Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Kevn & April Knox

KnA Games

No. of Players:
2 - 7



Space: the final frontier.

No, this are not the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, but instead Space Movers 2201 from Kevin and April Knox challenges up to 7 players to accompany the aspiring crew of the rickety spaceship Liberty on their new career as interstellar delivery agents. Having found their derelict but functional spaceship on a junkyard, young Captain Eli, his girlfriend Red and the rest of their crew have left Earth in search of fame and fortune, but they haven't counted on the agents of the Universal Oversight (UO), an ubiquitous authority who has been installed to monitor interstellar travel and suppress unauthorized flights…

The players take the roles of the different crew members, and it is their goal in this cooperative game to complete a total of 5 different missions which are represented by a stack of Objective cards which has been prepared at the beginning of the game. The players either can go for 5 missions which have been randomly drawn from a larger deck, or they can chose one of the special 5-card-missions which link all 5 missions into one small story arc. Especially for the first game it is recommended to take the pre-constructed 5-card mission, since it continues the game's introductory story which was begun in a small comic book which is included in the game. The addition of the comic book actually was a great idea to get the players quickly into the game's story, and the graphic standard is continued by the nice illustrations of all Objective cards.

The missions which the players must complete are fairly straightforward, following a pattern of going to a certain planet and - once there - making a series of skill checks in form of dice rolls. When I first read the rules this seemed somewhat sobering, since the idea of rolling dice to solve skill checks catapulted me 30 years backwards to the high time of role-playing games. However, I am glad that I stuck to the game and gave it a try, since there is more to Space Movers 2201 than an endless, boring series of dice rolls. The magic of the game lies in the dice rolls itself, since the players roll their characters' dice one at a time into the base of the gamebox, and if a dice actually fails to reach a success the following players are allowed to aim for this dice with their own dice, hoping to change the result in order to get a success after all. This partly skill-based mechanism revamps the whole dice-rolling process in Space Movers 2201 to a totally new experience, placing the game into the broad field of dexterity boardgames where other games like Dungeon Fighter have been quite successful with their combination of strategy and dexterity. But talking about strategy, let's check out the strategic potential of Space Movers 2201.

During his turn, a player may move his character freely to one of the different stations on board the Liberty, and at the same time the player is allowed to move the Liberty for one step on the main gameboard, going from one planet to the next. Once the movement is finished, the player is allowed to perform one action, and the available actions range from the initiation of a skill check shown on the current Objective card or an Event card to different kinds of actions on board the Liberty. Depending on the current location of his character on board the ship, a player may use his action to pilot the ship one additional step, to pick up and deliver cargo, to interrupt UO communications, to heal a wounded character etc., and since each character has a unique set of skills the different actions can be performed with a bonus if they are done by the right crew member.

Even through the strategic potential offered by the different available actions is not too deep, there are still some interesting choices which must be made by the players, especially if the game seems to be tipping towards a defeat. So, each player's turn consumes at least one unit of the ship's resources, and the players need to keep interstellar trade going to re-supply on resources. More difficult is the fact that the general game deck (from which one card is drawn by the active player at the beginning of his turn) contains Event and UO Pursuit cards. When an Event card comes up, it usually sets a specific obstacle which the players must overcome before the next event is revealed, because each un-solved event actually triggers an additional loss of resources. Even more nasty are the UO Pursuit cards, since the Liberty now will be followed by an UO Scoutship, and if that ship ever catches up with the Liberty a random character from the crew will be taken to UO headquarters for interrogation. The rest of the crew still can operate the Liberty, but the special dice of the crew member will be missing as long at the other players do not succeed in rescuing the taken character, and so some skill checks requiring this specific dice cannot be attempted. Of course the players may try to ignore and outfly the UO Scoutship, but since the UO moves at the end of every player's turn the room for evasive maneuvers is rather limited.

To be honest, my playing group totally underestimated the considerable stress triggered by the consumption of resources. At the beginning of the game everything looks fine with the Liberty being well supplied, but even at "standard" difficulty level it is astonishing to see the resources dwindle fast. Combining this misperception with some misfortune and a bad aim in the skill checks, the first game ended in a quick defeat, and only after one more beating we started to coordinate our actions with more skill and focus. So, even though the games' rules may create an impression of light entertainment, it is rather easy to loose!

On the other hand, it was also quite surprising to see how much fun my playing group could derive from the dexterity-enhanced skill checks. As said earlier, I wasn't really sure what to think about this game when I discovered its dependence on dice-based skill checks, but these doubts were quite unnecessary. Of course, everything depends on the composition of the gaming group, and I am quite certain that Space Movers 2201 will fail to leave a good impression with a bunch of hardcore strategy gamers, but if you find a group of players who does not take the whole dice-rolling business too seriously you will really be in for some high-grade fun. So, a good roll of Lucas the Engineer may be followed by just another epic fail of Captain Eli whose dice triggers a personal injury, but before the check is over he is healed by the intervention of the medical droids MED-A and HER-B, and finally a well-aimed dice-shot of Red, the Captain's girlfriend, saves the day. The players are in for this and other stories once they have joined the crew of the Liberty, and it was great to see how everybody in my gaming group delighted in these hilarious situations…

So, you best go ahead and play Space Movers 2201 with a combination of focus and a somewhat mischievous mood, and you will be surprised by the unexpected level of entertainment which can be found in this game!

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Copyright & copy; 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany