Spiel 2013 Preview: Theseus

Posted by James (admin) on October 16th, 2013

Theseus boxTheseus is a sci-fi game set on a space station where the different factions (soldiers, scientists, aliens and greys) are trying to take control.  They do this by either reducing a faction to zero life points, and the scientists and grey can win by collecting 20 data points.

Players take turns moving their units around different locations (sectors) on the space station and playing cards.  Each sector is a separate board piece which are arranged in a circle: one sector for each player’s faction, plus one each for the corridors, control room and tech bay.  Each sector has spaces for cards (that players will be placed during the game) as well as 4 rooms.

On their turn, a player moves one of their units a number of sectors clockwise equal to the number of units currently on their unit’s starting sector (which reminds me of the movement system in Finca – and that’s a good thing).  After their move, a unit is placed in one of the new sector’s 4 rooms (arranged in a 2 x 2 grid).  Some rooms have walls between them which affects combat.  If all 4 rooms are full, the arriving player ejects a unit into space and takes their position.  (Already I can see some humourously nasty screwage of other players.)  If a unit’s move means all the rooms in a sector are now full, combat occurs in that sector and all units attack anyone they can based on who they can see and what combat ability they have.  (Only soldiers have combat ability to start; whereas, other factions’ units need upgrading first.)

Theseus game sector

This is one of the sectors. One card is already installed in the sector (with two pending) and two units are in rooms in the sector too.

After movement, the player resolves all action cards on the sector where their unit just arrived.  These can trigger combat, healing, gaining data, abduction, and lots, lots more.  The player then performs the sector’s action; for example, the Tech Bay lets you take another turn with a different unit, the Control Room lets you place a malfunction token which disables a card or stops a card from entering play, and the corridors lets you attack with all your units in all sectors.  Each player’s factions have an effect that benefits that faction too.

Finally, the player deals with any pending cards at the moved unit’s sector (which are cards that been placed next to the sector).  If any pending cards belong to the player, they add them to the sector.  If a pending card belongs to an opponent, the player can replace it with a card from the top card of their own deck.  If there are no pending cards at all, the player adds one from the top of their deck.

The game ends when the ‘End’ token moves to the end of its track (4 moves) and it’s moved each time a player needs to place a card but has none in their deck.  With 2 players, a player wins if they reduce the opponent to zero life points, or if they gain 20 data.  With 3- and 4- players, damage caused is tracked and a player wins if they cause 20 life points of damage in total.

Theseus game room

The rooms of this sector contain 3 units. If a fight breaks out, grey can not attack blue and vice versa because there is a wall (white line) in the way.

I really like the sound of Theseus.  The theme is very engaging and it’s a eurogame with a great deal of potential for tactical play as players combine cards, lay traps, and manoeuvre their units and cards into place.  There are no dice so the only luck factor is in the cards you draw.

There seems to be a mass of variety within the different factions cards and sectors.  Cards have lots of different effects like laying traps, affecting cards/units in a sector, creating shortcuts, upgrading other effects, etc. and some can be played from a player’s hand for an instant effect.  As well as the 4 main factions, there’s a 5th playable faction too which is quite different to the others.  Also, there are special rules for 2 players v 2 players team-play.

You can read the rules and see the details of the game on Portal’s web site using this link: bga.me/theseus


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