The Artemis Project by Grand Gamers Guild has been one of my favorite games since I first reviewed the prototype when it was on Kickstarter. Now, the game is getting a much-deserved expansion, that brings leaders and orbiting satellites to Europa.
What Is The Artemis Project: Satellites & Commanders?
The Artemis Project: Satellites & Commanders is an expansion to The Artemis Project. The expansion does not expand the game beyond the original 1-5 player count, the age range of 10 and up, or the 50-60 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $30 for a copy of the expansion. The original game is required for play, but if you don’t already own it, you can increase your pledge level to also get a copy. The expansion is fully compatible with both the retail and deluxe versions of the original.
You can read my review of The Artemis Project here.
Satellites & Commanders was designed by Daniel Rocchi and published by Grand Gamers Guild, with illustrations by Cristian Romero.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
Satellites & Commanders Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
The expansion includes:
- 12 Chariot Tiles
- 4 Satellite Tokens
- 5 Satellite Dice
- 8 Commander Pawns
- 4 New Expeditions
- 1 Academy Overlay
- 12 New Buildings
- 4 New Events
As with the original game, this expansion has beautiful artwork (it’s the same artist, after all) that perfectly evokes the sci-fi feel of the game without being distracting.
The expansion adds two modifications to the game. The first is the use of orbiting satellites. The components for this are primarily the 12 Chariot tiles, 4 satellite tokens, and 5 satellite dice.
The Chariot tiles represent permanent orbiting satellites around Europa. They are designed to fit on the corners of the board. The version of the prototype had the bottom section of the round tokens slip under the bottom of the board, but it’s clear from the art on the Kickstarter page and the rule book that the plan is to have that part cut out instead. That gives you three Chariots for each corner. Each displays instructions as to what to do when the Chariot is activated, and an indicator as to when the activation will occur in the game.
The satellite tokens are simple cardboard pieces that show a satellite. Nothing terribly exciting, but completely functional.
The final version of the expansion will have 5 custom satellite dice that match the colors of the original’s dice sets and appear to have the game’s satellite icon in place of the 1. Each side will also have an arrow pointing to the side with the next higher number, which will aid in turning the dice from one round to the next. These were not yet ready for the prototype, though, so it only contained 5 normal d6.
The second major modification is the introduction of Commanders, a new worker type for the game. Support for these is primarily through an overlay for the Academy section of the original board, and 8 Commander pawns.
The overlay has artwork that perfectly matches the section of the board that will be covered up, with a new path for the Commander promotion. It is also two sided, with one path for a 2-player game, and another for 3-5 player. (There’s nothing indicating which side should be used with solo play.) The overlay is the same thickness of the cards in the game, rather than being the thick cardboard of the board, which is fine–if it were thicker, it’d stand out, whereas a card blends in to the point you can almost forget it’s even there.
As with the dice, the actual Commander pawns were not complete for the prototype, so I was sent a set of 8 yellow meeples (see the image above). But again, based both on the artwork shown on the Kickstarter and the quality of the original game, I’m sure that the final version will have very cool custom wooden (but still yellow) pieces.
Both of these modifications are further supported with the new expedition and event cards and the new buildings.
The expansion adds 4 new expeditions, three of which specifically relate to either the satellites (allowing players to change the values of their satellite dice or to claim a satellite) or the commanders (allowing a player to remove another player’s commander from the board this round), while the fourth just adds a new twist to the game.
The new event cards are evenly split: two of them impact the play of satellites, and the other two impact the commanders.
The 12 new buildings are divided as well, with 6 being ocean buildings and the other 6 surface. As with the original game, there are two copies of each, so there are really only six new buildings in total. Two of the ocean buildings have effects that relate to playing satellites, while all three of the surface buildings only give their rewards if at least one commander is placed on them.
How to Play Satellites & Commanders
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
Note: I’m only to cover the expansion rules here. See my review of The Artemis Project for the core rules.
The core game is set up as normal.
Sort the Chariots by the corner they are associated with and randomly choose one for each corner. Place them in their appropriate spots, and return the rest to the box.
Each player takes the satellite dice of their color.
Place the satellite tokens–one fewer than the number of players–in a supply near the board. Return the rest to the box.
Place the Academy overlay on the board, using the side appropriate to the number of players. Place the eight commander pawns nearby, along with the normal set of colonists for the Academy.
Shuffle the expansion’s event cards into the deck, its expedition cards into that deck, and the buildings into their stacks.
When rolling dice pools, players do not roll their satellite dice, nor will they place it like a normal die.
The core game has an optional “harsh mode” that places fewer resources during the Upkeep phase. The expansion requires that this mode be used during play.
Satellites and Chariots
During the Placement phase, players may place one of their regular dice on a satellite in the supply, provided that they do not already control a satellite. Players take the satellite they are claiming and place both it and their die on a chariot of their choice that does not already have a satellite on it.
They may also choose to take control of an existing active satellite controlled by another player by placing a die with a value that is lower than the satellite’s current die value. If the the “bumped” die is a regular die, it is placed in the opponent’s Shelters section and cannot be reused that round, but the player does move up one space on the Relief track. If the “bumped” die is the opponent’s satellite die, it is simply returned to them, and they do not advance on the relief track.
