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Space Cadets

35 out of 40 gamers thought this was helpful

On the surface, Space Cadets has a lot going for it– a light-hearted, campy sci-fi setting where you are taking the controls of a certain station on a starship, the promise of mini games within the game that determine whether you successfully complete your task, and most importantly, lots and lots of bits. And on the surface, that’s what it is. Unfortunately, it’s also needlessly complicated and just not very fun.

My brother picked up this game for the afore-mentioned reasons. He and one of his gaming associates somehow managed to play it twice, just the two of them. I don’t know how they slogged through it, since this is supposed to be a 3-6 player game. But they did to learn the rules and figure out the mechanics. And I’m glad he did, because this is definitely one of those games which could easily bog you down with a case of rulebook psychosis. So he was pretty excited to bring the game over and finally play it with four people.

He set up the game while the rest of us imbibed distilled beverages in the other room. When we saw the game laid out on the table, we were agog at the sheer volume of pieces. To say there is a lot is to say that Captain Kirk has a bit of luck with the ladies. We took our seats and my brother began to explain what was going on. Then he explained how all the stations were set up. Then he explained how all the mini games worked. Then he kept explaining until everyone got a little glazed over.

Some time later, we started playing. To me, it seemed like every aspect of the game was overthought into oblivion. Each phase had complications that felt randomly added on to somehow make it feel more significant. Maybe after a few playthroughs, it would go more smoothly. But it just wasn’t fun enough to want to ever play it again. I think most of us here play games at least in part to have fun. For my taste, it felt as though all the fun had been sacrificed to make the game just a little more complicated.

And those mini games? Not fun. Especially in the replay value department. How many times do you want to reach into a bag and guess the shapes? How many times do you want to play a memory/matching game? How many times do you want to flick a little piece down the board like a miniaturized game of shuffleboard? If the answer is “lots,” then you may have found your game.

For a game as complicated as this, the rewards are…well…none come to mind. So we’ll call it “few.” I am certainly not one who finds games with a lot of rules/steps/phases or a high learning curve to be a turn off. But they have to be compelling. There was nothing about this game that drew me in and made me feel invested in what was happening. We made it a few rounds before all of us, my brother included, decided we were wasting time during which we wanted to be having fun.

There were complaints from everyone around the table regarding the quality of the pieces. The game boards are just paper, giving the entire thing a very cheap feel. Maybe we are spoiled by the quality of Fantasy Flights games, but if a game is going to be so heavily reliant on many pieces and cost $60, I expect better.

We also all agreed that this was a great concept gone bad. The difference between our expectations and reality could be measured in light years.

Go to the King of Tokyo page

King of Tokyo

51 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

King of Tokyo is a gem. It’s one of those rare “Gateway Games” that you can sit down with someone who is not a gamer and within 10 minutes, they will be having a blast. It’s also a perfect family game. Show me an 8-year-old who doesn’t want to be Mecha Dragon or Cyber Bunny. And it’s designed by Richard Garfield who brought us Magic the Gathering and Netrunner, so seasoned gamers are guaranteed a good time.

The beauty of this game lies in its simplicity. Some people may not like the dice-rolling mechanic, but even with the randomness of the rolls, there are many different strategies to pick from during your turn. The key is to not be married to your strategy going in, otherwise you’ll get hosed. Being able to modulate your strategy several times during the game gives King high marks for replay value.

The game is easy to learn– roll dice, punch your opponents, heal yourself, get points, collect energy. It sounds pretty dull, but the artwork and the abilities you can buy with the energy cubes you collect make the game exciting. Those abilities can quickly turn the tables and make life miserable for the other monsters. I have several favorites, but the Jetpack that allows you to cede Tokyo without taking damage has saved my skin in two different games.

Have I mentioned the game is fun? It’s a lot of fun. Everyone I’ve played it with (conservatively, I’d say I’ve played this with 20 people) has enjoyed it. Everyone gets into it, there’s lots of smack-talking, and always a giant “AWWWW!!” when someone buys the upgrade everyone wants. It’s also a quick game. Even with six players, it’s unlikely to go one hour. Great for kids (and grownups) with short attention spans.

If I had one complaint, it would be that the components could be a little better. Everybody loves the Kryptonite-colored energy cubes, but the cardboard characters are starting to show some wear. Then again, we’ve played the **** out of this game.

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