Review – Xia: Legends of a Drift System

Background : (Why I got the game, skip if you don’t care about context)

A while back, I heard great things about Xia from a couple of different people. A guy at the local Trumpeteer Gaming club was drooling over the copy he’d gotten from the Kickstarter campaign, and it was mentioned by a couple of podcasts I’d listen to. I’ve gotten a bit burnt out on Kickstarter, after the Zombicide and Miskatonic School for Girls failed to live up to the hype. I’ve still got the bonus minis for Zombicide, which are apparently selling for a ton each, though not locally, and I’m trying to decide how best to sell them off.  With that in mind, I wasn’t sure how much of the game’s hype was the post-Kickstarter rationalization process and how much was legitimate appreciation. Anyways, the other night, I accidentally sold off some Warhammer stuff that I’d had kicking around the basement and managed to get a copy of Xia : Legends of a Drift System in trade for the balance.

The game is 3-5 players, and we happened to have 3 players over at my house last night. That gave us a choice between Xia and Dead of Winter, which I still haven’t played. Given that we’d spent a bit of time talking about Star Citizen that day, Xia was the obvious choice.

Components and Setup :

We opened the box and were impressed with the quality of the components. The materials feel great. Solid cardstock and a nice variety of pre-painted ships. And plenty of plastic storage bags for sorting out the components. It took us a bit of time to understand all the pieces and where they should go.

We watched the Tutorial video on FarOffGames site, it helped quite a bit, though it didn’t go into the mechanics much. We read the rules, played the into game, the one with the 5 point goal. It went quickly, with Dimestore almost wining the game in his first turn, through a nice bit of luck in the draws. The other player, Kilo, managed to blind jump into a star, killing himself instantly. With that under our belt, we reset the game and started up again.

First Real Game:

This time, we set the point counter at 10 and put together our ships. I made an attempt to travel into the the nebula to harvest plasma to sell on a nearby planet. I managed to get one cube worth of energy from the nebula before my ship’s power supply had been drained to the point where I was worried I wouldn’t make it back to the dock to recharge. Dimestore decided to try scanning for new systems, wary of blind jumping into danger. Kilo decided to pick up a couple of missions and managed to perform “Science!” on a local planet. Basically, the game was living up to the promise of being a sandbox. Dimestore blind jumped through the shields of one of the planets, getting himself a bounty in the process. We attempted to find the rules for getting rid of a bounty, but apparently you can’t buy them off, not that he really had the credits for it anyways. One of the discovered planets was willing to sell plasma so I was able to set up a nice trade route, running plasma from one planet to another. Kilo continued to perform missions while Dimestore explored, looking for a planet to deliver his mission to. He managed to find an amazingly powerful trade route, one that could be achieved twice during a single turn. These two trade routes turned into a race to see who could upgrade their ship the fastest, and we hit the 10 point marker before getting to play with the tier 3 ships. I think next time we’ll play a longer game.

We sorted out the components and cleaned up the game, and it’s definitely on our list to play again in the future. After that, I updated my game list over on Boardgamegeek, putting in ratings for a bunch of things we hadn’t bothered to rate.

Summary :

I like it, and I’ll play it again. It has a nice mix of space theme, cool mechanics and options for gaining Victory points. It is very much a sandbox game, which is something I’ve always been fond of in video games, but hadn’t really seen much of in the way of board games.

The models are all really neat and fairly distinctive. The ships each have their own special powers and the outfit system, which is basically an inventory-tetris mini-game for the various components and the cargo, works really well. I can imagine an expansion that includes missions with specific cargo requirements that would be really interesting.

It does require a decent amount of table space, and we probably need to come up with some better solutions for storing the outfits. While piling them up in stacks on the table sort of works, they tend to get messy once you start upgrading ships and moving them to make more space on the table.

I think one video game comparison would be FTL, though I’ve seen others compare it to Freelancer. Television wise, it’s clearly Firefly or maybe Red Dwarf. Or I suppose Cowboy Bebop.

I’m not sure how common the game is at this point, but it’s certainly not impossible to get currently, unlike a few other games I could mention. If someone in your local gaming circle has it, give it a try. If not, it might be worth getting, as the component are a good value for the cost and the game is quite a bit of fun.

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