During the Resolution phase, each chariot that was claimed during the Placement phase will activate in normal clockwise order, starting with the one in the top right corner, which is the first thing activated that round. The other chariots are activated as you reach them in the normal activation order.
If the player has a regular die on the satellite, they replace it with their satellite die, setting it to the same number as the regular die. This sets the SDV, or “satellite die value.” Then, you simply follow the instructions on the chariot and perform the actions as instructed. Players may decline to use the chariot’s effects.
In the Upkeep phase, players assess all active satellites after Step 3, where they paid energy to keep their colonists warm. Any satellite with an SDV of six is abandoned–the player gets their satellite die back, and the satellite token is returned to the supply. Then, in clockwise order, beginning once again with the chariot in the top right corner, each owner of a satellite may choose to either pay two minerals to maintain the satellite. If they do this, they increase the value of the satellite die by one. Alternately, they may abandon the satellite, returning the token to the supply and regaining their satellite die.
Once all chariots are resolved, any remaining satellites “orbit” to the next chariot in clockwise order.
Players can promote one of their existing colonists to a commander by playing the colonist and one of their die to the Commander column on the Academy overlay during the Placement phase. The colonist may come from the shelter or a building. While multiple colonists may be “nominated” for promotion this way, only one will be promoted each round.
Each colonist type has a “promotion value,” as noted on the overlay. This value is added to the value of the die to determine a “nomination score.” If another player already placed a colonist and die on the column, subsequent players must have a higher nomination value in order to play there. For example, if the first player placed a die with a value of 2 and an engineer, which has a promotion value of 2, their nomination value is 4. Any other player much place a die/colonist combination greater than 4 to nominate a different colonist.
In the Resolution phase, whomever placed the die/colonist with the highest nomination score gets to promote their colonist. They first must discard an Expedition Badge. If they do not have a badge to discard, or if they choose not to discard one, then the option to promote passes to the player with the next highest nomination score, who can either discard a badge or pass, and so forth. The winning player must then reclaim their die, discards their colonist from the game, and claim a Commander from the supply near the board. The commander will then be placed in the player’s shelter or on any building that has room.
Any players who did not successfully win the promotion reclaim their die, place their colonist in either their shelter or any open building space, and gain one on the relief track. If a player had multiple nominees, they only gain one spot on the relief track regardless of the number of nominees; however, if they successfully promote and have another nominee as well, they will get both the commander and gain the relief track space.
Once a player has a commander, there are several things they can do with them. The most obvious comes in the later rounds: the new surface buildings that come with the expansion have spaces that must be occupied with commanders.
However, commanders can act as sort-of “wild card” colonists, and may occupy any space on a building, including ones that normally require a specific colonist type to activate. They can also count as any colonist type for game effects that require a certain number of a type of colonist.
During the placement phase, a player may place a commander along with a die in any region (but not on a satellite). Having a commander with a die increases the die’s value by two, but in regions such as the vents where the “exposure” mechanism is used, the die is not actually moved–it is placed based on its actual face value. Players can send both a commander and another type of colonist to an expedition, gaining the benefits of both. Multiple commanders cannot be sent with a single die.
Finally, commanders have their own separate move/swap step during the Upkeep phase. While you could normally only move a single colonist, you may move each of your commanders individually if you so choose.
During the scoring phase, each commander may be designated as any other colonist type for scoring surface buildings, and they may be counted as any other colonist type to complete a set. A single commander may be used as a different type for scoring a surface building and for counting as part of a set.
Why You Should Play Satellites & Commanders
Fans of The Artemis Project, which should include basically anyone who has ever played it, will surely like the additional options the expansion provides.
The satellites and chariots add four more choices for placing dice, which can be particularly helpful for players low in the turn order when other choices may be taken or less than ideal. (Although it’s important to note that there will be one less satellite than players, so you can’t necessarily always wait for this to be your final action.) They also add genuine additional strategic options to the game. For example, one of the top left chariots allows a player to draw colonists from the bag (or the cool shuttle if you have the deluxe edition of the base game) just before everyone else recruits new colonists from the Doorstep. It is a random draw, so there’s a risk you won’t get the colonist you want, but they’re also free, so you don’t have to use your limited supply of energy on them.
The commanders add an even more interesting twist to the game. Their “wildcard” nature makes them extremely powerful elements in the game, but that is balanced by how difficult they are to gain. We honestly underused them the first time we played, but it’s probably a valid strategy to try to promote a colonist every turn, as the rewards for promotion are pretty great, and even if you lose, you gain a spot on the relief track, so there’s basically no downside (except, of course, that you’re using a die to do it, which is a die you don’t have available to spend elsewhere.)
Overall, Satellites & Commanders improves an already fantastic game. It’s a must-have addition to anyone who already owns The Artemis Project. And if you don’t, the campaign for the expansion is a great time to get the base game (which can be added with a $99 pledge), and a great time to learn and start enjoying the game.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Satellites & Commanders Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.