Rio Grande sent along a copy of Beta Colony, which i dutifully unboxed, and then sat on for a year, until i finally released this How to Play video. Hooray for me (?)!

(click to view transcript)

Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Beta Colony, a dice-rolling, area control game set in outer space for 2-4 players. Let me show you how to play!

In Beta Colony, Earth has been taken over, and some Earthlings have fled to the distant planet Victus. You and your friends are here to help develop the three colonies of Victus to gain the confidence of these exiled space settlers.

You’ll be bouncing around between the 7 different moons, ships, and stations orbiting Victus, gathering enough fuel and resources to build pods on the three different colonies, gaining influence as you do. You may even be able to build some special monuments, like Space Big Ben, or Space The Statue of Liberty, to inspire the settlers. Mechanically, the starting player rolls his or her four dice, and all other players have to adjust their dice to match that roll. Each player spends a pair of dice at a time to move their ship and activate one of the different moons, ships, or stations around Victus. By the end of three cycles of three rounds each, whoever has settled the most crew members on each of the different colonies, compared to whoever has the least settlers, gains points toward a final score, with the hope of winning the confidence of the people and, ultimately, the game.

TAKING A TURN

This player marker denotes the starting player, who rolls four dice – green, red, black, and blue. All other players follow suit, matching their dice, colour and number, to that exact roll. Beginning with the starting player and going clockwise, each player spends two dice of their choice. The first die moves your ship in a clockwise direction around Victus to one of these seven spaces. The second die activates whatever function that space provides. And if the activation die matches the colour on that space, you get a bonus.

You can mine these three moons for six different resource cubes – plants and steel, food and palladium, and polymer and water. Your first die gets you there, while your second die determines how many of that resource you get – for example, either one green or one yellow resource cube for anything from 1-4 pips, or two cubes of either colour for spending a die with a 5 or a 6 on it. What’s more, if you spend your green die at the moon of Gan De, you get one Confidence Point towards winning the game. It’s the same story for these other two moons, Jyo and Nebra – spend a die to get there, spend a die to activate it, and take resources depending on the number of pips on that second die, and potentially an extra point if you use the right colour to activate it.

A note about travelling: your ship always moves in a clockwise orbit around Victus, and you have to use all of the pips on your travel die. So if you spend a 3 to move, you’re moving 3 spaces. It’s not up to 3 – it’s 3 exactly.

You can spend a die to land on the Ridback, and then spend a second die to buy these red fuel canisters. You get 1, 2, or 3 fuel, depending on the value of your activation die. You can spend these fuel tokens to adjust the value of the pips on your dice up or down, and the number wraps around. So you can spend 2 fuel on a 6 to turn it into an 8 going up, or a 4 going down. You can spend 1 fuel on a 1-pip die to turn it into a 2, or back around to a 6.

The big show are these two orbiting stations, called manufactories. Spend one die to get there, and then another die to buy one of these randomly-dealt pods to place on one of the three colonies on Victus. The number of pips on your activation die decides which row you can purchase a pod from. So a 1 or a 2-pip die means you can buy either of these pods, while a 6-pip die means you can go shopping from this row. But you’re further limited by the resource cubes you own. You have to pay 1 resource cube of a matching colour to buy a pod – spend a green cube for these ones, a red cube for these ones, and so on. You replace the pod with a face-down tile.

Then, on the same turn, you further have to pay a resource cube to place the pod you just bought on one of the colonies. You pay a cube based on the colour of the empty hex where you want to place the pod – a yellow cube here, a blue cube here, and so on. So it costs 2 cubes total to buy and place a pod.

The pods earn you influence points, which is a separate points system from the Confidence Points you’re earning down here at the bottom of the board. The Influence Points move your marker around these three tracks, one per colony, depending on where you place the pod. The number on the pod determines how many influence points you get. You get one bonus point if you place the pod in this inner ring, and more bonus points for every pod of the same colour in a contiguous line or cluster. If there’s already a contiguous cluster or line of three like-coloured pods, you can’t place a fourth. That pod’s gotta go somewhere else instead.

You move your marker on the track surrounding the colony where you placed your pod, according to however many influence points you just earned, picking up whatever prizes you pass or land on. The pod itself may also give you various perks and prizes. Then, you place one of your crew members on the pod. Some pods let you place two crew members, and some high-value pods prevent you from placing any.

