Ante Up for Space Pirates Plus Poker Strategy
Time: 1-2 hours
Gamer Type: casual to hardcore
Game Type: strategy/gambling
Some games are works of art. Others are mechanical marvels (in terms of game mechanics, that is). Antematter by Bardshark is one of those that contains both elements to make an exceptional game. A strong board game system with exceptional artwork is one that collectors have to play, but can also enjoy for its aesthetics.
According to the publisher, “Antematter combines tabletop strategy and poker in a first-of-its-kind board game, putting you in command of a smuggler crew that lives or dies by your wit and grit. Take control of a band of space pirates, gunrunners, privateers or missionaries as you gamble, smuggle, steal, and grift your way to victory…You’ll command 3 ships to send your crew around the Conflux in search of treasure, and their unique abilities will help you make the most of your Fleet.”
Antematter is a combination of space opera and cyberpunk. You are a operator competing for a seat at the table with rivals. You must challenge your peers to prove that you are worthy for the spot. This really immerses each player in the gambling/smuggling aspects of the game and earns Bardshark a 7.5 out of 10 in the story category for its freshman offering.
As noted above, the art is outstanding. The board and cards stop short of the MTG masterpiece level of card design; however, the realism and surrealism in the cards make the game a treat to play. It comes in a standard size box, which is handy, and the pieces can easily be stored in the box without it tearing. The minis also provide a nice touch. Rating: 8 out of 10.
A space game needs good mechanics. The nerds, fanboys, and critics will eat the creator alive, figuratively speaking, if they are just playing monopoly in outer space. Antematter offers unique movement and interaction mechanics that make it a lot of fun, but different enough so that you feel you have not played something similar before.
Randomization mechanics is one of my favorite parts of the game. Antematter takes classic Texas Hold ’em and used it to randomize the game, similar to what Doomtown did with draw and stud poker. The unique element is that, while still random, there is planning (holding cards and building crew) and general skill at poker in all of the randomized elements. This makes for an interesting game that causal gamers and hardcore wargamers alike can enjoy. Antematter thus earns an 8.5 of 10 for mechanics..
This game contains all four strategy fundamentals (offense, defense, rush, and engine building); some of the elements are present, however, in the specific factions. If you get a faction, for example, that falls short of matching your play style, you may not have your pet strategy to fall back on. This may annoy “drone” players, i.e., those who do the same thing every time.
This element does, however, open the door for Antematter to be a solid tournament game. While it is a little long for the competitive scene, it has a way of forcing participants to play outside of their comfort zone. This requires more skill rather than an “if I do the same thing every time, I will win every time” type of game. Once again, this aspect may annoy “professional” gamers, but it will facilitate those who are skill (rather than system) gamers. Strategy rating: 8 of 10.
This game does not “presume” itself. Once you play it, you will understand what I mean. It is what it is, and it is effective at what it does. Too many 4x games (Antematter is borderline 4x) try to do too much. This game avoids doing that. You can tell that it was painstakingly play-tested by the publisher before it was released. You will see mechanics that you recognize and some that are new to the genre. As such, this game is quite novel in how it is built. Thus, it earns an 8 of 10 for novelty.
It is no secret that 4x games do well in this system. With a s total score of 40, Antematter is a powerhouse game that ranks with OP Arena, Silver River, and Catan. I would not put this in the entry-level game category, but it is simple enough for most novice gamers to learn quickly. And hardcore gamers can balance the skill and randomness of the poker style to really fine-tune their ability to employ strategy.
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