Play Time: 60 Min / Players: 2-5 / Complexity: Medium / Age: 14+ we think 12+ / Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) / Designer: John D Clair
Space Base Ratings and Summary
Teen rating from our son (14).
Space Base takes the simple concept of chucking dice to get rewarded and adds an incredible range of diverse cards and abilities to provide multiple strategies to explore. It’s a lot of fun but may be a tad long for some and the card diversity may be a little challenging for younger players to get to grips with at first.
- Large number of fleet cards add a lot of variety to the game and increase replay value
- Lots of different strategies on offer due the variety of interesting card abilities
- Great idea to be able to use the total of both dice rolled or use each individually, subtle but interesting element
- There are cards that allow you to manipulate die rolls and mitigate luck somewhat
- There is a decent amount of time to develop your engine in this game and see it in action.
- At higher player counts play time extends a bit, if you have players who like to analyse this can lead to a little down time
- The beginning of the game can feel very slow with little purchasing power. The light-speed variant improves this a bit, but would not recommend this variant for new players
- Due to the wide variety of cards and card abilities it can be a little overwhelming at first for new players.
What You Will Find in Our Space Base Review
If you have been following our blog for a while you may have read our reviews on Machi Koro and Machi Koro 2, two fun dice chucking light engine builders. Machi Koro 2 in particular got us hooked with a lot of fun packed into a simple, quick to play package. Space Base from designer John D Clair and publisher Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) takes the successful formula from Machi Koro and adds a lot more variety and depth. While there are some rough edges here, there are a lot of interesting concepts that are likely to appeal to people who want a deeper experience than Machi Koro can offer and are happy with a longer play time.
How to Play Space Base
Welcome Commodore to your new command. You will be in charge of a small fleet of ships that must be deployed wisely to various sectors to engage in trade, improve your income and spread influence. Remember there are other Commodores who are just as ambitious as you are, but you want that promotion to Admiral right? There’s only one promotion going, so make sure every ship is doing their part. To win Space Base and that promotion, be the first to earn 40 victory points.
Any Commodore worth his salt needs somewhere to keep track of his fleet, issue orders and generally marvel at how well they are managing their command. In Space Base each player will get a command console (player board) to help them do just that.
Your command console will come with 12 starting ships, one for each available sector. These ships may look a bit underwhelming right now, but don’t worry as you play you will get the opportunity to buy some shiny new ships that will be more capable. Command isn’t going to trust you with its best ships until you can prove yourself.
Along the bottom of each command console there are three tracks that represent credits which are used to purchase ships, income which determines your starting credits for each turn and victory points.
Now that each player has their command console there are a few decks to set up in the centre of the table. Set up the 12 colony cards face up in sector order and the shipyard with ships available for purchase. The shipyard has three different decks representing three different levels of ships. The level one ships are cheaper but less capable and each level up brings better ships but also increases their cost. Each deck will have six ships placed face up next to it available for purchase for a total of 18 ships in the shipyard at any time.
The core game in Space Base is very easy to learn. Each player has ships in 12 sectors and each ship will grant benefits when it is triggered by a dice roll. Roll dice, get a pay-out, buy cards, repeat.
On your turn you will roll two dice and be able to choose to either use the total value of both dice together or use each die value separately. This essentially means that the numbers from 1-6 are far more likely to trigger while the probability steadily decreases from 7 onwards but conversely the rewards are normally larger. If you’re used to playing a game like Catan then this may throw you a little at first as the odds are very different due to the fact that in Catan you can’t choose to apply each die independently.
Triggering ships will grant increases to income, credits, victory points or some other special benefit like for example the ability to earn cubes that can alter future dice rolls. There are a huge variety of ship cards available with some really interesting benefits. While most of the ships are easy to understand, the ones that require charge cubes can be a little trickier to get your head around at first.
Aside from purchasing ships in the shipyard from the three different decks, you can also purchase colony cards that offer a one-off victory point boost but then render their respective sectors unusable in your future turns. Maybe this represents the colonists not wanting to be disturbed as they settle in to their new home.
Here’s the rough part, regardless of the cost of the ship you buy, you will use all of your credits! No hoarding credits for a better card in later turns. You will however get some starting income each turn equal to your income level regardless of your dice rolls. I’m not sure how to interpret this from a thematic perspective, maybe you are a really bad negotiator and when you see a new ship you like in the dealership the salesman fleeces you for every penny you have.
When you purchase a ship for a sector that already has a ship present (in station), the existing ship is turned upside down and tucked under your board (deployed) and then replaced by the new ship. Importantly ships tucked under your board like this can trigger on another player’s dice roll. You can continue to tuck ships under your board like this every time you purchase a ship for that sector.
