What would you do if you had a space game that could play out small engagements in an hour and larger fleet battles in two…? Why, you’d play bigger, more monsterific scenarios that you’d never dreamed you would actually try, of course.
And this is the big one. Fortunately, every scenario leading up to this one has trained us on every aspect of the game so that it is worth the effort. Going into this, we already knew when to fire our afterburners and what to save our batteries for. We knew what fighters are capable of and how they can be squandered in a moment. We knew how long it takes for battleships to recharge its weaponry and how to maneuver our ships in the aftermath of a battle pass.
The Battle of Saturn consists of seventeen units fighting in two different engagements simultaneously. And it is every bit as epic as you’d think. We fought this out for just over four hours and walked away from it thinking it was the greatest space game session we ever played. We played it as if the fate of earth hung in the balance and it was utterly engrossing for every moment of gameplay.
On the left side of the board I was able to steal the initiative at a key moment and take out a Talon frigate. The Talon responded by using their afterburners to take out a fighter group with a light cruiser. I misjudged the firing arcs and sequence of play somehow and lost fighters to Talon missiles that I really didn’t need to give up. I considered sending units to the other battle from here, but the Talon units threatened to take out my carrier and it was very difficult to make a call on who should stay and who should go.
Meanwhile on the right I fumbled with my battleship. I outright missed with my wave motion gun. It would have been even worse if the Talon battleship had not rolled a one with its fusion canon. Everything was falling apart for me. Fortunately I managed to destroy all the units on the left and peel off a destroyer and two full fighter groups to come to the rescue.
The Talon battleship blew away one fighter group before it could even fire. The other got in position to do three measly hits on its back shield before getting taken out by some missiles. I ended up picking off the battleship’s escorts with my last two ships, a destroyer and a light cruiser. The battleship struggled to recharge its weapons and bring them to bear while my small ships attempted to do the same. In the end, the Talon battleship made a critical error by speeding up. Straining under a loss of three power was bad enough, but being unable to either turn or recharge meant game over for a Talon engagement that could very well have handed them the entire campaign.
The large scenarios have the same features that make the smaller ones so engaging: every hex counts, every point of power counts, and every attack and critical hit matters. Nothing is included in the game that doesn’t pull its weight at the tactical level. Talon gives you a space game with all the chrome and frills you could want… without ever forcing you to think too deeply about the rules. The rules get out of the way so you can concentrate on what you want to do. And all the rules you need to master are spread out over a course of a dozen scenarios in such a way that you never have to stop playing to figure them out.
This absolutely is the best space game on the market. Or at least… it would be if it currently was on the market. If you want to be sure to get a copy of this when it makes its next brief appearance at the GMT Games warehouse, then you are going to have to preorder this masterpiece for a mere $41 without being 100% sure that you’ll still be in the mood for it when it finally shows up in the mail. That’s far from ideal, but it is at least better than (for example) getting stuck with a bloated and overproduced board game through Kickstarter that comes two to four years after the moment you decided to pull the trigger on it.