Spinning a tale of intrigue, extortion, grease monkeys, speakers of lies, and giggle juice… that’s right, Boozehounds Smugglers.
ANTEMATTER combines tabletop strategy and poker in a one of a kind space board game, pitting you against competing adventurers controlling a band of smugglers that have a hankering to Loot the Conflux then burn fuel over to the joint to partake in labyrinthine poker.
The game will be on Kickstarter this month, August 2020, and we received a prototype for an honest review.
We were asked a few moons back the rationale that prompts us to buy a game. At the Nerdz Garage, we agree it is the art. The cover art on Antematter does set the stage for adventure and it follows through from the cards to the components.
The setup of the board is involved and took a few plays to get it down and do not let that sway you because once that is in the memory banks, there is smooth sailing. Players choose from one of the six BASES to place their SHIPS to begin their journeys. After players have placed their SHIPS, ROCS and RAVENS in their BASES, it is time to set up the board. There are White, Red, and Blue Plunder Hexes on the board that you place matching chips on. These are the Plunder your space pirates will loot each round. The loot that you collect is the bankroll for the Antematter poker. The chip denominations are White 25 Nephelium, Red 50 Nephelium, Blue 100 Nephelium, and Black 500 Nephelium.
What does every space odyssey need? A dive bar and they are represented by green chips and placed on the coordinating hexes around the outer rim. DIVES can be visited by both ROCS and RAVENS to gather more CREW CARDS. Players begin the game by drawing 4 CREW CARDS from the 25-Card deck.
Six CREW DECKS are consisting of twenty-five cards that offer distinct characteristics and options. Players are allowed to have a maximum of 7 CREW CARDS in their hands at any given time. If you add additional CREW CARDS to your hand past the limit because you have looted PLUNDER, you must immediately choose and discard CREW CARDS into your DISCARD PILE, face-up, until you only have 7 left. When CREW CARDS are played, they are discarded.
The PLANETS of the Conflux are all very different, but the one thing they have in common is they all have tons of loot for you to smuggle. The Roc is your cargo ship and can carry the planets Colored cargo cubes that can be exchanged in the middle hex, the Engine Star for 100 NEPHELIUM per cube, and if you collect all five types of cargo and take to the ENGINE STAR, you get an additional bonus of 250 NEPHELIUM. They offer two chips of the color of the planet each time you visit.
Placing the Planets, the players draw from the poker deck, and high card sets the Purple Planet.
The Blue, Red, White, and Green Planets are then placed in a line going outward from the Purple Planet.
Once the PLANETS are lined up, it is time to randomize their placements. Draw until you have 4 cards, one for the Blue, Red, White, and Green PLANET and move the number of hexes allotted for each planet times the card drawn. Finally, place the second green planet on the hex opposite, reflected from its counterpart. Now your board is ready to go!
The turn order is decided by pulling the highest card from the deck. The player who chooses the highest card is given the DEALER CHIP and becomes the dealer for the first hand. The person to their right, who will deal last, moves first during the initial LOOT PHASE.
Plot a Course to snag the most chips and cargo. Each player gets 3 Burns per round. Burns is used to move your ships around the board. Rocs move 1 Hex per Burn. Ravens move up to 2 Hexes per Burn. Use your Ravens to deploy Bridges that can hasten your Roc from Planet to Planet. The Roc travels with the Planets as they orbit. On your next turn, slingshot to send your Roc 2 Hexes in 1 Burn.
Take your Plunder from the board and venture lady luck at poker. Poker in ANTEMATTER is built on Texas Hold ’em style. Instead of blinds, ANTEMATTER is played with Antes, which go up at regular intervals to raise the stakes and empower your Crew Cards. The Poker Crew cards can be scattergood or absurdity (in a good way). There are loans from the bank, stealing from an opponent, extra cards dealt blind unless pay to view them, collecting from players who fold, taking from a player bet and adding to your stack!!!!!!!!!!
We are pretty novice poker players and dove deep into the Crew cards and reveled in the mayhem.
The Crew Factions
Beware the Grifters of the Corner Booth.
There are four Grifters in the poker deck. If you are dealt one in your pocket, you can immediately expose the Grifter in exchange for a new card or team up with the Grifter to con your opponents.
Working with these notorious outlaws carries a risk: if you are caught at the showdown with a Grifter in your pocket, you cannot win the hand. You must bluff your opponents into folding, then reveal your Grifter for a bonus payout and bragging rights.
To win ANTEMATTER, earn your place among the Corner Booth bosses by stacking up the biggest pile of chips in the Conflux. Once you obtain the chip goal, you are bestowed Token of Respect from the Corner Booth, but don’t toast with giggle water because you must possess the TOKEN OF RESPECT and your loot at the end of one full CYCLE in space before you can win. Grab a seat at the table and hope your luck is favored, and you do not squander your Plunder. That last round of poker with all of us holding TOKEN OF RESPECT was intense, and the best bluffer did vanquish our crews to another plane.
Mechanics That Worked for Nerdz Garage
One of the Nerdz relied thoroughly on the crew cards and deck building. After his first Plunder, he visited the Dive Bar to refresh his cards for the poker round. He was leading the whole game until the last hand.
Thinking ahead to where the planets would move to after the poker round and setting your ships up for easy access to gain cargo and chips was an advantageous strategy.
Utilizing the bridges, in the beginning, to jump to planets for looting cargo and chips built your bank for the poker rounds.
Bits and Bobs
Rocs x 6
Ravens x 12
Bridges x 30
Planets x 6
Chips x 188
Dives x 6
Token of Respect x 6
Cargo x 30
56-Card Poker Deck
25-Card Crew Decks x 6
15-Card Deck of Enigmata
In the rulebook, there is a deep and compelling Lore section for each faction that brought interesting and boisterous interactions in gameplay. The cards though vastly diverse, still were very balanced. The Lore backstories are well thought out and included tips and tricks that were highly beneficial. It combines a sizable amount of strategy and sabotage in both components of the game ~plunder and poker.
It does take a moment at first to jump from space looting to space poker; however, the Crew Cards skillfully bridge them together. Antematter feels timeless that we would want to play it now and years from now, and the game would feel fresh.
The random movements of the Planets were a brilliant mechanic and wholly changed each game.
Thematically, the cards detailing Antematter by Bardshark Games are very well thought out, and the art is an idyllic blend of Gatsby and Space Cowboys.
We had a roarin’ good time!
The Nerdz Garage
A sci-fantasy mashup of strategy and Texas hold’em.
Playing Time: 45–120 Min
Publisher: Bardshark Games – https://bardshark.com/