WBG Score: 9.5
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: Garphill Games
Designed by: S J Macdonald
This is a free review copy. See our review policy here.
Circadians: First Light is a wonderfully strategic game that I have reviewed here. There are two main expansions for the game. Chaos Order that introduces six asymmetric factions. And Specialists, that we are reviewing here, that introduces two new alien factions to add to the Negotiation board, a new Temple location to visit, and a new Outpost board to extend players bases. It also introduces new characters, contract cards, and excitingly, new specialist dice. Let's get to it.
The expansion rule book opens with a story of how, after 33 rotations on the planet of Ryh, the intrepid explorers have now met new alien races. I like how it is even attempted to be explained how or why new races are being introduced at this stage in the game. The theme doesn't exactly leap out of this game. But it is there, and this small bit of world building in the rule sis certainly appreciated here. This game is not a narrative story based game, but an element of story telling is being attempted to build the lore of the game and it works well.
How To Set Up Circadians First Light Specialists Expansion
On top of the usual set up for the main game, add in the following set up steps.
First up you need to modify the Negotiations board, which is now a whole lot bigger. Place the Negotiations board extensions on either side of the Negotiations board, using the side suitable to your player count. Make sure that Oxataya is of the left and Ahzuri is on the right. Either side of these two new races can be used, just like the main game with the existing three factions. The bottom of the board is also increased, adding in space for four extra Incident tokens which reference the new Specialist dice.
The Event deck has six new cards to add in. Shuffle these into the deck but still draw the same amount. The new event cards are not especially linked to the new expansion. They just bring more variety to these cards. Likewise, add in the new Farm and Ship tiles when setting up these stacks and the 12 new Leader cards to the Leader deck. These are awesome, more on that soon.
Alongside the six main boards in the game, there is now a seventh Temple board. Add this to the table along with the others. The Temple brings a new location to visit that allows players to gain the new type of Specialist die. This is also a new place where Contract cards can be gained and fulfilled. Something that was certainly required from the base game.
Players now gain one extra Outpost board, two Outpost Tiles, and three Specialist dice in their chosen colour. The Specialist dice are placed onto the spaces on the outpost board which is placed to the left of the research base during set up. players need to decide which of the two outpost tiles to keep, returning the other to the box. You are now ready to play.
How To Play Circadians First Light Specialists Expansion
The game plays as usual with a few minor changes.
During the Planning phase, players must assign Specialist dice if they have them. You can only have one active Specialist dice at a time. The Specialist dice do not have pips on, so you can treat the dice as being any number you like. They are Specialists you see.
In the Execute phase, assign Specialists dice just as you would with a normal dice, other than the fact that they can break normal turn order of your own dice. A Specialist dice in the third garage for example, could go out first if you wanted. They can also move from a Garage to a Farm if you want. They then act just like a normal dice in the Farm during the Harvest phase.
Specialist can be used as any number, apart from when sent to the Negotiation board where they have no number so do not count towards the base game Setbacks. But there are now two new rules at this juncture focused around Specialist dice. First, the first two Specialist dice sent to the Negotiations board gain one advancement. Second, if you place a Specialist in a column where there is already one other Specialist presence you will suffer one Setback.
Players gain Specialists in a few ways but mainly from visiting the Temple. When you gain your first one, you must replace a regular dice with one of the three Specialists you placed on your Outpost during setup. Add the new Specialist die to your active collection of dice. One regular die is placed back into your supply in place of this. When you gain your second or third Specialist you need to move one of the Specialist die from your Outpost to one of the lock spaces on the outpost board. You don't get it quite yet! Later, when you move another Specialist to the Negotiations or Depository board, you can then unlock one Specialist from the lock space. This essentially means you don't lose a die as you usually would. You spend one regular die then get one Specialist back right away.
The Outposts are not just left for your own use though. You can visit other players Outposts with your Specialists by placing it onto the top space on the Outpost board, you will then gain one Contract card and two Water. But this can be upgraded by gaining extra Specialists, which when removed from the starting spaces on the outpost board, reveal added benefits given to you when moving to other players Outposts. This will also reveal added end game points. Players can also gain Specialists from new Farm tiles and from the new rewards at the Negotiations board.
Players will score as per usual, simply adding the extra points gained from the new Outpost board.
Is It Fun? Circadians First Light Specialists Expansion Review
The base game is already pretty wonderful in my opinion, and did not need anything specific done to it to fix any issues. However, adding more Leaders, the best part of the game, is a no-brainier and simply adds more variety and fun. The added Aliens to deal with are interesting, and it is nice to now have one that trades in Water. Something you previously could not use on the Negotiations board, and this could be frustrating, especially if you were Water rich and light in the other resources.
I like the new Specialists dice. It's cool to have a dice with out any pips. That is a novelty in itself. But it works well in a game like this, that is so heavy in strategy, but can, on very few occasions, be governed by the luck of a die roll. Now, with pip-less dice, this is removed. Just use whatever number you want if you have earnt the right to do so. I like that. It's a great solution to a very small problem in this game. But only rewarded when you deserve it.
The Outpost and Temple serves simply it seems as a means to get the new Specialist dice and bring them into your ownership. I like the process of moving them to the lock space and replacing used dice later in the game. On occasions, you could previously spend a die that you don't get back and then not have your full allocation of Dice on your next round as you ran out of turns or resource needed to get a new die back on that round. That was on you as the player to plan ahead, but it is nice to now have another option to keep you full allocation. More so when the replacement die is a Specialist. Charlene Fortin, a new Leader also offers some new flexibility here with the luck of the die rolls, by allowing players to increase one die up to two pips or two dice for one pip in the planning phase. A nice option to have.
The other new Leaders are also a wonderful addition. I like Corey Ahrens who provides you with one Gem every time you don't have dice in your Outpost during the Harvest phase. Luna Morrison is my new favourite though, who allows you to gain a Gem when you negotiate with the Ahzuri, or three Water when other players do. The Ahzuri let you either discard two contract cards to move your Harvester or move the Harvester one space closer to the centre space in order to gain a Gem, powerful options. So this is a highly common negotiation and as such Corey Ahrens power comes into play a lot.
For a game that is so solid without any real issues, I am surprised how good this expansion is. I would not say it is a must have. That depends on how much you like the base game. It won't make anyone who did not enjoy the base game change their mind on the overall experience. But if you did enjoy Circadians, then I would say Specialist is an essential expansion as it simply adds more fun with minimal extra rules and does make the game better. Personally, I wont play the base game without this expansion and have increased my overall score of the game by 0.5 which is a lot when I was already at a nine!