Review: Exile Sun – space war near a lonely star

Exile Sun - packaging

Sun. Hot yellow star shining in the middle of our solar system. Are they called elsewhere the same? Does our sun actually have any friends within its voice reach or is it a lonely being? It can see some tiny ships flying around it and passing by to address their petty worries. The sun was here before them and it will be here after they are gone. Its sense of time is completely altered.

Decades look like seconds. Each eruption of lava on its surface is one breath of this giant monster. And now with recent great outpouring of lava, something more flew into space. A small piece of hard, but molten metal, is delivered with stunning speed across universe. Within a few seconds, it cooled down from those thousands degrees. He lives almost an hour before it made a hole in the hull of spacecraft orbiting planet Earth. The bomber, who was about to attack this world, was damaged and crashed on the surface.. War.. Everlasting, just as hatred.. And also as our Sun..

is a new board game, that radiates heat and spits lava on all sides. Author’s name is and we got review copy thanks to distribution company . It came out on the market just before end of . Images throughout the game were created by another Eric, this time and thematically was Exile Sun polished by Ryan Dalton.

Exile Sun - game is ready

This space opera is another child of the community. Namely crowd-funding server. There were a lot of players interested in this one and names of the platinum (you get this credit for a certain amount of money) are stated at the beginning of the rulebook.

In the box, there is a map of the entire solar system around one nameless star. But its called Sun just as ours, that’s all we know. Game board is not inside in one piece, but instead is split into seven hexagonal divisions. Six contain part of map of the system with a central piece showing picture of the Sun. There are also six frames, which twines around these completed tiles and hold entire plan together to form big map of universe. Also hexagonal, no surprise in that.

On such completed board, you see individual planetary systems for each of the involved players. Circling around the map is victory points scale, but also order of scale placed in middle of each outer side of hexagonal map. When we look closely at the fiery sun in the middle, there are easily recognizable some signs of intelligence. Sun serves as a judge in the game, and it will measure your time for the whole match.

Exile Sun - game is ready

But what would the game plan be without any other components, that will help you in your space battles. This time, you will find ship miniatures inside! More specifically, there are sixty plastic miniatures and despite the fact, that their identity is hidden in the game, just as its for example in Space Empires 4X game (review). Each opponents gets ten in their own color. Furthermore, each color is on ten smaller tokens, used for settlements labeling. Ships must be equipped with stickers, specifying their type and strength. This information is a secret during most of the match.

But individual miniatures do not represent a single ship, but a squadron. Its composition will be hidden in your hands and you can assemble your force from cards up to a maximum of five ships. In total, there are eighteen cards for each of the players, a total of 108 crafts. You will find flagship, frigate and cruiser. Each has its specific strength amplified by plus or minus signs on the wings or hull.

But this is still not everything, of course. There are also agendas and technologies. Identity of the players will be determined on the basis of race of their choice. From each nation, there is card of its home colony, which has five slots for combat, but also arrows pointing to the right and to the left, where you will keep cards of ships. Under the name of the party for which you are playing, you can see also a line with its specific skill, you will be able to use during game.

Exile Sun - game is ready

As we actually get to game preparation, players will also take, in addition to these great cards, cards and colonies tokens, all of corresponding color. You will then select one of six available maps at random, and attach it according to your wishes. You can rotate it. The seventh and last one with a picture of sun is in the middle, touching all those remaining six. This way, you prepare each part of your map. On places, where no one is sitting (meaning you are playing in less, than six players), you put tiles with other side up, making your galaxy a little smaller.

Central sun has a black box with a text START on it. You put one of your colony markers on frames, which must be put around all those playing hex star tiles. Your marker should be put near zero. Then prepare face down drawing packages of common cards. Only from piles of agendas four cards are immediately revealed. These creates a joint menu, which are all the players trying to meet and get points. In addition, you lay common strike cards, we have not mentioned in the list of components.

Each player receives one card at random from both technology and agenda decks. All participating nations start the game prepared and armed. Each positions one small, medium and large aircraft in his system. Rest of ships start in player’s stock.

Exile Sun - game is ready

Last important step is to create inventory of cards. You take one flagship and one shipyard into your hand. Divide remaining cards in one pile containing cruisers and battleships – this is your design deck (to the left of the nation card); destroyers and frigate are located into second deck, thus creating construction deck.

Before we begin fight in open universe, we need to clarify a few things. Sun has three circles – outdoor contains ten boxes, middle is eight long and internal has only six. These rings are designed for a specific number of players, and with it hence also vary time between combat and supply phases. What phases, you ask? You can notice, that circle is divided by two slices in half. Each of these slots contains inscription – battle or supply. Only in these specifically given moments, fight and equipment can occur.

