Alien Frontiers Review

Alien Frontiers board game in play

Another game that I've looked forward to playing for quite a while is Alien Frontiers.

In Alien Frontiers, each player takes on a fleet of ships (dice) trying to successfully colonize a distant planet. On each turn, the player rolls the dice representing ships and, depending on what he rolls, can perform different actions. Some actions reward you for having numbers that match, some reward sequential numbers, some are useful when rolling high, others low, and some don't care at all. What affects this even more is that what you can do is dependent on what your opponents have done before you - if the spots on the board are already occupied, then you cannot place your ships there (unless you shoot them off with a Plasma Cannon). Anyway, each turn, after rolling, you decide where each of your dice are placed; but with the ultimate goal of placing colonies on the planet (there are three actions that directly help you with that goal). The game continues like this until one player has successfully placed all of their colonies - at which point the player with the most points (from colonies and Alien Technologies) is the winner.

The first thing that I love about Alien Frontiers is how the dice are used (which is good, because this is how the entire game flows). I have heard that Kingsburg has dice mechanics that work similarly, but I've not played it, so I can't really say too much here (except that I like this mechanic enough in Alien Frontiers that I'm motivated to go try Kingsburg, too). What is brilliant about Alien Frontiers is that the dice add an element of random to the game, and yet there isn't a "bad roll." Obviously, on some turns you really need to roll a certain way, and if you don't then you will be frustrated but, in general, you always have options available to you; it is simply a matter of making the best of your options. (Plus, there are certain Alien Technologies that allow you to change the numbers on the dice, which adds yet another strategic element to the game.)

The next thing that I like about Alien Frontiers is the bonuses - both from having Alien Technologies and from controlling certain areas on the planet. These bonuses are valuable enough in the game that they are worth pursuing; and yet, they are not so powerful that the person with the most will win (with Alien Techs at least - you do win by having tons of colony bonuses because that means you've placed tons of colonies). Because of this, each player must decide carefully between how many Techs he needs and how often you should use your dice to pursue other interests - such as getting a colony closer to launch.

The final pro that I will note about Alien Frontiers is how player interaction works. Granted, I (to this point) have been too nice during the game and have not attempted to destroy my enemies' fleets yet, but I like the different ways that players have of interacting. You can never affect another player when it is not your turn, but you can really wreak some havoc when it is. Specifically, one of the locations allows you to rob other players of resources and/or Alien Tech cards (if you roll three sequential numbers). This can be quite useful. Another way that you can affect other players is with Alien Tech cards. However, to keep this in check, you normally have to lose your Alien Tech to drastically impact another player - and this is a very steep price! Therefore, the game is setup so that you can definitely interact with ("attack") each other (and get rewarded for doing so), but has also implemented measures to keep the game from becoming an all-out war game, which I appreciate (after all, I play stuff like Risk 2210 A.D. when I want to do that).

The only real con that I have for Alien Frontiers is that the last few turns can really turn into quite a bit of "Analysis Paralysis". After the first game or two, turns will really go fairly quickly since players will know where their dice can be placed and have a general strategy... until the end. The last couple rounds of the game can lead to significant over-analyzing from normally quick players. This is really a situation that occurs in a ton of very good games (Power Grid comes to mind), but is still fairly annoying when it happens.

Overall, I give Alien Frontiers a 9.0/10. I really enjoyed my time with this game, and, as hard as it is to live up to several months' worth of hype, Alien Frontiers did not disappoint my expectations.  I can see myself continuing to play this dozens more times!

Value diversity of opinion? You can also see an Alien Frontiers Review from the Board Game Family, or another review of Alien Frontiers by Games with Two. But you might also want to check out Steam: Rails to Riches, Stone Age, and Bootleggers.

I would like to thank Clever Mojo Games.  Whereas this is where I normally tell you that a game company has sent me a demo copy to review, that is not true of this title (though I have been promised a copy from the third printing to replace my copy that got damaged in a tornado).  I actually pre-ordered a copy of the second printing of Alien Frontiers and wrote this review based off of that.  However, after the tornado, I received immense amounts of support from the fine men that run Clever Mojo Games.  David MacKenzie sent me three boxes full of games from his personal collection to help restore my collection and to donate to the people of Joplin - and many of these were very good, sometimes rare titles, many of which were still in the packaging!  Not only did David send me games, but Fred MacKenzie followed suit by sending me several more games.  This company is truly run by very giving individuals who love the hobby of gaming, and I cannot encourage you enough to go support them by purchasing Alien Frontiers and any other games that they come out with.


  1. Josh, This was a very nice review. I agree, the crew over at Clever Mojo Games are very generous and deserve that plug at the end. Some day I hope you and I can meet up and get to play a great game like Alien Frontiers. I'm not sure how you can keep spirits up and keep these reviews coming like you do with all that has happened with the Tornado, but I have to say, I admire you a lot. Thanks for the inspiration! -Shawn-

  2. Sounds like a fun game. Your description of the game did sound to me right off a lot like Kingsburg (which I have played), though reading further it sounds a bit more complex.

  3. This sounds really fun. Really appreciated the quick summary of mechanics. I'll be picking this one up. Thanks!