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Subject: SNAP Review: Review after one Basic, one Advanced game rss

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Sami Khan
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Shefford
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Disclaimer: This review is written after two playings, it's quite possible that we read the rules wrong, or I've missed long term aspects of this game. Also everything in this review is my own personal opinion and yours may differ.


Introduction

Space Dealer is a 3-4 player (can take up to 8 with two sets, but tbh I think it would be better playing as two separate games in this case) space based trading game. I picked up my copy of the game at Essen 2006, from the Eggert-Spiele stand.

The box is a large square one, identical in size to the Descartes version of Evo. Although I don't personally like this box size and shape (too large and bulky), there are enough games with similar dimensions that it will fit into the collection easily.

I wasn't on hand the first time my version of the game was played, so I can't comment on the original packing and so on. However, there isn't actually that much space left in the box, as there really are quite a few components. A small insert takes about an inch off two opposite sides of the box.

The box contains tiles which can be laid out in a circle to form an area where the player's ships can fly around, and doubles up as the victory point board. Each players planet will alternate with neutral planets around in a circle when the board is complete. Each player also has a factory area which represents their factory's outputs and technologies.

There is a pack of cards representing technologies and upgrades, as well as neutral planet demand cards for the Advanced Game. There are five "space-ships" which can be seen in the BGG images, chunky wooden cylinders marking where victory points have been earned by each player, and small wooden cubes marking goods.

Note that slightly oddly each spaceship and planet is two sided, representing two colours on either side - this is for the purpose of making the game expandable for 8 players. This means there are 8 different colours to choose from, but not all colour combinations are permissable.

There is a CD which is meant to provide a good soundtrack for having on in the background. We did not play using this, so I cannot comment on it.

Finally there are 10 sand timers which represent the time taken for each action. I'd read people complaining about the sand timers taking different times, so we set up a quick test: Each of the four players flipped two timers simultaneously, and kept their eye on them. When the time ran out they were flipped back. When the sand had run through twice we put them in the middle in order of speed. Most of the timers were similar in time (a few seconds apart between the quickest and slowest maximum). We stuck coloured labels on the 1st and 8th fastest, 2nd and 7th fastest and so on and each player took one of the colours of sand timers. This seemed like a sensible work around and the game played fine for us.

The rules in general were easy enough to understand, but there were a couple of queries that applied for the Basic Game we had to look to the Advanced game rules for - specifically what to do if you didn't want a card.

This review is based on a single play of the Basic game, and a single play of the Advanced Game, both with four players.


Gameplay

Play carries on simultaneously until 30 minutes has passed, at which point the game ends immediately, and whoever has the most Victory Points wins.

Each player essentially has several action options. When they perform an action, they must wait until a freshly flipped sand timer action has run out before they may use this timer again for another action. As you have two sand timers, this means you have two actions on the go at a time.

The actions are as follows:

1) Upgrade your planet technology by a half step - upgrading your planet technology to 2 enables you to draw improvement cards from the 2 stack, to 3 enables you to draw improvement cards from the 3 stack

2) Build a card from your planning area - there is space for two cards in your planning area, and it takes a sand timer to build them onto your planet/factory area.

3) Use a technology card - this enables you to use one of the cards you have built out - these are typically goods producers and will produce you goods to trade to the other players.

4) Move the spaceship - this enables you to start the spaceship off to one of the other players. You move the spaceship so it is clear where it is heading. It must go to the neutral planet before reaching the other player. If your spaceship is empty of goods it may fly back to your home planet only taking one turn.

5) Discard a card from your planning area - this goes to the bottom of the appropriate technology pack.

At any time you may also

Play a card from your hand to your planning area (provided there is space).

Draw the top two technology cards from a technology pack your planet is advanced enough to access, choose one of them and put it directly into the planning area, and put the other at the bottom of the pack it was drawn from.

Load any number of goods from your depot onto your spaceship (provided it is at your planet)

Fulfil demand at another planet (if your spaceship is there with suitable goods) - if you do this, you put one of the cylinders in your colour on the demand, and you receive the shown number of Victory points, the owner of the demand also gets some victory points (although not as many).

To summarise, what happens is that you build out factory enhancements which permit you to build out more buildings, and improvements, which allow you to produce goods, or have some special ability, and these have an associated demand with them, which enables other players to build to you.

The Advanced Game adds additional cards, many with unusual special abilities, and permits the trading of goods to neutral planets.


