Monday, May 9, 2011

Space Alert

SPACE ALERT by Czech Games Edition
Published in 2008



Space Alert is truly a unique game. At least I don't know of any other game that is quite like it. It's quick to play, exciting and so much fun... Also, Space Alert requires skill and quick thinking to play it well.

The game is set - of course - in space. A space ship is on a mission to explore some unknown part of space - the mission only lasts for about 12 minutes, but that particular area is very dangerous, and all kinds of threats will cause harm to your ship... If your ship survives the mission, you win the game, if not, then you lose.


Space Alert has a very special mechanics - every game consists of two phases: First phase lasts about 10 minutes, and this is when the mission is "planned", according to the announcements heard from computer. The second phase is used to carry out the actions. During this phase, the player can no longer make any decisions or changes... it just reveals how well the mission goes based to the actions given to the crew.

The ship is portrayed on the game board.
This 'Sitting Duck' -class ship has two decks, divided in three zones. The ship has quite a lot of firepower; three heavy laser cannons, two light laser cannons, a pulse cannon, three missiles and three interceptors. For internal security, the ship has two squads of Battlebots - armed robots that will follow the crew members once activated.
The ship also has force field -like shields to protect it from incoming attacks.
But most of these systems require energy to use, and that's why the ship's reactors need constant care as well.

The threats that the ship will come across varies from enemy ships to asteroids and strange cosmic monsters. Also, the ship may experience internal threats, for example enemy combatants or malfunctioning systems.

This review will be from the second phase of the game.

This picture shows the "programming" of the four androids that I have as my crew. The programming consists of movement actions, and usage of the different systems.

Every crew member also has one "heroic action" to spend. These actions are more potent than the normal actions, which are endless in number (in solo game).



So now the first phase is done. I feel like I did pretty good - I had enough time to make a satisfactory programming for my androids... Let's see, how it all plays out.

THE MISSION BEGINS:

1st minute:
The ship appears from the hyperspace. Green android begins its specific task: To maintain the ship's main computer and main reactor. This will occupy the Green for the whole mission.

Others fan out, Red android heads to the red station, while Blue and Purple go to the blue station.

2nd minute:
The first threat appears!
A dangerous creature known as Interstellar Octopus is spotted. This mindless octopus will charge right towards the ship, aiming to crash into it.






Blue and Red uses gravolifts to descend to the lower deck of their corresponding stations. Purple android opens fire at the Octopus, damaging it with a heavy laser cannon.

3rd minute:
A serious internal threat!
The ship's Battlebots seem to be corrupt! Luckily all the Battlebots were still inactive at this point, so they didn't get a chance to start attacking the crew.








Red and Purple androids immediately begin working on the Battlebot problem. They start repairing the systems, while Green and Blue maintain the ship's reactors. Blue android manage to overcharge the reactor in blue station with his heroic actions.

The Interstellar Octopus sprays something at the ship, taking down all of its shields.

4th minute:
A marauder appears on the radar.
This tricky ship will start boosting the shields of itself, as well as every other external threat, once it gets a little closer.






Red android solves the Battlebot situation, completing the re-programming of the bots.

Purple shoots the Octopus again with the heavy laser, and Blue joins in from lower deck with the light laser cannon... This is enough to destroy the creature.






5th minute:
Green android keeps on maintaining the computer. Purple doesn't seem have noticed that the Octopus was killed, so he shoots the heavy laser one more time. This laser beam hits nothing, using some of the ship's energy for nothing.

The marauder gets close enough to start boosting its shields.

6th minute:
A destroyer flies in on the same trajectory as the marauder.
The destroyer is able to do some serious damage, especially as the shields are down now. The shielding of the destroyer, on the other hand, is immediately boosted by the marauder.







Red android charges up the shields in the red station, in order to counter the approaching warships, but the marauder drains half of the shields away. Also, the red station's reactor is now empty...






7th minute:
Red android uses his heroic action to shoot the heavy laser, but this moment of heroism is wasted, as there is no energy in the red station... the cannon doesn't fire.

The marauder gets through, and delivers it payload to the ship.
The red station gets damaged, rendering the gravolift useless. The red station's heavy laser cannon also gets damaged.

This picture shows how the lift is dark, indicating that it doesn't work.




Right after this, the destroyer also shoots at the ship. Marauder's final attack stripped the red station completely of its shield, so the damage comes through... The reactor, as well as the light laser cannon is damaged.
The red station is in critical state!

Purple android launches a missile at the enemies...








8th minute:
A stealth fighter is spotted.
This ship cannot be targeted with any weapons until it reveals itself, which will happen in few minutes.






Red tries to fire the heavy laser again, but still no power! This power shortage will probably have dire consequences for the ship...

Right after this, Blue android finally manages to charge the damaged reactor in lower red station.







The missile reaches its target - the destroyer - but it doesn't score any damage through the powerful shields of the enemy ship! Marauder's shield boost still applies to the destroyer.

Purple android fires another missile.

9th minute:
Now that the power is finally up, Red shoots the destroyer with his heavy laser. Blue fires the light laser, and even the second missile hits the destroyer... The enemy ship gets badly damaged, but its heavy shields, together with the malfunctioning lasers, allow the destroyer to continue its attack!

The destroyer fires again! The red station suffers critical damage, rupturing the whole station open!









Game over! The ship is destroyed - about three minutes before it would have jumped back to hyperspace!


CONCLUSION:

This mission was a great example on how one little mistake may cause the whole mission to fail. Everything was going fine, it seemed certain that I would survive this mission... and then the red station ran out of energy. This power shortage caused the heavy laser cannon to be non-operational, which in turn allowed the marauder and the destroyer cause too much damage to the ship.

This happens often in Space Alert. It is very difficult to keep all these details in mind, while trying to figure out the best ways to counter incoming threats. And this is the salt of the whole game! The missions can also be played without a time limit, using scenario cards instead of audio soundtracks, but this reduces the game difficulty to minimum. The whole idea is, that you must do quick decisions while under all kinds of stress... And considering this, not many other board games offer the same thrill than Space Alert.

Space Alert is a neat looking game with clear and distinct artwork and a very practical game board. And a special mention for the rules books: They are very thorough and well written, allowing an easy learning for everyone who is interested enough to read them through. Also there is humorous descriptions and texts in addition to the rules, building the theme up a little bit further.

RATING: 8 /10

SOLO RATING: 8 /10

A solo game of Space Alert may be a tough experience; controlling four crew members all alone is stressful... but also rewarding if you manage to complete your mission.

With more than one players, the communication is an absolute necessity, and in these games the real challenge may prove to be to get everything and everyone organized.

All and all, Space Alert is an excellent game to be played alone as well as with others. It may get a little repetitive if played too often, but a game or two every now and then will be very enjoyable.

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