Space Cadets Review

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All characters appearing in this game are fictitious.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  In the event that you begin to think this article is about Star Trek, place your head between your knees and whisper quietly to yourself again and again:

I must not quote Shatner. I must not quote Shatner. I must not quote Shatner.

Space Cadets is a multi-player concurrent action board game based on…

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Okay, so it’s totally about Star Trek.

You and your fellow crew members play the Breakfast Club of the Starfleet Naval Academy.  You are the absolute last people anyone wants defending their children, but luckily for you everyone else is busy. Each of you is responsible for a few aspects of the ship’s vital systems: Helm, Engineering, Jump, Damage Control, Sensors, Shields, Tractor Beam, Weapons, and of course, Captain Kirk.  Ideally, each of these would be separate jobs, but the game’s designers Brian, Geoff, and Sydney Englestein, have thoughtfully provided a recommended set-up for as few as three players.

Unlike most board games where players are doing essentially the same thing, Space Cadets emphasizes each player’s role by providing them with their own personal mini-game.  Players interact with these mini-games all at the same time.  The results of these mini-games directly affect other player’s jobs and often dictate how successfully the entire ship performs.

Now before you get any ideas about fighting space aliens and collecting space treasure, I want to make something clear.  Your arch nemesis in Space Cadets is not the things you are fighting (they are actually pretty wimpy most of the time).  No, the rival you hate above all others is this guy:

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Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha

Seriously, this thing should have a monocle it’s so evil.  The game is divided into an exhaustive list of 30 second turn phases during which certain officers have panic attacks while the rest of the table glares daggers and secretly thinks they are doing it all wrong. There are nine phases to each turn, and most stations go twice each turn performing different tasks at different times.  Just taking a turn in this game is so damn confusing they’ve devoted an entire player just to keeping it all straight and running that demonic timer- they call it Captain.

The other noteworthy job in the game is Weapons. After a loading torpedoes, (also known as Tetris) Weapons gets to fire them – literally.  It’s actually really hard to do.

Flick it, flick it good.

Flick it, flick it good.

In fact most of these stations spend their time playing other games.  Engineering plays Concentration, Jump plays Yahtzee, Sensors plays…more tetris?

This game is so unique and interesting that I want to give it a good review, but it is just so hard to play!  It’s needlessly complicated by having so many stations and so many turn phases.  It’s a game for five players, so why have nine jobs?  Ladies and Gentlemen works because players have something to be doing during each of the three phases of the turn.  It’s easy to keep track of what you just did and what comes next because there aren’t any gaps in action and there’s only three things to remember anyway.

We played two games of Space Cadets for 3 hours.  We love the concept, we got into our roles, we learned our mini-games, but by the end of the night we still had to put most of our concentration on keeping the turn order straight.  We never had a solid enough grasp of the rules, even after hours of play, to get into a rhythm and get caught up in the action.

Space Cadets is frantic, difficult, and offers a lot of variety in your gaming experience.  It’s commendable for it’s innovative qualities and excellent execution in art and design. But in order to enjoy all of those awesome qualities you first have to get through the 30 page novel they call the rule book!

Stronghold Games plans to release 3 expansions to the game this year, so hopefully they’ll take some time to streamline the game in these expansions because I really, really, really want to change my mind about Space Cadets.

Buy Space Cadets
Price
: $42
Players: 3-5
Recommended: 5, you really need 5.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall:

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