TGN Review: Extraterrestrial Grail

Extraterrestrial Grail is a board game where players must seek the grail (no word on the air speed velocity of an Obridlengile swallow, though). The player with the grail in their possession when time runs out is the winner. How do you get the Grail? You must search for it among the stars, battling your opponents to wrest it from their grasp if you must.

The makers of Extraterrestrial Grail sent me a copy to give you my thoughts on. The game was created by the fellows at The Game Crafter. So comments about part quality head to them. I’ve known of The Game Crafter for a while, but this is the first product I’ve gotten from them.

So fuel up your starship as we blast off in search of The Grail in this TGN Review.

For those that read my reviews religiously, memorizing them so you’re able to quote them at will, you may notice similarities between this review and the one I did for Chaosmos a couple months back. The games have some very distinct similarities.

Anyway, the game components consist of the board, 8 alien cards, instruction cards, attribute cards, planet boxes, digital timer, alien spaceships, a set of 6-sided dice and the game instructions. As for the quality, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The cards, themselves, are just fine. They’re made from nice, thick stock. Easy to shuffle, too. The board is also very nice. The board folds in half twice to a quarter-size the size of the full board. Again, nice, thick material and a good print of the board on the other side. The dice and timer are pretty standard.

The only problems I have come from the card boxes. They don’t quite seem large enough to actually fit the cards inside. The cards have to be at a slight angle to fit properly in. Also, in the humidity of Atlanta, some of the boxes have started to come unglued.

An interesting note about the starships as well: While I don’t recognize all of them, I do know they’ve been taken from other board games. For example, one is a droid tank from Star Wars Risk. That could be seen as a minus for some, but as one ship is just as good as another, really, I don’t have anything personally wrong with it.

To start a game of Extraterrestrial Grail, set out the board where everyone can get to it and shuffle the attribute cards and instruction cards. Give each player a random Alien card. That’s the species that they will be playing this game.

The Alien Cards tell you which is your starting planet, now smart your alien species is (this matters with how fast your alien moves among the stars), their temperature preference (this matters in what planets you can explore without needing extra gear), life points, how much damage they do with a natural attack and any other particular special abilities they might have.

After you have your alien and your starting planet decided, roll to divvy up the remaining planet boxes amongst the players. Evenly distribute the boxes amongst the players. Then deal out all the attribute cards to all the players. Players can keep up to 6 cards in their hand at the start of the game. They secretly place the rest in the various planet boxes they have.

With this set-up completed, it’s time to get down to business and find that Grail. Set the timer to 35minutes and get going.

On a player’s turn, they can move around the board, search the planets they land on and fight enemies they come across.

To move, roll a D6 and move your alien that many spaces on the board. If your alien is smart, you get to move an extra space. If your alien is stupid, you move one less space (so if you roll a 1, you don’t go anywhere). If you land on a Nebula space, draw an Instruction card and follow the directions there (such as being transported to a specific planet, losing your turn or gaining a free turn). If you land on a Hyperspace portal, you can go to any other spot on the board. If your move takes you over a planet or an enemy alien, you can choose to stop your movement there.

When on a planet, you may search it for the Grail. There is peril in doing so, though. First, if you do not have special cards to allow you to breathe, you take a point of damage. Next, if your alien doesn’t jive with the temperature (I.E. – if your alien likes hot climates and it’s a cold-climate planet) then you take another point of damage, unless you’ve got proper thermal gear. Next, if it’s a dark planet, you need a flashlight. Finally, if it’s a mountainous planet, you need to have rope. If you’ve survived the damage (or avoided taking it) and have the proper search gear (or the planet isn’t dark or mountainous), then you get to search that planet’s box. If there are any traps inside, those can deal damage to you, too. Otherwise, you can swap out any cards you have in your hand for cards inside the box (keeping a hand of 6 cards, at maximum).

You can also fight enemy aliens. When a fight starts, both players roll a d6 to see who goes first. When it’s your turn in a fight, you can do one of three things: fight with your natural attack, use an attribute card or run away. If you use your natural attack, you hit the enemy on a 4+. If you use an attribute card, such as a grenade or a ray gun, they’ll say how they’re used. To run away, you need to roll a 5+. Fights last until one alien is dead or runs away. If an alien dies, then the winner gets to take whatever attribute cards they want from their vanquished foe and places the rest in the closest planet box.

The game ends when the timer reaches zero. If one player has the Grail in their hand, they win (it can’t just be in a planet box they control). If nobody has it, then nobody wins.

As I mentioned above, the game has a lot of similarities to Chaosmos. The key differences are:
1. There’s a timer instead of a turn counter.
2. When an alien is defeated in this game, they are out of the game.
3. All the Attribute cards are dealt out at the start of this game, so someone knows where the Grail is from the beginning.

Which version you feel is more to your liking is, obviously, up to you.
Having a timer certainly keeps the game moving forward. The rules state that if you wait more than 10sec. to do anything on your turn, it’s over and the next player gets their turn. Obviously, with such a limit, you can obviously budget your gaming night activities more precisely. Having someone know where the Grail is at the start also make for an interesting twist. At times it was able to tell who knew where the Grail was because they would play very defensively. This didn’t always work out well for them as all the other aliens simply went out and hunted them down.

So there you have it, Extraterrestrial Grail. What do you all think? As always, I’d love to hear your comments either about the game, itself, or the review.