09-Nov-2008All month
Space Alert

We don't really have much of a history of playing cooperative games here at the Piddinghoe Gamers. We played Lord of the Rings a couple of times, but Oggie kept making things a little too interesting with his ability to shuffle tiles into an awkward sequence as possible.

So all bets were off regarding how we were going to find this game, which is probably well described as a real time, cooperative version of Roborally.

The idea behind the game is that the players form the crew of a ship exploring a remote part of the galaxy. It consists of two rounds - planning and resolution.

The planning round is where the real time Roborally comes in. The gimmick with this game is that it comes with a CD which has a number of missions. Each mission consists of a computerised voice announcing various events. The most significant of these are the appearance of various threats which the players need to react to. The crew then attempt to figure out how they will manouver around the ship, moving energy between reactors, shields and weapon systems. Each player lays down a sequence of cards to show what their actions will be.

The resolution round is where you see how well, or how badly, the planning stage was. Well enough and the crew survive to tell another tale. Badly enough and the ship goes bang. Nobody goes home. Nobody wins.

We played a couple of the tutorial games which introduce the basic rules. The first we survived more by luck than judgment. By the second we knew what we were doing and survived the threats handily. Having flicked through the rest of the rules, I know we got away easily this time. The real game introduces all sorts of nasties which we didn't have to worry about.

So, how did it play? More or less as I expected actually. There was a bit of confusion at the start as we tried to figure out how to make everything jel, but things soon started to fall into place. The time pressure imposed by the CD is important as it keeps everybody on their toes and prevents everybody working things out optimally. The pressure wasn't particularly significant in our tutorial games but I can see it ramping up on the real missions. Basically you find yourselves communally trying to solve a puzzle, working out how to get not only people to the right places at the right time, but also in moving energy round the ship. The more threats to contend with, the more difficult the puzzle. The game comes with a number of different missions, which introduce threats from a random card deck. Thus there should be quite a lot of replayability.

I probably liked this more than anything else, as I usually find something which plays differently to be interesting. This game certainly meets the "is a bit different" criteria. Nobody appear to be havign a bad time though. We'll see where the more advanced rules bring us.

It's a shame about the annoying robotic sound on the CD though - it's a tad annoying, and not as easy to hear as it could have been.

 Comment by Tel 
This is one of those games that I cant see becoming a regular to the gaming table (but then again how many are), but it will certainly be welcome as an occasional change of pace.

I'm not usually a huge fan of cooperative games, they often seem to suffer from one player dictating to rest how the game should be played out. In our short exposure to Space Alert this didn't happen, whether this was because no-one had any idea what we were doing or because the time pressure exerted by the CD prevented too detailed a co-ordinated plan only time will tell. I certainly hope to be aboard the next time SS sitting Duck blasts off.

 Comment by Andy 
I'd be the first to admit that these aren't my favorite types of game but this one was in the "vaguely fun, needs more meat" category. As we were only playing the intro scenario, I gave it the benefit of the doubt, and we won despite my feble attempts to add some spice by deliberately drawing power from the main engines - to make bacon sandwiches of course!!

I'd like the game more if I can manipulate events such that red gets killed :)

Scores: Tel 1, Paul 1, Andy 1, Steve 1
Ratings: Tel 7, Paul 8, Andy 7, Steve 7
Winner(s): Tel, Paul, Andy, Steve