I came upstairs to the playroom around 7pm and found Jacob setting up Vanished Planet for a solitaire playing. I offered to join him and he kindly accepted the offer. We decided to play with the expansion rules, which add some very interesting racial advantages to the game.
I went to mention first how stellar the support is for Vanished Planet. I received an email late last year indicating that they had completed an expansion to the game. The asked if I would like it sent to me for free. Well, sure! A few weeks later an envelope arrived with a rules sheet and color cards with the racial advantages. Hopefully their strong showing as the best family game of the year in the Games 100 2004 list is helping clear their inventory and, hopefully, lead to more games in the future from this company.
The racial advantages are similar to those you'd find in Cosmic Encounter; in general they break the rules in some way that provides some uniqueness to the race. One nice twist is that each race has two abilities to choose from, with the stronger ability requiring a higher victory point total to win the game. I suspect that these haven been thoroughly playtested, though, as Jacob and I had a quite easy time winning the game. I chose the Meeyat - Industrialist benefit, giving me a total of 15 tags to place instead of the usual 10. This has the affect of a much higher resource production peak. The expansion rules allow you to tag anomalies, allowing instaneous travel between those tagged by players. This allowed me to tag them without giving up substantial resource production. Jacob played the Rikae, which meant his fleet came pre-equipped with a translocator. This allows him to teleport around the board, very useful for certain types of goals that come up.
We played with 4 creature growth cards in the event deck this time. Creature growth is also handled differently - instead of it growing all 6 tentacles with each growth card, you roll 3 dice to determine three different growths (therefore, it is possible for one to grow much faster than the others).
As I said, we won fairly easily. We always find ourselves buying a Comm Relay to get new goals after the satellites have been consumed by the creature. This seems to be a must-have to win the game. Next time we'll play with more creature growth cards - a great aspect of this game is that it allows you to easily scale the difficulty.
I'm upgrading my rating on the geek for this game to an 8.