Sidereal Confluence: Alien Shoutfest

Sidereal Confluence: Alien Shoutfest

Say the name. Speak it aloud. The very syllables conjure up digital armies of robots in a technocratic future where Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Terminator all beam themselves into your every dream.

In today’s world, however, Sidereal Confluence is only a board game. And I use the word “Board” loosely here – as outside from your player mats, there’s no board to deal with. Only cards. Many, many, many cards.

At its core, this game is about colored cubes and changing those cubes into different colors. It’s an engine-building game that takes the solitaire elements of building your own magical machine and throws them into a black hole. No, S.C. says, if you want to be efficient, you’re going to have to use your words.

Because S.C. is kinda like playing Space U.N. – every player gets a species, either by choice or by the more-appropriate random deal, like the evolution of life on a planet. When I played, it was as a swarm of wasp-like creatures that, unfortunately, couldn’t use their massive stingers to simply eliminate anyone that didn’t agree to my terms.

Each of these species have unique quirks that generally amount to being able to efficiently produce y by transforming x but they really want z. You’ve got to hope someone really wants that y and is willing to give you that z or you’re toast. Even if those desires exist, if you’ve got a table crowded with competing species yelling at each other over every 10 minute trading session, it’s hard to know what’s going on and agreements often become a matter of whip-cracking instinct rather than thought-out deals.

It’s thrilling, and it’s always satisfying to mesh a bunch of cubes together and produce profit.

It’s very much not clear, though, who’s winning or why. I was on the end of the (rectangular) table and had little clue what was going on down at the other end, much less any real chance to make deals with those species. When the game ended, nearly everyone was surprised at their own score relative to anyone else. Everyone agreed they’d play better next time, now that they understood.

But S.C. took us nearly 3 hours to stumble through a game, and I’m not convinced you’d have any better bead on your competition the next time around. For a game so bent on wheeling and dealing, it helps to know if the person demanding your beautiful gray wild cube is in the lead or far behind.

It’s also a matter of knowing how the other species work – you’ll know to charge more when selling a planet if the species buying it devours them to survive.

The one plus to all the obfuscation? You won’t know if you’re really losing till you’ve lost, which can help keep the chase interesting.

S.C.’s structure also lends itself to larger groups, as there’s very little downtime and the majority of the game happens simultaneously for everyone, keeping the action going. It’ll take you hours, but you’ll be doing things for the majority of those hours, even with a group like our 8-person monster.

So if bartering and running economic engines drenched in science fiction sounds like a win for your group, I’d give S.C. a chance. I would recommend, though, playing around a circular table and, especially for the first game, making clear that folks shouldn’t expect to have a hundred-percent grasp of everything that’s going on.

And make sure everyone has something to drink – you’ll be talking a lot, saying strange names, and if you’re any good at all, bringing the space wasps to their much-deserved galactic dominance.

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