The Space Base Race Review

Posted December 1, 2014 by Cameron McFarland in Nerdy Bits

The Space Base Race, a new strategy card game created by Alex Hicks, offers exactly what the game’s name promises: a quick romp of strategy, building, and competitive fun with friends.

The game is simple enough. Two to four players agree on some preliminary rules (more on that later) and start by building their bases. Cards are laid out on the table next to each other, including turrets to denote how many times you can fire a turn, repair bots to fix buildings, solar panels to gather energy used for firing and repairs, and shields that protect each adjacent building card. The goal of the game is to shoot your opponent’s processor card, equatable to the king in chess.

As I said, the first thing you do is choose a starting hand. The game comes with different setups to choose from, such as a well-rounded even amount of buildings, or a more offense/defense gambit to focus on. After playing a few rounds, I quickly realized just how much your starting hand effects the game’s flow. Most matches were very fast, even with a defensive base heavy with shields. However, each varying style of building requires a different approach. Some rounds had a lot of firing and damage, and I was spending most of my energy on repairs, while other rounds felt more like a brief game of chess where I might only make one move a turn, but with my next few turns planned out.

Games can take only a few minutes to complete, so it was not difficult to try all the different starting hands and apply different strategies them. Often at the end of games, one of the players would always ask, “Oh, so can we do that one again?” because halfway through the game they realized an alternate approach to their starting hand. The Space Base Race is just addicting and fast enough to keep everyone coming back. The game is simple, yet it’s surprisingly compelling.

There’s a strong urge to experiment, too. For some games I would focus on shields and pooling my energy until I had enough to buy several turrets to finish off my foe in one turn, while other games had me firing left and right just to keep my opponents on their toes.

My only complaint about the game is the problematic “Do Something” deck of random events. Players can choose to spend their energy on building new structures or firing at their opponents, but they can also opt in to purchasing a “Do Something” card. I liked the concept, but some cards were much more effective than others.

For example, there is a “firewall” card that acts as an additional shield for your processor card and seems to be a game changer compared to the other “Do Something” cards. It got to the point with my play group that the player who spent the most energy on “Do Something” cards had a tendency to win, or at least maintain an advantage long enough to pool enough energy to take everyone else out without too much trouble. It can be a gambit strategy, but I ended up preferring the rounds where no one ended up buying those cards because we were too focused on the shield-vs-turret strategy on a more core level.

Between the varying playstyles, starting hands to choose from, and the nature of the game itself, it is not too difficult to set up some house rules. The downsides I experienced while playing were a bit minor, and ultimately by the end of each round my players and I all had fun. That’s all that really matters. The short rounds lend to an advantage since you can just break Space Base Race out any old time you have a moment for it, and the game is flexible enough to work with two, three, or four players, making it easy for your buds to pull up a seat and join in on the next game.

The bottom line is that The Space Base Race is a very simple game that feels like an amateur game designer crafted it, but it’s also balanced–and most importantly–fun for everyone to play.

The Space Base Race is currently on its way to being funded over at Kickstarter. The funding rewards include a copy of the cards you need to play for a pledge of $25, but for as little as $1 you can get the print-and-play version which is actually a terrific value. If you’re on the fence, I’d at least encourage you to consider $1. If you like it as much as I did, you can always go back and add in a couple more bucks for what you think it’s worth.

About the Author

Cameron McFarland

Cameron loves cartoons and bad movies almost as much as bad cartoon movies. He is also the world's best spaghetti-eater, so don't bring it up around him or he won't shut up about it. Author and Artist for world-reviled World of Warcraft fancomic,