Full disclosure: A preview copy of The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby was provided by BARD Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game. Also, while I don’t charge for Kickstarter previews, the publisher was charged a rush fee due to the tight timeline they needed the review completed in.
Two Kickstarter games this week! It’s like I’m almost back to normal. Or never wasn’t normal. Hard to say. Either way, this one’s coming from BARD Games, publishers of Fickle, that fairy game I was playing a while back (surprisingly good; still very impressed). This time it’s The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby, featuring … well, the worlds of Josh Kirby. Bit before my time, but, very recognizable as the artist for Discworld and plenty of other things. Let’s launch right into it.
In The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby, the galaxy is yours for the taking! Probably. Or the helping? You can really go either way. You’re starting off as a lovable scoundrel, working to acquire planets and add them to your growing empire. But how will you greet them? As a friend? Or as a foe? Either way, your opponents seek to do the same, and the galactic battle between Saviors, Tyrants, and everyone in between is set to begin. Who will prevail?
This one’s pretty simple. Give every player a player board:
And one Renown (put 5 in play for each player):
Set out the World Cards, also:
- 2 players: 2 cards
- 3 players: 3 cards
- 4 players: 4 cards
- 5 players: 5 cards
Give each player fleets in their color, as well as a Champion, Morality Tracker, and Dreadnought Control token:
Place the Hyperspace Board in the center of the play area and place the Dreadnought in it:
Have each player place three fleets on the Hyperspace Board (“in Hyperspace”) and three on their Home Planet on their player board. Then, give the start player the dice:
You should be ready to go!
Game’s pretty simple, thankfully. What’ll happen is that you’re working to make a name for yourself as the savior, tyrant, or something in between of a galaxy by settling and conquering worlds. But you’re not the only one seeking to build an empire. Outscore your opponents to win!
On your turn, you’ll roll the dice and then take actions. I’ll explain both.
So, roll the three dice. Depending on your morality, you may get to reroll one or all of those dice one time. World Powers may grant additional rerolls, as well.
Once you’ve locked in your picks, move on to the Action Phase.
Now, you may either Pass or Activate dice. If you Pass, you Ready two of your fleets by moving them from Hyperspace to your Home Planet or you gain 1 Renown. If you Activate, a lot of other things can happen.
Generally, there are four faces on the dice:
- Settle: Move one of your fleets from your Home Planet to the Settle side of a world card.
- Conquer: Move one of your fleets from your Home Planet to the Conquer side of a world card.
- Move: Either Ready a fleet by moving them from Hyperspace to your Home Planet or move any of your fleets on either side of any planet to either side of any planet. This can be used to move a fleet from the Settle side of a planet to the Conquer side, or vice-versa.
- Renown: Gain 1 Renown per icon shown.
Eventually, you’ll hopefully be able to Acquire a world. You do this by having fleets on one side or the other of the world card greater than or equal to the world card’s Settle or Conquer value. When you do, do the following:
- Clear Fleet: All fleets you used to acquire the world are sent back into hyperspace. The remaining fleets from all players (including you, if you placed more than needed) are wrecked. Feel free to yell “get wrecked“, because, well, that’s accurate. Wrecked fleets are returned to their owners’ home worlds. The owner gains one Renown per fleet wrecked unless you wrecked your own Fleet. Nobody respects you for that, so you always gain 0 Renown for wrecking your own ships.
- Take World Card: Add the World Card to the Settle or Conquer sides of your player board. Tuck it so that the value on the other side of the card is concealed (since it’s not relevant).
- Take a Power Token: Place a Power Token on the world card to show that you haven’t used its ability yet.
- Shift Morality: If you Settled the world, move one space on the Morality Track to the left; if you Conquered it, move one to the right. If you cannot move in that direction, don’t.
- Refresh: Draw a new world card and place it into play, face-up.
There are also additional actions you can do by spending Renown:
- Place Champion (2 Renown): If your Morality is Scoundrel or anything left of that, you may place a Champion on a world by spending 2 Renown. The Champion lowers the Settle and Conquer values of a world card for you by 1. Your Champion only lowers those values for you, though. When a World is acquired, your Champion returns to your player board.
- Place Dreadnought (2 Renown): If your Morality is Scoundrel or anything right of that, you may place the Dreadnought on a world by spending 2 Renown. The Dreadnought prevents players from acquiring a world (other than you, of course). If your Champion and Dreadnought are both on a world, however, nothing happens. Don’t do that. When the world is Acquired, the Dreadnought returns to hyperspace. To show that you control the Dreadnought, add your Dreadnought token to the center of Hyperspace.
- Get a new World Power Token (5 Renown): You may spend 5 Renown to place a Power Token on a world card of yours that doesn’t have one. This will allow you to use its power again.
Once you’ve resolved all your dice, the next player takes their turn.
End of Game
The game ends whenever at least one player has scored the required number of points (including the bonus points offered by their position on the Morality Track):
- 2 players: 18 points
- 3 players: 16 points
- 4 players: 14 points
- 5 players: 12 points
When that happens, all other players take one more turn, and then the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Ironically, you’ll likely see more renown gains at higher player counts but won’t necessarily be able to enjoy their spoils, as the game-ending score threshold is much lower at 5 than, say, three. I say more renown gains since more planets are available to be claimed by not-you players (since, as player counts increase, more not-you players exist; I will leave this as an exercise for the reader). I would say that play time increases, and it sort-of-does, but honestly your entire turn is roll three dice up to two times and then figure out how you want to place the ships. It’s not exactly like you’re going to be agonizing over the delay while other players take their turn. It still plays pretty quickly at higher player counts, though, so I think the sweet spot personally is the 3 – 4 space. At lower player counts, you’re either claiming the planet or they are, so it can feel a bit tit-for-tat. And that’s fine! I think there are just other games that do the two-player experience in a way that I like better. Five’s fine, but, as I always ask, who has more than two friends???
