“It is the year 2849, and humanity has harnessed the power of the pulsars. Now we must find a way to distribute this power throughout the stars.” That is the thematic premise given by publisher Czech Games Edition for it’s recent release, Pulsar 2849. “In this Euro-style game, players explore space, claim pulsars, and discover technologies that will help them build energy-distribution infrastructure on a cosmic scale. Dice are used to purchase actions, and players choose their dice from a communal pool. There are many paths to victory so you can blaze your own trail to a bright future.”
In the last week I’ve gotten to play Pulsar 2849 twice, and I must say designer Vladimir Suchy continues to impress me. I’m a big fan of two other games he designed, Last Will and The Prodigals Club, and while the thin theme in Pulsar 2849 is not as entertaining, the game mechanics and smoothness of play over-compensate in spades. This game is simply FUN.
The mechanical heart of the game is dice drafting and placement. The game is played over eight rounds and the goal is to score the most points by the end. Every round, players will get to choose two six-sided dice from the rolled pool. Players will use these two dice to perform two actions (sometimes three actions if they acquire a bonus die) from a robust list of actions. Players can explore planetary systems and establish bases to earn resources and victory points, research technologies or grab transmitter tiles to gain one time or ongoing bonuses. And you can’t really call a game Pulsar 2849 if you can’t harness the power of pulsars!
Harnessing a pulsar is a three step process. First you claim one by flying your ship to it. Then you place a “gyrodyne” (value of 1, 2, or 3) which you have acquired. Finally, you use an action to get the gyrodyne spinning, which scores you points each round based on the value of the gyrodyne. The earlier you get them spinning, the quicker and longer you score points. They’re the gift that keeps on giving, all game long. (Like the Jelly Of The Month Club). For a great how to play video, see:
My favorite thing about Pulsar 2849 is that it gives players tons of options, but it doesn’t allow things to fly off the rails. Actions are limited – you’re only guaranteed 16 for the game (2 x 8 rounds). So while you have tons of choices, you can never do as much stuff as you would like. The mechanics funnel players to the end in a timely and orderly fashion, with many paths leading to the same place. This left me satisfied and a bit unsatisfied, but only because I wanted to play again to try a different path to see what might happen.
The components in the game are solid, the main board is circular and looks pretty on the table, and the design of the various other boards is intuitive. Replayability should be outstanding, as the technology boards are double sided and can be mixed and matched to your heart’s desire. And while the symbology in the game can require frequent reference, there is a supplement included in the box that makes it a relatively painless task. With more and more plays, the need for reference will diminish and even by the end of two plays the symbols started to become familiar to me.
In conclusion, Pulsar 2849 is chock full of material that all comes together rather brilliantly. Even though the theme is not really exciting, it is a crunchy euro that should also be accessible for those new to euro style board games. A play-through should take less than two hours and probably could be reduced to 90 minutes with more experience. With tons of replayability and perfectly streamlined mechanics, Pulsar 2849 should make players want to keep exploring and harnessing, game after game.
Thanks for reading and keep nerding on.
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