High Frontier (2nd ed)
High Frontier is an amazing piece of work. Designer Phil Eklund is a rocket scientist and has used his expert knowledge to produce a game about the exploration and development of the solar system. Players are major players on the world stage, acquiring technology and building spaceships to send on missions. There are victory points to be gained from exploring, but the major goal is to construct extra-terrestrial factories. These let you manufacture better technology than
can be produced on Earth and thus build much better spaceships.
All the technology in the game is real and the board shows the inner solar system (the expansion board adds Jupiter and Saturn, left). Planets, moons, asteroids and comets are joined by low-energy Hohmann orbits, which players' spaceships use. The tricky part is constructing a spaceship that can carry enough fuel (reaction mass, to be more accurate)
for the journey. More fuel = more mass, which requires more fuel...
Once you have mastered this, you can move on to the advanced rules and the expansion set. These not only make constructing spaceships more complex, but also introduce radiation hazards, political considerations and combat. All in all, High Frontier is a terrific experience and a really absorbing challenge. The latest printing has sold out – I expect it to return in due course.
If you want more – starting with the planets of the outer solar system – High Frontier: Colonization is the second edition expansion for High Frontier. As the name suggests, it also adds Colonies and Colonists to the game, as well as providing several other options.
For 2-5 players, aged 12+, 3 hours to play