Review, Analysis and Local Variants of Outpost
Outpost is a game for 2-10 players each player trying to
produce the biggest (most profitable) outpost in space. The game
itself feels (to me) a bit like the 18xx series of games, particularly
1835. Other people think that it is more like Civilization. I wouldn't
know, I've never played Civ. that much.
Outpost is made by TimJim/
Prism games for $30. Component quality is pretty dismal, although
since it was the first game of a new company, that isn't as shockingly
bad as I would expect.
Each player has a number of factories (1 Water and 2 ore at the
start) and workers (3 at start). Each turn, each factory gives you one
card of the appropriate type (water and ore). Each card has a value on
it. Different factories have different average values (Water has an
average of 7, ore 3). Once everyone got the cards (and looks to see
how much money they own), then buying starts. During every point in
the game, there are a number of big ticket items. Also players can
buy population (to work in factories) or factories. At the beginning
of the game, each player is limited to 5 population. In addition,
players are limited to how many cards they can have at the end of the
turn, at the beginning of the game, this is 5.
Turn order is determined by VP, which are determined by factories
and how many big ticket items you have (each is worth a certain number of
VP). Ties are broken buy how much the things cost you, then randomly.
Factories and workers may simply be bought (during your turn) or you can
bid on a big ticket item, which starts an auction. The winner of the
auction must buy the item (and doesn't get any change back if they can't
pay exactly). The first player may continue to start auctions or buy
factories/workers or pass. Once a player has passed, he may continue
to bid in auctions, but can't buy factories and workers.
Once everyone is done buying, people assign workers to factories, calculate
VPs (adjust turn order), replenish the big ticket items up to the right
number (which is the number of players) and start again.
The items are the main part of the game. There are 3 phases to the
game. In phase 1 (nobody has broken 10 VPs), only items 1-4 are available.
Phase 2 ( < 30 VPs) has items 1-10 and phase 3 (30+) sees items 2-13.
The game ends as soon as anyone has 75 or more VPs, highest wins.
There is a d4, d10, d12 included. There are, as I have said, N items up
for sale. Some item may repeat but there
may never be more of the same item up for sale than half of the players.
In addition, there
is one less of each item available, so someone will always be unable to
get an item. (In addition, it appears to be quite typical that not all
items will be sold before the game ends, although in an 8 player game,
most of them probably will be).
The Items (A Brief Description)
ITEM #/Name Min Bid VPs Special Powers
1 Data Library 15 1 -10 to the cost of scientists
2 Warehouse 25 1 +3 hand limit
Machinery 25 1 -10 to the cost of an outpost,
Owner may build titanium factories
-5 cost to warehouse/nodule
4 Nodules 25 2 +3 max population
5 Scientists 40 2 Free research card each turn
6 Orbital Lab 50 3 Free Microbiotics card each turn
7 Robots 50 3 Robots count as people, but don't
count against population limit
8 Laboratories 100 5 Gives a free research station
(must man it, though)
allows the production of
9 Ecoplants 50 5 Population costs 5 instead of 10,
-10 to outpost cost
10 Outpost 100 5 +5 population, +5 hand max
Free Titanium factory (must man)
11 Space Stat. 120 10 Free Orbital Medicine Card
12 Plan.Cruiser 160 15 Free Ring Ore Card
13 Moon Base 200 20 Free Moon ore card
Factory Type Cost Average Return/turn Notes
Ore 10 3
Water 20 7
Titanium 30 10 (Need Heavy Equip to build)
Research 40 13 (May get from Scientist for free)
Microbiotics -- 17 (Get free from Space Stations)
New Chemicals 60 20 (Must use some research to build)
Orbital Medicine-- 30 (From Item #11)
Ring Ore -- 40 (From Item #12)
Moon Ore -- 50 (From Item #13, Moon Base)
TimJim Games own formats of these can be found in
Official Sequence of Play .
Expert Rules/CMU Variants
Here at CMU, we don't play the basic game. In an effort to
spice it up, I came up with a few new rules that we've liked. Some
of those rules turned out to be variants to the
Expert Game . Personally, I find
quite a bit of the expert game silly. Here is the variant we play at
That's it! We are looking at a few other changes (such as robots don't provide
infinite robots), but the game is fine with just those three rules changes.
(It's ok without them, but not very zesty, in our opinions).
- You must discard down to double hand max immeadiately after you are
dealt production cards. This is in addition to the standard rule that you
must discard down to your hand max at the end of the turn.
