Behind The Scenes at Xeno Explorations, Inc.
When I heard that the first real expansion for Alien Frontiers was going
to be called Factions, I assumed that character roles were going to be added to
the game. This is similar to what was added to Kingsburg, and the focus in
Talisman and Cosmic Encounter (the latter being one of my favorite games). The
AF: Factions prototype arrived and I found my assumptions correct, with many of
the factions focusing on specific orbital facilities or an alien tech power.
Play testing the factions offered similar enjoyment to playing alien races for
Cosmic Encounter, and it wasn't long before I started thinking about making factions
of my own for Alien Frontiers.
Alien Frontiers focuses on planetary colonization, but it doesn't
have much in the way of planetary exploration. I wanted to add more discovery
to the game. When I think of space exploration, I imagine space capsules,
flags, golf clubs, land rovers, and buggies. One of my favorite exploration
factions is the company "InterPlanetary Expeditions (IPX)" from Babylon5.
I also wanted to add a new component to the game, a space buggy that could be
moved around the board. No matter the game, win or lose, it is fun to move a
space buggy on a board.
So, I had a theme and idea, but how would it actually work? I felt
that the IPX faction should emulate the Data Crystal Alien Tech card. The general
idea was that you start the game with your space buggy (which I called the REV
for R.emote E.xploration V.ehicle) already on the planet and it gave you a
territory bonus as long as the REV was on the territory alone. This would be a
great starting power that would get weaker as players landed colonies on the
planet. You would need to keep the REV moving around to vacant territories
until it wasn't worth it. I tested my new faction along with the others from
the beta kit and it held its own pretty well.
Factions was pushing ahead on the fast track so there wasn't much
time to polish IPX, but when I found out that David and Tory were planning to
offer a "bonus Kickstarter faction", I suggested IPX to them. I touted
that I had already done some play testing with it and told them that getting a
land rover toy into the game would be really cool. They thought about it,
offered some tweaks to simplify the REV mechanics to allow both the faction
owner and the other players to utilize the REV, did some more play testing to
make sure it all worked, and gave it a spiffy new name so that J. Michael
Strazynski wouldn't sue them. Thus was born, "Xeno Explorations,
The thing I really like about "Xeno" is that it gives the
geography of planet Maxwell meaning. You can only move to adjacent territories
and, while everyone has the potential to use the REV for their own goals, only
the faction owner has the chance to "double move" by combining the
owner benefit and the facility benefit, giving them access to ANY territory
bonus on the planet. Finally, you have to keep the REV moving for it to be
effective, so it is a nice dynamic element that fits the faction's
As for "Xeno" strategy... Timing is everything and Proxima
Centauri Scholars are your enemies. Their field generators can lock up your REV
or block the territory bonuses you're trying to exploit.
It has been a privilege for me to give something back to Alien
Frontiers and to Tory for designing this wonderful game.
[David's Note: This is an early version of the Faction Pack #1 box art (note the as yet empty back panel) and I forgot to tell Karim to add Brandon's name to the box art. In the final version it will say by Tory Niemann & Brandon Freels]
The Xeno Explorations, Inc. faction will be the primary component of Faction
Pack #1, a booster for the Alien Frontiers: Factions game expansion. Faction
Pack #1 will also include a plastic REV token, a new Alien Tech card called
Seismic Detonator, and two new Agenda cards. Faction Pack #1 is a free reward
for most pledge levels on the Kickstarter and Springboard campaigns for Alien
Frontiers: Factions and will be available in retail stores at a cost of $10
beginning in April 2012. Faction Pack #1 is not a stand-alone game.