Space Alert is a real-time cooperative board game for 1 to 5 players. The players are the crew of the U.S.S. Sitting Duck and must survive any threats coming their way. The game is divided into two phases, in the first part the players listen to a 10-minute soundtrack during which they prepare and coordinate their actions. After the soundtrack is over, the actions are played out. The players win if the ship is alive after all the actions are over.
Pro No alpha-gamer issue
Space Alert effectively evades the popular quarterbacking issue of cooperative board games. There’s simply no way to communicate enough useful information to other players in the 10-minute timeframe, so nobody can control absolutely everything. Everyone must efficiently work together and say what they’ll be doing to take care of the looming threats.
Pro Simple rules
The very basics of the game are quite simple. Every player has a role assigned to them – the captain, the communications officer, and the security officer. The players take 12 turns in 10 minutes pre-planning actions while listening to a soundtrack that explains all incoming threats. The action phase is divided into three further parts, each of which has a separate deck of action cards. The soundtrack calls out the threats, the endings of phases, data transfers, and communication disruptions, and you must act accordingly.
After the 10-minute soundtrack is over, all the actions the players planned and coordinated are resolved. If the ship is still alive after that, then the game is won.
Pro Geeky Comedy
A few of the rules show this game doesn't take itself too seriously, which is generally a nice relief when playing with those who take their gaming very seriously.
- Wiggle the mouse to prevent the screensaver from locking up the whole ship.
- Look out of the window for bonus points; you can't always trust your dashboard.
Pro It's Cooperative
Cooperative games are more social than most, as rather than focusing solely on your next move, you need to talk to other players in order to determine what's going on.
This is also a good way to learn to listen to those around you, since it's important that your actions fit in with those of your team-mates; a bit like coding.
Pro Sci Fi Theme
It may be a stereotype, but that doesn't make it untrue; most programmers enjoy sci-fi, so this theme should appeal to the demographic. The game executes it perfectly. From the aesthetic look of the game to the actions you take, there’s plenty of science fiction – aliens, spaceships, robots, etc. The soundtrack playing in the background during the planning phase also adds a lot to the immersion.
Pro Each game is unique
The combination of several CD tracks along with variant card combos and action options ensures that no two games will be the same, making the game widely replayable. If you run out of the official CD tracks, then you can also download the Space Alert Mission Generator to get some random scenarios, or you can browse the internet for custom missions.
Pro Varying difficulty
Various options can be selected to alter the difficulty level of the game, such as the power of internal and external common threats and serious threats. This makes, for example, the monsters you encounter much stronger, adding a whole new level of required teamwork.
Con Can’t be stopped once in progress
Once you press “play” on the 10-minute soundtrack, there’s no interrupting it – no pauses, no rewinds, etc. It’s important to stay focused, not engage in casual banter, and make sure there are no distractions in the background, which can be difficult to manage sometimes.
Con Steep learning curve
Space Alert is not very beginner friendly, and if you don’t properly understand how the game works when you start it up, then you’ll have visible difficulty keeping up with what’s happening in the frantic 10-minute action phase. You’ll also be dragging down the other players because there really isn’t enough time to explain rules when the game is already in progress.
It’s worth reserving an hour to play through the well-designed tutorial book that slowly introduces the complex aspects, so you’ll be ready for the real deal.