Review: Space Base

Disclaimer: This review is from a reviewer’s copy of the game that was provided by AEG to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.

Game: Space Base
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Design: John D. Clair
Art: Chris Walton

Mechanisms: Card drafting, Dice rolling
Number of Players: 2 – 5
Game Time: 60 minutes

Description: Space Base is a tableau/engine-building game of gathering victory points. Each player has a base (player board) with 12 spaces (numbered 1 to 12) filled with basic cards at the start. Each turn, the active player rolls dice and players gain 3 types of currencies and/or abilities based on the results of the dice. The three main types of currencies are: money (represented by a yellow circle), income (represented by a green planet), and victory points (represented by a blue rocket ship).

The active player activates the main ability of their result while non-active players get the bonuses from cards they’ve replaced from that result. Then the active player may purchase ships. When players purchase ships, they take the replaced ships and flip them upside down and place them on the top of their player board in the appropriate numbered ship slot. The red ability, which is now right side up is the currency that the player will receive when that number is rolled on other players turns.

When you buy ships, you have access to all of the money that you have built up, but you technically use all of the money you have when you buy – there’s no change making here. But, when your turn is completely over, you reset your money to equal the amount of income you have.

This leads to interesting choices when replacing cards as replaced cards provide a lesser effect for the remainder of the game when rolled on non-active turns. As you build your fleet of spaceships the amount of the abilities you are able to activate on each and every turn ramps up. The decisions of which ship to buy and for which numbered slot make quite an impact on how effective your own space base will be in the race to 40 points.

Review: Space Base is a unique game. Now, I’ll preface this by saying – I’ve never played Machi Koro. I’ve never even seen it on the table. But, if you look around the tabletop community, you’ll often hear Space Base compared to Machi Koro. I have no idea, I just know I like Space Base.

Combos are what drives this game to its core. I love chucking dice and getting the numbers I need to make things happen. I also really enjoy the actions around buying new ships, but your old ships still give you benefits when other people roll (which is one of the coolest parts of this game, in my opinion. No buy is ever wasted!).

The ramp-up is a big deal. At first, the game starts off slow – you get one point here, two points there. But then, about 20 minutes into the game, everyone gets their engines running and all heck breaks loose. All of a sudden, each player is getting 5, 7, 10 points on a turn and then someone hits 40 and wins.

The colorful spaceships are fun little additions to the whole thing. The art is cartoony and the colors are vibrant. Each ship has its own name and picture – while it’s not as detailed as say, Star Realms (which literally has thousands of pieces of art for its ships), it’s still a nice touch for a game that is filled with lots of little ship cards. The attention to detail with the card art and card naming is fantastic. No matter what cards you buy you still get an unbroken space panorama in the background.

Another tremendous detail in Space Base is in the names of the cards and classes of ships. Some of the ship names include Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins, Carpenter, Schirra, and McCandless; all of these are last names of famous astronauts. The class names for some of the ships and bases include science fiction and fantasy references across various mediums; these include Asimov, Serling, Kubrick, Bowie, Verne, Clarke, Herbert, Sturgeon, Tolkien, Harryhausen, and Bradbury.

Also, who can be mad about an “You Win!” card? The first time I saw it I bought it. I didn’t win, but I am determined to figure out a way to win with it!

My biggest complaint about the game is the rulebook – it’s not exactly the clearest thing I’ve ever read. Sarah learned the game from Theo (GeekyGaymerGuy) at PAX Unplugged, and then we watched a video on it when we wanted to learn at home. Clarification of the rules would be helpful in future printings.

The only other negative is that less experienced players may find the ramp-up frustrating. When we played with my brother for the first time, he was just building his engine when I started ramping my points engine. This lead to me hitting 40, and he only had 5 points. But, after more plays, players can learn to expect “the ramp up” and try to keep up with it. In my opinion, the game plays best at 2 and 3. It’s still fun at 4 and 5, but the down time can be quite a bear for some people.

Try, Buy, Deny: If you read my series about my top 10 games of all time, then you likely remember that Space Base came in at number 7 for me. And so, it’s likely that my recommendation of a buy is not a surprise to any of you. If you like engine building games or you like to put together combos of all sorts, then Space Base is definitely a buy. Even if you aren’t big on engine building, it’s worth a try. 

Also, we’re really excited about The Emergence of Shy Pluto, which adds story-based scenarios and more cards – it comes out to retail tomorrow, so be sure you check that out as well!

Game on!

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