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Subject: Space Dealer - It's Got Timers! rss

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Mark C
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Space Dealer is a short, dynamic, 3 or 4 player delivery game played in real time. Here's my review after a few plays.

Bits
I find the bits generally very good with an appealing look. There was a notable exception though.

The cardboard was good quality, the production/delivery bits were painted wood, and the unusally sized card deck were all good or excellent. The cardboard ships I thought were nice, but the sandtimers didn't fit nicely on them as it appeared was intended. The CD and 30 minute soundtrack are a nice touch, although the soundtrack I find lame. You may find you need a generous play area for the scoring track, ships, and bases, but I don't find this to be too much more than most games. The sandtimers were definitely a problem as the amounts in each varied significantly. We attempted to address this by lining them up, placing a sticker on each, starting with the longest timer, with one of the numbers 1-10 in order. Each player got a total of 11 sticker value on their 2 timers, so if you got a fast one, you also got a slow one. The 5 and 6 timers were saved for the advanced game bonus timers.

Play
Basically, the game plays like a real time strategy computer game. You produce and deliver. You can in theory take 4 actions a minute, using two 30-second timers. Novel? Yes. Interesting gameplay? Well, yes, at least initially. You can certainly eek out some extra turns with smoother play, significantly more if your opponent fumbles around or is less familiar with the rules. You can also beat an opponent to a delivery. Personally, I don't see any reason why you couldn't play it turn-based, if that is your preference, but that would really take away from the game as much of the tension is fulfilling orders faster than your competition.

The English rules took several re-reads to absorb. I'd recommend playing a few turns without the timers, just going round the table taking 1 action each, until everyone thinks they're ready. A particular problem playing in real time is discovering you have a rule question. I think future games using this mechanic will have to be aware of writing tight rules, or perhaps a learning scenareo. Of course, there's no loss in jumping right in since the game is only 30 minutes...unless your group is finicky about such things. If you think you understand the rules, it's still going to take you a few plays to feel like you're playing properly. You may, for example, have 4 players, with 1 person playing incorrectly (we had this in the first and second games.) Since it's very difficult to address questions in game, you likely won't discover an error until you're talking about the game afterwards.

Your main choices are basically draw cards to then build in your base, produce or convert goods, tech up, or deliver, which can take several timers, depending on how far away your delivery planet is. There are also a couple “take-that” cards you can build which allow you to hit a player with various penalties or provide yourself limited support. The gameplay is not what I would call deep. As of this writing, geeks have rated it a light 2.25, on the 5 scale.

A potential complaint, at least with inexperienced players, is the scoring. You get points for delieveries, buy you also get some points for the cards you build IF someone delivers to you (each card has a duel purpose –one for your base, and another of providing demand). If time runs out and players have missed delievering to your base, it very well could be the difference in your winning or losing. You may be able to overcome this since trade is allowed, by trying to entice players to your base, or glaring at them when you have a couple sabotage cubes sitting ready for deployment. Still, in the early plays, this scoring mechanism was decisive, and too chaotic.


So what do I think overall? Well, you have to give a big plus to any game which comes up with a novel mechanic. While I like the idea, the game is pretty light (I prefer medium to medium-heavy games generally) and has some issues in my view. I don't see this having lots of replay in my group. Still, I could see groups that might really enjoy this game, at least initially or for occasional play. My personal feeling comes down at quite luke-warm, and is not a game I'm planning on purchasing. Still, I'm glad I got a chance to try a game that adds something new to the gaming shelf.

-Gamer_Dog
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Dan Cain
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I wasn't glaring last night was I Mark? Well put though. You beat me to the review I was going to do when I got home, curses!
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Rik Van Horn
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I played this for the first time on Saturday.
I agree, it has nice bits and an unusual mechanism. I'll probably try it again, but I have some of the same feelings. I can see it becoming repetitious.
But the biggest drawback for me was paying enough attention to the timers. More than once I'd found while I was trying to figure on what to do next, a timer had run out. I'd interrupt whatever strategy I was planning to figure out where to put the timer and I got into this horrible cycle.
I lost, badly.
 
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Bill H
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Gamer_Dog wrote:
A particular problem playing in real time is discovering you have a rule question.

This may be obvious but sand timers can be paused by laying them sideways.

With the number of timers in this game it would be a pain to do this often, but if you're 20 minutes into a game and a major question arises, or someone NEEDS to be excused for a couple minutes, or a baby begins to cry, etc., everyone could grab their own timers and lay them sideways (and pause the CD) until the emergency is resolved.

Great review, I gotta get a copy of this!


(minor edits for clarity and spelling)
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Rich P
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Gamer_Dog wrote:
You can in theory take 4 actions a minute, using two 30-second timers.


Nice review, but I have a small correction: the timers are supposed to have a 1 minute duration (each way). In practice we found some timers were shorter in one direction than another. One timer had a 30 second difference between sides! So make sure you're timing both sides before handing them out to players.
 
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Doobermite
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Quote:
I don't see this having lots of replay in my group.


Yes. The game basically played out in our group after only a few plays. It's a shame since the components are great and the gameplay is fun the first few times. But there seems to be only one path to victory and you're basically doing the same things over and over again. After only a few games there's nothing left to explore so replayability is nill.

Nice components though and the first few games are fun.
 
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Mark C
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lastalchemist wrote:
I wasn't glaring last night was I Mark? Well put though. You beat me to the review I was going to do when I got home, curses!


Thanks. No you weren't glaring, but misinterpreting the card sure had a fear effect! Dan the sabateur strikes again...and again...and again...lol
 
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Rik Van Horn
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woodnoggin wrote:
Gamer_Dog wrote:
You can in theory take 4 actions a minute, using two 30-second timers.


Nice review, but I have a small correction: the timers are supposed to have a 1 minute duration (each way). In practice we found some timers were shorter in one direction than another. One timer had a 30 second difference between sides! So make sure you're timing both sides before handing them out to players.

The owner of the game I played actually timed all the timers. He then paired them up so each player had a pair that equalled everyone else's combined timers.
 
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