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Empty Space Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look: Empty Space

Designer: Peter Collins
Artists: N/A
Publisher: Self-Published
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Empty Space. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

Review:


Empty Space Explorers is a game designed to be easy to learn, quick to play, and fun for the entire family. After having played Empty Space a number of times, I think those three boxes are checked off nicely (family depending, of course).

Without going into too great of detail (that’s coming further down), Empty Space satisfies the competitive itch without making things too complicated. There are two actions from which to choose, and those actions don’t require a lot of brain power. That said, there’s a strategy behind them that will be easy to pick up on for both kids and adults—including those who are (as yet) uninitiated into modern board game society.

Let’s get into the meat of the game—from setup to artwork—and explore what it is about Empty Space that makes it the unique game it is.

Setup:


Setup is simple—a trait the designers were shooting for in all aspects of the game.After my first play, I didn’t need to check the rule book for help (although I did look just to make sure I did it right—I did).

Set up the board/play area but laying universe tiles (randomly) seven rows high and four columns wide. Shuffle up the exoplanet cards and place then above the top row of tiles, face down. Everyone is dealt four cards, and the deck is placed near the play area, with two face-up cards next to it. Everyone reveals two universe tiles (in play), and you’re ready to begin. 

It’s the simple setup such as this that helps make this game accessible to even the newest gamer. Difficult game setups can be a turnoff to some, and Empty Space kicks that turnoff to the curb.

Gameplay:

The yellow probe wants to move up, but the card has yet to be discovered. If it's a black hole, or a color which the yellow player can't play from their hand, the probe explodes and it's back to start. Yellow decides to risk it. What will happen to our fearless adventurer? (See next image for thrilling conclusion.)
The game play is likewise simple. While there are choices, they are limited but still have enough to put you in charge of your destiny rather than simply relying on luck of the draw (although there is still a slight aspect of that as well). 

On your turn, you may either Explore or Research. Researching involves drawing two cards (from the top of the deck or from the ones face up next to that deck), playing cards, and then discarding back down to four cards in your hand. Exploring involves playing cards, and then moving your probe or rocket up the map. In the end, you want your probe and rocket (same color) to make it to the exoplanet of the same color as your probe and rocket.

You must first purchase your probe (by playing four cards of the same color) before you can actually explore, so drawing cards will take the first few turns. This was one of the parts of the game that seemed to slow things down, as sometimes it took me more turns than my fellow gamers to acquire the four cards of the same color. But despite that, it didn’t seem to put me behind (too much) and I was always able to sabotage their routes (by playing a black hole in front of them, thus blocking their path), which helped me catch up.

Welp, turns out it was a black hole in front of thee yellow probe. Goodbye, Probey McProbeface. See you on the flip flop.
Essentially, Empty Space is a race to be the first to get your probe and rocket to your colored exoplanet. Exploring is where the core of the game comes in, with players moving from card to card, each turn coming closer to their exoplanet. Cards of the same color as your probe and rocket are free to move onto (as are wild cards). If you reach a card that’s not your color, you must discard a card of that color from your hand. If you can’t, your probe or rocket explodes and you must start from the beginning (without having to buy a new spacecraft, thank goodness). 

To avoid blowing up, you can discard two cards of different colors to take a peek at a card in the universe. That way, if you’re worried about blowing yourself up (it’s a painful tactic), you can prepare yourself before wandering into the mystery beyond the black in front of you.

Of course, if you move onto a black hole, you blow up no matter what cards you have in your hand. Such is life. In order to avoid black holes, you can of course go around, but you can also play three cards of the same color to change the universe. Or rather, remove a revealed card (or cards, if a black hole is on top of another one) and replace it with one that you’re playing from your hand. This can clear up black holes, but can also be used to make it a bit more difficult for your opponent to move around (especially if you replace a wild card or one of their color of probe/rocket).

As you can see, there’s not a lot involved in the game mechanics, but there is enough to put you in charge of your fate. As simple gameplay was part of the design consideration, I’d say the designers did a great job at making it approachable as well as enjoyable.

Obviously if you’re into the more heavy games, Empty Space Explorers might not be one you’d consider anyway. But the gameplay is simple enough for beginners, yet engaging enough that experienced gamers won’t want to gouge their eyes out while playing. Plus it doesn’t take too long to play, which is another perk to introducing new gamers to the game.

Personally, I enjoyed playing Empty Space. It’s a filler game that’s light in strategy, but considering it was designed that way, it hits its mark pretty well. Plus, it’s space-themed, which I always love. While I do prefer games of a heavier nature, I wouldn't turn down an offer to play this again.

