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Subject: Seasoned spacers flying a new kind of ship (this one has engines!) rss

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Alison Mandible
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Last night we had six regular Space Alert players in one room. Space Alert doesn't seat six. But this shiny new other space co-op game I just got does...

None of us had played, but I'd read the rules, so I was teaching. I started with Engineering; that way the idea of multiple stations getting variable amounts of energy was clear from the start, and then went through most of the other minigames. (I skipped Repair and Core Breach for the moment.)

With us being used to the Catch-22-esque charm of the Sitting Duck, I saw people perk up when the more ridiculous or convoluted stations came out. People were intrigued by Sensors. Everyone laughed with happy chagrin when, after demonstrating the Weapons puzzles, I said, "And then, to actually fire them..." and pulled out the torpedo track.

But overall, people were starting to look droopy, which worried me. We decided to try Mission 1 on Easy, expecting to blow up in short order.

We also decided to go ahead with the first turn without going into how enemies actually work, which I think was the right choice-- I was basically playing "GM" for the first turn or two until people started to learn the enemy rules.

Scanning revealed a Flux Spider and a Shield Drone around the first crystal. "Flux Spider? That sounds bad." We all nodded sagely. Enemies that cause extra effects when damage gets through shields are alarming. Yes.

But in fact, we demolished both enemies and grabbed the crystal without any ill effects beyond one point of asteroid damage, which injured the captain.

"This seems... not that hard."

"I mean, we're playing on Easy."

"Sure, but that actually hasn't mattered yet." (We hadn't uncovered any enemies with starred difficulty levels, and the one point of damage we took wasn't structural.)

On to the second crystal, with a Stealth Osprey and Vengeance guarding it. Along the way, we repaired the one damage card we had. (Damage Control Officer: "This one isn't really a... game. It's just drawing cards.")

We took laser damage from the Osprey on one turn due to not remembering that it needed two Sensor points to lock it. That damage was cosmetic plus a Shift Change. Everybody wanted to try a different station, so we all swapped.

Vengeance was also easy prey for us (no shields!), so we took that out while grabbing the next crystal.

"I feel bad for these ships we're destroying. The crew all have families who are going to miss them."

"Yeah, it doesn't seem fair."

At this point, the Nemesis entered. Now, we had been coming to a full stop to tractor each crystal, which was maybe over-cautious. Still, we hadn't faced anything even slightly challenging yet, and then one the first active Nemesis turn, we got most of the damage cards on one side blown away, including a Core Status Worsens.

Core Breach! Everyone was excited to learn the final minigame. And it did indeed crank up the tension, though with two people doing nothing (Sensors, who just hadn't gotten any energy that turn, and the Captain/Tractor Officer) a three-point breach was not in fact too hard.

At this point, someone noticed it was midnight and everyone was like, whoa, let's call it done at two crystals and try to jump this turn. The Nemesis tore into us again, Helm flew us into the wall, and we didn't manage to jump -- an unsatisfying end to the evening in terms of this one mission, though I think, with it being too easy for so long, everybody was happy to see how catastrophe could unfold.

So... that was only 2/3 of one game. Our impressions are thus very underinformed. With that caveat, here they are:

- Even the challenging-sounding games were mostly not very hard, at least for some people. I think we had only one Sensor failure in total, and never failed to finish a Weapon puzzle despite having several rounds with three torpedo tubes. Helm was the biggest challenge-- we had one crash, and another bad turn that would have been worse had the captain not used Chrono Skip to extend the action phase. Maybe in harder missions, every-turn Core Breaches are just a fact of life, and the real challenge is in playing the minigames while hunting down Core cards?

- Either the difficulty ramp is way too slow for our taste, or the existence of the Nemesis ought to have made us take the first several turns *way* faster, with more energy diverted to Tractor Beam to grab the crystal without slowing down.

- Everyone agreed they wanted to try it again, to see if the fun-per-minute ratio will be higher once we all know the mechanics. This run seemed like a lot of time spent for not much play, but it also felt like we spent half the time looking up rules, so, fair enough.

- We were making a lot of jokes about being used to Space Alert, but I think that, in seriousness, the ability to deal double the amount of damage needed to destroy an enemy in a single turn really changed the feel of the game. We didn't feel like underdogs until the Nemesis found us.

I'm interested to hear whether other people had the same experience with Mission 1, or with the minigames seeming mostly trivial.

Oh, also: if you got the promo pack, I totally recommend using the blue plastic ship for yourself and the grey one for the Nemesis. Gives the Nemesis a sort of "evil twin" feeling that's very much in keeping with its name.
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Joshua Harris
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I think the time management, communication skills, and working under pressure aspects of experienced Space Alert players might be part of the reason why it comes easily. (I could be wrong though!)

Regardless... thanks for the write up!

 
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Sam Cook
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I think 6 makes it much easier. We played with 5 last night, and there wasn't anyone dedicated to watching the timer and call out warnings so there were some terrible rounds that ended abruptly.

I've seen people be really bad at almost all the mini games - the helm especially. Engineering and Tractor Beam I consider to be the least stressful. Damage Control is not difficult, but it's extremely risky, especially later in the game when the good repair cards are out.

The game is meant to be played recklessly I think, considering the Nemesis comes out pretty quickly. Even in the first round you need to decide if you want to waste a turn to scan the next sector containing enemies, or just try and pilot into it and hope you don't take too much damage.