Classic turns require nothing else from players, than to use their move action. Then, you have to move a pawn on the solar circle of time one frame forwards or backwards (depending only on your choice) and let your adversary act. If the character arrives on one of pie slices, special stages happen.

Exile Sun - game in progress

But now back to movement. Every nation has not only special actions on his race card, but also two numbers. While the second refers to the maximum number of ships players can hold in hand, first number are movement points, that can spend in one turn.

Movement can be divided arbitrarily among all your units located on the map. Exceptions are with those fleets, which are waiting to resolve a fight. You do not move with those until then. Motion intensity varies in space, so while entering a classic open box costs one movement, asteroid field requires two points. Conversely trade routes accelerate your shift, as well as intergalactic gateways.

In your turn, you can also start a fight with opponent’s squadron by placing your ship on top of his. Clash may always involve only two armies, which will wait for the evaluation of combat ever since they met. Movement can be spent even for scanning opponent’s fleet from a safe distance. In such a situation, you secretly look at their hidden value (ranging from three to five, depending on the strength of a squadron) of one opponent’s ship miniature.

Exile Sun - game in progress

At the beginning of each round (including the first – that’s, why we have not talked about player order yet) supply event happens. This means your get to repair your main ships – shipyard and flagship. Then players based on victory points accumulated, pick their order for next turn of the game, starting from the lowest, weakest, player. With each position, there are bound also supply points.

Players now simultaneously and secretly select from four available options. Design, construction, deploy and research. For points distribution, a card with rotating papers is used. Its a battle card, each player keeps near him since the game start. On those little papers, there are green markers. Their number shown indicates, how many points would you invest in this section.

Then, it is necessary to make individual actions selected. Players have two decks of cards – design and build. These represent vital options. To send some ships to battle, you need to have it in hand. But you can get it there only from the build stack.

Exile Sun - game in progress

With the help of design action, a player can move top card from his design deck into the build package. Target pile gets shuffled and increases your chances for future battles. Among these cards, there are stronger ships, which must be first prepared for deployment.

If you choose deployment action, you can take one of your squadron miniatures (strength selection depends on you) and place it on the board. New boats can be built either in orbit of your planet, or next to the shipyard, which needs to be revealed to your opponent for this purpose. Research allows player to draw technology card, usable to his advantage.

However, no general space game cannot be won without a fight. That’s why we just keep this crucial event for the end. Squadrons size still remains secret, even when ships form a stack. But players may use any of cards in their hand and select from these vessels, which ones are really involved in this fight. Additionally, you also draw cards from a common deck of ships with a basic attack power. Then both players divide their ships on race boards to numbers ranging from one to five.

Exile Sun - cards

Assault strength of each unit is given by sum of the wheels on your boat. Each ring adds two points of power to your ship. You sum them up, add or subtract bonuses for all plus and minus signs, which are drawn inside the ring. This allows ships to have not only odd, but also even values of strength. That still does not mean, that they will attack or defend. You must decide about this as well.

Second phase of the fight begins again covertly. Players divide power points among defense and attack. Each of these actions has five boxes on attack board and is once again selected with circling papers. You can attack a particular ship and defend with ones, you want to protect. Power can be arbitrarily divided according to your wishes between all ten boxes – five attack and five defense. The only restriction is, that one frame can hold only up to eight points of power.

Now is the right time to damage the ships. For each ship, you compare your defense with opponent attack on this particular ship. For each point, by which attack exceeds defense, you have to put a colony token on one circle on the boat. It is damaged and weakened. If last circle gets covered, ship is immediately destroyed and returned to its original package.

Exile Sun - game in progress

And what is the reward for winning the fight? Its sweet. Player, who dominated battle near enemy planet or destroyed his rival’s flagship, receives a prize in form of placing his token on the card of bonus mission. Simultaneously, winner can accomplish task on some of the public agendas.

At the end of the battle, there always comes time for scoring. Players receive points for various tasks – such as protecting their home planet, met agenda‘s or bonus missions. Each completed agenda is then replaced with new one for the next round.

The game ends, when opponents played a predetermined number of rounds. Length of the match can be set from two to four cycles. At the end of the game, player, who accumulated the most points for their achievements is clear winner.

Exile Sun - house cards

Exile Sun has set an intermediate course through several unique ideas, that will attract you. The first one is time tracking in the game. Its flow (forwards or backwards) depends on players, who have complete control over its course.

Coincidence is present only as a supplement to your strategy. You need a bit of luck from build deck, so you draw right cards. But you must have them ready. Even with basic ships, fighting is fun, because it is up to you, which one will be used.