This is the part I really enjoy, accumulating cards in certain sectors that trigger a windfall of multiple rewards can be very satisfying when it pays off. Especially in the low probability sectors as generally these cards offer the biggest payouts. There are some nice combos available if you are deliberate in the cards you purchase and can snap up cards that allow you to manipulate your dice roll.
Space Base has that great feeling of progression and improving your engine like Machi Koro, but it feels like there is a lot more depth here. This is mainly due to the variety of ship cards on offer. There are over 130 unique ships with a wide variety of abilities. Sure, there are a lot that simply increase your three tracks, but there are also many other interesting rewards on offer.
There are ships that will allow you to accumulate charge cubes to trigger effects like manipulating dice values or even swapping cards between sectors. Then there is the U.E.S Armstrong, although it’s hard to pull off, this ship wins you the game when its ability has enough charges accumulated. I have never managed this, but every time I see it, it makes me a little nervous. I don’t know how I would feel if someone actually won like this, would I feel robbed? Don’t know.
I love the fact that you can choose to use the total value of the dice rolled or use each dice value individually. It may seem like a simple difference, but it means some tangible choices once you have rolled that give you more wriggle room. There is some opportunity to manipulate dice which isn’t available in games like Machi Koro or Catan. Yes, there is still a lot of luck, but you have the ability to influence things a bit with the right cards in your tableau.
This makes it feel like there are far more strategies on offer and adds some additional depth compared to both Machi Koro games. The additional length of Space Base also allows more time to develop your engine and set up for big plays.
I like using the ships with arrow abilities that enable you to get the benefit of adjacent sectors when they trigger. I have had games where I have been able to stack 4 or more flipped cards in a sector and then placed ships with arrow abilities next to them. This increases the probability of that sector triggering and leads to some big rewards.
In larger player count games, I often focus on getting cards that grant victory points when flipped and try to aim for a steady stream of victory points when opponent’s roll, especially in sectors 1-6. There is enough time in this game for the benefits in a strategy like this to slowly accumulate. When you are managing 1 or 2 points each round from your opponent’s rolls it adds up and eventually snowballs when you continue to flip cards with victory point rewards.
For all the additional depth and variety there is a price to pay. The added length of the game can make it a little harder to get to the table. My son really enjoys Space Base but finds it drags on a little too long at times and prefers Machi Koro 2 as a result.
Space Base is also harder to learn than Machi Koro 2. The card abilities and possible combos are a little more nuanced to get your head around in some instances, especially for the cards that require charge cubes. My daughters easily grasped both Machi Koro games, but I think kids under 10 may struggle a bit with Space Base.
Space Base also feels like it gets off to a slow start with few affordable cards on offer and this can put some people off in the early game. In contrast, Machi Koro 2 feels like it progresses more quickly. There is a light-speed variant for Space Base that improves the slow start, but I wouldn’t recommend it for new players as it forces purchasing decisions before players have had a chance to get to grips with the game.
In terms of player count some down time may creep in a bit at 4 or 5 players and the play time extends. For me personally I prefer Space Base at higher player counts as it makes things more interesting when it comes to triggering deployed ship cards. If I am going to choose to play Space Base over and above say Machi Koro 2, it’s because I have more time on my hands and want a little more depth.
The first thing I want to mention is the variety of cards you get in the box. Space Base comes with over 130 unique ship cards. Each one has its own unique name which is a really nice touch. For the most part the cards are easy to understand and are well laid out. However, there are some that are a little trickier to get your head around, especially when it comes to the timing of effects and so the rule book will need to be referenced on occasion for those. Generally, I have been able to find what I need in the rule book after a little digging.
The artwork by Chris Walton is fine but I personally don’t love it. The ships are kind of cartoony I guess and that didn’t appeal to me but again that’s just my personal taste.
The console board is where I have some issues, the resource tracks require cubes but can be bumped and moved around if the board is nudged. Tucking deployed ship cards under the board can also become a bit fiddly as you have to lift the board a little to get them under. When you only have a few tucked like this it’s ok but when they accumulate you can start to nudge the other cards next to the card you’re placing. It’s not a big deal but can be a little frustrating near the end of the game.
Overall, the components are fine but there is nothing that stands out for me here.
I can get on board with the storyline here, commanding a fleet of ships that you send out into space to earn you income and influence is a reasonable enough back story. The link to the dice rolling is a little thin but I am ok with that. There are also some snippets in the rule book giving a little back story to some of the ships which is nice. Overall, not a deep theme here but it’s fine.
