I’m back from the wild hinterlands of New Jersey. I had a great time at Metatopia – the highlight was definitely Starship 1 by Geoff Engelstein. (Starship 1 is a tentative title.) Those “in the know” out there will recognize him as being a contributor to The Dice Tower podcast and a co-host on the Ludology podcast. I had a feeling this game would be good and oh man was I right. Starship 1 is a cooperative game where you are all members of a starship crew, including the captain, engineer, weapons officer, helmsman, navigation officer, and shields officer (me!). In the mission we played, our objective was to venture into unknown space, beam aboard three crystals floating in space, and then successfully warp out. This is nowhere as easy as it sounds, as navigating your ship through asteroid fields, nebula, and gravity wells can get hairy when you’re being chased by blood-thirsty enemies out for your life.
Saying that Starship 1 was hectic is a gross understatement – after a short discussion period, the crew members only have thirty seconds each turn to perform their roles – simultaneously. Every crew member has their own mini-game to play, the difficulty defined by how much energy the ship’s engineer sent to that crew member during the previous turn. For example, as the shields person I had to use numbered tiles to create the best poker hands possible in the thirty second time limit. I had a mat with two spaces in the center (forming a common pool for all four shield facings, like in Texas Hold ‘Em) with four spaces on each side of the ship. Depending upon the amount of energy I had been assigned, I would get more chips to work with. Not only was it important to form good poker hands, but also to orient the shield in the proper direction based on where the helmsman thought we would be after she finished navigating. This rarely worked out exactly as intended; quite often we ended up with the starboard side of the ship sitting towards the enemy with nary a shield to be found. Fantastic. This would eventually contribute to our demise.
A few of the other roles if you’re interested:
Helmsman: Uses energy to change the speed of the ship and determine the number of cards drawn. The cards show certain flight patterns, which can be laid down on the flight map in any order. Think Robo Rally. This made for a hectic, free-wheeling feel that made my job as shields officer all that much more difficult.
Sensors Officer: Flips up cards with outlines of different shapes on them. He must then reach into a bag full of different pieces, some of them matching the silhouettes that he laid out. He must pull them out of the bag and match them with the cards.
Weapons Officer: Flips up cards with outlines that must be matched by combining pieces of varying shapes, similar to Ubongo (with an additional push-your-luck mechanic called “overloading the tubes”). Depending on the number of tubes that are loaded at the end of the thirty seconds, he is then able to flick a disk down a narrow track separated into different sections. The further the disk goes down the track without falling off, the more damage the torpedo does. Overloading the tube allows for extra flicks with the same disk.
We were riding high on our accomplishments up to this point, having beamed up two of the three crystals and making our way to the third one. The only problem was that the massive Nemesis Ship was on our tail and closing fast. A gross miscalculation in shield alignment led to its fire penetrating our hull, taking out many vital systems. On top of that our captain was injured, meaning that we couldn’t use any of the special abilities we had saved up from the beginning of the game for this exact situation. Weighing the risks, we agreed to repair the ship without any safeguards gained from energy allocation – the repairs were shaky at first but soon our engineer was eliciting cheers from the entire crew as subsystem after subsystem was restored and our captain healed.
However, even in all of our celebration was hidden one detail that would eventually ruin us: some of the collateral damage taken while repairing the subsystems had exacerbated a previous core breach. The core breach is scary, scary stuff: cards equal to the severity of the core breach are handed out to players as equally as possible. Each of these cards has a (rather complicated) shape on it. A deck of cards (about 40ish cards) is then handed to one player, who must look through it and find the matching shape, then pass the deck to the next player. Each player must subsequently find their matching shape.
This has to be done in the same thirty seconds as everything else. If all the shapes are not found in the time limit then the ship explodes, everybody dies, and you lose.
At this point, the core breach is now at a severity of six. That means each person only has five seconds. We didn’t survive. Regardless, it was the most fun I’ve ever had losing a game.
Starship 1 was the best game of the convention and, quite honestly, the best game I’ve played this year even in prototype form. Keep an eye out for this!
P.S. I was having too much of a good time to think about taking a picture. If anybody grabbed one, please send it over and I’ll post it up here.