RETURN TO EARTH
Return to Earth is set a long time in the future, in a galaxy far nearer than you would have expected. Mankind has been forced into an uncivilised part of space due to its own self destruction. Earth has become overcrowded, and the poor are being shipped to the far reaches of space, so that the rich can live in luxury. Despite all the odds, the earthlings have managed to tame the once destructive alien nations bringing order to the galaxy. The United Federation of Planets now resides over the squabbling factions, and with the introduction of a unified currency it has made trading agreements for the first time in centuries possible. The continual mission for peace throughout the galaxy has yet to be established, but the humans are determined to one day make it happen.
You are a fourth generation migrant with an overwhelming urge to Return to Earth. They say it can’t be done, and once deported there is no going back. However, the stories of the home-world have always kept you interested, and you have never been one to follow protocol. You have worked your way up from a gutter thief, to the Captain of a starship, and are just the right kind of upstart to stick it to the man.
On your last mission, you traded several tons of raw plasma for information about the “Returner”; a guy living in a star system at the edge of the galaxy. For a small fortune he will arrange a new identity, and a shuttle back to the home-world. You’re broke after the deal for his whereabouts, but this won’t stop you. Your goal is to fill your boots with a bucket load of cash, and pay this guy a visit. He is your only hope to Return to Earth...
The main part of the game board represents the galaxy and is made up of 10 systems, and each is divided into 11 sectors. The systems each have a core at their centre, and this is where random planets and stars are placed at the start of a game. The core of a system is where planets and major stars have formed over thousands of years.
At two centre points of the galaxy, where six systems have collided, they have crushed the cores to create asteroid belts. They are dangerous and time consuming to navigate.
In all but one system there is a sector that has a resource that can be mined, or collected by ships. The resources can be traded at any of the six inhabited planets found in the galaxy. They all have a space station where trade goods are imported and exported (by the players). Cargo purchased, ships are upgraded, and fuel and shields are replenished. They are also great places to board passengers (or fugitives), hire crew and find work. Entering a planetary core allows a ship to use its facilities, but docking fees and trips between them is costly, so players must plan their routes carefully and wisely.
Using the star ship (player mat), captains can trade and perform missions to earn the cash they need to return to earth. The missions involve dangerous jobs (legal or illegal), passenger transports (or fugitive smuggling), running cargo (or smuggling), and how a player behaves in the game can seriously dictate how they will be treated when they visit the space ports, or if they are approached by NPC ships.
At the start of a game each player begins with just enough to get them off the starting blocks, but they must expand their ship and crew quickly or fall prey to being picked off by space pirates or the other players. Adding tech to a ship helps them in tricky situations, whilst adding crew will aid them with their skills. The downside with crew is they need to be paid for each space run they are aboard, but they are much cheaper than having tech installed.
Games are timed and will come to an end when the time marker hits the end space, but a player can beat the clock and score victory, if they can win at one of six challenges determined at the start of a game. They range from earning a fixed number of dollars (enough to return to earth), being first to have a certain class of star ship, being first to complete a set number of missions, or a set number of rounds, or being first to earn enough fame or piracy.
As the game time slowly ticks away the galaxy is evolving and global events come in and out of play, making the game sometimes more challenging, but also adding an element of luck, something each and every player will need to survive in the alien galaxy and return to earth.
The Return to Earth - Upgrade Pack adds more cash (doubling your games cash from 105 notes to 210), and upgrades the player and NPC pawns from card to plastic ships. Also included are 4 NPC player rings, that are used to indicate a NPC starship has been moved, instead of using a player marker.