Review: Space Cadets

Space Cadets

Designers: Engelstein Brothers

Publisher: Stronghold Games

Plays 3 - 6

Playtime around 90 minutes


The players are a group of fresh faced cadets whose mission has taken a dire turn. While on a routine training mission without any senior staff the ship has been stranded in space trying to figure out how to get out of danger. While this would be an easy enough task for normal officers, it will prove challenging for this group of cadets.

Each station needs someone to man it in order to get the ship to work as a well-oiled machine. Depending on the number of crew (players) some people might need to work multiple stations! The ship has the following stations in need of a responsible crew member: Captain, Helm, Sensors, Engineering, Shields, Weapons, Tractor Beam, Damage Control, and the Jump Drive. If the ship winds up being hit enough to damage the core it will have to take priority over your normal duties!

The game is played with most of the players doing their own station actions independently and at the same time as the other players. The fact that the actions are timed and happening at the same time removes the tendency for a single player to take control of a cooperative game. Each of the stations are very different tasks that require different mental or physical skills.

The captain has the task of just keeping the game moving and is normally manning another station. The helm draws a set number of cards with movement instructions and they have to choose which to play and in what order. Sensors are operated by trying to find tokens in a bag matching the cards drawn from their deck – this can be challenging as lots of the pieces are quite similar. Using tiles the engineering section provides all the other stations with power. Each tile has a full circle and 4 half circles. After the tiles are matched together each full circle provides an energy token. Shields is very similar to poker, the crew manning the station draws a number of tiles and is trying to make the best type of poker hand possible to charge the shields. Torpedoes are loaded into their tubes by taking different tetriminos and trying to fill spaces without overlap or overflow. Once the torpedoes are loaded a small token has to be flicked down a shuffle board track to see how much damage is done. Trying to get the tractor beam to lock on to a target is done with a four by four grid of tiles. Any true matches found provide some power to the beam. Trying to jump away from danger is done with the jump drive. The jump is successful if you roll a five of a kind with six sided dice. You can also use the roll on the dice to purchase cards to make it easier to get a five of a kind on a later roll. Lastly, damage control is simply flipping over repair cards that can either fix the ship, damage the ship further, or have a mixed chance of doing either!

All of the many duties listed above are done in thirty seconds making them much more challenging than they would be without any demand of speed. Lots of people who don’t tend to like speed games enjoyed space cadets because it is a cooperative game and failing in your task doesn’t mean the end of the game. Those moments when the ship doesn’t work very well together are often the most hilarious moments.

Working together the players try to complete any of a handful of different scenarios. Each one generally having some enemy spaceships and other hazards trying to end the space cadets’ valiant attempts at survival. Somewhere between a party game and a space exploration simulator, the game is fun for both serious gamers and those that just dabble in the hobby. The learning curve can be a little long as people get used to their minigames which can cause the first game to take a while but on future play-through the game goes much faster.

Also, there is a terrific IOs application to keep track of the time and order of the game that is well worth downloading and is even free! When you play this game make sure to have the app if possible!