Hey, look! It’s the rules gremlin, come to warn us of something tricky. In this case, it’s not a rule, but a design problem. Beta Colony contains cubes and tiles that are very similar in colour. I’m not colour-blind, but this game made me think i am! The game has pink, orange, and red cubes. And here’s what one of the colony pods looks like. Is that pink, orange, or red? If you guessed red, you’re right, but if you guessed one of the other colours, you’re also right, because, like, look at this. Here’s how to keep it straight: red cubes buy red pods, and pink cubes buy pink pods. There ARE no orange pods for sale – only yellow pods, which you buy with yellow cubes. Orange cubes are only for placing pods on orange spaces in the colonies, and for buying statues and buildings, which we’ll see in just a sec.

The last moon you can visit, Azophi Nexus, lets you take one resource cube of your choice, and a fuel, regardless of the pip value of your activation die. Or, you can construct a building or a statue on one of the colonies to inspire the people’s confidence in you.

There are four statues you can construct, each of which gives you a meta point bonus at the end of the game. Each statue costs three artifact tokens. You can earn the artifact tokens by building certain pods, or by gaining influence and passing certain spaces along the tracks. If you’re short on artifacts, you can spend regular resource cubes to buy the building on the top of the deck. Buildings give you a point boost at the end of the game, and sometimes another, more immediate perk. Grab the card and place it face down next to your player mat. You get any applicable bonus now, and any listed Confidence Points at the end of the game.

When you build one of these structures, you take the matching token, and then pay a cube to place it in one of the three colonies. You can only construct buildings and statues in the outer ring of any colony. As with a colony pod, you place a crew member on the structure. Each player can only build a maximum of two of these cultural achievements in a single game.

At any time on your turn. you can also spend an artifact as wild stand-in for any coloured cube.

If at any point you want or need to take a mulligan on your turn, you can spend two dice to earn a single fuel token. Your spaceship stays where it is.

There are a couple of symbols on the influence tracks around the colonies that supply special rewards. This one gets you any face up colonization pod, which you then build for free. This one gets you a building or a statue for free – you don’t even have to pay a cube to place it. This one lets you put an extra crew member on any colony pod – whether it’s yours or someone else’s.

There are three cycles in the game, and each cycle has 3 rounds. At the beginning of the game, three cycle cards are randomly dealt to these spaces. They each have an ongoing effect that activates in the first round of the cycle, and expires by the end of the cycle, and a scoring condition that gets paid out at the end of the cycle.

SCORING

At the end of the game, each unused artifact token you’ve hung onto is worth a point. Flip over any building or artifact cards you’ve purchased and score the points on the card. The four statues give you points for the number of crew members you have around the inner rings of each colony, each pod in a contiguous chain, each resource you have left over, and each settler on a pod colour of your choice, to a maximum of 12 points per statue.

Now, you score for area control in each colony. Score the colonies one at a time. You look at the number of colonists you have vs. the number of colonists the weakest player has, and the difference gets you points. So here on Xi’An, you have 7 colonists, and the least represented player has 2, for a difference of 5. On Thebes, you have 5 colonists, while the weakest player has 4, so it’s a difference of 1. On Cuzco, you are the weakest player. The difference can’t go negative, so the gap for this colony is zero.

The gap between you and the weakest player on each colony earns you a sliding scale of Confidence Points.

When you tally up those scores, including any confidence points you earned along the way from the influence tracks, from building certain pods, from using the correctly coloured activation dice at various moons and orbiting stations, and from satisfying the different cycle scoring conditions, you’ll get your final Confidence Point total. Whoever has the most points has earned the confidence of the settlers of Victus, and wins the game!

SETUP

To set up the game, put the board on the table. Deal 1 random card from each of the three cycles to these spots. Shuffle the pods face-down and deal some out to these spaces. Put the fuel, artifact tokens, and resource cubes nearby. Randomly choose a starting player, who takes the start player Ridback token. Then the last player in turn order gets to choose a player mat. Each mat has two different special abilities – anything from getting extra resources to changing a certain die to whatever number you want. All other players draft a player mat, with the starting player choosing last. Everyone chooses a colour and takes a spaceship, fifteen crew members, four score tokens, one fuel, four dice – one red, one black, one green, and one blue – and two random resource cubes from the supply. Again in reverse turn order, each player places their ship on an empty space orbiting Victus. This is the only time in the game that you can’t have multiple player ships on the same space.

Put one scoring token on each of the colony tracks, and the last one on the confidence points track.

Shuffle the cultural achievement cards and place them face up, alongside all 4 face-up statue cards.

The first player starts the game by rolling his or her dice, and the other players rotate their dice to follow suit.

And now, you’re ready to play Beta Colony!

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Beta Colony (Toy)


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