Sunday, November 16, 2014

Meet Me at the Table - Ships & Crew Themed Sci-Fi Tabletop Games

As I started to compile lists of games, I had a constantly nagging feeling that something was missing from my game collection. Something that was uniquely Science Fiction in origin. That evening, it arrived at my door. . . The Captain is Dead! I needed a ships & crew game list for my Sci-Fi Tabletop Games!

I wanted to stay away from the simple skins of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly, which caused me to think farther afield.

The Captain is Dead (2014)

Your ship is under attack and your captain. . . is dead. You and the remaining crew need to keep the ship's systems online and functioning while warding off hostile aliens invading the ship. Get your ship's jump drive repaired and get your ship safely out of there before your shields hit 0%! You've got to give it all you've got!

The Captain is Dead is a cooperative game. The players choose their crew member from the crew member deck. You can go about this in one of two ways. . . based on color (where you pick your crew member within a color) or randomly by just drawing off the deck. The crew members are color-coded to align with the different areas of the ship. For example, green crew members are from the Science Lab and blue crew members are associated with the Battle Room. Each crew member has their own special abilities and some have additional skill benefits for helping out in running the systems.

After each player's turn, an Alert card is drawn. These cards could be invading aliens, an attacking ship, an attack knocking your systems offline, or an anomaly, which affects the crew. Through the use of actions and skills, the help of your surviving crewmates, collect enough engineering cards to get your jump drive online so you can get yourself and your crew outta there!

This has great replay ability, which is enhanced by the variations based on the crew and when the alert cards are drawn. There is a 1-player variation and 2-players do not draw anomaly cards. We found that 2-player games are enhance by the players choosing two crew members, so it's like you're playing with 4. We stood our best chances that way. You can set the jump drive on varying levels of difficulty, which I think best serves the number of people you have playing. It is definitely worth checking out.

Time: 90 minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

Galaxy Trucker (2007)

 The story the game paints is just too good to try to duplicate on my own, so let's start off this recommendation with this rousing call to galactic ship building:

In a galaxy far, far away... they need sewer systems, too. Corporation Incorporated builds them. Everyone knows their drivers -- the brave men and women who fear no danger and would, if the pay was good enough, even fly through Hell.

Now you can join them. You will gain access to prefabricated spaceship components cleverly made from sewer pipes. Can you build a space ship durable enough to weather storms of meteors? Armed enough to defend against pirates? Big enough to carry a large crew and valuable cargo? Fast enough to get there first?

Of course you can. Become a Galaxy Trucker. It's loads of fun.

Galaxy Trucker is a game in two halves.  The first and most hectic half of the game involves constructing your interstellar hauling vehicle in real time. Players race to grab tiles from the center of the table to construct a ship with suitable engines, cabin space, storage, weapons, shields, and batteries to power their various ship systems. All the while you are obeying the strict rules of construction in regards to connecting pieces, positioning, and orientation of various systems.

The second part of the game is time to sit back, relax and likely watch your ship get pulverized into space dust. Here players take turns moving along a track and encountering cards, many of which are quite unpleasant, and deciding how to handle the situation (if they have any choice). Along the way you can earn credits and pick up goods, but you will almost certainly lose crew, burn out your batteries, and see chunks of your ship get sent spinning into the void. Whoever actually survives to the end of their journey with the most money wins the round and then you can start all over!

Galaxy Trucker players 2-4 players and works well with most amounts. Of course we want four players always, but two players is just as fun. You never know what's going to happen when you rush to get your pieces and try to assemble a ship out of who knows what. All we can say for sure is that you will have some sort of ship. You might already be thinking of Among the Stars, where you build a space station and have to build the best one, whereas here you want your ship to just last to the end of the journey. Instead of cards, you are working with tiles.

Great fun for everyone and worth the time, especially if you think you have the chops to create an epic starcraft that can take on the perils of space! If you fall in love with this game, like I have, there are several expansions to feed your need OR you can by the Big Box Anniversary Edition.

Time: 90 minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

Space Alert (2008)

Did Galaxy Trucker sound like a blast to you?  How about The Captain Is Dead? Well, I sure hope so, because Space Alert is a second dose of spaceship madness from the brilliant Vlaada Chvatil (Galaxy Trucker) and the second game where players are on a team as the crew of a ship in dire circumstances. Is there any other way to exist on a ship?

Space Alert takes the real time aspect of Galaxy Trucker and ramps it up a bit as the game is strictly confined to a 10 minute timer in the form of one of several mission narratives on the CD (or app). This additional component is filled with audio cues and high stakes drama.  Space Alert takes the crew of a ship on a dangerous journey of a hyperspace jump into an unfamiliar sector of space where they find trouble in the form of monstrous aliens, critical malfunctions, and enemy warships. The ship's computer announces one terrible thing after another.

