Twenty years after the Alliance was formed, the cost of constructing new space stations is becoming unbearable. In order to improve the economy, the Alliance has decided to rebuild and recolonize some of the planets and space facilities who were abandoned during the war. By activating them once more, the Alliance is hoping to acquire the much needed funds and resources.

In New Dawn … players take the role of Alliance officials. Their assignment is to explore and revive a galactic sector. By developing various technologies and dispatching ambassadors, each player has the chance to visit abandoned planets, military facilities and space stations and establish bases to maintain control. Competition is fierce, and each mistake in maintaining control can cost dearly. 

The above description from publishers Stronghold/Artipia Games provides an excellent overview of one of my favorite games of all time. New Dawn is a 4X game (Explore, Exploit, Expand, Exterminate) for 2-4 players. It is designed by Konstantinos Kokkinis and Sotirios Tsantilas. You can finish a game in under two hours, but with 3-4 players you’re probably looking at 2-3 hours. Each player takes a race with a special power that might give them a boost to dice rolls, resources, science, etc. and embarks on a mission to score the most victory points by exploring the galaxy and taking control of space stations. This is done over a total of 5 rounds, with each round allowing players 3 actions. 

New Dawn shines on many levels, but the best part about it is the efficiency of its design. First, the board scales to the number of players. This always makes the board feel just slightly too small, forcing player interaction – hard to have 4X without “exterminate.” Second, each player only gets 15 actions for the entire game. And the difference in winning or losing a game depends greatly on your ability to optimize these actions. A failed attempt to attack a hostile station wastes an action. Building a new mobile headquarters (the lifeblood of your movement and attack/defense capabilities) costs an action. 

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Each round, players must place one space station on the board for anyone to explore later in the game. Each station has text that triggers some immediate benefit to the player who places it on the board. Often, the text allows another action to be performed – seize control of a space station or gather resources, for example. Also, players can manipulate ambassadors to add extra oomph to their actions, like dice bonuses and bonus actions. Maximizing these opportunities to garner extra actions is the key to playing New Dawn well. 

The combat in the game is quick, and while reliant on dice, allows enough mitigation to create tension that feels at least somewhat controlled. Players can attack an un-occupied station by rolling higher than the station’s card value, and player controlled stations are won by rolling higher than the controlling player. Simple, but exciting and effective, and (of course) efficient. I love that you “might” be able to go through a whole game without fighting, but you’ll probably lose. Again, it’s 4X, not 3X. 

I find New Dawn to be extremely thematic and immersive. Each space station has its own art and title and falls into one of four categories (science, military, economic and hostile/wild). When discovered or exploited, they provide benefits that fit their theme. This isn’t something that needed to be included in the design, but it was, and these types of nuances really take New Dawn to the next level. I think New Dawn is a perfect and highly underrated game. If any of this sounds interesting to you, then you will most likely LOVE this game. I have yet to introduce New Dawn to someone who didn’t end up enjoying it. And that is high praise. Check out New Dawn at your earliest opportunity.

Thanks for reading and keep nerding on. For an excellent how-to video, Rodney is the best: 

Rob Fenimore
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