The Orion Trail is a very hazardous place, full of perils and pitfalls around every corner. It takes a keen mind and wits of steel to make it from the start to finish. Throughout each leg of your journey you’ll be forced to use your resources wisely and to pick and choose your battles. While the basic idea behind the game is simple it takes a good deal of strategy to be able to get a “Successful” rating and reach the starbase at the end.
As you progress you’ll unlock longer and tougher lengths of the spacelane, which means being able to manage your crew becomes even more important. Having played several games and making it to (but not finishing) the final leg of the journey I’ve decided to impart my hard earned wisdom to you so you can make it to the end yourself. Read on, intrepid explorer.
Knowing Your Resources
The first thing that you’ll need to know before setting out on your trek through the stars is just what your ship brings to the board. There are four main resources that you’ll have to worry about and manage through each playthrough.
- Your crew, or redshirts, are an expendable bunch that you’ll be sending out on away missions and to, obviously, crew your ship. Once this reaches zero you’re gonna start losing HP with your officers.
- Food is what’s used to feed your crew. Once that reaches zero you’ll start losing crew. Again, lose enough crew and you’ll start hurting your officers.
- Fuel is what’s used to run the ship. Run out and you’ll be stranded in space.
- Hull is the armor plating on the ship. Hit zero hull and your ship explodes in a brilliant pixelated fireball. Kill off all of your crew and officers or run out of hull and it’s game over.
While technically not resources, your captain and three officers come with their share of stats. I’ll talk more in depth in the next section, but you should know that the higher a single stat is the better you’ll do in your game. Focus on one or two and you should do fine. At least in the early game boards. In brief, here’s what each of the stats represents.
- Attack (red crosshairs) is basically your offense.
- Tactics (blue shield) is more defensive in nature.
- Diplomacy (green talking head) is how you deal with others verbally.
- Science (yellow beaker) should be pretty self explanatory.
- Bravado (purple thumbs up) is basically your willingness to run headfirst into battle without thinking of the consequences.
These are usually only used in encounters and away missions, but it’s helpful to know ahead of time when planning your build.
Before You Set Sail
- Pick your captain and three officers.
- Focus on one or two “skills” for best results.
- Customize your resource loadout.
Now that you have some understanding of the most important icons let’s take a look at your ship’s loadout. Once you select the leg of your journey you’ll be sent directly to your officer select screen. You’ll be picking your captain and three officers that will form the majority of your actions. Each one will come with their own stat block, giving you a focus in usually two or three disciplines or with a somewhat even spread. It depends on who you end up getting to choose from.
While these are mostly up to your own personal choice the basic idea is to stick with one or two stats and stacking it as much as possible. When I first started playing I made the mistake of trying for an even spread and I found that I failed encounters way more than succeeding at them. If you can get a captain with a three in one I’d recommend picking that one and any officer that has a two in it (one if there’s none). As for which one it’s entirely up to you. Just try to get it as high as possible.
Once your bridge is ready it’s time to pick your ship’s loadout. As mentioned above you’ve got four main resources in addition to your officers. You can customize which one(s) you want to focus on or do an even spread. I like to dip into all four so that I don’t hurt myself in the long run. Hull is probably the most important resource early on as the lower it is the more likely you’ll destroy the ship.
On the same side, you can’t move without fuel and without food your crew start to starve. And without crew your officers start to take damage. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to increase each with encounters but at the same time you’ll also see these decrease. Sometimes rapidly. What you choose before the game even starts could mean the difference between success and failure.
Trucking Down the Space Lanes
- Keep an eye on your resources during the journey.
- Never let any of them fall too low.
- Choose missions that give you what you need.
Your first piece of business after setting up the ship is to know how the board itself works. Each leg of the journey is built differently, have different branching paths, and a different length to the starbase at the end. But, while the journey itself may be different each one has similarities with the others. Basics of space travel, if you will. Below are the main things you need to know as you trek from beginning to end. Know your ship, develop a strategy, and hope that the RNG gods are ever in your favor.
First off, know that you’ll be constantly using up fuel and food. Each “tick”, or “dot” on the board uses up roughly 10 fuel and 4 food if I recall correctly. That means you’ll be constantly on the lookout for encounters that give you either. If you run out of fuel you’ll be stranded. Thankfully, you can hit an “S.O.S.” button just underneath the top bar and wait out several ticks, using up food while you do, and hope that a trader comes along quickly enough that you don’t starve to death. You might have to give something in exchange, usually hull or food. Other times you’ll get fuel for free. It all depends on what pops up. I highly recommend taking them up on whatever offer is given because you don’t want to stand still for too long.
Encounters and How to Beat Them
- When your path branches select the mission that gives the resource that you need.
