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Forbidden Stars is a new board game from Fantasy Flight Games, set in Games Workshops’s Warhammer 40,000 universe. It will take 3-4 hours to play and works best with four players.
Players are put in the role of one of four factions: orks, space marines, eldar, or chaos. Each faction has a similar roster of units available, two space units and four planetary units. These units are based around models either available tot he faction or reference in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe will be happy with the miniatures provided, which do a great job of bringing the four featured races to life. The eldar have their smooth lines ships and titan. The orks have their box-like armour plated units, chaos has plenty of spikes. Players or fans of the old Battlefleet Gothic game will look at the quality of the ships provided in Forbidden Stars and wonder why Games Workshops walked away from that space combat game. But that’s another article.
At first glance, there is little to distinguish Forbidden Stars from other space combat and conquest games, such as Eclipse or Twilight Imperium. Research is a little different and based around dominating certain key star systems to access the resources you’ll need to build at the top end of your ‘tech tree’. This lack of research is in keeping with the Warhammer 40,000 universe, where there is no progression or innovation, no technological edge to be gained.
Progression comes in the form of a combat deck you can use to give you better access to your faction’s abilities, and cards you can use to upgrade and effectively customise the game’s four basic orders to your faction’s preference.
Dominate, or hit and run
The game involves players marshalling their forces to capture certain planets for their faction. These are randomly determined, though the game comes with a pre-set layout you can use, and I would recommend this for your first game.
It is important to note that you don’t have to hold the territory to gain your objective market, simply capturing it once is enough. This becomes relevant where some planets can only sustain a small number of units. You can invade with an many as you like, but after victory your forces may vanish into a planet unable to sustain them. In many ways this does not matter; only the objectives are important.
As long as you have one defended area to replace your lost units, hit and run is the tactic to follow. Board positioning is useful, and travelling warp storm can lock away certain areas of the board and prevent an opponent’s units from travelling into your board. As the remaining objective markers are located ever further from your base, players are forced to take greater risks as the game moves on, and an early advantage does not necessarily translate to late game dominance.
To the stars!
Forbidden Stars is an intense but fun game. It will appeal especially to fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, who may get a little misty-eyed when handling models we last saw the likes of in Epic Space Marine or Battlefleet Gothic.
For all board game players Forbidden Stars offers a space conquest game with less emphasis on the research and more emphasis on travel and conquest.