I mentioned in my last post that I would talk about my spectacular experience at Rickcon (my birthday gameday), and I will. But after reviewing my thoughts from the event, I realized that my favorite game played on that day is somewhat of an afterthought here on BGG. In fact, as big of a BoardGameGeek as I am, I'm not sure I would have even heard of it if not for scooping it up on sale in a local store purge. And if it wasn't just $10, I'm pretty sure the cover art would have driven me away by itself. Either that or the item description showing that there are 10 sand timers included in the box ...
That was a big hint. There's a good chance you still have no clue. What if I said it was a strategy game originally released by eggertspiele (that's the one I have) and later distributed at some level by Rio Grande Games? Designed by Tobias Stapelfeldt? Yeah, I wouldn't have guessed either. Here's your last hint: it's a game that takes place in space.
Time's up. No, not Time's Up!, I'm just saying the time is up. Here's the answer:
I rate Space Dealer a 9. WHAT? Yep, I do. But Rick, it's a 6.67 on BGG! What could you possibly see in it? Back to the Rickcon really quick. Last year at the inaugural Rickcon, I convinced a few folks including my wife to play Space Dealer with me. Now, I had played it once before, but I made the very foolish decision to grab a friend's copy of the game and play the 8-player version of the game. This was a very, very bad idea. While the game is playable with 8, my rules explanation was horrid, and I've since found that this game shines with 3-4 and no more. The catastrophe here is that two players walked away from the game before it was finished, and the others got a bad impression (and subsequently turned it down when I suggested it this year).
Let's back up a bit more and try to sell off some of the copies in Rio Grande's storeroom. If you already played Space Dealer and didn't like it, keep reading, just in case you were like those fine folks and weren't presented the game properly. Space Dealer is an engine-building, pick up and deliver game minus the pick up. You start with your own personal space station and build it to your liking by drawing cards from a public pool. You attach bigger and better energy sources so you can create bigger and better things that produce more resources of the stuff you need to deliver to people. You're also, at the same time, building destinations for people that want to deliver stuff to you. These are all ingeniously presented on the same cards and it's fun to build the best space station you can. You also have a ship ready to send out stuff to others, a depot to put stuff, and everyone else has the same thing. Oh, and you also have two sand timers.
[insert that "Wha wha whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?!" soundbite]
If this game did all this without the sand timers, I'm guessing I would like the game and probably rate it a 7. But no -- the sand timers are a HUGE part of this thing. You're actually using those things to build your space station, and increase your technology level, and move your ship ... basically you use them to do everything. Oh, and the game comes with a soundtrack that is exactly 30 minutes long because the game is played in realtime and lasts exactly 30 minutes.
In the great words of Robert Florence, I could kiss Tobias Stapelfeldt on the mouth. (Well, he said that about Eric M. Lang in his video on Chaos in the Old World, but I'm using it anyway.) This game is an absolute blast, an incredible 30-minute romp with a terrific soundtrack and the most awesome-looking in-game picture I believe I've ever taken. Show the picture on the right to anyone not involved in board games and wait for a reaction. That pleases me very much. Anyway, one of the reasons why Space Dealer was my favorite game experience of my birthday is how this game went down. I had the privilege and honor of teaching it to my good friends Oogie, Rob, and David. I took the time to really explain it and my impression was that they all got the rules down very well. There were no problems in-game that I could tell and that made for a good experience. Now, the game recommends that you keep score while you play and I have shunned that in the past -- the way that you score points is quite easily trackable at the end of the game when you're checking to see where you delivered what goods. So we weren't keeping score in realtime, but I might just change that in the future. Here's why: I started frantically flying a ship over to David's planet to try and deliver to his last open spot before the end of the game. As I put my timer on my ship (when the sand runs out it is considered to have moved) the soundtrack announced "one minute left" in it's creepy little alien voice. I figured that I had a shot if I changed the sand timer quickly at the next planet (there was a planet in between David and I that I had to stop at). I switched it quickly and placed it on David's planet, crossing my fingers. Nearing the end, it didn't look good. The alien was counting down "ten, nine, eight, seven, six ..." way too fast! As it got to the end "three, two, one" my sand was almost completely out. I swear to you with the Big Space Dealer as my witness that my last piece of sand dropped out of there with about 3/10 of a second to spare. It was exhilarating!! High-fives all around and I was yelling with glee.
We did the scoring, and the final scores were 21, 25, 27, and 30. I had the 30, but get this: the final stop there that I was going for? That was worth 3 points. I literally won the game by 3/10 of a second. What other game can you say that about?
So that was the best game of the party, but there was so much more I enjoyed. Those that were generous enough to bring presents, thank you thank you. I landed Revolution! The Palace, Ghost Stories: White Moon, Ratuki, Thor's Hammer, and some money and gift cards that I am using to fund my purchases of Alien Frontiers, Stronghold, and Survive: Escape from Atlantis!. The single-game challenges were a huge success and I saw some amazing Animal Upon Animal stacking going on. PitchCar and Tumblin-Dice were great diversions, and thanks to Mike and Neil for bringing those. The giant pizzas were a huge hit. The prize table was a blast to do and it was really fun announcing the winners and watching them pick out their spoils.
As far as games go, we started off the con with a rousing 6-player game of Cutthroat Caverns, a game that Oogie won quite handily after surviving a game of memory match and rock, paper, scissors. I tell you what, that game is a large amount of goofy but there's still a game there, and it's fun. I wasn't sure what I would expect from it but now I'm pining for some of the expansions. During my Space Dealer game, I saw a game of Mall of Horror start up (one of my favorites as well) and then the party really started in. I lost track of all the games I saw going on, which is a good thing. Personally, I got to enjoy the following: a game of Vegas Showdown in which Greg did his thing well and won; Rattus, where I took some roles to begin with, allowed them to be taken, and then stayed clean for the rest of the game and actually won (this never happens); [thing=1382[/thing], which is always a blast, so much fun that I can't even remember who won (I think I did?); and I even got to teach The Downfall of Pompeii to some new gamers that attended.
But above all, and I say this a lot, but I just loved seeing all the members of my gaming groups getting together, meeting each other, and playing games. It's a huge melting pot of gamers, all of them each liking very different styles of games, but sharing one quality together: they're all AWESOME people. This makes for a great party and a great day that I'll be living off of for quite a few months down the road. Can't wait for next year.
I hope that you enjoyed the article and that you'll give Space Dealer a shot. It really is a neat game that once you play and understand, is considered by its timeframe a filler. Awesome.