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Courtesy Victory Point Games
An example of a threat card that must be overcome or the players will lose.

Cooperative board games operate under the concept of all players banding together in order to beat the game. In Frontier Stations by Victory Point Games and designer Jeremy Lennert, players represent captains of space stations defending an area of outer space cooperatively from external threats such as killer robots, artillery fire and boarding parties. If a single threat goes unanswered, all players lose.

The components for this three- to six-player game consist of playing cards, sturdy cardboard chits, a cardstock paper board and dice. The components are decent quality, but nothing to write home about. Victory Point Games does a good job of keeping prices low and providing adequate pieces, which is typical for them. The customary napkin is included.

The game begins by each player receiving a space station to manage. At multiple times during the game, several threats will be activated that have to be dealt with. As a space station manager it is the goal of all players to handle these threats as quickly and efficiently as possible while upgrading their space stations to handle bigger and tougher threats. A careful balance and strategy is necessary.

The unique thing about the game is that threats pop up on a player’s left and right sides at the table. These threats are faced together by a player’s left and right neighbor. For example, if an army of enemy robots attacks the current player’s left side, the current player’s left neighbor can help fight it, but not the current player’s right-side neighbor.

The most strategic part of a turn is when a space station manager must decide to purchase upgraded equipment or neutralize a threat. Both cannot be done the same turn. Upgrades can help make more resources that in turn help beat more threats, but if a player waits too long, a threat explodes, and it’s game over.

A cool part of the game is the designation of a rotating captain from among all the station managers. The captain has the ability to trigger a distress beacon that automatically neutralizes one threat at any time anywhere at the table, but only two distress beacons can be used during the entire game. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Threats are drawn from a deck throughout the game, and if players can make it to the bottom of the threat deck without having a single threat get through, they win. The game also has rules to crank up or crank down the difficulty level of the game.

Frontier Stations is definitely fun to play and encourages strategic thinking with other players. The games starts out slow and many players may think it is too easy, but just wait. The second half of the game is difficult and players start to take a beating. If cooperative board games are of interest, check this one out.

rmorgenegg@desnews.com