Another thing I really like about Empty Space Explorers is that the beginning map layout can be anything you want. Because you build the board before each game, you can choose to keep it as the original, follow one of the alternate setups found in the rule book, or create your own. That adds for a lot of replayability, and can be a fun way for kids (and adults) to explore with maps they designed themselves.

Theme and Mechanics:

Sure, the "G" is a little weird-looking, but since you can arrange the cards any way you like for your game, why not give our EBG initials a go?
Speaking of segue, the theme is space—not so much science fiction, as it’s based on actual celestial bodies. The mechanics are simple yet effective. Essentially, you draw cards, play cards, and move. I found the mechanics to be pretty simplistic, but that didn’t seem to deter from the fun. For the most part. Sometimes, all I could do was draw cards in hopes of coming up with the color I needed to move onto the next card. I would have preferred another option to keep my momentum going, and drawing cards doesn’t provide a lot of thought. Usually, I didn’t have to keep drawing for more than a few turns before I could take other actions again, but it was something that could drag on if your luck isn’t with you.

One of the more interesting mechanics in the game takes place before the game even starts. I’m talking about creating your own play area. As mentioned above, you can follow the pre-made designs in the rule book, or give it a go yourself and create your own. This is something I love doing with Forbidden Island; mixing up the tiles so the game board isn’t simply one solid mass makes for some wildly entertaining games, and the same can be said about the custom layouts in Empty Space. By nature of the game, however, some layouts may favor one ship above another, as some ships may have farther to travel to reach their exoplanets. But, you’re the mastermind behind these designs, so do what you deem best.

Artwork and Components:

The magic of our universe, tight here on your very own table. I could look at these pictures all day.
The art is space. In fact, I think it might even be right from NASA. It’s got the Terraforming Mars vibe to it—which I like—but I know there are some who don’t care for it. Still, when actual space is just as cool (or cooler) as an artist’s rendition, I’ll always go for the real deal. Speaking of the real deal (this has nothing to do with deals..) in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, all the wild cards sport images of the various Apollo ships. Pretty cool stuff.


Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV
My copy of Empty Space is a prototype, so I can’t speak on the quality of the components. However, there are quite a number of square cards (“space”), along with some probes and rocket ships. I always like a good rocket ship. You’ll have to check out the Kickstarter for more details on what these components will actually be made of.

The Good:
  • Custom universe setups create endless possibilities
  • Space-themed
  • Real images of space and the Apollo ships
  • Easy to learn, easy to teach, and easy to play
  • Quick games

The Other:
As is the case with most games, you could either like what I didn’t, or come out with a bad vibe about things I really liked. It’s all personal taste. That said, here’s what I experienced.

This game was designed to be easy to teach and play. That’s not a bad thing, but if you’re looking for something on the deeper side, this may not be it.

There can be a lot of turns simply drawing cards, hoping to get the ones you need in order to advance. This doesn’t give you a lot of control over your actions, but there are other things you can do with your cards if you’d rather mess with the competition.

Final Thoughts:

It's not easy being green...
Empty Space does what it set out to do in admirable fashion. It’s easy to learn, easy to teach, and quick to play. On the flip side, this ease in gameplay could make things a little too easy without enough meaningful player decisions to feel like you really were in control. That said, there are a lot of very popular games out there with a similar feel, and they’re popular for a reason.

Personally, Empty Space is a bit too “empty” for my tastes. But again, I did play with some who did enjoy it. It’s all about preference. If I was asked to play this game again, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. I may push to modify the universe (i.e. play area) so as to spice things up a bit, but I’d still have fun playing it. It may not be my first choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable.

In the end, it’s a matter of what you like. Watch a playthrough, read the rule book, and give it the consideration it deserves. It’s not a bad game—it’s simply that there are other games out there I’d rather play.

Players Who Like:



If you are a fan of space, the Apollo missions, and games that are easy to learn, teach, and play, then seriously consider Empty Space. If you like rearranging the board to fit your own designs, this is another great option. This would also be a great game for kids. Lastly (but not leastly), if you like games with a racing aspect to them, Empty Space could very well be your next favorite game.


Check out Empty Space on:

                 

On KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends July 22, 2019.

About the Author:



Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Benjamin_Kocher, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.
Empty Space Kickstarter Preview Empty Space Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on June 27, 2019 Rating: 5

2 comments

  1. Looks like very light fun. Maybe nice as a filler between two heavier games. I will go check it out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, definitely fits the bill in that regard. And an easy one to teach new gamers, too, which is really nice. Do check it out!

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