A to Z Gaming: Space Base

We built up our fleet of spaceships in Space Base, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Space Base
Players: 2-5
Time: 60 Minutes
Designers: John D. Clair
Artists: Chris Walton
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group

In Space Base, players are setting up their own fleet of spaceships and deploying them as they acquire new ships. Each turn, players will get resources — including gold, income or points — based on the dice rolled by the active player. Then the active player can add a new ship to their fleet to beef up what they can receive on their opponents’ turns. Whoever builds the most successful fleet … er, or makes the most points … will win.

Game play

The game is set up by shuffling each of the level 1, 2, and 3 decks of cards. Then a market is set up with six cards from each deck. The colony cards are laid out so everyone can see them. And the two blue dice are placed nearby.

Each player takes a player board, a set of 12 starting ship cards, and a yellow, green and blue cube. They lay out the ship cards in the corresponding sectors on their player board, from one to twelve. The green and blue cubes go on the zero of the income and points tracks. The yellow cube goes on the five of the gold track. Then each player takes a level 1 card from the deck. They spend money equal to the cost, moving their yellow cube down, and then changing out the starter card in the appropriate sector with the new one. The starter card is turned 180 degrees and then tucked beneath the top of their board so the red banner shows.

Whoever has drawn the highest sector card becomes takes the start player card, and play is ready to begin.

On their turn, the active player will roll the two blue dice and call out the numbers and the sum. Then, simultaneously, players will take rewards for the rolled numbers. For the active player, they’ll look at the cards on their player board. The non-active players will look at the cards tucked above their board. Players can use the dice individually or as a sum, and each player can choose how they’d like to use the dice.

Rewards can include gold, income and points. They can also include abilities that are “charged” with cubes to be used later — like getting to add one or two to a dice roll that you’re using as a sum. Rewards with blue backgrounds can only be collected when the player is the active player. Rewards with red backgrounds are only collected when they are not the active player. And the rewards with green backgrounds can be collected on any turn.

Then the active player can purchase one card from the market using their gold. All of the cards represent new ships added to the player’s fleet, and will have a sector number where they will be placed on the player’s board. The card already in that sector will be deployed, which is turning it 180-degrees and tucking it under the top of their board. If they get a second card to tuck under the same number, both should remain showing. And the colony cards are special — these have yellow backgrounds, and they give immediate points, but can never be deployed in a sector, so once a colony is placed in a sector, it can’t be moved.

Then, if they purchased a card, no matter how much the card cost, the player will zero out their gold. Finally they collect income, moving the gold back up to their income level. Then, they pass the dice to the next player.

The game end is triggered when a player reaches (or surpasses) 40 points. Play continues until everyone has been the active player an equal number of times, and the player with the most points wins.

My Thoughts

We picked this up a few years ago at Pax Unplugged after we tried it out. Space Base is often compared to Machi Koro, because it has a similar mechanism where players get rewards on every turn based on dice rolls. We had already given up on Machi Koro because we didn’t really like the attack-y buildings, but we liked the mechanism. Since Space Base doesn’t have the attacking element, it seemed like an easy one to add to our collection.

And boy did we take to this one right away. It has become the most-played game in our collection. For me, this is like a “comfort game” — something that I can play any time no matter my mood, and it always just makes me happy. I like how you are paying attention to everyone’s turn. I like the arc of the game, which starts off slow and then accelerates. I love that there are several different valid strategies — you can beef up all of your numbers equally to ensure that you get something on everyone’s rolls; or you can go for a couple of numbers that you turn into monster sector that pays out when it hits.

There are games where one person or another doesn’t quite get their engine going, so we’ve sometimes had someone win with 40 points and the others have half that. But it doesn’t bother us with this game, because we just love how the game plays.

Three Quick Questions

How is it as a 2-player game? Space Base works fine with 2-players. It definitely feels different at two, since you don’t build up quite as much gold between turns. That means we’ll skip the buying phase more often at two than other player counts. I’ve heard of a variant where players will do an extra die roll each round, with neither player as an active player, to simulate a third player. However, we haven’t tried that yet.

How about the art and component quality? The art is fun, though the theme could be almost anything here. Because they’re half-width of normal cards, it takes a bit more concentration to shuffle them without ending up with a messy pile instead of a nice stack of cards. But that’s a minor quibble. Plus the cards couldn’t be much bigger and still fit on a reasonable sized player board.

Will this stay in my collection? This is an easy yes. Space Base has become our most-played game, and continues to hit the table regularly. For me, it’s a comfort game.

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