The Space Race between the United States (USA) and the Soviet Union (USSR) was a remarkable time in history with many far-reaching achievements in science, space exploration, communication, and technology. Space Explorers is dedicated to all of the folks that helped make space travel possible and honors one of the greatest achievements in the 20th century.
Each player controls a R&D (research and development) Hub in a Space Research Center and will spend the game trying to attract the most brilliant minds to join their team and complete projects/ missions. The “Space Race” is on and hopefully due to your eagerness to succeed and ability to build your own team you will be the first to launch satellites, man spaceships, and put orbital stations into space. Your goal is to gain the most progress (victory) points in the end. You earn points by recruiting specialists and completing projects.
Set up is fairly easy. Each player gets a research “Hub” board, reference card, 5 research tokens (Engineering (blue), Testing (green), Science (yellow), Construction (red), and Space Flight (purple)), and takes one specialist from the deck. In the center of the table is the “Space Research Center (SRC)”. The SRC contains 6 face up specialist cards (Engineers, Testers, Scientist, Builders, and Astronauts) and project/ mission tiles (2+ the number of players). The project tiles are double sided and the rule book suggests you toss each tile in the air and play with the side that lands face up or just shuffle them up by whatever means you deem necessary.
Educational Note: The project /mission tiles are historically accurate. Well at least by name and image of the vessel. On one side they have the early USSR (Soviet Union) Spacecrafts (Sputnik 1, Sputnik 3, Vostok 1, Voskhod 2, Proton 1, Luna 9, Lunokhod 1, Venera 7, Mars 3, and Soyuz 19) . On the reverse side you have the USA Spacecrafts (Explorer 1, Telstar 1, Apollo 11, Gemini IV, Tiros 1, Lunar Orbiter 3, Mariner 2, Pioneer Venus 2, Voyager 1, and Skylab).
The first player is the person who's been to space most recently. If you haven't had the pleasure of joining some of the Great Astronauts like Yuri Gargain, Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, or even Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, then the first player marker goes to the player who most recently read or watched something about space. The Soviet Union recently launched the first satellite, the Sputnik 1 (1957), into outer space. The gunshot has been fired and the starting line has been crossed and in the spirit of the golden age of Astronautics the space race is on….again!
Obviously the first thing you want to do is assemble your team and plan to complete projects/ missions. On your turn you must take one of two actions…….
After taking your action, if you are able, you may complete an available project/ mission. You may only complete one per turn. To complete a project/ mission you compare the skill level of the specialist in your hub with the skill level of the project or mission. If you match or beat the level required you complete the mission.
The game ends when all projects are completed or when one player recruits the 12th specialist to their Hub. However the round will finish ensuring all players have an equal amount of turns. The player whose research & development Hub produced the most progress points (victory) is the winner!
Space Explorers is an entertaining game that can generally be played in about 30 minutes. I like the closed loop resource system even though it took a bit of getting used to. It was weird to feel like I was giving my opponents an advantage. However, they were in turn giving me an advantage. One thing to note when playing, only the top specialist in each division of your Hub will give you the benefits of their abilities. Once you recruit a new specialist to that division they go on top. So you’ll want to be careful and aware of the abilities you are covering up and adding. I also liked that Space Explorers pays reverence to early space exploration and the men and women who participated in those endeavors.