pinching from the deck to be bunged in the centre of the table during the Enlightenment phase…oh and moving two tokens up and down a tracker. This is nothing to test the old grey matter.
Like any 4x-ish game, unless there is any direct fisticuffs, there is not very much interaction with opponents as they beaver away trying to fulfil their own selfish goals. Tau Ceti, for me, at any rate, feels like it offers something a little more flavoursome. Everyone contributes cards during the enlightenment stage to help or hinder the universe…in the solo game the AI contributes randomly from its ever growing hand/deck so it really is a space lottery of excitement (as might be expected from the multiplayer game) Both your actions and those of your cunning opponents could well effect the Tau Ceti Exchange/availability of space craft upgrades making their moves unpredictable (although you can plan and strategies once you are familiar with a race’s AI card to a degree) I wont say this is smooth as a baby’s buttocks, but I really don’t think this type of game is ever a slick no-brainer. It requires planning, consideration and to badly split infinitives. There are a wide variety of actions to take and so many activities to get sidetracked with, making this an enormous universe to explore. The mechanics work well to provide a competitive opponent (I forgot the bitter sting in the adding-things-up-at-the-end tail. That enormous pile of cards building up face down in the AI’s pretend sticky little fingers could completely swing the results in the AI’s favour come the final reckoning…if they have enough cards with an appropriate scoring symbol on them) which makes for a tense, thrilling exploration of Tau Ceti
Multiples of Solo:
I think I waffled on significantly and sufficiently enough above to give a hint towards my feelings on this game. I think this is a splendid solo version of a multiplayer game with Artificial Intelligence that is capable of reacting to the real players life choices (within the game that is…it is not so developed as to react to you shaving your head or tattooing a W on each bum cheek so it spells WOW when you touch your toes) There is a high level of replay-ability here, with a large number of different races all acting, reacting and playing differently, there is a random/different set up for each game and the large number of encounters, missions and transmissions knocking about from rock to rock make this a veritable space explorers dream…transmissions…that reminds me…the Living Starship is an independent oddity that has its own deck of cards governing if and when it might pop up and give your orbitals a jolly good pounding.
I love this as a solo game and play frequently. I think, however, that player interaction with the AI is not as poignant as with some BOTs which might not be to some peoples tastes but I also think that this is the nature of exploration, exploitation, plastic potplant cremation. For the style of game, this BOT performs admirably.
This Tau Ceti AI mechanic and Living Starship Bot earns its self a galaxian 7/8 sides (of the octagonal gaming table)
A link to the …of Vacuums and Voids article about the Main Tau Ceti solo game
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Something for the Weekend Sir?!
Game Designers: Mike & Stan Strickland, Joseph Pilkus
Outer Limit Games: https://www.outerlimitgames.com/