The players man various stations in a panic to complete the tasks necessary to get them out of this sticky situation alive. It is our own anxiety of the real-time aspect that drives us into a literal panic, instead of it being a mock feeling that we feign based on the mere drawing of a card. Depending on the difficulty level that you choose, your panic could run from mere "uh-oh" to "Oh my god we're all gonna die!"

Like The Captain is Dead, your objective is to survive until you can jump the heck back home and find safety away from the insanity! Lucky for the crew, damage is mainly being done to the ship, so you really just need to get your ship home.

Typically a full run takes about 30 minutes, but that's taking into account setting everything up and also the evaluation at the end of the game. As mentioned above, the mission itself lasts about 10 minutes.

Another game that involves 1-5 players and is best played with an actual crew of people! My recommendation is about 4, but trying it at all levels with different amounts of players provides value for replay. A unique and diverse game that is worth adding to your collection of tabletop games, regardless of your gaming level.

Time: 30 minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

Space Cadets (2012)

If The Captain is Dead is a full-fledged crew defending against aliens, Space Cadets encapsulates the newb factor of your first mission as a crew member. I can't help but think of the Star Trek reboot and how the cadets ended up playing primary roles on the ship. This is your first mission and you are all stationed on the bridge of the ship to work cooperatively to complete the mission.

Players choose from six different crew members: Helmsman, Engineer, Weapons Officer, Shield Officer, Sensor Officer, and Captain. Each role has their own board that drives their actions and helps to achieve the tasks. So for example, the Engineering station has to solve puzzles, which earn Energy tokens that can be used in other areas of the ship to help them complete their task.

While the game appears complex, once you start playing, your roles become clear and it feels a bit less overwhelming. Speaking and communicating with your group is the key to success in this game. What makes this game stand out so much is that each crew member is tasks with a specific set of skills and objectives that they need to accomplish. It is not just simply dice rolling or random cards being drawn, it is the quick calculation and skilled mind that is actually challenged in this game. Definitely for the more cerebral mind, but enjoyable enough for the casual gamers.

Space Cadets plays 3-6 players, but to really benefit from the layers of the game, I felt like the minimal amount of players you'd want to have are 5 to make a difference. Sadly, I can't recommend what I did for The Captain is Dead and play multiple characters per player, because the game itself relies on focusing on your area of the ship to function. Imagine trying to run the Scotty's and Chekov's jobs at the same time!

Space Cadets is another winner from Stronghold Games. Pair this Among the Stars for a Stronghold Games theme night of Sci-Fi greatness!

Time: 90 minutes       Suggested Age: 10+


A friend jokingly asked me after my last article, where is my little "spice it up" section for these games? After all, the whole concept behind Meet Me at the Table was to incorporate not only tabletop gaming, but also having fun when you're having a game night. In all honesty, who would I be if I didn't represent the adorable side. So this time around, I've included a fun little way to spice up your game night if you choose some of these games.

1. Dress Like a Crew
Whatever crew you choose (example: uh.... Star Trek?), dress up like your favorite characters! If you're going to theme out your night with a certain starship crew, make sure everyone is dedicated. I can't help but want to dress in the traditional Star Trek garb for these types of games. Give me my red shirt. . . I'm ready to take on the challenge!

2. Theme Music
Unless you're playing Space Alert, a soundtrack might be a fun little addition. You could choose any of the Star Trek theme songs or, for funsies, you could play Dark Side of the Moon (teehee). I also became familiar with a band while I was GenCon named Five Year Mission. They're a group of 5 Trekkies who are writing one song for every episode of the original Star Trek. It's like BNL meets. . . well. . . Star Trek. I love their quirky personalities and their unique sound.

3. Snacks
Would it be insane to suggest Dip n' Dots? NEVER! Get some Dip 'n Dots for your crew members to keep their blood sugar up for all the clever maneuvers they'll be doing. Personally, I'd probably also find a way to serve Tang (or another delicious orange drink), because who doesn't drink Tang in space? If those types of astronaut foods aren't your favorite, there is always the opportunity to serve Early Grey, hot! Or go all out by searching some of the great Star Trek recipes out there (just buy the book. . . you know you want to).

I hope some of these ideas can inspire you to have an epic Sci-Fi game night. Share your thoughts on these Sci-Fi crew and ship games or your thoughts on this article here or on twitter @adventgeekgirl (#RRSciFiMonth).

The next article is slated to be released on Thursday, November 20 and will focus on 4X games. Hopefully nothing will derail my publication this week. At the very least, check back on Friday (not that I want to jinx anything).

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, these look fun and I've never played any of them! I especially want to try the first two. :)