When comparing Space Alert vs Terraforming Mars, the Slant community recommends Terraforming Mars for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Terraforming Mars is ranked 3rd while Space Alert is ranked 24th. The most important reason people chose Terraforming Mars is:
The constant anticipation and sense that you're working towards a goal is very pronounced. At the start of the game, you'll have limited money and resources, but as the game progresses and these resources accumulate, you can start to do more and more things each turn. Seeing your strategy slowly start to pay off as your corporation grows, and knowing you'll soon have the resources to unleash your big play helps to keep you excited for the next round.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
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.
Space Alert is a cooperative based game, something that is not always the case for board games and can be a refreshing change.
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.
Pro Strong theme
Space Alert has a sci-fi theme to it, and 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. For those that are into more of a science fiction game, Space Alert could easily fit that bill.
Pro Good humor
While slightly morbid, the humor contained in the game and gameplay is quite amusing. The resolution phase is also full of humorous moments as the players watch their actions unfold or fall apart. For example, the tutorial book states that the captain must remember to do the “C” action that represents pressing the spacebar on the ship’s computer to keep the lights on.
Pro 1 - 5 players
Can be played as a single player game, or with up to 4 friends, dividing roles accordingly. If you don’t have a full group of 5 players, then the missing characters are androids, which can be controlled by any player.
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 Fast gameplay
The game takes around 30 minutes to play through, 10 minutes of which is the intense planning phase with the soundtrack blasting in the background.
Pro No analysis paralysis
Turn speed is dictated by the CD, avoiding some players procrastinating on their turns / keeping the gameplay flowing.
Pro Ranked highly on board game geek
With an average score of 7.5 out of 10 and a rank of 155, Space Alert is a positively reviewed board game.
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 Good components
The components of the game should hold up to multiple plays and regular wear and tear. There are a lot of good quality wooden tokens, and the cards are made of durable cardstock. The gameboard and the tracking boards are also quite thick and should endure well.
Pro Exciting feeling of progression
Pro Theme and gameplay gel well
Pro Huge amount of strategy
Juggling your resources, money, and production against your opponent's actions as you try to satisfy the win conditions (getting the oxygen, temperature, and ocean coverage to their desired levels) can be pretty intense. Always having to think several turns ahead will definitely appeal to people who like a game that makes them strategize and prioritize. Choosing which cards to buy each round, what to spend your resources on, and how to terraform the planet without giving too much leeway to your opponents creates plenty of situations to outplay others.
Pro Loads of replayability
There are over 200 unique project cards in the game that represent all of the terraforming projects available such as introducing plant or animal life, greenhouses, new buildings, and more.
Since you'll be drawing random cards in a random order each time you play, each and every game session turns into a unique experience. Even if you've seen a card in a previous session, the conditions on the board (oxygen levels, temperature, and ocean coverage) will most likely be different than the last time you saw that particular card, meaning you'll be calculating the cost vs. benefit of playing that card in a brand new way.
Additionally, each player-controlled corporation has its own specialties. Some examples are being able to substitute certain resources for money, or perhaps having an increase in production for specific resource. Each one plays dramatically different from the others, so something as simple as choosing a new corporation on your next playthrough will change your strategies.
Pro Great balance in the game systems
The win condition states the oxygen, ocean levels, and temperature must reach a certain level. However, all three of these parameters are interconnected with one another, meaning you'll have to focus on all of them rather than just trying to brute force one.
For example, if you want to build a water production facility, you will need at least 2 ocean tiles in play. But in order for those ocean tiles to come into play, the oxygen and temp will first have to be satisfactory.
Overall, the game systems are very deep and complex, but the takeaway is that everything has a condition that needs to be met that is reliant upon all three parameters. This results in a very balanced experience where you need to pay heed to everything equally if you want to succeed.
Pro Lots of great expansions
There are several expansion packs which add new moons and planets for you to terraform. The rules and game flow is the same as the vanilla game, but they add new cards and corporations. The most interesting twist is that the board layouts are completely different for each expansion - with heat sources, oceans, etc in vastly different spots. They are an excellent addition that take the fun and excitement of the base game while giving you an all new playing field full of new possibilties.
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.
Con Requires CD player with speakers
Space Alert is only playable with the included audio CD or downloadable MP3's, without them the game is impossible to play.
Every action you take highly impacts what happens to the rest of the crew, and one tiny misstep can make the whole plan fall apart, which can be frustrating to some. Teamwork and good communication is completely necessary to win.
Con A lot of setup
Space Alert has a lot of pieces to sort through, cards and decks to shuffle and place on the gameboard. It’s not so bad if you decide to play more than one game, but the actual games are very quick in comparison to the amount of setup/takedown time.
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 Games can feel very long and drawn out
The sheer amount of things that need to be tracked is fairly high, and continually grows in complexity as the game goes on. Keeping track of cards in play, actions, awards, milestones, map, resources, money, etc. can lead to some intense calculations. Most players will want to carefully ponder their strategy each turn, and the end result is a game that often seems like it comes to a grinding halt.
Con The board is flimsy
The game board itself is very thin cardboard with no linen finish, and tends to dent easily. After enough wear and tear, the game tokens/pieces won't stay in place due to the lumps and pockets that form in the cardboard. The board must be handled carefully at all times due to its low quality or you risk damaging it.
Con Game pieces are cheap and wear down easily
The little game cubes (the tokens/pieces that represent resources) are coated with a metallic finish that chips and wears away easily. This leaves you with some rather ugly game pieces with flaking and peeling paint, especially in the corners.
Con Not suited for large groups
Regardless of how many players you have, getting the oxygen, temperature, and ocean levels to their goal level to satisfy the win condition is the exact same. The more players you add to this equation, the longer the game will take as each person has to contemplate and think their strategy each turn. As such, this game is best played in only very small groups and doesn't lend itself well to larger parties.