- We play with double production on turn 1 (to speed the game up). Like
in the standard expert rules, you may discard your
entire hand for a water factory (in case you get absolute trash on the deal).
- The change from Phase II (d10) to Phase III (d12) is 35 VP, not 30.
- You can only have 1 new chemical factory per scientist or
reseach factory you have.
Note that all of this discussion assumes our rules changes.
The first thing you should do is buy water factories and men
whenever possible. Production is the key to success in Outpost.
Tom Lehmann (President of Prism Games, and the Outpost Errata
and Expert Game rules keeper) suggested not purchasing anything
until you have at least 3 water factories. That sounds about
right. The two big questions in the early game are When to Buy?
and What to Buy?
These are both pretty tough questions, without exact answers
(if there were exact answers, we wouldn't be so intersted in playing
Outpost, would we?). When to buy, I'm not going to answer except to
say that If you don't have three water factories, it's probably
too early to be buying something else.
What to buy is somewhat controversial, but I rate the order
of the first four upgrades (in terms of desireability) as warehouse,
nodule, data library, heavy equipment. Warehouse and nodule are a
close first and second, library third, heavy equipment fourth.
Warehouse versus a Nodule
This is tough. A nodule will allow you to be bigger in the
early game, but in the middle game you might find yourself losing out
as the warehouse player sits on a huge hand to outbid. Of course,
being able to man the extra factories translates directly into VP
and production. Ideally, getting a nodule and then a warehouse before
the phase shifts (not immeadiately before, so you have time to save)
should put you in a commanding position.
Is Heavy Equipment Worth it?
This is controversial. Without our rules, definitely not is
my opinion. With CMU variant...it's close. If it looks like the
game is going to go slowly into phase II, maybe. I've seen it work,
but not as often as I've seen it lose. My big arguement against
Titanium is that your eventaul goal will probably be new chemical
factories, and so heavy equipment will be abandonded, whereas a
warehouse/nodule big is always useful.
Of course, the discount on other items is not to be scoffed at.
Part of winning at Outpost is snatching things up cheaply. I sometimes
buy Heavy equipment, rather than get into a fight over the lone warehouse.
What should I buy?
This is a lot harder to say than above, because it really depends
on what you did. I'd always shoot for anything to produces research
(either scientists or labs). If you got Titanium, you can live without
these, and it might actually be better to, but even if you got Titanium,
slowing down others from gettng new chemicals is important. Of course,
at some point the price is just too high.
Robots are nice if you missed getting a nodule.
Outposts are nice if you missed getting a nodule and robots,
and are a must if you missed warehouses.
Orbital Labs are production, and very unlikely to ever become
obsolete (you'll have to get a number of new chemicals greater than
your hand limit to even have to start worrying about throwing them away
unless you save for 2-3 turns.)
Ecoplants are cheap victory points (10 cost/VP if you get them
at price, which is the cheapest VP in the game), and give you a discount
towards an Outpost (which might be reason enough to get them).
Scientists vs Orbital Labs
Well, the Orbital Labs produce more and give more victory points,
but research is the key to the new chemical plant. I'd generally go for
the scientists, but some things could change that.
The last one is important. If you are lucky enough to be 1st in the
position, and you are sure you can be outbid on scientists, open the
bidding on orbital labs (or whatever else you want). People will be
wary of bidding against you if they had hoped to get scientists. On
the other hand, if you are sure someone else is going for scientists
hellbent, and nobody else wants orbital labs (or whatever else you
are bidding on), be sure to bid on scientist first, so that you
can drive the price up.
- Someone else has 2+ more data libraries than I do.
- I have heavy equipment and can survive losing New Chemicals.
- I'm just going to be outbid.
Phase 3 sees the big guns arrive. With expectancies of 30-50,
Items #11-13 are wonderful. At this point, victory points are definitely
worth more than production, as the game has maybe 2-3 turns left.
So, even if you got a moonbase for 200, you'll lose money, but the 20VPs
A big point of the game is who has the most cash when the first
big guns are up for auction. If you can grab the only moon base, and
it happens to be a few more turns before another big item shows, then
you'll get the VPs AND all of that production, which puts you in the
drivers seat. However, the odds of this scenario aren't that likely,
and careful play can stop it (If someone just bought the only moon base,
I'd snap up one cheap item (robots or something) just to increase the odds
of something good showing up).
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