Fluffy Frontier Preview

Fluffy Frontier
Ion Game Design
Björn Ekenberg
Anne Isaksson
2–4 Players
Action programming with some chaos

Space, the final frontier…for our pets? In Fluffy Frontier, the terrestrial animals you know and love are actually aliens that secretly run our space agencies.  And in 2061, the return of Halley’s comet has prompted some of these intrepid animal astronauts to head into space to gather resources and conduct experiments.

But to maintain the ignorance of us humans, these various aliens are sharing a single spaceship, and they’ll be stepping on each other’s paws as they harvest valuable resources and engage in groundbreaking research.

Will your furry astronaut come out on top?  Find out in this Kickstarter preview of Fluffy Frontier!


We were provided a prototype of Fluffy Frontier for preview, with the option of requesting a completed copy.  We weren’t otherwise compensated.  All images are either of that prototype or from the Fluffy Frontier Kickstarter campaign page.


Fluffy Frontier is an action selection/programming game, where the goal is to score as many points as you can over the course of 5 rounds.  These points come from completed experiments, either your own or those done using your home nation’s resources.  But you’ll want to be considerate with taking on projects, because each incomplete experiment loses you points at the end of the game.

 

Each of the 5 rounds happens in 2 phases, the Comet phase and the Ship phase.

This site tile represents the surface of the comet and the resources available.

 

The comet phase is all about planning your actions and gathering resources as the players explore the comet’s surface.  Now, like we mentioned, this is a stealth mission, so one of the unique things about Fluffy Frontier is that all players will be sharing a single Lander craft that they’ll move around the comet’s face to pick up the resources they need to complete experiments and earn those precious points!

Each player has a set of 8 action tiles, 7 of which are identical and one of which is their unique player ability. 

At the beginning of the comet phase, a new comet tile comes out and gets seeded with resources.  Then each player secretly selects their actions for the round.   These actions revolve around moving the lander, using it to gather up resources, drawing new experiments, and reserving the precious lab space that you’ll use in the Ship phase.

Once everyone picks their 4 tiles and locks them in, players take turns revealing tiles and taking actions.  Since everyone takes their first action, then everyone takes their second, and so on, you don’t have a tremendous amount of control over where the Lander is, so part of the strategy of Fluffy Frontier is doing the best with your actions with the understanding that you won’t always get to do exactly what you wanted.

Only one animal per lab makes for some very tight quarters in a four player game.

After all players have taken all their actions, we move into the Ship phases.  Here, players will try to do experiments using the resources they gathered.  Experiments come in 3 types, but there is only 1 lab facility of each type on your very cramped ship, so unless you booked a lab during the Comet phase, you’ll need to spend knowledge to gain access to the general lab.  If you don’t manage to book or pay for a lab, you’ll at least gain some knowledge for use later on.

Conducting experiments means revealing what you’re working on to the table, committing resources to it, and then rolling a die to try and meet or exceed that experiment’s target value.  You can also add additional knowledge to lower the threshold of success, but keep in mind a 1 always fails.  That’s just science, baby!

Successful experiments get you points, and some of them even give you resource income every round.  You will also tag your successful experiments with ‘alien supplies’ which is to say marking them with a player’s home nation for bonus points.  This isn’t optional, so you’ll ideally have gathered alien supplies of your own nation so that you aren’t giving those bonus points away to other players.

Curses! We had to use American supplies on this mission.

Failing an experiment isn’t a disaster – you get your resources back to try again next round – but any knowledge you spent is lost, and now your opponents know what sort of experiments you’re working on, meaning they might just book that lab you need ahead of you if they can, to make sure you either have to pay extra knowledge to do your experiment, or not be able to do it at all.  Hey, no one said science was nice!

There are a ton of contracts in the game so remember, if you have a hard time with one you can always use the Research action to get a new one.

After 5 rounds of exploration and experiments, each critter cosmonaut tallies up their points from completed experiments, as well as bonus points from any experiment that was sealed with their nation’s supplies, no matter which player completed them, and then losing points for any incomplete experiments they’re still holding.  In the end, the alien astronaut with the most points wins!

 

Jess
Jess
Fluffy Frontier has some really interesting concepts in its design.  The idea of an action programming game where players share the same piece is both strategically engaging and also challenging, because everyone obviously wants to gather the right resources within the limited window of every Comet phase, but the shared lander means that you’ll never really be able to predict where you’ll be taking your actions from.
Andrew
Andrew
And to be honest, that’s going to be a point of contention for some players, since the concept of programming actions is inherently about forethought and planning, and you can only do a limited amount of it here, with the degree of chaos only going up with each additional player.  That didn’t bother us, though – we enjoyed the mechanism, and liked having to adapt as well as we could to each other’s actions and decisions.
Jess
Jess
What we did find a bit frustrating were the experiment failure rules.  A flat 1-in-6 chance to completely fail an experiment was aggravated by the fact that you lose spent knowledge every time.  You effectively only have 5 attempts to complete your experiments at most, and while we absolutely applaud the design decision to let you keep your resources from failed experiments, in a 4-player game where lab space is always heavily contested and you might find yourself paying an astonishing 4 knowledge to get access to the general lab, losing a cube or 2 because you rolled a 1 can literally set you back a whole round of progress.  And in a game with just 5 rounds of gameplay, that can make a serious dent.  That’s science, baby?

In the end, we found Fluffy Frontier to be an interesting mix.  We enjoyed the action selection gameplay core, but didn’t love some things about the experiment completion and the general claustrophobia of higher player counts.  But for players who think they might enjoy a strategic game with some chaotic elements tossed in, then we suggest heading over to the Fluffy Frontier Kickstarter page and checking it out for yourselves!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: