Alien Frontiers: Factions

Alien Frontiers has long been one of my favourite 3 player games, its alright with 4 I just have a few other games I would rather play. Playing Alien Frontiers requires a great balance of tactics and strategy, you will need to plan a few turns ahead but not really be concerned about the order or timing of your plans. Of course, Alien Frontiers gives you the opportunity to screw your friends over and over. Even though my group tends to avoid conflict, we seem to all enjoy blocking each other from expanding our space colonies. The Factions expansion makes the 4 player game considerably more enjoyable as well as adding a 5th player, keep reading for more information and my thoughts on if it is worth buying or not.

To read my review of the base game click here:

What Comes in the Expansion?

Faction Boards:
By far the coolest part of the expansion, at the beginning of the game each player will select a Faction, take the corresponding mini board and place it in front of them. The awesome part is that each faction gives that player an extra ability and each board also serves as another location where players can dock their ships (place their dice). These work like the rest of the locations on the board except that any resources spent are paid to the faction's controller.
Faction Owner: At the beginning of your turn receive one fuel plus one fuel for each territory that you control.

Other Players: Dock at the Corex Conglomerated and pay two fuel to the stock to receive one ore for each territory they control at the time of docking.
Faction Owner:  Use the territory bonus of one contested territory, whether or not the player has any colonies in that territory. Use of the territory bonus lasts for the duration of the player’s turn. The only territory bonus that the Uranian Syndicate may not access in this way is the Burroughs Desert bonus.

Other Players: Docking at Uranian Syndicate allows you to pays one ore to move one of their own colony tokens from one territory to another territory or pays two ore to move one an opponent’s colony token from one territory to another territory.
Faction Owner: You may discard up to two Alien Tech cards instead of just one. (Discarding a techcard gives you a different benefit than using it, usually you can only ditch one a turn)

Other Players: Dock at Dark Space Explorers to pay one fuel to gain the top card from the Alien Tech deck. If the card is a duplicate of one they already have, the new card is discarded without effect.
Faction Owner: Launch their colonies from the sixth circle of the Colonist Hub instead of the seventh.

Other Players: Dock at the Homesteader’s Union to advance your colony token one circle at the Colonist Hub.

Faction Owner: may use any sequence of three ships to bump ships already docked on the Raiders’ Outpost. Higher value is not required for this faction’s owner.

Other Players: Docking at the Smuggler’s Alliance requires players to simultaneously dock at the Raiders’ Outpost. Then the player may raid four resources AND one Alien Tech card from any combination of opponents.
Faction Owner: Building a new ship at the Shipyard or acquiring the Relic Ship from Burroughs
Desert, allows you to immediately roll it and use it along with their other unplaced ships.

Other Players: Dock at the Scavenger Fleet to dock two unequal ships at the Shipyard and pay the usual costs to build a new ship.
Faction Owner: Pay two fuel to place one field generator token on the planet or remove one field generator token from the planet. The faction owner may not use this benefit to move a field generator from one territory to another. The faction owner may not place or remove more than one field generator per turn with this faction benefit.

Other Players: Dock at Proxima Centauri Scholars and pay one fuel to move a field generator token from one territory to another territory.

Faction Owner: When another player uses the Terraforming Station, their one fuel and one ore payment is given to the faction owner instead of the stocks. If the faction owner uses the Terraforming Station, their payment goes to the stocks as usual.

Other Players: To dock at New Gaia Engineers, a player must already be docked at the Terraforming Station. The player gets to re-roll the terraformed ship and place it back on the Terraforming Station. The result of the roll determines where the ship will go when it leaves the Terraforming Station, either on the player’s next turn or if blasted by the Plasma Cannon. If it is a 1, 2, or 3, the ship will go to the Maintenance Bay. If it is a 4, 5, or 6, the ship will go to the stocks.

Agenda Cards:
Agenda cards bring a new scoring element to Alien Frontiers. Each Agenda card has two conditional
situations. The condition on the left is an in-game situation that a player may reveal at the time they satisfy the condition to score 1VP. The condition on the right is an end-game situation that a player may reveal at the end of the game if they have satisfied the condition to score 1VP. Only one side of each Agenda can be scored.

Each player starts the game with two Agenda cards that they keep hidden until completed.

A player may have up to three total Agenda cards.

A player may dock a pair of ships at the Orbital Market to draw two new Agenda cards.

A player may keep or discard any of their new or hidden Agenda cards.

With one exception a player may never have more than three total Agenda cards.

When a player meets the condition on the Agenda card they may reveal it (flip it face-up) to score the VP.

Revealed Agenda cards may not be discarded and still count towards your limit of 3.

Ships docked at the Orbital Market may be used for trading or for obtaining new Agenda cards, but not both.

Agenda cards cannot be stolen via the Raiders’ Outpost.

Agenda cards may not be discarded by using the discard power of the Oscillation Capacitor.

If the Agenda deck is exhausted, reshuffle the discarded cards to form a new draw deck

New Alien Tech Cards:
Alien Tech was always my favourite strategy in the base game, sadly the Factions expansion only adds 8 cards. Most of the new cards all involve using fuel which makes solar energy a bit more valuable than in the base game, a bit of a disappointment was that only 1 of the new tech cards involves the new expansion components. However I do like how they give you more options to gain from your opponents' ships, diminishing the strategy to rush to construct more ships resulting in a bit more variance in strategy than the base game.

Should you buy this expansion?

I think Factions is a must for any fan of Alien Frontiers. If you enjoyed AF but felt something was missing, or it lost a bit of its flair then Factions has what you are looking for. I actually like using Alien Frontiers as an intro game because the rules are simple to learn but between bad rolls and player blocking you have to be very tactical but still have an overlaying strategy. Are the additional Factions expansion components enough to make AF an intense heavy game, no but definitely makes the game more fun and interesting without feeling like too much of the same. The agendas build on the feel that the game can change on the last turn and that anyone could come out on top. Also Factions gives you the option to add a 5th player which is good because you now have a lot more options to dock your ships at but at the same time bad because only 4 of the factions are equally balanced in my opinion. Ultimitely being able to give yourself one of the handicap factions that appear to benefit other players more than the faction owner might make AF a better intro experience.
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