U.S. publisher Rio Grande Games has a long history of publishing games based on classic science-fiction tropes, with its best-known titles being Tom Lehmann’s Race for the Galaxy and spin-off titles Roll for the Galaxy, Jump Drive, and New Frontiers. In addition to releasing licensed games like Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert, in 2018 Rio Grande published the original space colonization game Beta Colony.
Now Rio Grande Games plans to add a new title to this fleet of space games in mid-to-late October 2020, a giant design from newcomer Dennis K. Chan titled Beyond the Sun. Here’s an overview of this 2-4 player design that plays in 60-120 minutes and is listed for ages 14 and up:
Beyond the Sun is a space civilization game in which players collectively decide the technological progress of humankind at the dawn of the Spacefaring Era, while competing against each other to be the leading faction in economic development, science, and galactic influence.
The game is played over a variable number of rounds until a number of game-end achievements are collectively claimed by the players. The winner is the faction with the most victory points, which are obtained by researching technologies, improving their economy, controlling and colonizing systems, and completing various achievements and events throughout the game.
a player moves their action pawn to an empty action space, then takes that action. They then conduct their production phase, either producing ore, growing their population, or trading one of those resources for another. Finally, they can claim up to one achievement, if possible.
As players take actions, they research new technologies that come in four levels. Each technology is one of four types (scientific, economic, military, commercial), and higher-level technologies must match one of the types of tech that lead into it. Thus, players create their own technology tree in each game, using these actions to increase their military strength, to jump to different habitable exoplanetary systems, to colonize those systems, to boost their resource production, to develop android tech that allows growth without population, and more.
Let me expand a bit upon this last paragraph because while a player’s turn is straightforward — take an action, produce or trade, possibly achieve — lots of details are hidden in what “take an action” might mean. Looking at the game layout below, you’ll see the framework of the tech tree, with a list of basic spacefaring skills on the left that all players have available to them at the start of the game, along with four columns of tech levels. The level I cards for the scientific, economic, military, and commercial techs are laid out at random, then level II and III event cards are shuffled and laid out at random on those spaces of the tech tree, with the level II, III, and IIII tech cards placed above the game board.
When you research a level I tech, you place one of your population dice to the left of it to indicate that you have this skill and on subsequent turns you can use one of the actions on those cards, although some of them just give you an immediate bonus when you research them.
To research a level II or higher tech, you need to have researched the lower-level tech (or pairs of tech) that leads into it. You’ll first resolve the event, which might have you opening a guild power and adding a new action to the game, making a decision for all players about some aspect of the game, or rewarding you with victory points for your exploratory efforts. After you do this, if two different types of tech lead to this space, you choose one of them. (If only one does, then the choice is already made for you.) You reveal cards from the appropriate tech level deck until two cards of the appropriate type have been revealed, then you choose one of them to put into play, returning all other cards to the bottom of the deck.
So you know ahead of time whether you’re going to get a commercial or economic or whatever type of tech, yet you won’t know exactly what it is. You make that choice, then you’ll have first shot at using that tech since other players will need to research it first before they can use it. Additionally, players can earn private technologies that only they can use.
Your population gets locked into tech over the course of the game, so you’ll need to grow your population to continue advancing or to gain spaceships that will allow you to leave Sol and travel to other systems. Population is only one side of the six-sided non-dice that start in five columns on your individual player board, and as you remove food tokens from your population track, you’ll gain more of those non-dice as population when you take a growth action. Similarly, you want to unlock the ore production track so that you’ll produce more ore — which is the currency of the game — whenever you choose that production option.
While tech will let you advance on these tracks to some degree, with the automation of these production lines giving you points at game’s end, you’ll find more opportunities to grow by creating spaceships, boosting the military power of those ships, then occupying different systems on the exploration board. If you’re first into a system or place more military power there than another player, you gain an outpost there, using a population or ore token, which unlocks more production of that resource. If the system can be conquered by military power, then if you have an outpost on that system and enough power, you can remove that system from play, adding it to your holdings, placing another token on it, then populating the exploration board with another system at random.
In addition to gaining victory points for advancing in technology, encountering certain events, automating production, and colonizing systems, players can score in Beyond the Sun by meeting the goals of one of the four achievements in play. Two of the achievements will be the same each game — research your first level IIII tech, and colonize four systems — while the other two will be pulled at random from two different decks.
Some achievements can be completed by only one player, while others can be completed by multiple players, with the earlier achiever earning more points. When four achievement spots have been claimed, no matter by one player or more, players complete that round of play, then play one additional round before the game ends and everyone tallies their score.
Ken Hill at Rio Grande Games, who oversaw development of this game, says that French and Polish versions of Beyond the Sun are in the works, and additional language versions of the game might also be forthcoming. Hill also notes that he was delighted to work with famed game artist Franz Vohwinkel on this design, with Vohwinkel providing many helpful suggestions for the graphic design of the game based on his decades of experience. While Vohwinkel isn’t known as a “space” artist, apparently that’s only because few publishers ask him to work on science-fiction games!