Final Thoughts on Space Base
Space Base is a lot of fun and offers some good variety due to the large number of ship cards on offer. Although the core gameplay is easy to understand, the strategy is a little more nuanced and deeper than a game like Machi Koro 2. My son really likes Space Base as well but needs to be in the mood for a longer game.
I think Machi Koro 2 is a better choice for families with younger kids and shorter attention spans as it plays quicker and is easier to learn. But for those that want a little more depth and don’t mind a longer play time I think Space Base is a good pick.
Is Space Base easy to learn? The core gameplay is simple enough to grasp but some of the ship cards can be tricky to understand at first and the strategy takes a bit to get your head around. Timing of effects in particular and how effects chain together can cause a bit of confusion at first.
What will Space Base teach my teen? The main lesson here is probabilities! This is a great way to grasp the impact on probabilities of various card effects and the difference it makes when you can pick between using the total of two dice or each individually.
What age is appropriate for Space Base? The box says 14+ I think 12+ would be fine.
Does Space Base have good replay value? Yes, there is a lot of variety on offer here and different strategies to pursue.
If you are interested in finding out how Space Base compares to both Machi Koro games, check out our Machi Koro vs Machi Koro 2 vs Space Base article.
We hope you enjoyed our Space Base review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.
About the Authors
We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. If you enjoy our content and want to support us you can do that through our Ko-fi page by clicking on the button below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a pair of arrow cards to activate a sector twice?
The context around this question is where you have a double arrow card in a sector and another double arrow card in the sector next to it. The question is whether you could activate the first sector, say sector 5 and then trigger the second sector, say sector 6 and then use the sector 6 arrow card to trigger sector 5 again. The answer to this question is no you cannot. This is because sector 5 rewards were already resolved and cannot be resolved again unless you are activating two separate die. There is a note precluding infinite loops in the rule book which clarifies this.
Can you chain a series of arrow cards together to activate multiple sectors?
Yes, you can, as long as each sector’s reward is only resolved once as outlined above.
Can I save any leftover money after I have purchased a ship for use in a subsequent turn?
No, when you purchase a card all of your credits are consumed even if you have more money than the cost of the card available.
Can you use multiple charge cubes to chain abilities like altering the dice total?
Yes, you can. There is an example in the rule book where charges from two different ship cards are used to shift the dice total.
Can you allocate one die to charge an ability, purchase a card and then activate the sector you recently purchased a card for?
No, phases of a turn must be completed in order before moving on to the next phase. In this example both dice would have to be allocated before moving on to the other phases. Buying a card happens after dice are allocated and rewards are gained.
How many charged abilities can I use in a turn?
You can use as many as you like provided you resolve each fully before using the next charged ability and adhere to any constraints on the ability.
Is there a maximum of how many ship cards can be flipped to deployed?
No, there is no limit to the number of deployed ships in a sector.
- Understand the probabilities: Ok this may seem simple but the probabilities in Space Base are very different to some other games because you can choose to use the combined total of your dice, or each die separately. This skews the probability towards the numbers 1-6, the probability drops off dramatically from 7 onwards. There is a useful probability reference in the rule book near the back.
- Arrow cards can set up some nice combos: Arrow cards are a great way to set up nice combos as they increase the probability of a sector being activated. If you can cluster deployed cards next to a sector with an arrow ability it will activate if either sector activates.
- Adjust your purchases to player count: In a two-player game you will be rolling as often as the other player so the blue rewards are just as important as the rewards in the red boxes. In a three to five player game deployed ships become far more important as you will have far more opportunity to trigger deployed ships, so pay attention to the red (deployed) abilities and ensure they fit your strategy.
- Get your economy going early game: Early game I like to focus on higher probability economic cards that provide credits and income increases. This means a steady stream of income whether I am rolling or my opponent is rolling.
- Settle on how you will gain victory points early: Are you going to go for the big reward low probability victory point cards or a steady stream of lower value victory points but in higher probability sectors? If the former, then you will want to compliment your point generating cards with some arrow cards next to them and/or some dice manipulation cards.
- Remember the colony cards: If you are getting close to a win and the end of the game is near don’t forget you can purchase a colony card that might be enough to win you the game or get you very close. Sure, this means you will sacrifice one station slot but near the end of the game this might be worth it as there aren’t going to be many turns left.
- Experiment: The great thing about Space Base is that there are so many different cards and abilities that there are lots of strategies to explore. The best way to see what works and how cards may work together is to try different combinations of cards and see how it goes. A lot of the fun is uncovering a cool combo you haven’t tried before.