I was looking at other games on The Game Crafter, and I found one I wanted to try: Shattered Stars. I got it at the same time as my first copy of Countermine. I've only played a learning game so I'm not ready to review it on Board Game Geek or the store. But I wanted to put my thoughts down while it's still fresh. If you're new to tabletop, your learning game is the long, slow, first game in which you try to figure the whole thing out.

Summary: a nice looking game for 3-4 players, who want under two hours of space-themed game play that alternates between card based diplomacy and abstract space battles.

Print on Demand games are a geeky kind of fun, because you know you're doing something that not many others ever have. It also means you have to put up with the special features of POD, like sticking the stickers on 48 double sided wooden coins. I didn't mind. We agreed it was a relaxing way to get the set ready for action. It took three of us 15 minutes.

The instructions were good. I read the whole thing out loud to the others. One of them fell asleep in the middle, not saying who. But that's okay, one player usually guides the others through the first time. I'll say was never quite clear if a diplomatic fight follows the same rules as a domination fight. Specifically, I couldn't be sure the action cards could be used in both. For example, the Cloak card makes sense in a space battle. But can I use it in diplomacy? We decided to use them for both.

On the flip side though, I appreciated the two phases in each round, diplomacy and domination. You do some machinations with your senators and diplomats, until open hostilities break out. That gave a nice pace to the game. You find that diplomacy results in two players sharing a target planet, while domination is winner-take-all.

Planetary systems can change hands a lot. One space station was the site of either a diplomatic or physical domination conflict almost every round. There's good and bad in this observation. It was just plain fun to get stuck in on that station. But there was a reason; it provided combat bonuses on neighboring systems. I love a game with a map. And it was nice that the parts of the map had a real effect on game play. I think they could have more effect though. I'd love to see subtle and layered interactions between neighboring solar systems, depending on their arrangement and who controls them.

Speaking of the planetary systems, the cards and the art was fine. Printing quality was great, and the action cards were clear and well designed. Granted, some parts were more realistic, with detailed illustrations and some lens flares thrown in, while the planets for instance were much more flat and stylized. It wasn't bad or jarring, but we noticed. I'd love to see richer, more evocative illustrations of planets and stations.

The game is for three or four players. It has the opposite problem of my own game, Countermine. I'm limited to two players, whereas you need to get at least three for Shattered Stars. It's not a design flaw, but you need to keep that in mind.

That's all I'll say for now. I want to play a proper game through to the end, and then I'll turn this into a full, starred review.