I think it's awesome though. I can't wait to play it some more.
 
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Alison Mandible
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Donkler wrote:
I think 6 makes it much easier. We played with 5 last night, and there wasn't anyone dedicated to watching the timer and call out warnings so there were some terrible rounds that ended abruptly.


I was trying to figure out whether it would be against the spirit of the game to replace the sand timer with an alarm that went off on its own. As it was, it seemed like "remember to watch the timer" was a really boring mini-game that the Captain had to play, and if she played it badly, we got bonus time! But then, if you do that, is having the timer beep at 5 seconds left also okay? And so on...
 
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Geoffrey Engelstein
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Electronic timers are perfectly OK. We used them for most of the playtesting, and looked at including them in the final package, but they were too costly.
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Geoffrey Engelstein
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Donkler wrote:
I think 6 makes it much easier. We played with 5 last night, and there wasn't anyone dedicated to watching the timer and call out warnings so there were some terrible rounds that ended abruptly.


6 and 4 players are a bit easier than 3 or 5, especially during Core Breach. We considered making the Core Breach numbers different for different numbers of players, but in the end the extra rule didn't seem worth it. If you'd like to balance things a bit more, for 4 or 6 players start the Core Breach marker on the '3' box instead of '0'.

Geoff
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Tom Roels
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I played one game last weekend and the reaction of my group was very similar.

At the outset they were enthousiastic and based on everyone describing their new games choose to play this one. However, once the rules explanation began the fire slowly went out as I wasn't fully prepared so explaining everything took quite a long time.

In the end the comments were that the minigames were simply not challenging enough. I choose this one over space alert (which I haven't played) because of the active element, ie your all steering the ship over a map, doing this and that. But it just wasn't challenging enough to man the stations. The helm was for us an easy game which never got the right result (it was easy to select the cards but the result was a sort of uncontrolled flight). I especially recognize that the torpedo tubes were easily found every turn.


All in all we had a game with a lot of rules, but not that much complexity. This mix just didn't work in my group.
Combined with the components that were a bit below my expectations I am a bit disappointed... I already put the game on the marketplace because I don't know if I'll be able to convince them to play it again. I still want to try it again because I really think the concept is good.

Again this is based on one play, so I'm hoping to turn them around!
 
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Cameron Chien
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I am certain people are playing something wrong, or the sand timer is far too generous, if the game is *that* easy.

Shields are very challenging to try to maximize multiple sides with, sensors with three or more targets are not a walk in the park, and trying to complete four torpedo tube puzzles is a challenge as well.

Use an electronic timer. We have someone call out 15 seconds, and then they do a countdown for the final five seconds, and it works well.

Cameron
 
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Joseph Cochran
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grasa_total wrote:
- Even the challenging-sounding games were mostly not very hard, at least for some people. I think we had only one Sensor failure in total, and never failed to finish a Weapon puzzle despite having several rounds with three torpedo tubes. Helm was the biggest challenge-- we had one crash, and another bad turn that would have been worse had the captain not used Chrono Skip to extend the action phase. Maybe in harder missions, every-turn Core Breaches are just a fact of life, and the real challenge is in playing the minigames while hunting down Core cards?


Some people are going to be challenged by some minigames. That's just part of it. We played twice at BGG: the first time our weapons officer had trouble with just one or two puzzles, but the second time we basically threw 3 or 4 energy at the WO every time and he solved them (except for once when he ran out of pieces of a type). It really does depend on the talents of the players as to how well they will do at the games. Meanwhile I as Tractor Beam in the second game (as a lifelong card counter) had no issue remembering my matches, even with conversation and being Captain (thus worrying about pacing). That's IMO one of the kind of cool things about Shift Change: it can either help you fit someone into a better role, or it can ruin a great setup.

I think that there are groups who will find this game easy. I'm very interested in seeing where my friends fall into the various skills needed.
 
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Cameron Chien
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Yeah, I think everyone will find that there are certain stations where they really shine, and ones that they perform "less optimally" at

Cameron
 
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Lee Fisher
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Wow it seems very hard to solve 4 weapons officer puzzles. In our experience two was relatively easy, but getting a third was exponentially more difficult.
I haven't done that one myself.

I've had a hard time with tractor beam, especially after like 5 minutes until the next turn. Luckily my crew members were helpful with this.

I don't see how people kill enemies so easily. With their shields it takes a lot more hits on them, whereas they damage us pretty easily.

(We've played scenario 1 twice on "normal".)
 
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Alison Mandible
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lfisher wrote:
I don't see how people kill enemies so easily.


It's a lot easier if you can load three torpedoes.

Though some of these posts are making me wonder if we overran our timer more often than we realized.
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Bill Whitmore
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It's worth timing your timer. We found our timer actually ran for about 44 seconds. That gave us about 50% more time than seemingly intended which could make a huge difference in the game.

Luckily, we had never played before and barely knew what we were doing so even with 44 seconds we were flying out of control and right off the map.

That could also be a good handicap tool. If you are finding the game to be too easy, an electronic timer would let you reduce the time of each round to 25 or even 20 seconds.
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Cameron Chien
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lfisher wrote:
I don't see how people kill enemies so easily. With their shields it takes a lot more hits on them, whereas they damage us pretty easily.

Seeker missiles.

Cameron
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