Board Games

Beyond Engine-Building

Beyond the Sun manages to capture the best parts of an engine-building/resource management game within a midweight family game timeframe. Beyond the Sun is by designer Dennis Chan and published by Rio Grande Games. Beyond the Sun has received many praises for its innovative design, but the design feels less creative and more refined. It seems like Dennis Chan squeezed the crude oil of engine-building and refined it into a high octane fuel.

Beyond the Sun is a 2-4 player game which takes anywhere from 60-120 minutes. However, even the most AP-prone players will allow you to finish games in the lower half of that time frame. In Beyond the Sun, you play as a space-faring corporation that will colonize planets and advance up a shared technology tree. Each turn, you take your tall, hexagonal worker and place them on an available worker placement location. You then take action like researching a tech, building ships, or generating income. In the game, you are balancing an economy of dice, which represent either humans or vessels. You are also trying to make sure you never run out of ore because it seems everything in space requires ore. There are four achievements available to the players, and once a certain number of achievements have been claimed, the game ends!

Nothing about Beyond the Sun’s exterior confirms the solid gameplay inside. The first play I had with the game, I was lukewarm walking away. Revisiting the game has slowly teased out the masterful details of design that Dennis Chan weaved into this one. I admit I have never played this at four players, but at 2-3, what a masterpiece! Changing the direction of the tech tree to either shut out opponents or advance your plan offers a plethora of decisions. My biggest issue with engine-building games tends to be that players aren’t interacting and cannot interact with each other’s engines. Beyond the Sun avoids this issue entirely by having everyone fight over bits and pieces of the same machine. Even though the game is quick, there also feels like there is plenty of room to pivot your strategy as things unfold.

Beyond the Sun reminds me most of Race for the Galaxy and Curious Cargo. In the advanced two-player variant, Race for the Galaxy is a crazy pit fight for resources and goals as you try to outmaneuver your opponent. In Curious Cargo, the bonuses you receive from your actions are what keeps your strategy alive. Beyond the Sun marries both of these concepts perfectly. Players are constantly tearing away at the tech tree, getting bonuses and catapulting themselves further utilizing the immediate bonuses and colonization bonuses. Also, thanks to the simplified economy, it is effortless to forecast what your opponent is doing and do something about it.

Beyond the Sun is what I wanted in Terraforming Mars. It is a game that is quick, satisfying, and meaty. The economy management is so incredibly tight where each ore and human is worth it. It also is a race to finish the achievements, which forces efficiency out of players. While Terraforming Mars is the epitome of bloat at the end of the game, Beyond the Sun slams the door shut and has you sitting, dreaming of possibilities.

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