StarCraft: The Board Game would have reached its 10th birthday this year if it wasn’t for its untimely death in 2011. In its four-year lifespan, the candle burned twice as bright with a Brood Wars expansion and a Blizzcon Typhon planet promo. This was a beautifully produced child of Fantasy Flight Games with Blizzard Entertainment’s input and designed by Christian T. Petersen and Corey Konieczka.
They replicated the feel of the units and the strategy of the video game. To pulse life into it, they moved the battles from just one alien world into three-dimensional space. This massive war, if gifted with Brood Wars, comes on twelve punchboards worth of tokens, buildings, and planets, and around 220 plastic miniatures to play out the flair of conflict and gathering of resources.
As we slice the marble birthday cake, we can prepare our forces of Protoss, Zerg, or Terrans which are equivalent to their digital counterparts in strategy and abilities. You could control the high-tech aliens that need a vast amount of resources to portal in their brutal forces. You could be a hive of bug-like aliens, which are cheaply and quickly formed from goo to scurry out in hoards. Then there are marine-trucker humans whose resources and tech are scrapped together to get the conquest done.
Each race has two factions with their own special win condition, but it could end with anyone at fifteen victory points, or the highest points when the event deck bleeds out two “The End Draws Near” cards. The event deck varies in size depending on the amount of players and adds a pressurized countdown. It ticks away with tech order played, when orders are blocked, or if you decided to discard your current order. These event cards provide a boon with the later stages having the greater benefits.
Each round has a planning phase, an execution phase, and regrouping phase. The planning phase was the most challenging of them all. Everyone would place facedown four order tokens, one at a time, on the planets you wanted to execute in the next phase. This was when you decided what you wanted to mobilize, build, or research. The challenge was to place the tokens in reverse order, so your all-important order was on top of the stack.
The execution phase is where everyone’s plans come together or go astray. These are the times when you need to build new troops, but someone else had a mobilize token on top to burn your base to the ground. Or if your last order token was blocked by two of your enemies and they decide to wait on their reveal of a bluff order.
A battle consists of a single skirmish. The attacker lines both troops up and tells the opposition to wake up, because it’s time to die. If the attacker was smart, they would have their air units attack units who couldn’t fire upwards and their ground units fire at air units that couldn’t fire down. The damage and health are laid out on the combat cards and the stats got better through the learning and adding of technology cards to your deck. A deck-building game a year before Dominion appeared.
In the regrouping phase, the board is cleaned up for the next round, resources are gained or lost, and victory conditions are looked for. If you or the game lived another round, revel in this time and contemplate your next round.
This was my gateway into the video game. A friend loved the source material so much and would relay stories of his campaigns to me. I had just started as a board game hobbyist and knew from his passion for StarCraft, I could get him to play and that we could drag in the rest of the crew. Plus it came in a big coffin box with lots of bits, and a huge 45-page manual!
StarCraft was a hit and we still talk about breaking it out. It takes a special type of game to trash talk over when we get together due to our geography, our jobs, and life, but this is on top.
The nexus seven version is Forbidden Stars and is also co-created by Cory Konieczka. The rules and play are a bit tighter and its parts are cleaner with more detail, but that’s due to time and technology in the game industry. Forbidden Stars had a less than two-year lifespan, leaving us last February with no official expansions. Like StarCraft, it was short changed as the property companies Fantasy Flight Games worked with to produce these solid games have separated and divorced.
Happy 10th birthday, StarCraft: The Board Game, you are not forgotten. I will break out the noisemakers, launch balloons from a battlecruiser, and eat Kentucky-fried zerg. I look forward to celebrating you at Gen Con 50 with others who appreciate the depth, design, and feel of what you have brought to the universe.