Thoughts from the players

Essentially what happened in our Basic Game was that the game played well, but there came a point about 5 minutes before the end where all the demand markers had been satisfied, and no one could do anything else. It was a good introduction to the game but really seemed most dependent on what cards were drawn. My gut feel is that the Basic Game should be played to a shorter time to inject a sense of urgency, or perhaps trading with the neutral planets should be permitted in it.

When we played again with the Advanced Game, there was a lot more to do mostly because of trading with the neutral planets, and this meant that the game did not end prematurely, in fact 30 minutes felt about right. The cards in the technology deck came out a bit oddly, meaning I got stuck for a few turns which was a bit irritating, but the game still played OK.

This is definitely an intriguing game, but a lot of it's appeal is due to the almost "gimmickiness" of the sand timer aspect. If it was just each player taking turns around the table I don't think it would be that much fun.

That being said, the sand timer mechanic does work well, making the game into an interesting experience where you try to keep an eye on sand timers, what demands other players have at the moment, so you know which goods to produce, and the overall clock. This game will stay in the collection, and I'm sure it will be played reasonably regularly, just not every week or even month.

Note: Some people have made comments about not liking the urgency brought into the game by the sand timers. I never found this to be a particular issue, in general I was waiting for the sand timers to run out rather than worrying I didn't know what to do next.

sa266: A bit too much waiting around for timers, especially in the Basic Game. The fact that one player not building their area up hands the game to the person opposite them is definitely a problem.
The advanced game fixes those problems a bit, but creates more in the luck of the draw from the larger packs of cards.
An OK game, and certainly novel, but not one I expect to last once the novelty has worn off.


Martin: A unique game driven in a real-time way through the use of sandtimers. However, I found that instead of feeling under constant time pressure that instead there was to much waiting around for your timer to finish.

While the card drawing mechanism of taking two, playing one and discarding the other, works fine, you can have the unfortunate situation where you simply don't pick up the necessary generator upgrades to make any progress. Also if you are unable to produce one of the four colours, your scoring opportunities can be severely limited. While the advanced game did increase the options available I'm not sure how balanced they truely were. The Tech Centre, which allows you to lay four cards in your planet "reserve" means you can almost constantly cycle through looking for better cards while other players are in a far more restrictive situation.

There was no trading in my games because it never really felt beneficial to do so. In situations where one of your neighbours can't produce one colour we simply left them to their fate although with hindsight I suppose I should have traded with them to give them the opportunity to gain VPs from my structures rather than simply leaving all these to my other neighbour. Interesting thoughts...

Definitely would play this again although not sure whether this will ever make it as a purchase.




Conclusion

Space Dealer feels like it would be an average game, but for its clever use of sand timers which makes it feel innovative and a new. Worth playing if you get a chance.
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Richard Dewsbery
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ColdFinger wrote:
There is a CD which is meant to provide a good soundtrack for having on in the background. We did not play using this, so I cannot comment on it.


"Cheesy, but useful" is how I would describe it. The music is pretty third-rate, but the announcement of time remaining - every five minutes IIRC - is very handy. I wish my alarm clock could manage it. "You ave ten minutes to get up"; "You must get up now"; "You should have got out of bed ten minutes' ago", etc.
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Sami Khan
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Shefford
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RDewsbery wrote:
ColdFinger wrote:
There is a CD which is meant to provide a good soundtrack for having on in the background. We did not play using this, so I cannot comment on it.


"Cheesy, but useful" is how I would describe it. The music is pretty third-rate, but the announcement of time remaining - every five minutes IIRC - is very handy. I wish my alarm clock could manage it. "You ave ten minutes to get up"; "You must get up now"; "You should have got out of bed ten minutes' ago", etc.


Thanks for that information, I'll have to see if I can get the CD in the background next time I play!

PS: Let me know if you ever find an alarm clock that does that - sounds useful...
 
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Sami Khan
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UPDATE: good chunk of a year on, and I've only played the one further Advanced Game of this. I did enjoy the second game and if anything I appreciated the game more. This is staying in the collection, but I expect I'll only play it maybe two or three times a year.
 
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Steve Hastings
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We just played this game for the first time last night. You said that when the ship is empty it can come home in one sand timer interval; if I read the rules correctly, when the ship is empty it can go anywhere at all in one sand timer interval.

There is a "delivery rocket" that can send two cubes to your ship, wherever it is; so you could send your ship empty to some destination in one sand timer interval, and then send it cubes by rocket. By using one timer to move the ship, and another timer at the same time to send the first two cubes, you could send two cubes anywhere in one timer interval, or four cubes anywhere in two timer intervals (and so on). (This seems like a pretty powerful card, but it never came into play last night, so I haven't seen it in action.)

Thanks for writing a review.

steveha
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