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Subject: Fair Game Reviews: Space Cadets rss

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Scott Huntington
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I had heard a lot about this game while lurking and following it here on BGG, and was fascinated by the idea of a game comprising of lots of minigames. Indeed, as former regular Nintendo-console player, the immediate analogy of the "Mario Party" series of games sprung to mind. Fantastic, I thought, as my group of gaming friends who are not of the hardcore variety, found Space Alert (a game I particularly love) to be overwhelming.

The game (for those who don't already know) is a cooperative game which has timed elements, which generally speaking, always eliminates the problems of the "bossy leader" in cooperative games; i.e. that one guy who knows the best possible thing for you to do on your turn, and therefore turns the game into a game that he's playing alone while using the other players as his reluctant puppets.

Space Cadets sees players flying through space to complete different missions; most of which involve finding and tractor-beaming in lumpy space crystals whilst shooting up bad guys and avoiding the nasty Nemesis ship, an enemy that enters play a few turns in and buzzes annoyingly around like a blowfly on a dungheap. Your ship, in this analogy, is that pile of crap. Each player controls different parts of it; one person is given the helm and is told to fly around, the other is on shield duty, another is to hand out energy, another has to load and fire the torpedoes. It's like each person has been given the remote control to one leg of a mechanical spider; If everything goes right, you may look like you're doing an athletic and cool looking breakdance, or you might just end up in a tangled mess on the floor and a hurt back.

The minigames that are the meat of the game are varied and link up with each other in ways that really only become apparent when you start to play. The sensors guy is feeling around in a bag for shapes. Without being able to do this well, the torpedoes guy is going to have to flick that disc further down the track to do any damage, and how often she can do that is dependent anyway on whether the engineering guy manages to line up those tiles correctly. The games are simultaneous and under time pressure, and create tiny little climactic moments throughout each turn. The other players wait with baited breath as a trembling finger goes to flick that disc down the track; as the dingy little ship bounces off space debris and takes accidental wrong turns, and as the Tractor-beamer flips over two tiles to see if they match. Everything matters, because everything affects everybody else in some way. Didn't manage to turn us around, Helm guy? Well, that enemy is going to bust up our starboard side now, the side Shields guy basically just covered with some wet tissue paper. Which would have still been ok if Sensors guy had managed to cloak us properly instead of accidentally pressing the button that sent out loud whale noises and flashing lights. It's the drama of these moments that makes Space Cadets so unbelievably enjoyable and tense from beginning to end.

I was very much wrong about one thing though. This game is deceptively lengthy and awkward to teach. More-so because the minigames are immediately recognisable and transparent to people. Make poker hands? Easy. Fit those pieces into the puzzle? Done. Yahtzee? Not a problem. But the framework that holds the games together, what makes them important and gives the players reason for them to care about them is, well, hard to work out. The game is a table hog, and looking across from your little stations to the others for the first time is like looking over a cliff with no railing; you could, but you'd feel a bit dizzy and uncomfortable. This becomes apparent while playing, but expect to be teaching and thumbing through the rulebook as you play your first couple of games. The game is not for casual gamers, not as much for Joe Ticket-To-Ride as I's have hoped. Sure, Joe could sit in and take over Sensor Duty half way through a game and that would be fine, but he wouldn't be involved in the narrative unless he truly understood why the fact that he missed pulling out the t-shape meant everyone else was shooting rage bullets at him with their eyes.

For me this is a no-brainer. Space Cadets is one of the most unique games I have ever played, with huge replayability value and nail-biting moments of stress and excitement all the way though. Get it!

9/10.

[EDIT: changed the title of this review as I've decided to make these into a series]
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Adam Kazimierczak
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
So Space Alert with dexterity/puzzle mini games? Interesting but I think the fact that the minigames are familiar and a bit stale for the average adult gamer may detract from immersion. I'm not sure I'd be ok with the ship blowing up because of someone's inferior Yatzee performance.
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Michael Denman
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
kaziam wrote:
So Space Alert with dexterity/puzzle mini games? Interesting but I think the fact that the minigames are familiar and a bit stale for the average adult gamer may detract from immersion. I'm not sure I'd be ok with the ship blowing up because of someone's inferior Yatzee performance.


I think the point of the mini-games isn't that they are incredibly exciting little games in their own right. They aren't. It's the PRESSURE which makes it all fun. You've got to deal with time. You've got to deal with distracting core breaches. You've got to deal with the other stations ("Where's my energy? Why did you turn the ship right after I activated the port shield?").

