Space Alert Review

space alert board game review

Year: 2008 | Players: 1-5 | Minutes: 30 | Ages: 12+

This Space Alert review was made after playing the game seven times.


What is Space Alert?

Space Alert is a real-time survival game in which you have to take on some nasty enemies in the middle of space. Each mission has you moving around your ship, powering up your shields, and shooting your weapons in hopes of surviving the onslaught.

Space Alert was designed by Vlaada Chvátil (Mage Knight, Through the Ages) and is published by CGE,


Space Alert Gameplay

Space Alert review - ship board

In Space Alert, your group gets to decide which mission you want to attempt from the CD/MP3. Each mission is separated into two rounds: the action round and the resolution round.

The action round is a three-part phase during which the computer announces threats that show up and you use/program your cards on your board to try to deal with those threats. The cards have movement directions and other actions on them, which will be activated later on during the resolution phase. You can work together during this phase and decide where you are going to move and what you want to activate around the ship. However, the cards are played face-down, so if anyone messes up their “program,” everything could be thrown off.

Once the action round is completed, the resolution round is played. One by one you move along the Mission Steps Board and activate the enemies and reveal your cards for each round. You’ll win if you survived to the end of the mission and you’ll lose if any of the three sections of the ship is completely damaged.

There is a full Space Alert tutorial that comes in the box, so even though it might be a bit confusing at first, going through the practice game(s) helps to clear everything up.

Space Alert review - close up ship



Pros

  • The theme of Space Alert is essentially playing as if you were on the Star Trek Enterprise, which is awesome! It’s almost impossible not to get into this theme, especially if you’re a fan of one or more of the many TV shows and movies that take place on spaceships.
  • This unique cooperative programming puzzle is a lot of fun to try to solve. You have to work together to figure out when to move, when to strengthen your shields, and when to shoot, which definitely takes some practice to get down. Timing is extremely important in this game and it’s very satisfying when everything works out as planned.
  • One of the most impressive things to me is that this feels like a long, deep game yet the missions take less than 30 minutes. We usually get two full games in before we’ve reached our stress limits.
  • Space Alert is pretty hard to beat, which is always a great thing for my group. It’s definitely not impossible to win, but you will probably end up with a pretty high losing percentage once you get past the first couple of missions. Still, even the losses are fun!
  • It is going to be tough for anyone to be an alpha player in this one since everyone is working on programming their cards at the same time. This makes it a fantastic collaborative experience for people who don’t like how a lot of co-ops allow for one or more players to “take over” and tell the other players what to do.
  • I was initially worried that the Space Alert soundtrack would take away from the experience, it actually just adds to the theme. It also allows every player to work simultaneously rather than having one player reading out instructions.

Cons

  • Space Alert can be a bit chaotic, which can make it hard to follow for some players. This probably isn’t a great game to play with people who are new to the hobby since there are a lot of moving parts and it’s very hard to teach it on the fly.
  • This game was definitely made to be played with four or five players. It’s okay at three, but you really want to have as many of the roles filled as you can so you don’t have to worry about controlling the android/dummy player. It’s certainly playable with less than four players, but I think it’s just flat-out better at the higher player counts.

Final Thoughts

Space Alert is a great game for anyone who loves (or who thinks they’d love) intense science fiction conflict. Once everyone gets the basic rules and knows how to communicate, it can be a lot of fun being on this ship and finding ways to work together to survive. It is an excellent real-time co-op and definitely one of the best cooperative space games my group has played so far because the theme is well implemented, it requires good teamwork, and it’s very challenging.

If you end up enjoying the base game, I recommend taking a look at the Space Alert expansion, Space Alert: The New Frontier, which gives the game even more replay value.

Update: Space Alert is now on our Top 10 Real-Time Cooperative Board Games list!


Space Alert Links

BGG | Amazon | CoolStuffInc | eBay


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