30 January 2022
Trading that’s out of this world
This article originally appeared in issue 63 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here.
Just look at this game’s contents. Look at how much is crammed in. That isn’t a typo, there is actually an alien race called “Kjasjavikalimm,” who don’t even have the silliest name. What even is this game?
In short, Sidereal Confluence is the biggest trading game in existence, certainly one of the most impressive. 4-9 players (and best of luck getting nine players around most dinner tables) each play as an alien civilization looking to bring their culture to the stars, as you all compete for fame and attention across six rounds of trading, producing and, well, space conventions.
Each round starts with open trading. Players begin with a smattering of resources and cards representing planets and research teams that produce resources and develop technologies respectively, as well as a unique selection of converter cards, machines that input resources and output more in quantity and/or quality.
When trading begins, anything goes. You can trade practically anything, from resources to planets, converters and even promises. The two important rules are – you can never trade VP tokens and, all promises are binding. Everyone wants to run all of their converters, but no-one has enough resources alone, so must find a way to cajole, beg and borrow the cubes or cards needed to kickstart their gaming engine.
After trading, the economy round happens simultaneously, with all converters that meet their input requirements activating at once, ensuring that you can’t fuel a converter with resources created in the same round.
Finally, the game round ends with players sharing technologies so everyone has access to any newly developed tech, followed by bidding from a selection of new planets and research teams.
For a game inundated with components, the core mechanic is brain shatteringly pure. Players will only win if they’re able to score the most points, which are best earned through developing technologies. However, this tech costs a lot of resources to produce, basically trading power for points. You have to look for gaps in the market, find out what’s most in demand that you can exploit for leverage over other players.
Each alien race also offers unique twists on the game’s fundamental mechanics, from the Kjas empire tiles letting them build a self-sustaining economy fuelled on planets, to the Faderan “Relic Worlds,” a tabletop slot machine of random benefits that can impact the entire table. Every race warps the game in a different way, with the harder races to play requiring better communication and negotiation skills to take full advantage of their powers.
This game captures all of the tension and bluster of a war game with none of the violence, all of the excitement and chatter of a bluffing game without the lying. It makes you feel like you’re part of a true futuristic society, one that has evolved past crude cheating and stabbing to succeed, rewarding whichever player can best function as the heart of an intergalactic community.
This latest edition should also be highly lauded for its gorgeous makeover, overhauling a lot of the so-so first edition design and presenting a sleek, clean look that not only looks like it belongs in the future, but it actually makes playing easier and simply looking over a game in progress a delight to behold.
Unfortunately, this game is just too demanding in time and expectations from the players to give it the Must-Play, award, but for the niche group who will happily spend the best part of two-three hours wheeling and dealing for space cubes and cards, I can highly recommend this is a game unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.
It’s daunting to see and a heavy time commitment, but there is really no game quite like this, capable of causing a crowded room to burst into bustling deals and contemplative silence, keeping everyone thinking until the very end
It goes to show how desperate this genre of gaming is that there’s basically two titles known for fantastic negotiation and trading, but it's undeniable that Sidereal Confluence takes the core elements of Chinatown and propels them to insane interstellar proportions.
Designer: TauCeti Deichmann
Time: 120+ minutes
What’s in the box?
- 9 Species boards
- 9 Player screens
- 12 Track boards
- 3 Kjasjavikalimm tiles
- 3 “x5” Tokens
- 90 Cardboard victory point tokens
- 76 Cardboard ship tokens
- 32 Cardboard race specific tokens
- 24 Ultratech plastic octagonal prisms
- 151 Small resource cubes
- 117 Large resource cubes
- 389 Game cards
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