Theme&andn’What is it?
Coper is the Where, Vertium is the What
Refugees of Earth, banished from their home, explore the galaxy and find planets in the Coper system full of a powerful new element called Vertium. The factions of refugees struggle against one another for control of these planets and their deposits of Vertium. First the planets must be colonized to establish a foothold and then the real battle begins.
Small box but lots inside, more so than expected from what I could tell was a low complexity game. Once again, reading the rules gave some fits in the setup and gameplay.
Phase 1: Colonize, Phase 2: Fight!
The goal of Vertium is to have the most Victory Points at the end of Phase 2 with ties broken by total planet/moon values controlled.
Choose your faction and gather your pieces. Lay out planets (face up) and orange moons (face down) randomly based upon the number of players. Randomly assign the three blue moons face down, each to a planet. Shuffle deck of resources, deal 6 to each player, and place 2 face up next to the deck to form the Supply. Shuffle the Secret Objective cards for the planets played and randomly deal 1 to each player. Flip over the orange moons.
There are two phases to gameplay. First phase is Colonization. During a player’s turn they try to make sets of resources to apply Colonization Tokens to planets, one type of resource per planet. When a player places the fourth resource, he gains control of the planet by placing a Captain meeple on the planet and is awarded a number of Vertium crystals equal to the number on the orange moon.
From this point forward until the end of the phase, the moon will begin orbiting the planet; once a moon makes a full revolution, another Veritum is generated. Once all of the planets are colonized, the end of the phase is reached and Phase 1 scoring is done.
Second phase is Battling. There are 3 rounds during this phase where each faction gets an opportunity to attack a planet; the order of attacking is based upon the rank of VP from Phase 1.
During a player’s turn they send one of their Captains and a number of Vertium, representing their power, to another planet in effort to take it over; at least 1 Vertium must remain and is turned into a Captain meeple to show ownership of the planet. When two factions battle, they roll dice to see if they hit or defend against attacks. Any hits not stopped remove 1 Vertium from the other side and if no Veritum are available, the Captain meeple is destroyed, thus ending the battle.
Once the battle rounds are complete, final scoring is tallied.
The game comes with two mini expansions, a co-op variant, and solo variant that provide more variety to the gameplay. There are also alternate rules for running Phase 2.
The components of the game are tokens, playmats, meeples, cards, and dice. The tokens and playmats are made of cardboard with some being prepunched in the box. The presses did a good job with the unpunched items as they came out easily with no issue. The cards are standard cardstock, nothing special. The meeples are generic wood cutouts and painted. The dice are custom for the game and look pretty good.
Simple Yet Functional
The artwork matches the theme and is functional. It isn’t attributed to anyone for credit. The most interesting and intricate piece is the box cover, also reused for the backs of the playing cards.
Little Bit of Something for Everyone
This game scratches two different itches. The first is for a strategic element for colonizing the planets. The second is for pure dice-chuckin’ fun.
The age range starts at 9, which makes sense for the complexity for the strategy and game length, even though the game has many tiny components for choking hazards. The complexity is low given the first phase is primarily about set collection and then the second is rolling dice.
Two Different Games
I found this game to be two different games. Based upon the theme’s lore, it is understandable but still felt disjointed. The game starts off in Phase 1 with strategy with a little randomness given card drafting for the set collection to colonize the planets. This can take awhile as the players are playing chicken to see who will get the planet to the third resource so it can be finally colonized potentially on the next turn.
Then Phase 2 is all about the randomness with dice rolling using very limited choice by players for augmenting a dice roll result.
Depending on how well a player did in colonizing in the first phase, there might be a runaway winner as a foregone conclusion OR a player who did really well in their Phase 1 completely falls apart in Phase 2 because of bad dice rolls and there is little to nothing they can do about it.
I maybe see this game as more of an intro in 4X games given that it has maybe 3 of the Xs fleshed out to some extent, but they aren’t used concurrently. I would have liked to have seen more of the theme and story incorporated with like unique faction powers, distance between planets taken into account, etc. but that, of course would’ve, driven the complexity up and maybe some of the flexibility down.
Item of note: there is a rules variant for running Phase 2 called “American Style Battling”, though I don’t understand why it’s called that. It conjures up terms that might offend some players (“Ameritrash” and the like) or turn them off from the game. It probably would have been better to call it “SOAR Style Battling” given the in-game history of the faction are descendants from North America.