- The “Destiny” power is super useful, generally speaking; that’s why it costs so much. The ability to take another turn entirely is essentially a late-game superpower. It can allow you to claim a couple bonus points in the eleventh hour, or, my personal favorite, chain a couple of turns together by getting five Renown to reactivate it. If you can get that whole process to work, you might even be able to get upwards of 3 points. That can really swing things if you’ve got the last turn or something.
- Don’t necessarily ready all of your fleets at the same time. This will hurt you pretty badly if you roll only Moves on the next turn, since you won’t be able to ready your fleets if they’re already … ready. Maybe spend a few of those Settle / Move or Conquer / Move icons on Settle and Conquer, instead? I mean, your luck is your luck; this is more about covering bases so that you have the largest number of possible options on your turn.
- If you’ve got nothing to do on a turn, remember that you can ready your fleets or place ships on a world your opponent is working towards. If you ready your fleets, then you have them for later turns. If you place ships on an opponent’s world, worst case, they get wrecked and you gain Renown. Best case, you can snake that world away from your unsuspecting rival. Of course, then they get renown, so that might not be great.
- Gaining Renown is pretty useful. I mean, placing the Champion when you’re one short of Acquiring the world is really useful, since it just kind of makes it happen, and the Dreadnought can block some pretty intense end-of-game attempts at victory, but the real money is in being able to reactivate world powers, like I mentioned earlier.
- If you want to be a jerk about it, placing the Dreadnought on a world where your opponent’s about to finish Settling or Conquering is effective, especially if they have no Renown. If you can prevent them from moving it for a turn, awesome! If you can prevent them from moving it for two turns, even better. Just be careful; that’s pretty solidly going to put a massive target on your back, since, they’ll likely be out for revenge. Just do it towards the end of the game and propose you play a different game after?
- Remember that gaining a certain amount of Morality will give you bonus points. This can be useful for activating the end of the game by surprise; just make sure that another player doesn’t manipulate your Morality (at least one world card can) or that they don’t leverage that same thing to benefit themselves. It may cost you dearly.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- At its core, it feels like an even lighter Tiny Epic Galaxies. It’s got a number of similarities; you’re placing ships on a world to claim it in one of two ways, and ultimately you’re trying to leverage the abilities the world offers you in order to increase your efficiency on subsequent acquisitions. That’s fun. It does clear away a few things around Empire Level and such that were a bit difficult to tackle, as well. If you’re looking for an even lighter version of that game, I’d say this is certainly within that scope.
- It plays pretty quickly, unsurprisingly. Yeah, I bet with experienced players you could get this to pretty consistently play in about 15 minutes, regardless of player count.
- Since the player actions are pretty simple, there’s not a ton of downtime. Whole thing moves along at a pretty good clip. The most you can really do is reroll the dice once (on averageish) before you need to do the actions, and the actions themselves are pretty straightforward. This isn’t a game that’s going to overstay its welcome.
- I do like the idea of reduced rerolls as a catch-up mechanic. It’s still a bit luck-dependent, but you can limit the other players’ luck mitigation to help players who are struggling a bit. It would be nice if there were a way to help the struggling players, as well, but games are delicate balances, at times, and I’m certainly no designer.
- I know pretty much nothing about the theme. I didn’t Discworld or anything. It’s not that big of a deal, but it means a lot of the buy-in for people who know that theme is going to be lost on me and others who don’t know it. It doesn’t seem especially relevant
- The core game is pretty basic; I’d love to see more ramifications of your Morality. It’s a perfectly fun filler, but I feel like the Morality ends up being more of a catch-up mechanism than a thing with actual in-game consequences. Maybe in the Space Opera mode it’ll matter a bit more.
- This may have just been the box I was sent for preview reasons, but it is much larger than the game itself. Hopefully this gets changed for the final game, but the box is roughly the size of Spirit Island, but the game is, I’d say, pretty darn light. It’s not that you have to have a big box for your heavy game, but given the number of components and cards it might be helpful to put a lighter game in a smaller box, perhaps?
- Colonization / Conquering, as a theme, makes me a bit uneasy. Just a personal preference. One thing I preferred about Tiny Epic Galaxies is that you acquired worlds through Diplomacy or Economics; it always seemed like there was some sort of mutual respect rather than just crush the resistance or whatever. I get that your morality shifts to compensate, but, meh.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I think even as a Josh Kirby unknown, I enjoyed The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby! I think my preview is a bit lacking, honestly, since I have the pretty basic core game and that’s all that’s available to me, but I’ll be interested to see how the game changes as more things get added (some things I’ve alluded to already, others, who knows, it’s Kickstarter). For now, though, I think it’s pleasantly enjoyable as-is. Great game to break out when you’ve got a bit of time before more people show up and you just want to chuck some dice and place some rocket ships. Never a huge fan of conquering worlds, but, personal preferences aside, my one complaint is that I’d like to see a bit more complexity from it, even as a filler game. Maybe that’s my tastes starting to shift a bit? Who knows. The nice thing is, as far as fillers go, it plays remarkably fast; every turn is going to be pretty quick and there’s not a lot of downtime, even when it’s not your turn. If your fleet is getting wrecked, that’s worth noting and getting the Renown for so that you can use it to return in kind on a later turn. The art’s interesting, but not my personal cup of tea? And that’s okay. It’s definitely got that Grand Old Sci-Fi flavor that a lot of people (especially fans of the source material) are going to love, so, at least there’s that. If you’re looking for a quick game that’s fairly component-light and you like space, The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby might be up your alley!