I never wanted to go to space. I never sat gazing at the stars, yearning to be among them as they burned their stellar invitations in the night sky. There was always enough to explore here, on Earth…
Hmm. It’s easy to forget. There, on Earth, I should say. Estranged planet of my birth. Home. Despite the cards life had dealt me, it was still my home, it was – it is, still where I belong. And now, I’ll probably never see it again. So this is my fond farewell to a planet over three million years away – which may not even exist any more. My body may be minutes away from being abandoned to the cold vacuum of space, but my soul’s coming home at last.
I was only trying to buy a copy of Monopoly …
No, wait. I think that’s the plot from Red Dwarf, isn’t it?
Whereas I’m here to tell you about Space Cadets. Space Cadets is a cooperative board game for 3-7 players, played against the clock, where you take the roles of spaceship personnel trying to steer an increasingly ramshackle craft through uncharted space and collect the space treasure – returning to your own galaxy / dimension / time zone before the whole damn thing explodes, killing every last man, woman and alien life form on board.
Actually, it is a bit like Red Dwarf – and in a good way, too. Do you remember that episode where the crew are tracking some object through space and Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and Holly are all on the bridge tapping away on their computers, and all talking across and over each other at the same time. And it’s really tense moments because the object could be anything, hostile robots, space junk, aliens! And then the whole apparatus goes down because Cat has unplugged it all to use his hairdryer?
The whole game is a lot like that. And if you think that sounds like smeg loads of fun, then you’d be dead right.
The basic gameplay is basically performing ostensibly simply tasks of manual dexterity and/or mental agility under high pressure circumstances. Which is fun. But you get to play at space ships while you’re doing it. And quote lines from Star Trek and Babylon 5 and, yes, even Red Dwarf at each other. Which is really fun – if you like that sort of thing (which I do)!
So, I started out in charge of Engineering, which means doing a funny little 7-piece jigsaw puzzle. The object is to try and get as many complete circles in your puzzle, which translate to energy capsules for various parts of the ship. So, if your shipmate wants to fire torpedoes, first of all I have to earn some weapons energy circle thingys. Then, later in the turn, the weapons guy has to do some Tetris puzzles to load the torpedoes and a shove ha’penny game to fire them.
Each of the stations in the game operates in a similar way – with minigames for scanning, tractor beam, helm, damage repair, shields etc etc etc. Having acquitted myself with such high honours in Engineering, a shift change meant a well earned promotion for me. I took the news with surprising humility and settled into a role I was clearly born to – although not all of the crew took the news so well.
To tell the truth, my captaincy did not last very long. We managed to grab a second space crystal (not a euphemism for drugs!) of the three required for victory and made an ill-fated attempt to jump to hyperspace. Turns out that, while in engineering, I ought to have been doing something called “Jump prep” – which would have been useful…
Still, the effort was bravely made and our adventures have been recorded for Space Corps staff training purposes.
I have been told that Space Alert is a much better game. I haven’t played Space Alert, but Cadets is certainly a great fun evening of sci-fi gaming, so it gets my recommendation.