March 31, 2015 | Written By: Rob Plantikow
This is a continutation from an earlier article written by Rob Plantikow - see that article here
So you’re telling me that one of the things you like the best about video games is the intense adrenaline rush you get. Maybe it’s the buildup and anticipation of knowing that big boss monster is right around the corner, or maybe it’s the excitement of executing that perfect combo that allows you to KO your opponent, or maybe it’s the collaboration of your team of warriors and wizards as you cut through hordes of goblins in your favorite online game. There’s no doubt that you can work up a little sweat gaming, and lots of times there isn’t a whole lot of time to plan—those goblins are coming!
Well, yes, there are a lot of board games that can be very cerebral endeavors where there doesn’t appear to be a lot of action. I remember a game of Five Tribes that I played with my buddies—the lasting impression of which was the number of times we were all staring at the board in perfect silence, while we tried to piece out the best move we could make when our turn came around. You can see the Pegheads studying Five Tribes above (cue the crickets):
Five Tribes has been a big hit for the Pegheads, particularly amongst the more die-hard gamers that really like a complex and heavily strategic game. But it’s most definitely not for everybody….
But if you think that board games are all boring slogs without any action then I’m here to tell you that there are some great games that you have missed. There is so much variety in board gaming, and there most certainly are games that will get your blood pumping. So here are a couple games that will most definitely give you that ADRENALINE RUSH!
Anyone who has watched any version of Star Trek knows that things can get pretty intense on the bridge of a starship. So in the spirit of James T. Kirk, I bring you Space Cadets. If you’ve ever dreamed of being the person that says “Course laid in, Captain” or “All ahead full”, or “Fire photon torpedoes!” then this game gives you that chance. Players are new cadets who have just graduated from the Academy, and ready to take on their first starship exploration mission. You are not experienced. It shows. Just flying the ship in a straight line might be quite difficult—even if no one else is shooting torpedoes at you….
Don’t let the whimsical artwork on the box fool you, this game is not for the faint of heart. Inside you’ll find there are components and station display for each of the following starship officers:
- Captain, who keeps the time and makes the critical decisions.
- Engineer, who manages the power levels for all the other stations.
- Shields Officer, who determines which sides of the ship to focus shield power and avoid damage.
- Weapons Officer, who loads torpedo tubes and fires!
- Helmsman, who tries to navigate the dangers of space, like rifts and asteroids.
- Sensor Officer, who scans map sectors, and locks onto other ships.
- Tractor Beam Officer, who helps tractor crystals or other ships.
- Jump Officer, who readies the warp drive to escape the sector, hopefully after completing all your mission objectives….
- Damage Control, who repairs damaged ship systems and manages core breaches.
In the above picture, you’ll see what the table looks like when it’s completely set up—that’s two full eight foot tables to hold it all. Wow that’s a lot of stuff! Then going around clockwise are some of the stations for Tractor Beam & Shields (upper right), Damage Control/Repair and Sensors (middle right), Jump Station (lower right), Weapons (middle bottom), and the Captain Station (lower left).
At the start of the game, players who take each of these roles will have their own unique components specific to their station. The captain will set the mission objectives. There are several different missions your team can take on. In some you’ll be mining space crystals, in others you’ll be heavily engaged in combat. All the missions have scalable difficulty, but trust me, even on the easiest level this can be a punishing game. All of the players must work together to operate the ship efficiently, and complete your mission without getting annihilated.
Why is Space Cadets an adrenaline rush? Well each of those stations has their own mini game that must be done all at the same time and in just 30 seconds! So while the Engineer is arranging tiles, the Sensor Officer is fishing tetris pieces out of a bag, the Helmsman is plotting the course with maneuver cards (much like RoboRally), and so on. No pressure, but if you blow it, it can have a devastating effect on the success of your whole team. If your Helmsman and your Shields Officer don’t work together, you could expose an unshielded flank to an enemy ship and take heavy damage from attacks. If your Weapons Officer does poorly, there will be no torpedoes to fire, and if he doesn’t flick that disk on target your torpedoes will miss. If your Sensors Officer fails to lock onto other ships, it becomes very difficult deal much damage when your torpedoes do find the target. And if you fly in circles, it will take too long for you to complete your mission objectives, the deadly Nemesis will enter the sector and start hunting you down. And the Nemesis is absolutely nasty
So once everyone has done their jobs, and resolved the effects, your team gets just three minutes to plan strategy. What stations need the most energy? Are you likely to be in combat, where you’ll need weapons and shields? Are you just trying to rush to the next area as quickly as you can? Are you trying to get ready to tractor a crystal? Figure it out quick, and then it’s go-time!
