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Quinns: You know when you buy a game, and you know it’s going to be good… and it is?
Space Cadets is a game where 3-6 players fly a Star Trek-like space ship together in real time. That makes it a lot like SU&SD favourite Space Alert, but where that game compresses your flight (and the game’s jewel-like puzzle) into a brown-trousered 10 minutes, Space Cadets’ flight fills a whole evening.
It also has everyone manning different stations. We’ll be doing a full review when we’re a more competent crew, but for now, let me just walk you through each station. I can’t think of a better way to persuade you why you need this box in your life.
Can you imagine a better way to spend an evening than telling your friends what to do?
Me either. The manual will tell you the Captain’s job is to take care of some book-keeping while coming up with a co-ordinated plan for each turn. In practice, the Captain plays the metagame of drinking more than anybody else while berating everyone for their mistakes. Starting with sensors.
Oh god. The poor bastard on sensors has to try and attain locks on mission objectives or enemy ships by reaching into a bag and removing the right symbol. They get one chance at this. It’s a bit like being the goalie in football, except instead of trying to stop a football, if they fail their job your team doesn’t get a football to play with. Meanwhile, your team’s being shot at by snipers.
Brendan tried sensors. How did sensors work for you, Brendan?
Brendan: Well, as you know Quinns, I have very nimble fingers. For instance, when I reach into my pocket I can skillfully tell the difference between my wallet, my pen, and my door keys. So I was very surprised when we were attacked by unseen enemy vessels and I pulled my hand out of the sensors bladder and produced a U-shaped tetramino, instead of the slightly-different-U-shaped tetramino we required. Yes, very surprised. Not as surprised as the panicking weapons officer, though, who looked impotently into what looked like empty space, asking, “Why, Brendan? Why?"
In the advanced rules, the Sensors officer can also activate your ship’s cloaking device. Due to what team SU&SD have decided is advanced cardboard technology, the Sensors officer will literally never succeed at activating the cloaking device.
Which is bad news for the helmsman!
This player flies the ship. Definitely let the friend who is most excited about this take the helm before you tell him how this works.
The helmsman is dealt a pitifully small number of cards showing maneuvers which must be placed into a number of spaces according to the ship’s speed. This experience can be compared to learning to drive in a car with no brakes in a field of small children.
At worst, the Helmsman will see you bouncing through an asteroid field with the enemy you’re meant to be fighting following confusedly behind.
At best, see “At worst."
The Helmsman’s mortal enemy is the Weapons Officer.
Whoever’s firing guns has the easiest job on the ship. In order to load torpedoes, they have to load tetraminos onto little cards. Usually the weapons officer finishes their job first, allowing them to lend useful support to there peers, like “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU" and “DON’T DO THAT."
This is followed by the worst job on the ship. Everyone watches as the Weapons Officer takes aim with their finger, and attempts to flick a wooden disc to the furthest pint on the range board because the Helmsman’s flying the wrong way.
Everyone holds their breath. It all depends on this… and you watch as the Weapons Officer ends up flicking it exactly half an inch.
"HOW DID YOU DO THAT," screams the Captain. He is genuinely awestruck. The rest of the table spend a moment agreeing that they couldn’t have done something so crap if they wanted to.
Speaking of which, let’s talk Shields.
Brendan, you were on Shields too, weren’t you?
Brendan:Yes. But only in the sense that I was sitting by the shield station, and people expected me to have the shields powered up. It must have been very exhilarating for everyone to discover that, actually, the shields were often fully charged, just on the wrong end of the space submarine. At this point there was a lot of shouting and yelling and I think I heard my name once or twice or maybe even three times, followed by some loud sighing. But I honestly don’t know what any of that was about because, as you say, I was very busy with all the shields.
Quinns: Great. Finally, tangled up in everyone’s business like a slippery pervert is Engineering.
Engineering decides how much power everyone gets, something they’ve probably been advised on by the Captain. They have to arrange tiles against the clock, with each full circle being one point of power for a different station.
Some problems the engineer faces:
- Players with no power often can’t do anything.
- Each power point you give Sensors and Weapons flatly multiplies their workload, allowing you to give these players PTSD.
- The symbols for each station are obtuse enough that you both look and feel like a pensioner worriedly fingering their weekly medication.
- The captain’s going to be telling you what to do.
- The captain’s going to be drunk.
- Whatever you decide on, or try and provide, you’re giving out energy for next turn. Rendering your job a sham.
- Your job is a sham.
- A SHAM
Which sums up all the main stations, the ones everyone plays simultaneously. Space Cadets isn’t finished, though! There are some more jobs to hand out.
Oh, god. Oh god.
On the reverse of each of these tiles is a number, colour and shape. To successfully tractor targets the officer has to flip just a couple of these, successfully getting matching shapes. But not the colours. But remembering the numbers, because failed attempts are the only way you’ll learn what’s on the other side of these. With the rest of the table watching.
Oh, and when you successfully match two tiles, they’re removed.
Imagine if you played snap for 18 hours, then drank a bottle of disinfectant. This minigame is what you would dream of.
In theory, you’ll flip the tiles, fail, but remember their shapes. In practice, you’re playing two turns of this game once every 20 minutes, which is mathematically exactly enough time for you to forget. No matter how good your team’s doing, the tractor beam station is a teabag of inadequacy dipped into the hot water of your situation.
Just like damage control!
We don’t like to talk about damage control. Not after last time.
Which finally brings us to the Jump Drive.
There’s a lot of aggro in space cadets. A lot of friendly jibes.
Not for the Jump Drive, officer, though. The Jump Drive officer commands respect. Which is because no-one else at the table will have the faintest clue how his game works.
Engineering will be accidentally throwing him energy for the whole game, and he’ll be rolling dice. Shuffling cards about. What’s he doing? “That’s good," he’ll say, nodding to his cards. His only true friends.
Until finally, at the very end of the game, the time will come to jump to light speed. Everything everyone’s been doing has led to this moment.
He rolls his dice. He moves some more cards around.
"We can’t jump," he says.
The captain drops his drink. The helmsman starts to cry.
In case it’s not abundantly clear, buy Space Cadets, everybody. For all these stations, it seems to work great with just 3 or 4 players. And with a series of increasingly tough missions in the manual and advanced rules for each station, there’s the very real possibility for you to become an elite team.
(You won’t become an elite team.)
I’d tell you to wait for our review, but lord knows if it’ll still be in stock then. Credit cards at the ready, cadets. Buy on my mark. And… BUY!
What do you mean you left your wallet in your other coat?