But it is nothing else, than the actual fight, where Exile Sun shines and glows like a real Sun. Secret of squadron size can be taken away, just as an act of suprise, by scanning of your fleet. But still, you can secretly select ships, that will participate in the conflict. You are not limited to your precious ships, but you can also use common expendable squadrons of hired mercenaries. Moreover, there is a rule, that you must put at least one ship from your hand into every battle, if you have it.

Exile Sun - cards

Surprise, can be avoided using the scanning. It is a good idea to sacrifice a point for this. You keep this new information only for yourself, but you must follow squadron on board and remember, which ship is it. They are all the same, remember? There are also decoys on the map, serving as a distraction for your enemies.

Well, and then there is a second phase, where it gets hot. Lasers start firing in all directions. But you must not forget the back door. There is a secret not only of the distribution of points among attack targets, but also in defense. The more you want to be destructive, the bigger losses should you expect in your own ranks. Great, atmospheric and incredibly exciting. That’s how is the battle in Exile Sun.

But that’s not all. We must not forget the difficulty of choice between the order and the number of supply points. Or a little flavour of deckbuilding, which is lead into this game, when rearranging cards from desing into build deck.

Exile Sun - attack board

Length of the game varies according to the number of players. In two and three, you are using an inner circle, but that does not stop you from getting a long and heavy experience. But the real deal starts, when you invite more friends. Game lasts maybe too long. There is no real evolution and path behind you after two hours of play. Some battles can still be tackled simultaneously, but not all of them. Game can stretch even for 180 minutes, which is pretty much.

Unfortunately, some players often find themselves outside of events. If others are fighting and you are just watching, you may wait even a few minutes, until these battles decide. And this can ruin many players experience.

Topic is a bit misleading. Exile Sun looks like a space strategy game, where your civilization evolves and you discover universe in head of your fleet. In fact, this is a very combat-oriented game, where everything else stays behind. Most of agenda is focused on conquering territories or winning.

Exile Sun - cards

In addition, rules are a little oddly put together and you could have a problem with orientation, when you are learning the game. Some informations are not, where you would expect them. Eventually, Exile Sun works easily, and once you know, how to play it, others will pick it up fairly quickly.

And then there’s the timing mechanism. It is interesting to play some actions only at specific positions. Thanks to this, game does not get stuck so often. The more fights you have to go through, when phase hapens. It forms also new decision – do I attack now, or do I wait for one turn (remember, that time pawn may be shifted both ways!). You could be giving your squadron up for quite a time. Or you could wait and take the chance, your opponent runs away?

Exile Sun is a game, that without doubt raises emotions. In our editorial staff, most of them were positive. But we cannot forget those few disgruntled players, echoing with statements, that game is too long, battles often take a long time and card of technologies are unbalanced. Many of us put these worries aside and enjoyed psychology, anticipation of enemy moves, constant battles and sci-fi conquering. It is up to you, which side of these two camps would you join. But before you buy Exile Sun, you’d better try it somewhere for yourself.

DesignerEric A. Martin
ArtistEric J. Carter
PublisherGame Knight Games
Year Published2012
# of Players2 - 6
User Suggested # of Players Best with 6 players
Recommended with 4, 5 players
(8 voters)
Playing Time180
Mfg Suggested Ages14 and up
User Suggested Ages14 and up
(4 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(7 voters)
CategoryFighting, Science Fiction
MechanicCard Drafting, Deck, Bag, and Pool Building, Hand Management, Hexagon Grid, Secret Unit Deployment, Variable Player Powers, Worker Placement
ExpansionExile Sun: Race for the Gate Expansion, Exile Sun: Tech Interrupt Cards
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter
Primary NameExile Sun

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Exile Sun – space war near a lonely star
Final word
Exile Sun is a space war game. Its main focus is primarily and secondarily on battles of your and enemy fleet. Players are moving their nice ship miniatures around the galaxy. Those ships have their size printed on the bottom. But battles commence only in the given time, always after few turns. Most interesting thing about the whole game are, without a doubt, battles themselves. Players have their squadron made of three to five units and each enemy can specify, which ship is attacking. But he must also sacrifice strength to protect his own fleet, which creates a nice dilemma. Unfortunately, game of Exile Sun lasts usually really long, so its not game for everybody. And when you are not involved in any battle, you could find yourself waiting for other players to complete their conflict. There is almost no luck involved, but game feels different every time. Although its a space game, do not expect any exploration. Exile Sun is definitely not for everybody. It contains unique ideas, interesting principles, which will keep you entertained, if you are in correct mood and have enough time..
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
space ships miniatures
secret squadron size, you decide their identity before battle with cards in your hand
ships power in battle is split among defense and attack, you can attack specific enemy ship
interesting timing mechanic
only a little of luck
focus on battles
playing order is selected by players and decides about number of development points
excellent processing
Cons
really long gametime
there is not exploration or upgrades
rulebook is a little hazy
3
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