The Phoenix Syndicate is a game we've been working on for a long time, and we're excited to have it completed and ready to show to the world!
Our goal was to build something with gameplay that's fun and interesting the first time you play, and still engaging after dozens of plays. Syndicate is, at its core, a network-building game with resource collection. It has a randomly built map and basic actions that you'll upgrade during play, and finding new ways to exploit its systems will happen every time you bring it to the table. It supports 2-4 players, and takes 60-90 minutes to play.
We also ran a Twitch stream on opening day with a runthrough of the rules:
With almost 400 pieces and over 100 cards, this is definitely our most packed box ever. Our MSRP will be $70, but Kickstarter backers will get the game for $55, over 20% off. Here's what's inside:
During setup, you'll randomly shuffle and arrange the 27 Galaxy Tiles to form the map. This means that every time you play, you get a unique, new arrangement of systems and connections. With so many possible layouts, each game will have that fresh exploration feel.
The Trade Route deck is the heart of the game: 77 cards, each showing three of the systems on the map. You'll claim these trade route cards, then try to build your network of agents to cover all the worlds shown. There is a face-up market for trade routes, and they accumulate bonus goods the longer they stay unclaimed. Secure a trade route to gain credits from it.
Your action board [PDF] forms the heart of your Syndicate's operations. It shows you the five basic actions you can take on your turn, and has space for your claimed trade route cards.
You can acquire upgrades which tuck under your basic actions. These upgrades remain in place for the rest of the game, an every time you take an action you'll also get to activate all its upgrades.
Agents, Bases and Ships
You'll spread your network of agents from system to system, and once you've got presence at a system you'll keep it. An agent gives you the opportunity to acquire goods from a system, and also to score credits (points) when a trade route is secured. You can use the Deploy action to convert an agent to a base, by stacking a second agent token on top of it. Bases do everything agents do, and also yield an extra credit for each trade route they're part of.
Ships allow you to spread agents to new systems. Agent tokens on the board never move, but your ships do, and any new system they reach will receive an agent. The gates connecting systems show the cost (in colored goods) for moving a ship through. You start the game with two ships in play in adjacent systems.
Each of the five colors has an associated guild you can infiltrate. Rising to the top of any guild track gives you the powerful one-time effect of its advantage card, and gives you end-game credits for embedding an agent there.
Profit? Right! The whole reason you're doing all this. Credit chips are gained by having agents on systems that match a trade route when it is secured. Some upgrades and advantages can be sources of credits as well. Whoever has the most credits at the end of the game will rise as the new Phoenix Syndicate.
The Phoenix Syndicate is a game with a lot of colors, on cards, cubes, and pieces. The four player colors should be reasonably distinct, but we'll be running our final pantone colors through the gauntlet of testing programs. We've tried to make the six color icons for goods as distinct as possible in print, and for the cubes, we'll be including four color-wheel hexes. If there's one or more colors you can't distinguish, you can store them next to the edge that matches the good type's icon picture. The most similar colors are on opposite edges.
The core turn structure is simple - take one of the five basic actions displayed on your Action Board [PDF]. To take an action, you remove its Director cube, meaning that you can't take that same action again until it's replaced. Here are the five actions:
The Deploy action lets you convert one agent into a base, by spending 4 goods matching the color of its system. You also get to advance in the matching guild, moving your agent on the guild board up by one level. Then, you can claim one of the trade routes in the market if it shows a system where you have a base.
A base is worth 2 credits (instead of 1 for an agent) each time its system is on a secured trade route. Only one base can be in each system, so if you get there before an opponent, they're unable to build one.
Infiltrate lets you take one of the five available upgrade cards, and tuck it under the appropriate action on your board. Then, you can advance your agents on the guild board by spending 4 matching goods per agent. Each can only advance once.
Upgrade cards enhance your basic actions, giving them extra effects for the rest of the game. Advancing on the guild board brings you closer to gaining guild advantages, one-time bonus effects that you gain immediately once an agent becomes embedded in that guild. Embedded agents also score end-game credits.
