Wolfbiter reviews Spring Thing 2024 -- Social Democracy (all main festival reviews complete)

Voyage of the Marigold by Andrew Stephens
Playtime: 52 minutes total (30 minutes for the first playthrough)

This made me want to talk about:

  • This game is a lot of fun! The writing is an excellent and effective Star Trek pastiche. Delivers the pleasure of having note-perfect dialogue options and narration:

Wormhole travel has much to recommend it but it does fray the nerves.

I am proud of the way the officers and crew of The Marigold are holding up under the pressure of a dangerous mission in unexplored space.

  • Gameplay features a variety of surprising and genre-appropriate encounters. It delivered exactly mood I wanted: slightly high-concept, slightly campy. We’ve got aliens of unknown intentions, away missions, mindbending scientific mysteries, and OF COURSE ethical dilemmas!!

  • The player choices impact the game state later in a satisfying way, starting from the decision on the first screen of whether you will take extra fuel, extra crew, or extra torpedoes. Generally the game offered all of the options I wanted (yes, I did satisfy my childhood dream of putting the crew on red alert and tossing quips at an alien commander as my ship escaped to hyperspace). And the interface is very smooth, with a chart for navigation on a separate page

  • also, trippy art!

My fervent wish:
The game is a blast. My only wish is that it could be perhaps slightly easier? I played through three times, resulting in two complete failures and one where I delivered the cure but after the planned date. The “successful” time I felt I had barely scraped in, but both of the total failures were failures by a mile. Although I think better to err on the side of being hard in in this type of game, it would have been more fun if the losses had felt like they were close. I take it the map is procedurally generated, but perhaps the algorithm could be tweaked to avoid paths that are really really long.

The individual encounters I thought were at an appropriate level of difficulty (although, I couldn’t exactly tell how much rng there was in determining the outcome of the encounters? For example, in my limited experience, it seemed like you could always safely traverse the wormhole, and if you tried to recover the artifact from the asteroid the bone worms would always eat some crew–it would be fun if that varied in a risk-based way play to play [which maybe it does?]).

Altogether, a delightful sci-fi captain simulator, worth a few playthroughs to see different encounters.

Gameplay tips / typos:
  • How to read the star chart: you start in the bottom left square. The goal is to reach the top right square (that’s where the “exit” from the nebula is, as indicated in the border art). Once you enter a square you will be able to see which available exits it has (i.e., in some squares you can only travel north and south, others are dead ends, but you won’t know until you enter the square).
  • “You also have a limited compliment of torpedoes.” - should be “complement,” same elsewhere
  • “Suplemental - Stardate 4002.20:” - should be “supplemental,” this appears in several places
  • “The nebula walls are unusually close in Sector C2 making navigation somewhat difficult and giving the entire region a cramped, clostrophobic feel.” - should be “claustrophobic”
  • “The outer hull shows the signs of age but the whole structure is remarkably intact save for a huge chuck that was ripped out in what the science officer states was a recent collision with an asteroid.” - should be “chunk”
  • “So far we have managed to maneuver around the worst of the storm but now we find ourselves near the core of a huge vertex of swirling gas.” - should be vortex