- The “?” blocks are usually random and might give skill boosts in addition to resources.
- During the encounter pick the option with your highest stat for best results.
- Pray that the Probability Drive lands on a “Check” or “Star” and not an “X” or “Skull.
Along the path to your destination you’ll be forced into several encounters. These occur at more-or-less fixed intervals and are indicated on the map by icons representing stars, nebulae, starbases, planets, etc. Each one is a stopover point and you’ll be forced to overcome some form of challenge or another. Sometimes you’ll have two or three to choose from while other paths will force you down a single lane until a new branch opens up.
When you click on one of these points you’ll see two major things of note. First off, it will give you a difficulty rating. That’s how hard the encounter will be. The other piece of information that you’ll want to take stock of is what resource you’ll get out of beating it. Beyond the crew, food, fuel, and hull givens you’ll also have a question-mark box. What you get out of it is a mystery. Sometimes a stat boost and sometimes more resources. Make sure you pick what you need because there’s not turning back.
Now we get to the meat of Orion Trail. Encounters are where you’ll be spending most of your time playing. Chances are good you won’t know what you’re getting until after it pops up. I haven’t spotted a pattern to it so as far as I know everything is random here. Anyway, you’ll get a brief introduction of what you’re facing and two or three options to pick from.
These are obviously related to your current predicament but outside of a few encounters you’ll generally be given a choice of which skill to use. If you’re lucky one will be your main focus as described above. If you’re unlucky you’ll be forced with a difficult challenge. It’s highly recommended to pick your best stat and pray.
This is where the main random element lies. After picking your skill you’ll be sent to what the game calls the “Probability Drive”. This is basically a fancy term for a wheel of fortune. You’ll always have at least one “Star” and one “Skull” during each encounter in Orion Trail. The former represents a critical success and the latter a critical failure. You don’t want to land on a skull.
There also a number of “X” and “Check Marks”. Each “X” becomes a check for each point in the stat you picked. These are regular successes and the “X”s represent regular failures. Obviously, you want to land on a Star or Check Mark. After the wheel stops you’ll see what the outcome is. Failures usually end up in loss of resources and/or stats. Successes mean the opposite. The higher you can make these counts the better your chances of making it to the end are.
Sending Down the Away Team
- Some encounters are special and allow you to beam down to a lengthy sequence of events.
- Pick one officer to go down with the Redshirts, preferably one with a high stat value.
- Redshirts are a buffer against failure. Land on one and they die making subsequent events harder.
- You can rest at starbases along the path to reallocate your resources and possibly gain a stat point.
There are a couple rare-ish forms of encounters that you’ll…well, encounter. The first couple are pretty much simple interludes. One occurs at irregular intervals, popping up in between each stopover. Sometimes while cruising the spacelanes something either bad or beneficial happens. The main difference between these and normal encounters, aside from the insanely random appearances, is that most of the time you don’t have to roll on the Probability Drive. They happen and you move on.
Another rare stopover point are the space stations dotting the board. These are brief stops where you can trade resources for others and even improve a skill by one point. There’s little in the way of strategy here as you can rest up (heal HP), and do some trading. When you’re done, launch the ship and continue exploring.
Depending on which leg of the journey along the Orion Trail you’re exploring you’ll also come across one or more planets or anomalies that you can investigate. These are usually marked by some special graphic and represent a rather fun romp through multiple interrelated “scenes”. You can choose to move on or send down an away team, consisting of one officer of your choice and several Redshirts, to brave the perils and earn some much needed resources. These vary from mission to mission, but the basics are pretty much the same regardless of if you’re braving an alternate dimension or trying to impress a planet of Michael Jackson wannabes.
The first thing you should know before starting an away team mission is that you can abort it at pretty much any time. If you’re running low on cannon fodder…er, I mean crew…just beam back up and continue on your journey. If you’re like me and prefer to stick it out to the bitter end even if you’re running low on Redshirts you can do that, too. Just know that it’s harder the fewer guys you have with you.
Each non-officer crewmember down on the planet or whatever you have with you is an extra “success” marker on the Probability Drive. You land on one of these guys you still manage to get past the obstacle but it’s one less buffer in the next section. You also only have the stats of the one officer with you, so remember that you don’t have your full complement backing you up. That’s what the expendables are for.
At first glance, Orion Trail is a simple game with simple rules. But, as you’ve seen there’s a lot of planning and strategy involved to be able to make it to the end. The above just barely scratches the surface of what you can do and only really covers the basics of what you need to know. If you follow these tips you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your own personal play style. Just remember that each successive board you unlock gets progressively harder and longer. If you prepare ahead of time you should have no real issues. Except for the dreaded RNG, which oftentimes hates me for some reason. Good luck and see you along the Trail.