Ok, so maybe after a few rounds you’re starting to get the hang of your station, and dare even say “Ok, I know what I’m doing.” Then your ship gets hit. You will get hit. You will take damage. A lot. And when you do, there’s a good chance the damage card “Shift Change” will come up, which requires 2 of your officers to switch their station duties. Just when you were getting comfortable flicking that photon torpedo, now you get to play “memory” on the tractor beam. Good Luck!
Ok, so maybe the shift change didn’t scare you. Then your ship gets hit again. I promised you it would. This shot penetrates both your shields and your hull, and now you have a potential core breach to deal with. The first core breach you take on means three of your team members will be dealt a green core breach card with a unique energy pattern on it, just like you see below. When the time starts for 30 seconds, the first player grabs the core breach deck of white cards and finds the white core repair card that matches the pattern on the core breach card they were dealt--pull that card out and pass to the next person who searches through for theirs, and then pass to the last player. If your team doesn’t find all the core repair cards, the ship explodes. Game over, baby. And, oh-by-the-way, all this is done during the 30 second window when you’re doing all your regular station duties! Still think it’s easy now? Are you feeling the pressure yet? Believe me--that 30 seconds goes really fast. Any subsequent core breaches will require you to do this again, but with more core breach pairs required. Like everything, it could always be worse….the Nemesis is approaching….
So if you and your starship team have what it takes, and can take the pressure, then Space Cadets is a great challenge. To win the game, you’ve got to work together, and everyone needs to pull their weight. But if you do, and you can complete your mission, it sure is very satisfying.
This game can be a bit of a bear to teach and learn, because really everyone needs to know how all the stations work, so you can better make decisions and be prepared for potential shift changes. Stronghold Games has some great teaching videos on their web site done by designer Geoff Engelstein that really help people learn everything. Even then, it’s going to take you a good half hour to 45 minutes to really get it all figured out before you can really start flying your ship better than a bunch of drunks. Any anyone with a tablet device can download a very user-friendly captain interface that helps keep time and manage game flow—I highly recommend it. I won’t play without it.
We don’t even attempt to try playing this game at our regular meetups, where there is a lot of other noise going on. It’s too intense—and takes up too much tables pace.
Space Cadets is a board game for 3-6 players, but I highly suggest you have at least 5 people—with less players you will have to double up stations more (the 30 seconds gets split up into separate phases). Games will take 90-120 minutes even after you know what you’re doing. It’s sold by Stronghold Games in the US and retails for about $60.
Hastyhobbit definitely recommends Space Cadets.
Escape: Curse of the Temple
Ok, so maybe instead of space missions, you’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones, exploring a cursed temple, and collecting gems to bring back to your museum. And Indiana Jones had so many adrenaline-packed adventures that people forgot how painfully boring real archaeology is. But who cares! We’re gamers! We want that ADRENALINE RUSH!
Escape: Curse of the Temple is a very simple game. You get 5 dice, which have red torches, blue keys, gold masks, black masks, and green adventurer symbols. Each tile is a separate room of the Temple. All you need to do to move from room to room is to roll the correct combinations of symbols that match the room you’re moving to. If you roll double green adventurers, you can reveal a new tile. New tiles are always placed adjacent to the room you are in, with the gray doorway connecting. When you get to a room that shows the green gem symbols, you need to roll that combination of torches or keys in order to unlock that gem. If you are successful, then you place a gem on that spot on the tile to show you’ve earned it. Keep moving from room to room, collecting gems when you can, and keep revealing new rooms until you can find the exit tile. Then if you’ve collected enough gems, and you roll the right combination of keys, you’ll escape and win the game.
Here’s what the basic tiles look like, and the really quality dice that come with this game—you get 25 to cover a full 5 player game!
This is a cooperative game, so the explorers will need to work together. Some of the tiles can yield one, two, or three gems if you can roll a very big combo all at once—but it might take several players all together in one room to do it—10 torches like you see above is pretty much impossible with two players, and still really difficult with three. And all the adventurers need to escape the Temple or all the players lose together. You can’t leave anyone behind.
