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A team of space explorers are on a common, dangerous mission. You set up the mission. As in real space. each person has an important part to fulfill and must return safely to Earth. Each must use the craft, equipment & fuel wisely. Keep an alert mind on the controls. Lives are at Stake. We have to look after one another, performing daring rescues. A special feature is that players are not static, but grow in wisdom and knowledge. This personal growth affects how well you perform during the mission. A quick moving game with plenty of strategy decisions.
The games of Family Pastimes have all been designed by one man--Jim Deacove. Jim's mission is to produce games which foster a spirit of co-operation rather than competition. Now, I have been a wargamer for more than thirty years. However, even this old grognard gets tired of blowing things up all the time. In recent years, the idea of co-operative games has been of increasing interest to me. To my knowledge, until the recent publication of Lord of the Rings, Family Pastimes has been the only source of such games. I own several of them, and Space Future is one of my favorites of the group.
First, please realize what this game is not. It is not a game that will immerse you in a science fiction universe. You will not explore planetary landscapes, encounter strange life forms, or interact with alien cultures. Space Future is a game of movement. The entire game you will be making decisions about the best way to move to particular locations. This is not to say that the game is uninteresting. It is interesting, but it may not be what you would expect from a game with a science fiction theme.
Before the game, players place Mission Tokens on planets on the board. The players can determine the difficulty of the game by placing more or less tokens at start--the more tokens, the greater the challenge and the longer the game. The objective is to collect all of the mission tokens and return them to Earth, at which point the game ends.
Each player is represented by a token on the board, and a corresponding ship card. The most important feature on the ship card is the Personal Growth track. This has several spaces progressing through three colors: blue, green, and red. These colors happen to correspond to areas on each planet where the mission tokens are waiting. When a player lands on a planet, he may only take a mission token from the colored area on that planet corresponding to his level on the growth track. Each space on the track also contains a number that determines the number of event cards a player must draw when landing on a planet. Since most of the cards are detrimental to one's progress, having your growth token on a "zero" space is usually optimal. Players progress in personal growth through landing on growth spaces on the board, or sometimes through the draw of a card (they aren't all bad).
Movement consists of rolling two dice and moving along a main track on the board. There is an artifact that allows a player to roll one die--and "slowing down" is often a good thing. Players can also control movement by spending a fuel token to move one space per token. Fuel is a limited resource, however. Landing on a planet is accomplished by reaching, by exact count, a satellite orbiting the planet. The player then has the option of landing. After landing on a planet, a player may depart from any orbiting satellite. Most planets have more than one to choose from. This allows a player to run over the same section of main track again. This is often necessary to pick up tokens bypassed on earlier runs, or to land on growth spaces, or to help out a fellow player.
This brings us to the co-operation aspect of the game. Sometimes players get stranded by landing on a particular space or by drawing a particular card. There are certain artifacts gathered during the game that can repair breakdowns, cure viruses, or otherwise get players going again. If you have one of these and the stranded player does not, you can get to him and rescue him with your artifact. Co-operation is also needed to insure that all the mission tokens are picked up. A player who advances to green on the growth track can't pick up tokens on blue spaces. The players must figure out how to get the player who is still "blue" to the blue planet spaces to pick up those tokens. There are several other points of co-operation in the use of certain artifacts. For example, one artifact allows its owner to teleport mission tokens back to Earth, where they can't be lost. Therefore, it behooves other players to get tokens they have collected to this player, so he can "beam them home".
As you can see, the game is all about movement, and co-operating so that all players can move optimally to reach the common goal. There are certain things I don't like about the game, such as the "new age" theme of many of the event cards. Also, a player who is stranded can't do anything while waiting for rescue, although he can still discuss strategy! If one can get beyond these minor annoyances, there is actually an interesting and entertaining game here.