Players: 1 to 5
Game Length: 20 minutes per mission
Best enjoyed: With 4 or 5 players up for a frantic and complex real-time co-operative game
Space Alert is a frantic co-operative game designed by Vlaada Chvátil where you’ll be stepping on each others’ toes to defend yourselves from alien threats on a malfunctioning space ship designed by the lowest bidder.
The game takes place over 10 real-time minutes with a sound track playing in the background, which will announce incoming threats and other in-game events. During this time, you’ll be playing cards from your hand face down on a time track, attempting to co-ordinate with your teammates, and trying not to get the ship blown up. After this frenetic 10 minute period, you’ll need to resolve what actually happened, and hopefully get out of the mission intact.
It’s during the resolution phase that all the tension of the real-time portion is released – did you kill the incoming threats? Were the guns even charged? Did someone draw all the power you needed to the opposite end of the ship, dooming the crew to a slow and inevitable death? You’ll be laughing and arguing should you fail, and congratulating each other on pulling through if you survive – as surviving a round of Space Alert is always a team effort.
Despite using a soundtrack, don’t think that Space Alert will be naff or only playable a handful of times. The actual challenge of the game will come from the random draw of attacking ship and internal threat cards, which will change from game to game. Even if you do start to know the audio tracks back to front, there are several Smartphone apps that can randomly generate a mission for you, keeping the game events unexpected and obviating the need to carry a CD player with you to play the game.
Space Alert is not an easy game to learn, nor is it relaxing to play. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as the stress of working out what’s happening on the board while you’re on the clock can be draining. However, for those who can tolerate the stress, Space Alert is one of the finest, most exhilarating gaming experinces around.
To learn Space Alert, you’ll want to go through the tutorial handbook with 4 or 5 players, which covers the very basics and gradually increases the complexity while immersing you in the Orwellian universe of Space Alert, where you’ll be working against the ship itself as much as the attacking aliens. Once you master the game with basic enemies (no mean feat!) you can start fighting harder enemies, or even string multiple missions together to make a longer campaign.
Space Alert is not for everyone, but for those who can handle the stress, it’s one of the most unique and thrilling gaming experiences around. If you’re intrigued after reading this, definitely give it a play. You won’t regret it.