The Expand action lets you grow your network of agents. First, open any number of gates by placing matching cubes on the board. Then, each of your ships can move through any number of the gates you just opened. If the final destination of that ship is a system where you have no base or agent, you place a new agent there. Then, all the cubes are discarded from the board, closing the gates. (Note: In this prototype, ships are cylinders. We'll be finishing that model before print.)
System tiles don't have gates on every edge. If there's no gate, but you want to connect through a blank edge, you have to use deep space transit. It costs 5 cubes (one of each color), which is more expensive, but sometimes it's what you have to do!
With so many ways to spend cubes, you probably want a way to acquire them, and Smuggle is the means to do so. Your ships can relocate to any systems where you have an agent or base. Then, you collect goods from the supply for each of them.
Every system produces 6 goods, as shown on the tile. Most systems produce 4 goods matching their planet, and 2 matching the planet's moon.
When you use any of the other four actions, you set aside its Director cube. Scheme allows you to place your Directors back on all the actions, so you can use them again. You also acquire 1 black (wild) good for each Director placed. After replacing Directors, you claim a Trade Route by spending 4 matching goods.
All five of the actions are valuable in advancing your position in the game in various ways. Unlike many games, this "refresh" turn isn't a simple pass - Scheme is an important action beyond its ability to allow you to take the other four actions again!
Securing Trade Routes
The primary way to earn credits is by securing trade routes. When a trade route is secured, look at each system on it. Every player earns 1 credit if they have an agent there, or 2 for a base. The player who secured the trade route card then might get a bonus - 4 additional credits if they were at all three systems, or 2 additional credits for just two of the three systems.
Trade routes are secured at the end of your turn if you have more than two on your Action Board. They're also secured at the end of the game, so once you have a trade route on your Action Board, it's guaranteed to be secured at some point.
When a player has placed all of their agents, either on the board or on the Guild tracks, the final round is triggered. Players complete a round so that each has had an equal number of turns, and then they each get one additional turn. After that, all remaining claimed trade routes are secured, and each player gets a bonus of 1/3/6/10/15 credits for 1/2/3/4/5+ embedded agents (agents that reached a Guild Advantage card).
If you have the most credits, you rise to become the new Phoenix Syndicate!
The Phoenix Syndicate is the first published design by Ted and Rebecca Vessenes, longtime friends of the Asmadi Games team. Ted was the lead developer for Spirit Island, and they were core playtesters for both Innovation and Glory to Rome.
We've been tinkering with the game off and on for the past ten years, trying to get it just right. By a wide margin, this is the most playtested game we've ever worked on. Many times it's been decent and maybe even sellable, but this year we blew some things up and rebuilt most of the core gameplay. It's finally something we consider great, and we're really excited about that!
Thanks go out to the countless playtesters, both in our local game groups, and for the past several years at Gen Con. Every piece of feedback is something we've considered, and we wouldn't be ready to release without it.
We're 90% done with all the print assets for the game, all that's left to do is final rulebook layout and some modeling work to shape the Agent and Ship tokens just right. Our aim is to be in production in December, for a release early next year.
For this campaign, we'll only be accepting pledges from US addresses. There're a number of supporting reasons for this including volatile international shipping costs, pending import/export tariffs, and the size of the game, but the key one is that we think folks outside the US will get the game faster through traditional distribution. Our experiences with international shipping hubs have not been great.
There are only two backer levels, for one or two copies of the game. We're keeping things as simple as possible. The Phoenix Syndicate's target MSRP is $70, so you'll save more than 20% by backing the campaign. If you're a retailer, we're happy to sell you copies at wholesale either through our distribution network or directly, once the game is released. Shoot us a message and we'll get you set up!
Risks and challenges
Phoenix Syndicate is a bigger box game than most of our small products, but we have done games with lots of bits before (Fealty, Penny Press), so we have experience shipping them. All of the art and design and game is done, so there really aren't any delays to be had in that realm -- the game's been in development for quite a while, after all!
If we run into difficulties with our factory or part sources, we'll communicate those issues to our backers transparently and quickly. We're excited to get this game out to everyone, so we'll try our best to make it happen on schedule.
Our funding goal is enough to produce a modest print run of the game. The more we raise, the more copies we'll print!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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