The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

SpaceCorp review

I have now played a dozen games of SpaceCorp (one with four, four of them two-player with the TaoLing, the rest solitaire). In so doing, I have corrected a few rules mistakes I was making.

Any game I play that often isn’t a dog.

Game length isn’t as horrific as I’d thought. Multiplayer sets up & plays faster than the solitaire (if everyone knows it, assuming every is the same speed). You also go through the deck faster, that helps.

Another excellent point in SpaceCorp’s favor is that each number plays truly different. With four players you will be fighting to get six upgrade cards. With two players, getting ten is easy (a function of only seeing half as much of the deck). The contracts do scale based on number of players, but not as much. So again with a single player (or two) you often see five or six contracts finished each era, with four maybe only two or three get done.

The main downside? I stand behind my earlier criticism — the powerful ‘edge’ card feel too good. You make some easy decisions and some tough ones, certainly enough to keep my interest for 20 hours, but after that it’s basically “Oh, he played Great Card X and Great Card Y and got it.” I mean, you have a deck where ~60 cards are “Big points for one action” or “OK points for either of two actions” and some can be played once or you can take a turn to put them into your headquarters to re-use them again and again.  One action a turn. All good so far.

And then ~10 cards are “Points for one action OR Do this good thing and it doesn’t cost an action!

Some examples:

  1. Take an extra turn
  2. When someone else takes the first breakthrough (a card that lets you modify the rules or get a bonus), grab the other one of that name. (Earning a breakthrough requires three revelation points … cards with revelation points typically give one, but you can also earn a few on the board).
  3. Take all the cards a player used on his turn. In the late game, that can be a few great cards (like revelation) or 5+ cards to make a major build/move.
  4. When someone produces, just earn half of what they did, for free. (A big produce can be ~$10. I pulled off $18 in a solitaire game.  Players can earn $200 total, give or take. Much depends on how many contracts are awarded in the final era and how effectively the “produce” action is used).
  5. Name an action, nobody else can take it until your next turn.

In our last two-player game, I used the extra turn and the “Stop an action” to swing a $9 contract. I got into a position to claim the “sixteen points wroth of colonies” contract for $9, then blocked the TaoLing’s colony action, which would have put him over. I won $75-$74(ish). If I don’t have that card I’m losing $83-64. If the TaoLing draws it and can swing even $3 his way, that’s $86-$61. I also need the extra turn card, so I got pretty luck to draw them both. (Our three prior games were all runaways).

To be sure, there’s strategy on maximizing card flow and when to research (to draw cards), all of which may mitigate my criticism. And if you play poorly no card luck will save you. It’s in the nature of games with cards that among even-ish players luck decides. Some breakthroughs that help control card and tile luck. If a group thinks card/tile luck dominates, they’ll value those higher.  I just wish there were small granules of card luck. (To be fair, there are. You may random draw a “build” card right when you need it). Let’s just say the edges are a grain of sand that are irritating me.

The multiplayer game does contain the “claim-jumping” angles I had hoped for (in my last article). You may send a team to an opponents (unexplored) site, hoping that if they explore you build. This is a high-risk strategy (if they can take two turns in a row or block your build, you’ve wasted your time and will likely have to let them earn an additional card when you leave the site), but even in a two player game it’s an interesting choice. In a 3 and 4 player game I think it may be symbiotic. (I explore, get rewards, you claim jump me, I earn $2 compensation. I use your site to leave, you earn a card compensation).

And — of course — the multiplayer game is more interesting because (even assuming you card count) you don’t know what exactly your opponent can do. Do you need to jump to the Oort cloud this turn to get the “1st Beyond” marker, or do you have time to complete a contract first? You can also use your opponent’s headquarters (infrastructure cards) to give them a card draw, but if you save actions not building up your infrastructure, that can be a good deal. Time is valuable. Final scores seem to average around $100 (our last game was low scoring compared to early games), but you can spend money (in the second two eras) to boost effects, or for radiation shielding. Knowing when to spend $1-5 is a valuable skill.

There’s enough to hold interest; I’m disappointed because I hoped for more. I’m left with a decent game that I feel has too much luck for what it is. I think you need the “extra turn” or “block some actions” because otherwise you can plot out the timing due to an Igo-Ugo lockstep. The multiplayer game does help with the Time Card. You can either double the values of your move/explore/build, or you can use the value twice (for two different teams). It would have been nice if there were more ways to explode with extra actions that were another resource you built up, instead of just a few cards that give the action. Deciding when (and how) to spend your time card is a critical decision. In the three or four player game there are also some “time” cards (a mechanism I enjoy) shuffled into the deck, whereas with two players you only get the one you start with each era.

I’ll take it, overall. Our games are under 2 hours (instead of three) which helps greatly. There are enough edge cards that with a “fair-ish” distribution there’s room for skill to matter.  I am looking forward to more three and four player games. I’ll get another dozen games or so out of this, at least (probably not at the breakneck pace).

Rating — Suggest

Solitaire Rating — Suggest

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Written by taogaming

December 18, 2018 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Reviews

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