Header AD

Space Explorers Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look:

Designer: Yuri Zhuravljov  
Artist: Alexey Kot
Publisher: 25th Century Games, Crowd Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 20-40 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Space Explorers. All components and rules are subject to change. Space Explorers is launching (see what I did there?) on Kickstarter on October 2, 2018.

From the publisher: 
The conquest of space was one of the main human achievements of the 20th century. In 1957, the first satellite named "Sputnik 1" was placed into orbit. Four years later, Yuri Gagarin  performed the first human space flight on "Vostok 1".

This game is dedicated to the first space explorers—i.e. all the outstanding people who have made spacefaring possible!

Each player becomes the Head of a Research & Development Hub in the Space Research Center. You recruit best Specialists to your team and produce large-scale space projects — from placing satellites and manned spaceships into orbit to launching automated interplanetary stations!

***

TL;DR - There are games that you mention in conversation as games that you like, and there are games that you champion and actively tell people how much you like them whether they asked or not. For me, Space Explorers is the latter. It plays a lot heavier than it actually is and I love that. It is a set collection game with simple mechanisms, but meaty decisions.The Space Explorers Kickstarter campaign goes live October 2, and you should definitely check it out.

***

It has been my experience that some games are just destined for constant comparison with one another. Whether is be because of theme (Champions of Midgard/Raiders of the North Sea), IP (Codenames/Codenames: Disney/Codenames: Marvel) or simply proximity of release dates (Sagrada/Azul), it seems that some games cannot be uttered without their comparison nemesis (for lack of a better word) being mentioned in the same breath.

While some of the comparisons are head-scratchers (aside from looking good on a table, and that they were released around the same time, I don't know what's with the constant Sagrada/Azul comparisons), some of them make sense, and as a consumer, I like them. It is helpful for me to see these community-created comparisons that can help drive my gaming decisions. I love Raiders of the North Sea, but I don't know if I ever would have tried Champions of Midgard had I not been conditioned with the constant "If you like Raiders, you should play Champions" comparisons. 

I had no prior knowledge of Space Explorers before receiving the game for review (I generally try to stay clear of any other reviews or BGG descriptions so as not to cloud my opinion prior to play), but upon receipt and reading the rules, I saw an immediate comparison: this game reminded me of Splendor. 

Going in with this comparison initially made me both happy and a little disappointed. I really liked Splendor. It was one of the first games that I owned, and I credit it for helping cement my desire to dive headfirst into the hobby, as well as getting my wife interested in board games. We lovingly played that game over and over and over...

Until we didn't. 

While we really liked Splendor, we began to need something more. Something a little heavier in weight, something a little more thematic. So, while we still liked the game, it wasn't finding its way to the table much anymore. I was recently asked about my opinion of Splendor, and while I thought it was a good game and great for introducing people to the hobby, I said that I couldn't think of a time that my regular gaming group said anything close to, "You know what we should play tonight? Splendor."

And this was where the disappointment came in. While upon reading the rules, I thought that this sounded like a fun game, but I was afraid that it would be another simple card drafting, set collection game that would soon be relegated to the shelf, only seeing the table when I needed an introductory game for a new group.

I was wrong. Incredibly, wonderfully wrong. 

It is a card drafting, set collection game much like Splendor, but it offers so much more in regard to theme and, more importantly, strategy.

Players draft specialists in different fields to work at their hub. Placing a newly drafted specialist on top of an existing specialist in the same field negates the covered specialist's ability.
Players draft specialists that aid in drafting future specialists, but as specialists of the same field are added, you lose the ability of the previously-drafted specialist. That is, if one of your drafted specialists give you an additional "builder" resource, adding another specialist of the same type would negate this ability. This makes players balance the need to draft specialists with the need to have the necessary resources to draft them in the first place. 

The game also employs a "closed-loop resource system" so instead of returning the resources to the "bank" after you spend them to draft specialists, they are passed to your opponent and become a part of their available resource pool. With each specialist you draft with a resource token(s), you are helping your opponents by providing resources to draft their specialists. Players have to balance the need to build their own specialist pool, with the need to avoid providing their opponents with the resources necessary to build theirs.  

Some specialists offer end-game scoring bonuses that, while they may not necessarily offer much help with drafting additional specialists, they can swing the game to one side upon their completion. So again, players are having to balance future points against immediate resource benefit.

Each type of specialist available for recruitment. The end game scoring is designated by the number  in the top left-hand corner. In this case, the specialists pictured are not worth any end game points, however, they all offer the benefit of an additional resource for recruiting future specialists, as designated by the resource symbol in the lower right-hand corner.
And that is the beauty of Space Explorers. Every decision requires careful consideration--a necessary balance between instant gratification versus the benefit to your opponents as a result of that action. This is more than a simple race to 15 points; it requires a carefully calculated risk versus reward decision from the very first turn that elevates this game to more than a simple set collection game. To me, this game plays much heavier than it actually is - meaning with all that I was trying to track, and manage, and decide on every turn, you would have thought that I was playing more of a Euro-style game. And I love that about this title.
The only downside I could find with this title is that with the increased need to carefully weigh the consequences of each move comes the increase of analysis paralysis. The AP can be real with this game, so if you or anyone in your group is prone to it, be ready for the game to last much closer to the ceiling of the 20-40 minute estimated play time.

