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Greeting, Commanders!

In the Chronicles #2 we discussed the overall game structure, and explained how the game was divided in Ages (two in the core game, and three with the Aftermath), and how each Age was comprised of two Cycles. Today we’ll have a look at their structure.

A Cycle is an entire round of Fractal and is divided in 3 distinct phases: Income Phase, Action Phase and Conflict Phase.

Income Phase

During Income, players collect resources according to the current advancement of the various tracks on their empire board. Most importantly, the productive track will provide Credits, which are required to perform the basic actions of the game.

This first aspect of the income phase emphasizes an efficient engine building for the empire, and is inherently tied to the colonization effort. Indeed, every time a player puts a colony in place, they free a new slot on the corresponding track, in turn reinforcing this track’s power. Naturally, income becomes heavily tied to the expand and exploit aspects of Fractal.

Players also gain the benefits of exploitation areas under their control. In order to gain these benefits, they need to explore and take control of various living galaxy events on the board, while control means having unit superiority in a given sector.

So these two aspects of income are in turn tied to the explore and exterminate aspects of the game.

Finally, the asymmetry of faction comes into play during the income phase through the use of government cards. Every card has an action that can be performed during the income phase, by paying influence, which is tied to the imperial track of the empire board, and acquired through the resolution of galactic events such as anomalies and obstacles.

As such, the Income Phase is the realization of the overall strategy deployed during the Action Phase.

Action Phase

During the Action Phase, players take turns performing 2 actions chosen among 6, with the limitation that each turn, these 2 actions have to be different from each other.

This creates the need for players to find a kind of rhythm to their plays, and a proper synergy of actions each turn to fully exploit the potential of their empire. The 6 actions are as follow:

  • Recruit

Add units to the board, usually on colonies. The diversity of the units a player can bring in is tied to the advancement of the military track, in turn reflecting the colonization efforts and empire orientation. A heavily militarized empire will be able to produce more units per Recruit action, as well as stronger ones (mechs and warships)

  • Advance

Travel across the galaxy, explore events, and discover sectors ripe for colonization. This action is tied to two of the tracks on the empire board. The imperial track determines the amount of units a player can move during a single Advance action, while the scientific track increases their range (the distance they can travel).

Only space units (lightships and warships) can execute the Advance action, but they can carry ground units with them, which means the armies movement will need to be coordinated with a good enough ratio of air to ground units.

  • Colonize

Build new colonies in empty sectors. When a player control a sector ready for colonization, they can use this action to place a compatible colony on the tile. Not all sectors are compatible with every type of colony, so players will need to focus their expansion efforts if they want to maximize the current strategy of their empire.

On top of that, sectors are usually “locked” behind various galactic events which will have to be resolved before they can be colonized, which will require exploration fleets.

  • Research

Transform credits into science, used in turn to develop powerful technologies. The amount of science generated by this action depends on the level of the scientific track, which comes on top of the science generated during income by exploitation areas.

  • Government action

On top of these 4 basic actions, each player can, once per cycle, trigger the exclusive action of their government, much like they did during income. Here as well, this action requires influence instead of credits, which makes it extremely costly, but also very powerful. Indeed, each government has a unique synergy with its faction and can tip the scales if played at the right time.

  • Action card

Finally, the last and most important option is to play an action card. The game has a public pool of 4 actions cards visible at all times and replaced when activated. These cards provide a huge amount of actions, dynamics, experiments and events that allow players to manipulate the state of the game.

They make the universe move and let the players seek the right synergy to go along their current strategies. But there’s a limit to the power of these cards, and once a player has activated the second one during the cycle, they have to pass until the end of the current Action phase.

Timing is therefore crucial when it comes to activating the action cards, as they give the natural rhythm of the phase for every player.

Risk management and actions (Depletion system)

The first 4 actions are considered basic actions (Advance, Colonize, Recruit and Research), while the other two are considered accessory actions (Action cards and Government action).

If a player runs out of credits (or want to spend less), they have the alternative to deplete one of their basic actions when activating it, placing a depletion token that represent an unorthodox method to force empires and civil population to perform said actions. This gives a credit discount but locks the action for the rest of the cycle (which is public information).

These depletions can be removed during income, at the rate of 1 per cycle (although there are alternate methods to remove them). So while they can offer a considerable rush of actions during a cycle, if used carelessly, they also might cripple an empire subsequent efforts.

Conflict Phase

Once every player has passed, the Action phase is over and conflict starts. Conflict medals are placed in each sector containing units from at least two different players. These sectors are now considered to be contested and players must resolve battles to gain control (see Chronicles #3 for combat).

Once battles have been resolved, if a player’s infantries are still in a sector containing an enemy colony, they can perform a siege, and choose one of two options: raze the colony for credits, or invade it to seize control of its assets (and upgrade their own corresponding track)

Finally, at the end of the cycle, players collect conflict medals and any other reward that are collected at the end of the cycle (Utopian sector, some technologies and events) and move on to the next Cycle.

Thank you for reading, we’ll introduce the other factions in the coming months, so stay tuned to BGG for more in-depth look. 

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