Stratos is the Earth's larges sky hub a place where the elite live a and play. The underbelly is where the rest of us make by on the scrapes left by the elite in Stratos. As a rover in the underbelly you have made your way through cunning survival skills and you knowledge of tech. Now is the time to make your move and get your crew into Stratos through the waste tunnel system. Build your skills and make your connections to get up into Stratos and join the Earth's Elite in the engine-building cyber punk game Cytress designed by Sean Lee and developed by Karl Lange.
Each player starts off in the underbelly as a rover with aspirations of getting into Stratos. To do this you will need to earn prestige by building tunnels into Stratos and controlling the areas in the underbelly around them. Players can chase down bounties for the factions and build skills.
There are 4 factions in the underbelly that control different aspects of the daily life. Corpocrats control production and procurement of supplies. The Hooligangs have provide the muscle for your team and help you reinforce. Rovers specialize craft and trade and will help you with the merchant. Then finally you have the Privateers and they help you spread your influence. Doing jobs for each of these factions will give you bonuses on your lifepath.
The first part of the turn gaining supplies. The players review how much and what supply they get based on their lifelines. The more missions for the factions you complete the more supply you will get at this juncture of the game.
This represents your leader exerting his influence on the faction they are visiting to get some resources.
The second part of the turn is to spread influence. Each player takes turns placing their leader marker one of the four faction districts. These are the large board segments that surround the Territory tiles in the middle. When you visit a faction district with your leader you gain resources. This represents your leader exerting his influence on the faction they are visiting to get some resources.
The next stage of the game turn is the travel stage this is when you can move the 3 ships you can move to different sectors on the board and do missions or other tasks for you. The supplies are needed for performing the missions for the factions. The Hooligang line on your characters life path will offer you a discount then the symbols match. If you need to pay 3 of an item and your hooligang lifeline has 2 of that symbol then you only need to pay 1 from your supply.
One of the places you can travel will let you speak to the Stratolites to build your prestige. When want to go up into Stratos to talk to the Stratolites you need to build a tunnel. Keep in mind that when the tunnel supply is used up then the game is over. To build a tunnel segment you will select a Stratolite card and it will tell you what supply you need to spend and what color hex you need to build it on (you must have a crew member already on that color) the territory tiles. You can build a tunnel up to 3 segments but you cannot build on it again after its been built. The higher you build your tunnel the more prestige you get and if your the first one to the level you get some bonus supply. Finally after all the other ships are played and resolved anyone who is on the meet the Stratolites space gets to move their ship to another place and take the action there.
The loser has to go back to the start block and ponder the meaning of life.
There are a few other spaces on the board where you you can interact also. You can meet the Netprowler, Bounty Hunters, Loan shark or Merchant. The Netprowler has a second way in to Stratos. They allow you to build a tunnel on any space you have a crew and for any single supply. You wont get the extra action that you get for meeting the Stratolites but it could be your second action letting you build 2 tunnels in one turn. Some powerful stuff there. The loan shark will allow you to take supply that is on one of the face up cards. If you do not pay them back by the end of the game it costs you prestige. The Merchant will let you trade goods. The Bounty Hunters will pay you in prestige for a certain number of missions you carry out against a faction. If you complete 3 missions against the Corpocrates then you get 7 prestige.
As far as big games like this I was happy that scoring was easy.
The final phase of the game is your basic cleanup and reset phase. All players take back their leader and ships, pay the loan shark and pass the first player token. If you played the last tunnel piece this turn then this is also the end of the game and you count up scores. Add up the crew in stratos, bounties collected, tunnels that you control and your remaining supply. This total minus the loan shark penalties you may have acquired is you final score. As far as big games like this I was happy that scoring was easy. There wasn't a ton of math and it went quick
This game has a lot of table presence. When your friends show up for game night and you have this all setup on the table, they will be impressed. Do not let them get put off by how massive this game is as it is not very complicated and flows quickly once everyone grasps the rules. It has a slight learning curve but is approachable to newer gamers. The theme is flowing through the entire game and really gives you a feeling of being there in Stratos. The game will be launching soon on kickstarter and I recommend having a look and hitting that notify me on launch button.
Year Published: 2022
Recommended Ages: 14+
Time to Play: 20m per Player
A pre-production copy of Cytress was provided to Bert's Tabletop Games for review purposes . Final products may vary from what is portrayed in this article.