First create your crew.
I know, I know, you want to get to creating a solar system! That’s the fun of this game, right? But patience is a virtue (and a nice lady at the end of my block. Lots of cats), so let’s start with the preparation phase. We grab 12 preparation tokens (which look a lot like Energy tokens, and which also look like the number 12 in the Vassal module) and make ourselves a grid of 9 cards using both crew and module cards.
Mostly crew and not a lot of Equipment to start with. Now, to “bid” on these folks, I have to spend some of my 12 Preparation tokens. The cost for the cards is shown in the upper right, though there appears to be a misprint. Micke, the Exo Manager should be 4 points. When you bid, you place your flag token on the card, and any cards on the bottom row with flag tokens get taken by players. Then the cards flow down and to the side and the process continues.
Each crew member has a talent (the far left bubble) and three bubbles for the skills they possess. Because of the mix of modules I’m playing, I’m ignoring the lock, the graduation cap and the heart icon from the talent bubble. So, I look for Wrenches: I can fix equipment! Stars: I can fly farther for cheaper! Gas giants: I can land on Gaseous planets! Alien heads: I can find Alien life! Rocks: I can find substances! Rockets: I can build stuff!
Looking at what I have here, I’m going to bid on Saga because Equipment may be in short order, so being able to repair what I have may be important, and finding radioactive materials is what will keep my ship flying until I get home, so I spend 3 prep tokens (down to 9) and put my country token on her card. Because she’s on the bottom row, I immediately grab her, and I can now shift the columns. I move Jamila to the right and move the center column down to make the one equipment card cheaper. Gaseous Planet Gear C is added to the spot it vacated.
Now the “NPCs” bid. Simply put, they roll a d12 and place flag tokens (doesn’t matter which ones) according to what was rolled. I roll: 10 & 1. A 1,2 or 3 doesn’t place anything, but a 10 does. So here’s where the NPCs place things:
So Phil gets discarded and the cards get shuffled down. Now, in a multiplayer game, there would be much jostling for place where you try to keep your opponents’ flags way up high, and your own down low, since if you can not bid, you must pass (and can not shift the cards around) and if everyone passes, no more cards are taken, even if you already put your flag marker on them. For a solitaire game, the only rule is that an opposing flag must move down first if it can. Still a lot of leeway in what I can do for myself.
I slap my flag down on the newest card: Exomultidevice A, because it has Exobiology, Substance AND Exoproduct notation on it. Booya. The NPCs just put one marker in the middle on Gaseous Planet Gear C.
I only have 5 prep tokens left, and I want to make sure I get the multidevice, so I’ll grab Rutger at the bottom for 3 tokens. That brings him my way, and I can push the NPCs card out of the way to bring mine closer to the bottom. Huh, I rolled 2,2. No movement. So I guess I get the last bid. Perfect. With my last 2 points, I’ll get Exo Life Device B right there in the middle, which will cascade my other card right into my ship.
So now I have my crew, and you have seen what the Preparation phase looks like. With multiple players, I can see where jockeying for position can become a real hazard as 12 points doesn’t give you a lot of wiggle room. While you can become quite hamstrung at the beginning, there are ways to mitigate this: Knowledge tiles (any time you fail at a task, you draw from a bag and basically gain a free knowledge bubble that you can use with any crew member….you learn from your failures!) and Quick Start cards. Don’t like going through all of this hustle and bustle? Just grab a card and it’ll tell you what crew to slap onto your ship:
Now we’re ready to get lost in space. Stick around, won’t you?