As in most trick-taking games, players have a choice in which cards to play, which affects the outcome. In addition, there are several parts to the game where there are opportunities for strategy and/or bluffing. The designers clearly wanted this to be a game where you didn't have a feeling of hopelessness if you had lousy cards; there is plenty of other action that can significantly alter the outcome.
(1) The search mechanics add choices for both the person being searched and the searcher. The “searchee” takes his cards in hand, and makes up to 3 piles of cards face down on the table. Player may have 2 or more cards that are “Weapons of M.A.S. Destruction” (X cards) and then has to decide whether to put these in the same pile or separate them (risking losing both). Some piles will have more cards than others, and opponent is allowed to know how many cards are in each pile, so there is some strategy/psychology about where to put the X cards. For all searches, the searcher has to think about his opponent and decide if they were more likely to put an X card in a pile with several cards, or to put it in a pile with only one card. This is part of the fun of the game -- the chance to “fake out” an opponent.
(2) The “Long Shot” phase is fun and different. At one level, it is just a 20% shot at “hitting” an opponent’s “weak spot” (e.g., “starboard”) and destroying one of his cards. But there is more to it than that – for example, if you have a M.A.S
with a Firepower of “8” and you plan to do a straightforward (1 on 1) attack (high card wins), then you might only consider “shooting” at an opponent’s higher cards (9 or 10). Now your chances of success have greatly increased (at least for winning at least a part of that battle). If you miss, there is a good chance player has an “8” or lower). But some caution is advised: if you “shoot” at cards with the “starboard” weak spot (which includes the 9's) then opponent might conclude (in this case, accurately) that you have an 8. He can then take his long shot at the “BOW” weak spot, which would destroy your “8”. So, there is some psyche/psychology in choosing what to “shoot” at; what you shoot at could give an opponent information about what you have. Players will do well to discover patterns in opponent's shot-taking.
(3) After that phase of battle, all that remains is the “attack” phase where the player who is attacking that turn chooses one of three types of attacks. Choosing the right type of attack based on what your holding is and your assessment of opponent’s holding can make a difference in winning 0, 2, or all 4 cards involved in the attack. The flanking attack is notably different, but should not be used all the time (chances of success are less than 50/50, varying slightly with different holdings). Attacking player chooses one of the face down cards from his opponent; the card is flipped over, and attacking player tries to arrange his 2 attacking cards so that the icons on the edges of the cards match up (difficult to describe without a picture). If the icons match up, attacker wins the attack; otherwise the defender wins.
There are other little twists. For example, sometimes you might have an X card, but you might only have 2 cards – you can play it, but, if opponent has a “search” card, you will only be able to make 2 piles of cards, guaranteeing that it will be found if opponent has a card that lets him search 2 piles, and increasing his chances to 50/50 if he can only search 1 pile. (Memory of which/how many search cards have been played is of course useful here.)
The “stealth formation” is also an interesting feature (see “advanced” game rules on internet at www.dimensiondefender.com).
As the card box indicates
cool cards, stunning graphics, 3 types of “multi-dimension” space battles, rules for the advanced game on the internet, and opportunities to search for Weapons of M.A.S. Destruction. Everything people usually look for in a card game! :-)
The "space-themed graphics" that give the appearance of looking out a window into space are good, but maybe a little small. A nice touch.