Published on November 30th, 2017 | by Colin0
Cardcore Gamer: IN SPAAAAACE!
Step lively, Rocketeers! Time to show how keen Earthlings can be!
Space! It is, mostly, but between the stardust and dead satellites lies adventure for those brave, well-groomed few who don the velour of the Rocket Patrol. Space also contains Cadets. Who go on Missions. Away. Space Cadets: Away Missions promises adventure and thrills in the wide, black yonder for you and your chums, but does it provide derring-do, or a herring, red? Smoke me a kipper, skipper, and I’ll tell you.
Space Cadets: Away Missions has little besides theme to tie it to previous Space Cadets games, and is a love letter to old-timey pulp sci-fi. Players cooperate to challenge an alien menace in all its forms, from squishy to chitinous, and ultimately save the day! The components offer a pleasing toybox of plastic figures, and clear, if a little dull, counters and board tiles, with a rulebook and reference sheets that are complete and concise.
Set up one of 16 scenarios, move heroes, roll dice, get stuff, move the monsters – on the surface level, SC:AM is a pale dot in the firmament of dice-and-miniatures titles, but by strictly limiting the fussiness of action points, status effects, dice modifiers, and random events SC:AM enables players to focus on decision making, and enjoying the bloody game. The design clarity and attention to detail is evident from the paired dice colours (you most commonly roll multiple pairs of dice for Saucerman attacks) to the airtight logic of the “AI” pathfinding. Everything is there to keep the situation clear and bring gameplay to the fore. It’s a testament to the design that SC:AM smoothly puppeteers no less than seven different rubber-suit aliens, each with their own behaviour, without taking longer than the players’ turn to do it.
The result is an engaging, fun cooperative puzzle, in which dice luck never feels like it’s commanding the bridge, but affectionately chatting to the engines down in engineering. There are extrastellar threats and brave heroics, melon-headed Saucermen and brains-in-jars, jail-breaks, Hive Queens, and the Tunnel of Terror, all of it presented neatly and shipshape, as befits a true Rocketeer. Curiously, while the game plays with up to six, I’ve had the most enjoyment using four characters in my solitaire games, where the order of activations, and timing of abilities really shines. Like many cooperative games, there’s only the players themselves to limit a single person calling all the shots, and with no hands of cards, nor other hidden elements, SC:AM risks an emergent Game Commander. If everyone is on the same page, however, it is unforgettable fun to yank the tinfoil hat from a mind-enslaved human Thrall, wire it up to a chunk of Mysterium, and teleport to safety – just like in the movies!