Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant - Board Game review
- Game Type – Epic Space Negotiation
- Number of Players – 4 - 9
- Mechanics – Negotiation, Variable Player Powers, Auction
- Difficulty to learn – Medium-Heavy
- Release – 2017
- MSRP - $64.99
- Publisher – WizKids
In space, no one can hear you scream.
Apparently, they can’t hear you ask for blue cubes either, because I’ve offered those sentient space whales a really good deal for just two of their blue cubes and they won’t bite! I know they need brown cubes and planets and I have both to trade! I think they are discriminating against me because I’m a giant space fungus. Sure, sure it’s cool to trade with cyborgs and cosmic wasps but not the fungus. Whatever, I’ll just enter into a trade alliance with the race of tentacle monsters trying to extort everyone, then you’ll really be sorry!
Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant is a game all about developing an economic empire, and yes, that is really the full name. Players all take the roles of different unique alien species, each with their own play style and special powers. Each game has players running a unique galactic civilization where they are trying to get the most victory points over six turns. Victory points are gained from running machines called converters and sharing new technology with other players.
At the start of the game players have a few converters in play and a deck filled with other converters that they can develop later. Each converter is a card with an arrow in the middle and various cubes, ships, or victory points (all representing various resources) on the left and right. During each turn players will feed resources shown on the left of a converter into it to gain the resources on the right or feed resources to a research team card that will give all players access to a new converter and victory points to the researching player.
Before any of these conversions are done there is real time free trading, in which everyone is trying to get enough resources to run as many converters as possible. This is the meat and potatoes of the game. At the end of the turn there is a short phase where players bid ships to get new planets (yet another resource) and research teams, but this is minor compared to the negotiation phase. It may sound odd that an entire game is almost pure negation but it works really well here. The only guidelines to the trading are that players must honor promises, outside of that you can trade literally anything other than victory points.
As simple as the game's rules are, the rulebook is surprisingly confusing. I found numerous parts that were completely unclear, and I ended up having to look up a teaching guide on boardgamegeek to clarify things. It’s a shame because the game shouldn’t be this confusing.
I’m a little torn when it comes to theme. On the one hand, the game does a great job making each race unique. They all play differently and because of this feel very different. Each one has a player sheet with not only their special rules, but also a nice big chuck of flavor text about the race.
On the other hand, you may notice that I’ve only called the various resources things like blue cube and brown cube, this is because literally no one I’ve played this game with could remember what they were supposed to represent, in spite of having a player aid with all their names on it in front of them. I don’t know if there is anything WizKids could have done to change this, but as it is the game feels like they could have just called it “Cube Trader”.
Each player gets a deck of converters and some starting resources teams. There are also some planets and research teams set up in the middle of the table depending on player count.
Unfortunately, this category gets low marks too. While the art on the player sheets has a nice old school sci-fi feel, everything else is hideous. The design on both the box and the cards is supremely ugly, the art on the ships all look pretty similar, and as mentioned earlier, the bland cubes don’t do the game any favors. On top of this the cubes and box are not even very high quality, which is a shame since WizKids is known for high quality games.
So, after reading the sound thrashing I gave this game you may be wondering if there’s a typo at the top of the article with Sidereal Confluence getting a “Buy This Game” rating. Well, there’s no mistake here because in spite of its flaws, this game is fantastic!
It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game that’s left me as excited to play again as this game has. It’s unlike any other game I’ve ever played and with 9 different races and a huge number of converters and research teams, no two games will ever seem alike. On top of this, it’s very rare to find a game that plays this many players and isn’t a party game. I’d even say that it gets better the more players you have, a rarity for games in the medium-heavy weight category.
If not for the flaws with the rulebook and aesthetics, this game would easily get a “Buy it Now” rating. Hopefully it’ll get a second edition that fixes its myriad odd issues, but as it is though the game is still great and worth every penny for the gameplay alone.