This review is part of my attempt to review as many co-op games as I can. All of my reviews are in the geeklist A Crazy Couple's Co-op Guide: 2013 and onward Edition
One-Play Mini Review
Skill Factor: Seemed low. When cards came up seemed to matter more than skill.
I don't see any reason this couldn't be played solo, though it might require playing multiple hands.
With a couple: I've only played this with 3. Seems like it should play fine with 2, but I'm not sure.
Play Time: around 1 hour or less.
Difficulty: Hard to say from one play; we won with some close calls. Other opinions have made it sound difficult.
Individual/Group Play: Generally group oriented, though a real-time element kicks in later in the game that makes it harder to plan together.
Fine. The cards are nice, and the mission control board looks good and conveys all the tracks in a thematic way, looking like various control panels.
For an unusual change for us, we enjoyed the flavor text in this game. Normally neither Lisa nor I are very into reading flavor text, but the flavor text here was a nice length and fairly interesting.
We were taught this one and never read the rules, so I don't know. Most of the game was clear, but some cards were confusing; a few cards we just never bothered to play because we couldn't figure them out. And we had one card that stated it could only be played at a time when the letter code on it wouldn't allow it to be played. No idea how that was supposed to work!
I think this is a great choice of theme for a game. Space exploration represents one of the heights of human science, achievement and curiosity, and the Apollo missions are a great showcase of ingenuity, genius and determination. For historical events, the Apollo 13 accident is a great combination of drama and tension to recreate in a game format.
The game places the players as "mission control". A deck sorted into sets defines the mission, starting with everything going well up until the explosion and then increasing the threat and dangers through the maneuvers around the moon back to the eventual landing - assuming the players make it that far!
Mechanically, it is all pretty simple. Cards generally move tracks "up" into dangerous zones; a track progressing far enough bumps the overall mission danger track, and if that gets too high, the ship is lost and the players lose. On their turns, players play a variety of cards to move tracks back down. You get bonuses for certain plays and combos.
We found it initially engaging, but it got a bit repetitive as the game went on and we learned the patterns of which tracks we should focus on.
Later on in the game, as the flight enter the final phases, a real-time mechanic kicks in which limits how long you have to take a turn. We generally didn't enjoy this, mostly because it meant we couldn't slow down and enjoy the flavor text!
We enjoyed playing this once, but having played once and won we just couldn't see a lot of appeal to playing again; there wasn't enough variety or enough interesting going on. There was nothing "wrong" with it besides a few confusing cards, it just didn't have enough "oomph" to match up with other co-op offerings. It felt more like the game was playing us than that we were playing the game. It may be better for family play, and it seems like a great game to teach kids (or even adults) about an exciting event in history.
Image thanks to the BGG Gallery courtesy of Rachel st
Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
I've played the game a dozen times or so solo (only) where I gave myself 12 cards with a hand limit of 18. For one person using a timer, that seemed to make the game a challenging one. I think I also limited myself to using only two Apollo tokens on a given turn. (The designer, I recall, stated that the game really is meant as a cooperative endeavor and that the game is not designed with the solo player in mind.)
I agree with Stormknight that the real-life event begs for a cooperative game treatment. And while I might have been expecting something a bit "crunchier", I think the game is a good one. My one complaint with it is that it seems to use the Ron Howard movie almost as much as real history for setting up crises to resolve. For a family-friendly game, that's not a deal breaker for me.
I do think the game is more difficult than this review implies—with the caveat that I've only played it in a self-designed solo mode. The game asks you to play with a timer but I think the rules let you dispense with that if you really want. (I always use it!) I think it is the chief element for making the game replayable. I can easily see how a table of players could let the clock get by them on a critical turn, ending the game, and then players wanting another crack at the game.
There are also three distinct modes of play where the bottlenecks in the game are at different points in the mission. You could even mix-and-match them, I think, once you've tried them all.
30+ plays in and I have a different opinion from the OP.
Teamwork is required to be successful and this can be a fleeting thing. There are definitely patterns in the pressure of the status markers and you will learn this with more plays.
Mixing up the events adds to the replayability as this changes the pressure enough that you need to be a little bit flexible. How and when to use your Apollo tokens and how to setup the draw deck are a couple of the skills that you need to learn.
The cards play themselves ... bah! I rarely cancel an event with a card that could cancel it. I would rather get the tokens. These are much more flexible and allow for more situational plays. You certainly don't want all/most of the indicators right below the line as this is a recipe for disaster. The more staggered the better. This is sometimes easier to say than done.
You can see my review for more thoughts on why this game is better than those "commenting on it". Once is not enough ... yeah I know ...
See my first sentence.