Theme and What is it?
As new alien worlds are discovered, galactic warlords go to battle to bring them into their empires. Sending soldiers adapted to each unique environment, the warlords carefully plan the details of their attack. At their disposal are numerous tactics ranging from brute force to dirty tricks all the while keeping a watchful eye on the population of each world, waiting for the perfect moment to strike and seize CONTROL!
Sword of the Stars: Control! is card game of planetary battles for three to five players. There are six suits representing the armies best suited for each of the six worlds as well as special operations cards representing various acts of espionage, sabotage, and defensive operations. A typical game of Control! is played over three rounds, each representing a grand military campaign. Players will battle over six planet cards, primarily through the deployment of Army cards which range in value from 2 to 9 and come in six different suits which correlate to the specific planet on which each card may be used. Each campaign will last until a Cease Fire card is drawn.
To setup each round, the Cease Fire card is shuffled into the bottom 15 cards of the main deck which includes all Army and SpecOps cards. The planet cards all have their population slider set to “1” and each player is dealt six cards. On a player’s turn they will first draw a card. On a player’s turn they also have the option to conduct special operations through playing a SpecOps card at any time indicated by the specific card. There are many different types of SpecOps cards and their effects range from looking at an opponent’s cards to forcing them to discard cards or allowing you to reinforce one of your planets.
They may also choose to invade a planet held by another player and may only invade one planet per turn. When a player invades a planet, they must play cards with a higher sum total than any existing cards on the planet, representing the planet’s garrison. If the invasion is successful, the population slider is increased by the number of cards defeated. The invading cards become the new garrison to defend against future invasions. Finally, the player must discard down to six cards.
Once the Cease Fire card is drawn, play continues once more around the table, ending with the player who drew the cease fire, thus ending the campaign. Players earn points for any planets under their control. A planet’s value is equal to its population plus the value of the garrison. At the end of the War, usually three campaigns, the player with the highest overall total from the previous campaigns is the winner with multiple tiebreakers available in the effort to prevent a tie.
I like the universe of Sword of the Stars from my time with the various computer games within the IP and I also enjoy lite card games with quick, tactical gameplay so I was certainly very interested to see what Control brought to the genre.
Game Build Quality
I previewed a prototype of the game and therefore cannot comment on final component quality.
The art on the cards uses a lot of vibrant colors evocative of the IP and the various suits presently have color schemes that clearly associate them with the proper planet yet is unobtrusive to the gameplay. The planet cards feature colorful worlds and that planet’s specific symbology. I am told that the backs of the planet cards will ultimately include some Lore and Race art to deepen the immersion.
Age Range & Weight
The box suggests ages 8 and up and I would agree. Mechanically the game is pretty simple. Children of that age might have difficulty planning the optimal time to use the SpecOps cards, but they should be able to manage the basics of invading planets and defeating garrisons.
Sword of the Stars: Control! is a fun card game with a quick play time in a setting I enjoy. The game is relatively light, but there are opportunities for nuanced approaches just within the use of army cards and determining when to strike and how many cards to use in your efforts to raise the population for more victory points. The SpecOps cards add some tactical options into the mix and run the gamut from nicely informative to wildly useful. The rules suggests that a game last for three campaigns, but players are free to shorten or lengthen the game based on their preferences. This gives the game great flexibility on game night. Sword of the Stars: Control! is live on Kickstarter now. The creators have told me that given the reception and final funding they hope to add more Army cards, SpecOps cards and add Lore and Race art to the backs of the Planet cards. If you like light, tactical card play then I suggest you check out the project, doubly so if you are a fan of the Sword of the Stars universe.