Try to avoid rolling those black masks! When you do, that die is cursed and can’t be re-rolled anymore. You’ll need to roll a gold mask--every time you do, you can unlock two of your cursed dice. Your fellow adventurers can use their gold masks to unlock your cursed dice too, provided you’re both in the same room, so again, collaboration is critical. If all your dice get locked up with black masks, you are stuck until somebody comes to save you.
Ok. That seems awful easy. And boring. It’s Yahzee, right. “What am I missing?” you ask.
Well, if you re-read everything I wrote above, you’ll notice that I never wrote the following three words:
“ON YOUR TURN…”
Ok, what do you mean, Mr. Hastyhobbit? Well, what I mean is--there are no turns. Escape: Curse of the Temple is timed. Everything you do, all your dice rolling, moving, collecting gems, must be done as fast as you possibly can—because the whole game lasts only 10 minutes.
All right, sir. You have my attention.
The game comes with a sand timer. When you get the game, throw the sand timer in the trash. The game also comes with a CD (remember those?) that has a couple different soundtracks. These tracks provide some fantastic creepy ambiance for temple exploration, and it keeps track of the ten minutes for you.
So when the deep, disembodied voice on the soundtrack says “ESCAPE!”, everybody starts rolling their dice, and moving around the temple. But don’t get too far away from the starting tile! Why? Because twice during those ten minutes, a giant gong will sound. When it does, you have about 30 seconds to get all the way back to the starting tile before all the doors close. If you don’t make it, you lose one of your dice for the rest of the game.
The pictures below show a little bit of how the game develops. In the lower left is the starting setup for a three player game. With three players there are 11 green gems on the gem storage tile that you need to get placed on the temple tiles when you earn them. Then going up you see a few tiles revealed—the green and blue player have managed to earn two green gems on the middle-right tile. On the next photo up, a few more gems have been earned, and you can see all the players have raced back to the starting tile for the first gong. Then moving across you see more tile unlocked and gems earned, and finally in the upper right you can see that the blue and red players have revealed the exit tile, just to the right of their position. But, the gong has just sounded, and they don’t have enough gems to escape. So it’s time to hurry back to the starting tile again. Problem is, the green player is screwing around all by himself, and 4 of his 5 dice are cursed. He’s in big trouble.
In the final large image, the doors have closed again. The green player didn’t make it back, and so he’s down a die for the rest of the game. They need another gem or two before all three players race for the exit. Do you think they can make it?
Escape! Plays anywhere from 1-5 players, and I’m telling you the more you have the more chaotic it gets. COME WITH ME! OH, NO, I’M LOCKED—SOMEBODY HELP ME! GEMS OVER HERE COME HELP ME GET ‘EM. NO NO! BACK TO THE ENTRANCE! OK LET’S GO AGAIN. MORE GEMS OVER HERE! HELP ME I’M LOCKED AGAIN….I FOUND THE EXIT!!!
That’s some serious adrenaline. And if you think you’ve got it down, the base game comes with additional special tiles that you can mix in. When you reveal a tile with the totem mask on it, you have to draw a curse from the curse stack. Each curse has a unique negative effect on you until you roll the dice combination shown to get rid of it. Try rolling your dice with one hand on top of your head. Or, if you sloppily roll one of your dice on the floor, you can’t get it back. Or now you can’t talk anymore. Woe to the adventurer sitting with 5 cursed dice that cannot roll anymore and cannot tell anybody about it. Talk about fanatical gesticulation! There are also special treasure tiles that will earn you a one shot special ability that you can save for later.
So in terms of real adrenaline rush, there’s nothing like Escape! Curse of the Temple. It’s 10 minutes of chaos in a box. It’s published by Queen games in the USA and retails for about $50. And there are quite a lot of expansions that have been released that add unique abilities and more special tiles you can add in to keep the game fresh.
Hastyhobbit definitely recommends Escape!
And there are more….
The element of real time decision making really ratchets up the intensity in games like this. And there are plenty of others that have similar mechanisms. Just a few off the top of my head include Space Alert! XCOM the Board Game, Damage Report, Space Cadets: Dice Duel, and more. Give them a try if you’re looking for some excitement.
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