Close encounters of the eighties kind

1981: The year yours truly was born, and the year Voyage of the B.S.M Pandora was published inside Ares magazine. What do we have in common? A waste of potential. But we're not here to talk about me.


As soon as I discovered the Ares magazine online archive a couple of days ago, I dug into it with the fervor of a hipster. The game that stood out above all the others in my eyes was Voyage:

Voyage of the Pandora is a solitaire game of interstellar exploration. The player controls the Biological Survey Mission Pandora as it travels the starways in search of extraterrestrial life forms. The player uses the crew, robots and equipment of the Pandora to collect exotic specimens while attempting to minimize the loss of human life and return home with the Pandora intact.

Sounds a lot like the upcoming ISS Vanguard from Awaken Realms, doesn't it? Considering that a Polish version of Voyage had circulated in 1985, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a source of inspiration for the Vanguard creators.


Now, let's see what this vintage game holds for the contemporary gamer. The material you will need to print is the rulebook, and the accompanying files posted on BGG by Ryanmobile (for your convenience, I am linking to the files at the end of this post). It is mainly the maps, some charts and tables, the counters, and the paragraphs that you will be reading to see what encounters you have when you land on the various planets.


The rules are for the most part well-written, but the game is bogged down by fiddly calculations that you have to execute far too often. As soon as the Pandora is set in orbit around a new planet, you have to select the crew and equipment that will board the Shuttle. The Shuttle can only carry a certain amount of weight, depending on the gravity of the planet. When the Shuttle lands on the ground, you decide if the expedition will be on foot or by rover. Again, weight calculations have to be made. You also have to carry supplies. When you spend hours exploring, the supplies will be spent, and you have to do supply checks. After a while, I decided to do myself a favour and dispense with most of the checks. I just limited my carrying and my exploration time, and focused on the enjoyable part that is the exploration itself.