Game Buzz: Space Maze

Back to the games, and here’s another one coming out at Essen:

image by BGG user viezemies

Space Maze is a game from designer Michel Baudoin and his publishing company Wacky Works (this is their only game).  Space Maze is for 2-4 players aged 12 and up, and takes around 45 minutes to play.  The basic concept is that you’re controlling three different aliens of one species in an attempt to collect an ancient relic.  It’s a maze, but not really in the traditional sense – each alien can only move through doors that match its color.

The game comes with a modular board made up of 25 tiles (24 maze tiles and the relic tile for the center).  There are four control panels, one for each player.  There are four UFOs, one for each player.  There are 12 aliens, four different species in three different colors.  There are 16 dice – 12 power dice for cards and 4 white movement dice.   There are 40 action cards, as well as 8 relic tokens and one relic.

At the start of the game, you’ll set up the board by making a 5×5 grid with the maze tiles randomly distributed around the central relic tile.  Each player takes a set of aliens and a UFO, placing their UFO in their corner of the board.  Each player is dealt 4 cards and takes one control panel.  You’ll be using three power dice (one per color) and one movement dice per player – in a three-player game, you are therefore using 12 dice.  The start player is the one who last saw a UFO.  Wait, what?

image by BGG user viezemies

In each round of play, there are two phases, action and discard.  During the action phase, the start player rolls the dice, then chooses one.  The colored dice can be used on your control pad to activate cards, the white dice can be used for movement.  Let’s talk about movement first.  The white dice are customized with four feet in different colors, and that indicates which aliens can move.  Movement points can be used to move your alien off of your UFO, step on a datapad, move from one tile to another, take the Relic from another alien, or give the Relic to a teammate.

image by BGG user viezemies

Moving from tile to tile is determined by the colored gates.  Gates are red, blue, and yellow, and you can only move through a gate that matches the color of your alien.  This might not make sense since your aliens are green, orange, and purple.  However, if you line up a blue and yellow gate, a green can go through because blue + yellow = green.  Red and yellow makes orange, blue and red makes purple.  If red lines up with red, the gate is red and no one can go through.  The doors to the relic room are silver, and anyone can go through those.  You can only use one movement die per round.

You’ll see the little yellow squares on tiles – those are datapads.  If you step on one (spending a movement point), you get to draw a card and your movement ends immediately.  You can’t step on a datapad already occupied by another alien, and datapads are cleared at the end of each round.

If you don’t want to move, you could choose to activate a card.  To activate it, you take a card from your hand and play it on your control panel.  Each card shows a die with a different number of pips, so you must take a power die from the pool that has at least that number of pips (could be more – 6 could activate a 2) and place it on the card.  The color of the die used determines what color alien you can use to take the action on the card.  Cards allow you to rotate tiles on the board, glue the relic to the alien who holds it so it can’t be stolen, switch places with another of your aliens, switch tiles on the board, move your UFO, or move extra spaces.  You only use two power dice during the round.  If you don’t have a card you want to play, or can play, you still must choose a power die.  Just place it on an empty space of your control panel.  This is a good way to remove dice other people might want.

After all players have had three turns (one movement and two power dice), all cards used are discarded.  Anyone with more than 7 cards in their hand must discard down to 7.  Datapads are cleared, and the start player is now the next player to the left.

image by BGG user viezemies

If you enter the center tile first, you place the Relic on your alien’s head (which costs a movement point).  That alien can now move through ANY COLOR GATE.  If you find yourself in the same space as the alien with the Relic, you can spend a movement point to yoink it off their head.  Every time you pick up the Relic, you get a Relic token.  If you get three of these tokens, you win the game.  If you make it to your UFO with the Relic, you win the game.

So I’m very interested in this game.  I really like games with puzzle aspects, and this one really has that feel, especially with organizing gates so you can go through.  Plus, you have the added problem that other players are going to do everything in their power to stop you, even if that means undoing what you just did.  The components looks really cool – I like the layout of the tiles, and the aliens are very nice.  The use of custom dice for movement is a pretty inspired move.  If you had a standard d6, you could only move one alien, and you’d have the problem that someone could move six spaces while another could only move one.  So, while this game is technically roll-and-move, I think they found a good work-around to make this much more interesting than most.

I need to rant for a minute about stupid start player mechanics.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but this game kind of sent me over the edge.  It seems like there’s too many times where the designer is trying to be all thematic with their start player mechanic, and end up doing something that makes no sense.  The last player to see a UFO?  Really??  Do you mean an actual UFO?  Or does one on TV count?  How do you prove who saw a UFO last (or at all)?  There are UFOs in the components, do those count?  A note to all the designers out there – if it doesn’t matter who goes first, just let everyone roll a die.  Or give it to the youngest player.  If the start player does matter, spend five minutes coming up with some kind of competition where there’s a clear winner.  But please, stop with the thematic start player mechanics that make no sense.  I’m looking at you too, Days of Wonder.

Rant over.  I’m really looking forward to playing this game.  It is very color-centric, so if you’re color blind, I don’t think you’ll be able to enjoy it.  Hopefully, though, I’ll get to play sometime in the near future.  Thanks for reading!

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3 comments

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the great review!
    I understand your thoughts about the startplayer rule, but it’s supposed to be completely irrational and make you decide to roll a die to figure out who’ll be the startplayer instead…

    • Well, thanks for not being offended by my rant. It certainly is irrational, and I’m glad that you can at least agree to that. I really am looking forward to trying it out someday!

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