If you think someone else's inferior performance is really going to tick you off, then you definitely do NOT want to play. In other co-ops, you might very well be able to run over to where some other player is and help take up the slack. There's not much of that going on here (although there is a little kibitzing allowed). If the person in charge of weapons can't flick a disk to save his life, then you're probably going to die. I would find that hilarious... and then maybe suggest they try a different station next game. My wife... well, I'm interested to see how she likes it at BGG Con. She'll love all of the little activities and the pressures, but she may very well not like the dependency on others. However, it won't be because she's unhappy because somebody else flopped at their task. She may feel bad if SHE lets everyone else down by not handling her station successfully. I'm hoping that the pros outweigh the cons with her.
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Scott Huntington
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
Quote:
I think the point of the mini-games isn't that they are incredibly exciting little games in their own right. They aren't. It's the PRESSURE which makes it all fun.


This is exactly right. With no time pressure and framework, this game would be nothing more than a minigame collection in a pretty dress. But it is the fact that everyone is working together on different tasks in the same 30 second time frame that gives the game its own audible electricity, that turns boring old memory match into a sweaty-palms bomb-detonation experience, that makes your brain stall and forget which way is left and which is right when programming how to steer the ship. The immersion is there and the games make sense to the parts of the ship they control, from flicking your weapons to feeling shapes for the sensors.

If your toes curl in anticipation watching Butterfingers Bill's trembling finger over a disc you know he's going to flick halfway across the room, then you're immersed in the game. If you want to smack his head in when the disc does end up under the couch, then perhaps you're best inviting some people over for a round of Pandemic and then telling them what to do each turn

Or you could just wait for a Shift Change card to show up and give him a slightly less dexterous task
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Ray Greenley
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
kaziam wrote:
So Space Alert with dexterity/puzzle mini games? Interesting but I think the fact that the minigames are familiar and a bit stale for the average adult gamer may detract from immersion. I'm not sure I'd be ok with the ship blowing up because of someone's inferior Yatzee performance.

I think this is what will make this such a great cooperative game. You MUST depend on the performance of the other players to succeed, and you can't play for them if they're failing. The tone is meant to be light-hearted and not taken too seriously. Of course, the long-ish play time might make it harder to take lightly. I suspect that you'll really need to focus on enjoying the play in the moment and not focus too much on the eventual outcome to appreciate the game. But I haven't played the table version yet, so I can't say for sure. ;^)
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Thanasis Patsios
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
Scott, thx for the review. How many players were you playing with? Do you think the game would be enjoyable with less than 5-6?
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Scott Huntington
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
NasosP wrote:
Scott, thx for the review. How many players were you playing with? Do you think the game would be enjoyable with less than 5-6?


One of the really elegant bits of design here is that all the stations must be manned each game, regardless of how many players there are. So in a game with fewer players, you're essentially trading off having more people at the table (which is fun) with having more things to do (which is fun as well). The tasks have been cleverly divided up so that the ones that more heavily rely on each other are split between players.
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Roger Brandon
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
I'm thinking that having the "mini-games" simple is a bonus, in that as a whole the game sounds extremely challenging, the parts would make it very easy to get non-gamers into it- it's something they can easily grasp and pull them into the game.
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
sdotco wrote:
NasosP wrote:
Scott, thx for the review. How many players were you playing with? Do you think the game would be enjoyable with less than 5-6?


One of the really elegant bits of design here is that all the stations must be manned each game, regardless of how many players there are. So in a game with fewer players, you're essentially trading off having more people at the table (which is fun) with having more things to do (which is fun as well). The tasks have been cleverly divided up so that the ones that more heavily rely on each other are split between players.


I see. Do you reckon, this would still be fun? I mean, in the midst of the chaos, can one simply switch from the helm to weapons etc?
 
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Scott Huntington
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
NasosP wrote:
sdotco wrote:
NasosP wrote:
Scott, thx for the review. How many players were you playing with? Do you think the game would be enjoyable with less than 5-6?


One of the really elegant bits of design here is that all the stations must be manned each game, regardless of how many players there are. So in a game with fewer players, you're essentially trading off having more people at the table (which is fun) with having more things to do (which is fun as well). The tasks have been cleverly divided up so that the ones that more heavily rely on each other are split between players.


I see. Do you reckon, this would still be fun? I mean, in the midst of the chaos, can one simply switch from the helm to weapons etc?


You never have more than one thing to do in each 30 second block, so if you have 2 different tasks, you will be doing them one after another, not both at once! I have already played a 3 player game and it was extremely fun and tense
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Jeffrey Speer
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
What are the components like? The pieces you draw out of the bag made of plastic, wood, or cardboard? (For example)
 
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Geoffrey Engelstein
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
All tokens are cardboard (including the Sensor tokens), except for the red torpedo disc, which is wood.

The player mats are cardstock, and the weapons track is a traditional game board.

Here's an image of the components:



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Jeffrey Speer
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
Hey cool, thanks
My curiosity is still poking at me a little, why not use the other material? I mean no criticism at all, and I'm anxiously waiting to order the game

(Also love Ares Project, Engelsteins rule!)
 
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Geoffrey Engelstein
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Re: Space Cadets: Like Everything and Nothing you've ever played
It was a publisher decision based on the projected retail cost, size of the box, etc.

Geoff
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