Space Base Review
Space Base Review

Space Base Review

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Designed by John D. Clair

Release Year: 2018 Complexity: Medium

  👥  2-5 Players   ⏰  45-60 min   💸 ~$40   🔗  Buy

Overview

In Space Base, you are customizing the rewards that you can earn based on the results of two rolled dice. Each turn, you roll the dice and can either add them to trigger a single slot, or take each of the dice independently to trigger two slots. Rewards include money, which allows you to upgrade your slots with more lucrative cards, income, which increases the value your money resets to each turn, and points, which are ultimately how you will win the game.

However, while the active player is taking the blue rewards for the slots based on their die roll, all other players also get to use the results to activate their secondary red abilities. You don’t have many of these red abilities at the start of the game, but every time you gain a new card, it replaces the card in that slot, flipping and tucking it above the slot as a new red reward. Customizing the rewards that you can gain on other players’ turns is just as important as customizing the rewards available on your own turn.

The game is a race to 40 points, and once someone reaches that total, you finish out the round and the player with the most points is the winner.

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Game Feel

Space Base is a game of building an engine that caters to how you want to play the probabilities. You can go all in on a less likely result, setting up a huge jackpot if it actually hits, or you can play much more conservatively and hedge your bets across the board. Often, a winning strategy is somewhere in between, strategically building out a tableau that triggers often and generates larger and larger payouts.

The strategic options open up with the inclusion of cards that “charge” when they are triggered and then give you abilities that can be used at any time. For example, you might have a card that charges when you roll a 4, but then allows you to shift a future roll one or two spaces to the right. Suddenly, a strategy built around an unlikely roll like 12 becomes much more feasible since you can use the charge to shift a 10 or an 11. For a game built on the luck of rolling the dice, there is a surprising amount of strategic control as you choose which cards to acquire over the course of the game.

But at some point, that engine-building needs to transition into a machine that actually generates points. In some cases, this may mean acquiring cards that generate points when triggered, but it also can come in the form of point cards that are always available beside the card market. These just give a one-time payout of points, and also block a slot from ever being triggered or upgraded again, but are a way to convert money into points if that is a better fit for your strategy. It doesn’t matter whether you chip away slowly with tiny point cards or go for rare but massive scoring plays, as long as you find a way to get to 40 points first.

FAQ

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Player Counts - Space Base works well anywhere from 2 to 5 players, though the player count does shift the strategic landscape. With fewer players, blue powers are stronger because you get more of your own turns to have the opportunity to trigger them. Whereas at higher player counts, red powers become even more important because there are more opponents’ turns.

Abstract vs. Thematic - The game flirts with being completely abstract as the spaceship theme is just window dressing, but it is enough to at least give it a little bit of thematic flavor.

Luck vs. Skill - Given the core mechanism of rolling dice to activate effects, it would be easy to dismiss Space Base as a game mostly determined by luck. However, between the options to customize your tableau and the need to balance the pacing of engine-building versus scoring points, we have found that the winner is determined by skillful play more often than you would expect.

Multiplayer Solitaire vs. Highly Interactive - While there is certainly interaction between players as they buy cards from a common market and keep an eye on how other players are progressing toward 40 points, most of Space Base is spent focusing on the customization and activation of your own tableau.

Short Setup vs. Long Setup - Setup is pretty quick as each player sets up their board with the initial cards and tracking cubes, the market decks are shuffled and dealt face-up, and each player gets a random level one card as an initial upgrade.

Easy to Teach vs. Hard to Teach - Most of Space Base is really easy to teach, as the core mechanism of using the dice to activate one column or split them to activate two columns is intuitive. That said, the cards that charge on activation to be used later usually throw new players for a loop and almost always require clarification as the game progresses.

Low Setup Variability vs. High Setup Variability - Each player gets a sprinkle of variable setup with the random level one card they receive before the game begins, but the rest of the variability really comes from the shuffled decks for the market. But given the large variety of effects in those decks, that shuffle will always ensure the game plays out differently.

Things to Like

✅  Everyone is Constantly Engaged - One of the best things about Space Base is the fact that you get to use the die results on every player’s turn. This not only has interesting strategic implications with how you build out your tableau, but also keeps everyone engaged and never waiting around for their own turn.

✅  Huge Pure Fun Factor - Rolling dice is fun. Reaping rewards is fun. And Space Base is all about rolling dice and reaping rewards over and over again. There is just a pure fun factor with the core gameplay loop here as you get repeated dopamine hits from the results of the dice, hoping that they will trigger your most lucrative slots.

✅  Interesting and Varied Tableau-Building - As you customize your card distribution, there are a lot of interesting considerations. Do you focus on cards that generate points directly or lots of money? Do you hedge your bets across the board, or lean into fewer more powerful slots? How can you use powers like the charges to shift slots to make your best slots more likely to trigger? The core rolling of the dice may bring the pure fun factor, but it is the varied tableau-building and ability to explore different strategies that keep us coming back.

✅  Nice Sense of Progression - At the beginning of the game, your rolls are just generating a few coins and often not triggering at all on other players’ turns. But as you keep acquiring cards and kicking more cards to their red side, you start to really scale your rewards. It is fun towards the end of the game to have big stacks of red abilities that could trigger, or really strong blue cards that you can manipulate to trigger more often.

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Things to Dislike

❌  Ending Can Be Anti-Climactic - One side effect of a race to a point total, paired with engine-building, is that it can often end with some players not fully realizing their strategy or making the switch to focusing on earning points. Unlike a game where players know how many turns are left, it is easy for players to get caught off guard with an opponent’s sudden push towards 40 points, robbing them of the climax of their own progression and leaving a bad taste in their mouth.

❌  Dice Might Never Trigger Your Strategy - And while there are a lot of fun strategic considerations, Space Base is still a game where you can live or die by the dice. You might have a great strategy, one that even hedges your bets and uses other powers to mitigate the odds, and it is still possible that the dice just won’t hit where you need them to. It is the price you pay to have the highs and excitement that come with dice, but it doesn’t feel great to build up this custom tableau and then never see it really work because of something you couldn’t control.

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Our Ratings

Ryan (38 Plays) - 8.5 Daniel (23 Plays) - 8

🎬 Watch Extended Final Thoughts

Is It For You?

If you hate seeing your great strategy ruined by dice or prefer more direct player interaction, Space Base might not be what you’re looking for. 👎

But if you love the pure fun factor of rolling dice, you enjoy strategizing around probabilities, and you like customizing an engine with a sense of progression, then Space Base has the potential to be a new favorite. 👍

🛒  Check Out Space Base on Amazon