My expectation for this game was that it would be good, but based on my numerous plays with several different players, I think this game is great. The theme of the space race between the United States and U.S.S.R. in the late 1950s through the1960s is fantastic and captures the essence of the game. And the theme is reinforced with some cool retro space art of actual space missions (note: this is a Kickstarter preview, so art is subject to change). The player aids are simple to follow and enhance the quality and speed of game play.

As this is a Kickstarter preview, all art and components are subject to change. That being said, if what art I received in the preview is the same as the final version, I would not be disappointed.
This was the game that I didn't know that I wanted, but am glad that I stumbled upon. It may be similar to Splendor, but Space Explorers is so much more than those similarities. The Kickstarter campaign for Space Explorers goes live October 2 and I am telling everyone that they need to check it out. And you should too.       

***
For those that have grown accustomed to the usual format, here is a high-level overview, including
critique of the above information and further explanation of rules and game play 

Review:

Game Play:
As customary, I wont go into the minutia of the rules, but rather provide a high-level overview of game play. You can find more detail on the rules and game play here.

On a player's turn, they can take one of two actions:
  1. Take a specialist card form the center or from the top of the deck, or
  2. Recruit a specialist from the center or from their hand to their hub.
Upon completion of a player's turn, if they meet the conditions to complete a project, they claim the project tile. Only one tile may be claimed by a player per turn. 

Players take turns recruiting specialists from the center. Six specialists are available in the center at all times.

Recruiting a specialist:
  1. Select a division in accordance with the specialist's skill(s)
  2. Reduce the recruitment cost in accordance with the skills possessed by specialists in the division. Only the skills of the division color count. The recruitment cost decreases from bottom to top (as indicated by the arrow on the card below the recruitment cost). 
  3. Obtain the required research symbols using these three methods:
    1. Pass respective research symbols to the next player clockwise
    2. Move one--or more--specialist cards from hand to the center to obtain any two research symbols for each of these cards. 
    3. Use abilities of specialists in your hub whose cards are on top of their divisions. 
Newly-recruited specialist cards are put on top of any existing specialists in that division.

The resource tokens. These are used to offset the cost of recruiting a specialist (as designated by the resource icons on the lower left-hand corner of the specialist cards) to a players' hub. Instead of the spent resources going into a centralized "bank", spent tokens are passed to the player on the left.
Endgame is triggered when one of the following conditions is met:
  1. A player has recruited 12 specialists
  2. All projects have been completed
The player with the most points wins.
Mechanisms:
  • Card drafting 
  • Set collection
Artwork and Components:
As this is a Kickstarter preview and the art and components are subject to change, I will not go into much detail other than to say that if what I had on hand for this preview was what I received through campaign fulfillment, I would not be disappointed. The components are good quality. The retro, space-inspired art on the cards and box is really cool and looks good on the table. The player aids are easy to follow and help game play move at a steady pace.

The projects include actual U.S.S.R. and United States space projects from the 1950s and 60s.
The Good:
Space Explorers offers a depth and balance requirement that I don't usually see in a quick card drafting, set collection game. The decisions players make not only effect their resources and abilities, but may also inadvertently help their opponents. There's not a lot of moving pieces like you find in heavier titles, but I felt there was as much to track. I needed to know what abilities I may be gaining/losing, what the cost would be, how my opponent was progressing and if handing resource tokens to them would help them, and if I did what specialists could they potentially recruit, and other considerations ad infinitum. This need to watch all of the potentialities with every move make this game play heavier than it actually is. With every play you have to balance the benefit against the potential consequence which creates a game where there are no wasted moves. The first play of the game is as important as the last.

Specialists with an asterisk (L) denote an end-game scoring condition, while other specialists can specialize in more than one field (R).

The Bad:
There are some instances were you can map out your next move prior to your turn, but in most cases players must evaluate and analyze potential moves and effects at the time of their turn. So this game has the potential of cranking a player's analysis paralysis up to 11. Every move comes with consequences and weighing those consequences can increase the play time closer to the 40 minute mark. That being said, the player aids are very helpful in keeping play time within the 40 minute window. 


Many specialists have different abilities (and icons). The player aids go a long way with helping keep game play moving.

Final Thoughts:
There are games that you mention in conversation as games that you like, and there are games that you champion and actively tell people how much you like them whether they asked or not. For me, Space Explorers is the latter.

While there are similarities to Splendor, I feel that Space Explorers is so much more than another set collection title. The availability of a specialist's abilities possibly being dependent on you not drafting any more specialists into that division and the closed loop resource system makes every turn, and every decision, important to the outcome of the game. I never felt that I was just taking a turn to move play along, but rather that every play could directly effect the outcome of this game. I really enjoy the constant need to balance short term gains versus long term success. There is a strategic depth to Space Explorers that I wasn't expecting, but glad to have experienced it.

The Space Explorers Kickstarter campaign goes live October 2 and you should definitely check it out.


Players Who Like: Splendor, but are ready for something more.


Check out Space Explorers on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/231223/visitor-blackwood-grove   https://resonym.com/game/visitor/   https://www.facebook.com/resonym/   https://twitter.com/resonym  https://www.instagram.com/theresonym/  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_nFagYZztjNyish6Cq21g     

On KICKSTARTER now! Campaign ends October 22, 2018.

About the Author:
Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. You can follow what Nick is playing on Twitter at @ndshipley
Space Explorers Kickstarter Preview Space Explorers Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Nicholas Shipley on October 02, 2018 Rating: 5

No comments

Sponsor

Volfyirion