Review: Space Base

I love games with dice. Dice drafting, dice collecting, dice manipulation, you name it. If the game includes dice as a means for the mechanic, I’m in.

That is, I was in, until I played Machi Koro. When it came out, I was super excited. I loved the idea of using the dice for resource allocation a la Settlers of Catan. And we played a bunch of Machi Koro when it first came out. But then, we stopped, even with adding in the expansions. It became very samey to us. Either we would pursue the same strategies we always did (Cheese for the win) or the randomness that the expansion(s?) introduced made the game run way to long for what it was. It had so much promise, but I wanted more.

Last year at BGG.Con Spring, I was introduced to Space Base,designed by John D. Clair and published by Alderac Entertainment Group. It was described to me as a more interactive Machi Koro and I was intrigued, so we gave it a shot.

In Space Base, players are trying to be the first to gain 40 points. On your turn, you roll two dice. You can then either take the active benefit of the cards that are either on each of the dice or the benefit of the card on the sum of the dice (so if I rolled a 1 and a 4 on 2d6, I could either take the benefits of the 1 and 4 cards OR the benefit on the 5 card).

Once you’ve taken your actions, you may then buy a card. This allows you to upgrade to more powerful active abilities. Additionally, it also lets you move the card that was in that space to the top of your board, where it becomes a passive ability; that means you get to use it if any other player rolls that number (or combination).

With the transitioning of cards from active to passive, you have a great, lightweight tableau builder where you have meaningful decisions to make on every turn. I’ve glossed over some of the more nuanced rules, but there are tons of different abilities on cards, from those that let you charge up and deploy special powers, to straight up victory points. Knowing when to replace a card is huge in this game, as is managing cards with charges on them.

Space Base is a lightweight game that would be great for people who might have dipped their toes in the water of gaming, but aren’t sure where to go next. I feel it helps to have someone who has played through the game a few times teach it, or at least be close by, because in most of the games I’ve taught of it there have always been a few card clarifications needed.

Now that I’ve traveled to space, I can’t see myself returning to Earth, except maybe when playing a game with people who don’t consider themselves gamers. I wholeheartedly recommend Space Base.

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