Endure the ‘start
I’m a massive advocate of Kickstarter, especially if it’s lining the pockets of the little guy; the person who’d not be able to make their game without the support of the gaming community. The problem I have is, if I backed every project which did so, I’d never have any money.
This was how I first came across Endure the Stars. It made a pretty large ripple on Kickstarter… in fact it has done so twice now when Grimlord Games a hitherto unheard of company was looking for funding. They were aiming for £45,000 and raised £139,000 so I obviously wasn’t the only interested person.
The Endurance Begins
Endure the Stars is a co-operative, campaign driven, exploration game which is set aboard a spaceship which has been taken over by bio-engineered lifeforms which may or may not have been let out on purpose. It strikes me as a cross between a D&D board game and the cardboard equivalent of Dead Space – An interesting prospect no matter which way you choose to dissect it; but does it live up to its pedigree?
First things first, I have a confession to make. Endure the Stars was “one of those” games for me. I got it to the table no less than 4 times before I managed to finish a game. There are several reasons for that which I’ll go into during the course of the review, but it’s something that I thought was prudent to mention early on.
Even before I opened the box, Endure the Stars irked me. I’m not usually easily irked but the game and I certainly started off on the wrong foot. “Why were you so irked Chris?” I hear you ask. Glad you asked voice from the ether! The box in its shrink wrap didn’t close. There is a 3-4mm gap at the bottom of the box where the punchboard and mini’s didn’t fit in the box. OCD: 1 – Endure the Stars: 0.
However, I’m a realist. I don’t believe that people make games just for me, and if you’re an optimist, you could say that not having a box which closed is a good thing because there’s obviously so much stuff you’re getting for your money that they couldn’t fit it all in. Well Optimist, I’m a realist. That few mm means that it doesn’t fit properly on my shelf. Oh dear. I’ve just realised that I’m getting irked again. Maybe you can view that as review bias.
Now the box issue is out of the way, once I cracked into Endure the Stars, I was genuinely quite impressed. Given the size of the map tiles in things like Gloomhaven, or Sword and Sorcery, and even D&D’s foray into board games, Endure the Stars has some monster map tiles. They’re about 9 inches square each. This means that although on bigger maps they become a bit of a table hog, Grimlord Games made the most of what they had and produced some really clear art for them. They’re also a good few mm thick which means they’re less easy to warp than some other games.
Aside from all of the punchable components in Endure the Stars (who really cares about tokens in reviews unless they’re either awful or crazily plentiful) you have some decks of cards, some player identifying boards which double as inventory keepers, and a whole bunch of mini’s. The mixture of lots of thick cardboard and a box within a box of miniatures was definitely the cause of offending my OCD; but the mini’s were worth it. Fine. OCD: 1 – Endure the Stars: 1.
Mini but no Mouse
So, lots of mini’s, but there are some awesome looking mini’s in there. You have dedicated bags for the aliens containing and you will end up using a lot of them during the course of your game. Even unpainted, they still look really daunting when they come charging towards you.
Of course, you also have mini’s to represent each of the characters, and additional exo-loader (cough cough Stolen from Alien cough) and a mini for the big, bad Titan. The Titan is such a handful that he (it?) also gets his own player board; but with a ridiculous amount more health than your normal squishy player characters.
As I briefly touched on at the beginning, Endure the Stars is a campaign driven game. Your players will start off at one end of the map and will have an objective on the other, with varying amounts of nasties on the way. To be a little less vague and to avoid spoilers, in the “training mission” you start at the bottom of the map, then have to make your way to the top of the map to kill a beasty which at the start is locked in a room and making lots of noise.
And this is where the cool bits come in.
At its core, there are only 3 actions a player can take. Move, search or attack. Every player’s movement is determined by their player board and everyone will also have some weapons to start with too, and you will definitely need them. You can get additional weapons and armour by searching rooms on the way.
Whilst this sounds pretty standard, Endure the Stars has some really innovative features. When there are nasties on the board, you have no idea what they are. They appear as radar blips with an amount and a picture of which enemy it is hidden on the other side. They will mosey on around the place on their own merry way until someone makes enough noise to lure them off of their path.
Noise can be made by using weapons or even by searching if you’re really unlucky. Once they get to line of sight, then they are turned over and will start to attack you.
Combat is resolved by dice with 5’s or 6’s classing as hits, and the amount of dice you’re able to roll being determined by the weapon you have.
Again, all sounds pretty standard… but:
There’s friendly fire.
If there’s another player in the same place that you’re attacking an enemy in, and you miss, then you hit the other player. Endure the Stars was difficult already, but with friendly fire involved then it cranks up the difficulty a shocking amount.
Also, as far as innovations go, the fact that the enemies’ movement while they’re inert is resolved by rolling a direction dice, I thought this was also a really unique feature that I’d not seen anywhere else.
Oh, here we go…
However, these are the only positive things I can say about Endure the Stars.
The setup takes a while; especially when you get to later scenarios; but even at the beginning, having to sort out all of the cards, tiles, enemy placements, miniatures for the actual pile of enemies which are scenario specific, and player weapons etc – all before you can start becomes a bit of an ordeal. I remembered this after a couple of attempts as Endure the Stars was on my hit-list after it made it to the table no less than four times before I managed to complete a game.
Also, I mentioned that Endure the Stars was hard, but that doesn’t really cut the mustard by way of a description. For example, in the training scenario, I was searching a room and quite literally dropped a clanger with an enemy the other side of the door. There I am, minding my own business and looking for armour and weapons when all of a sudden BAM! 5 enemies are trying to eat my face. If this wasn’t bad enough, because I was shooting at them in fear of my life, I was obviously making more noise; which attracted another 6 of them! 11 on 1 was never going to end in my favour.
Last and by all means least, Endure the Stars suffers with my “favourite” and most frequent of beefs against the gaming world. The rulebook is truly awful. Now, I don’t want to be mean for the sake of being mean and I have to give Grimlord some credit for trying to keep it simple. There are lots of helpful diagrams and notes about what is going on in the game, but we would come across things in the game which seemingly had no use (aside from clogging up our inventory) and there was no mention of them to be found in the rulebook. No glossary, nothing.
It’s a power cell… but what do you use it for?
Also, I got the feeling that once they had taught you the basics, then that was it. The rulebook actually washes its hands of you and rushes headlong into what the scenarios are about. I generally hate lots of paper in games, so I am grudging to suggest it, but I genuinely think that they would have been better off with 2 books; one for the rules and another for the scenarios. Let’s face it, the box lid already didn’t close; another couple of mm wouldn’t matter.
Too much to Endure?
My final feelings for Endure the Stars are of resounding disappointment. I really wanted it to be something epic. Some epic space story which unfolds in front of you; but I struggled at the first couple of hurdles and that really hurt me. I cannot express how much I wanted to like Endure the Stars, but I just couldn’t.
I’m not giving up on it. The people from Grimlord are really nice people and I know that Endure the Stars has a pretty devout following; but I won’t be one of them. I will likely pass it on to one of my friends who has time and patience and could well appreciate a misunderstood classic. But I am unable to be that nice.
To give Endure the Stars a rating, I have had to do a lot of thinking. It has a lot of potential, and I am pretty sure that it can be really good, but as it stands, it’s definitely not a keeper for me. Maybe that’s a good thing since the box won’t be upsetting my OCD any more.
Endure the Stars gets a player mobbing, friendly firing, “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed”-ing 5 out of 10 for me. Could do better – See me after class.
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.