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[Review] Space Station Assault

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

Unlike fantasy, space is a theme that is oft ignored in the board gaming world. Yes, there are the multiple Star Wars games, but few others exist with the space station theme. The precarious few games that do have a space theme either don’t really have anything to do with space (like Andromeda - a good game, but lacking in theme) or are extremely long (like Twilight Imperium - a great game, but fairly lengthy). Station Assault (Your Move Games, 2004 - Darwin Kastle) is a new two-player game with space theming that caught my eye because the box claimed that it was a “fast-paced spaceship battle.” I don’t have any other two-player space games except for Starship Catan (which is a good game, albeit slow), so my interest in this game was high.

Upon playing the game, I have to admit that the box was correct; the game is fast-paced, and fairly fun. It wasn’t as space-themed as I had hoped, for some reason the game was fairly abstract. The beautiful artwork on the cards certainly adds to the theme, however, and helps offset the fact that the game does not include counters. Multiple strategies - light as they may be - were evident in the game, but I found out I was playing a rule wrong, which actually made the game better! Still, the game makes a nice, light filler but not one that I’ll play all the time. The theme certainly intrigues me, and it’s certainly different than other games I have; but I just don’t think I’ll play that often. Nothing about it really “grabbed” me.

Each player takes an identical deck of fifty cards, composed of ten different ships (scouts, fighters, corvettes, gunships, frigates, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, dreadnaughts, and behemoths) - each different. There are four statistics on each card - one in each corner: Speed, which determines in which “wave” the ship moves and attacks; Firepower, which determines how much damage the ship does; Shields, the hit points of the ship; and Victory: the amount of victory points the ship is worth to the player who destroys it. Players take a card that represents their Space Station (Speed: 6, Firepower: 1, Shields: 25, Victory: 60) and place them three card widths apart, forming an imaginary grid on the table. The decks are shuffled, with each player drawing ten cards into their hands, preparing to play the first round.

Each round is composed of six “waves”. Only ships with a Speed of “1” move and fire in the first wave; only ships with a Speed of “2” move and fire in the second wave, etc. One player has “initiative”, meaning that they move first each wave. On a turn, a player may either play a card from their hand onto the table, or move one card that is already on the table. When playing a card, the player must place the card orthogonically next to any other card in play; this ship may then fire on an adjacent enemy vessel. When moving a card, the player may move the ship orthogonically one space in the imaginary grid on the table, then firing on any ship adjacent. When firing, the attacking ship deals out damage to the target equal to the number of its firepower stat. If this number exceeds the shield stat of the target, the attacked ship is destroyed and added to a victory point pile in front of the attacking player. Otherwise, a number of chips equal to the damage are placed on the target; it is that much closer to death. In a wave, the player with the initiative moves/plays one card, then the other player; with play alternating until one player runs out of ships to play/move, at which point the other player can play/move the remaining ships they have of that speed. Whenever a ship is played/moved, it is rotated to face the player with initiative, preventing it from moving again that round. When all the waves have completed (the space station alone is in wave 6 - it can only fire, not move), the round ends; with each player drawing ten more cards for the next round. Initiative passes to the other player, with play continuing until one player racks up sixty victory points, at which point they are declared the winner!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The cards themselves are quite beautiful, with tremendous artwork by Lon Chaney (who also did a lot of the artwork on Duel of Ages) and Steve Wilson. This, combined with some nice graphic design (by Kaja Foglio, no less!) really makes the game stand out on the table and really helps the theme. The cards are of good quality and fit in the box well, although they should have glued the bottom shut - why won’t companies do that? My only complaint about the game was that there were no tokens included with the game, and they are certainly necessary for game play. Normally, this doesn’t bother me; companies like Cheapass do it all the time. The problem was that nowhere on the packaging of the box did it state that all the components weren’t there. With my chest of spare gaming bits, this is a mere quibble to me. But to folks who are slightly less enthusiastic about games, they could view this as false advertising, because the complete game isn’t in the box.

2.) Rules: The rules were on a folded sheet of paper in the box and were very nicely laid out. My only problem was that I thought perhaps they were too concise; they were almost as short as my summary above. A few things weren’t entirely clear. For example, about placing the cards - was there a boundary on the grid? - the game never really said, so we went by the picture, which seemed to indicate no boundaries. Other than that, the game was remarkably simple to learn and teach - almost too simple.

3.) Wrong Rule: I read on the internet that some people indicated that the only sure strategy was to destroy the opponent’s Space Station. When I told my opponent of our initial game, we both thought that destroying the Space Station, while feasible, was fairly difficult and couldn’t understand why people said that. Turns out, we played a rule wrong. I thought that one could only place a card next to one of your OWN cards, not any card on the table. The rules state that a ship can be placed next to ANY card. This totally changed the dynamics of the game. In our first game, we attempted to place our ships down, and then move them into the best positions to attack the opponents. There were strategies, not unlike Attica, trying to maneuver our “lines” of spaceships to maximum advantage. Once we played the correct way, all we did was plop ships down directly next to the opponent’s space station and fire. There were a few attacks/counterattacks, but overall it was mostly boring. I really didn’t enjoy the game at all this way and preferred our incorrect way better. So if you play the game with me, expect to play with that variant; it makes the game a whole lot more strategic in my opinion.
4.) Blank cards and Variety: Your Move Games didn’t provide counters, but they did provide several blank cards that a player could add their own ships with. The ships included with the game are easy to use; none of them have special abilities, and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Even with luck of the draw, this evens out over the game, with players needing to use the ships properly as they draw them. I was certainly glad to have ten different ships with different stats and pictures; they weren’t different enough to cause confusion, but different enough to make if feel like one actually controlled an entire fleet.

5.) Fun Factor and Time: If one gets into the theme of the game, it’s easy to have fun laughing and taunting the other player, as they blow up their fleets (especially with a good Battlestar Galactica soundtrack in the background). The strategies in the game are too simplistic, in my opinion, to have much more fun that that. Fortunately, for me, the rule change I accidentally did is good enough for me to enjoy playing the game several more times; I’m just not sure if the casual player will make the same mistake I did and be put off from the game.

Space Station Assault is a good-looking game; it just screams theme, especially when there are twenty or more ships on the table, locked in mortal combat. Unfortunately, it’s a little too simplistic for me, as the strategies are just too obvious. Perhaps if someone could convincingly show me another strategy, but it just seems that a player must attack the opponent’s space station directly to win. This may give a few folks fun, but it’s not enjoyable for me. With my variant, I enjoy the game. Without it, I can’t really recommend it, unless you don’t mind playing a quick, fairly mindless game.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
[Review] Space Station Assault

That sounds like a borrowed very, very heavily from the Cheapass game LightSpeed

The only things that seem to be different are forcing you to play in a grid and making it turn-based. Both of which seem to take away from what makes LightSpeed good.

Jason

tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011
[Review] Space Station Assault

I wouldn't consider the games alike at all - the mechanics may seem the same, but they play out very differently. Knowing where you can place a ship makes a LOT of difference.

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
[Review] Space Station Assault

Cool! This game is from Chad Ellis' game company! Way to go Chad!

-Darke

Chad_Ellis
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Space Station Assault and Lightspeed

Oracle wrote:
That sounds like a borrowed very, very heavily from the Cheapass game LightSpeed

The only things that seem to be different are forcing you to play in a grid and making it turn-based. Both of which seem to take away from what makes LightSpeed good.

While it was certainly inspired in part by Lightspeed, it is a VERY different game.

For another recent reviewer's opinion, check out:

http://www.gamingreport.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Reviews&file=ind...

Hugs,
Chad

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