(2014 – Stronghold Games)
Designed in 2012 by the Engelstein family, and winner of two Dice Tower awards for Best New Designer and Most Innovative Game, Space Cadets is a cooperative game like none other, allowing players to take the role of various console stations of a interstellar space ship to complete time-based missions. The rapid success of the original Space Cadets led to the 2013 release of Space Cadets: Dice Duel, a more dice-focused game that set two teams of players against one another in a race to destroy the other opponent’s Capital Ship. It is this second game of the ever-expanding Space Cadets family that publisher Stronghold Games has released the first expansion for, entitled Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter.
Since I previously composed a review for the base game of Space Cadets: Dice Duel, I wanted to specifically focus on what the Die Fighter expansion adds to the game with this review. If you have not played Dice Duel and want to learn more about it, I would suggest taking a look at my previous review of the base game, before joining me back here. The Die Fighter expansion essentially provides two additional modules that can be added to Dice Duel (either individually or together), in the form of new jet fighter ships and extra equipment that can added to the main capital ship.
The Die Fighter expansion for Space Cadets: Dice Duel is comprised of two optional modules; a new Jet Fighter role and special Equipment cards. Players can add either module to the base game, or both if they choose. The Jet Fighter is a separated ship that can be launched from the main (capital) ship, and is controlled singularly by a player on the team. It can help to provide flexibility and additional actions, however has no defense and limited health. Equipment cards on the other hand are special abilities that teams can add to their arsenal, whether they be in the form of specialized weapons, shields, warps, etc. These cards will give teams a unique asymmetrical feel not found with the original, base game. Lets take a look at each of these two modules in more detail.
In the base game, players cooperatively control various stations of their Capital Ship, attempting to take out their opponent’s ship. With the introduction of Jet Fighters, a player is able to take on the role of a pilot, individually controlling all aspects of the fighter itself, as opposed to working at any of the Capital Ship’s stations. A fighter itself is represented by the Jet Fighter marker on the game board. The various station’s of the fighter are represented on the detached Jet Fighter game board, provided to the player chosen to play as the pilot. That player will also receive a Shield Dice, a Tractor Beam Dice, 2 Helm Dice, 3 Weapons Dice, and 4 Sensor Dice. Since the fighters are controlled separately from the Capital Ship, the fighter’s stations do not require energy. Therefore, the pilot can roll all of the fighter’s action dice however he wishes, without needing to acquire energy for each station.
Experimental Equipment Cards
– Next, Team B will select two of the remaining three cards from the row.
– Finally, Team A will choose the final card remaining.
Each Equipment card has a list of action die facings that must be placed on the card in order to activate it. These abilities are more powerful than the normal actions in the game, however keep in mind that placing dice on these cards will limit the number and die types that can be used by a team at their other stations, while they are taking up space on the cards. Let’s take a look at a few of the cards and see how they work:
Warp Damping Field
The characteristics of a quality expansion include improving the overall gameplay while implementing new strategies and elements that stay true to those found in the base game. With the inclusion of jet fighters and experimental equipment cards, the Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighters expansion accomplishes this feat. I’ve always felt that the “module” format of implementing new expansions to a game is the way to go. It’s common today to see multiple expansions come out for a game, that by the time the game reaches 3+ expansions, the base game is so far removed from the experience that it no longer feels genuine to the original product. With a module format, players are able to choose which mini-elements that want to add or keep out of a session. It immediately reminds me of how the makers of Alhambra chose to present their six expansions (a total of 18 modules), which I feel worked wonderfully for gamers.
Jet fighters and equipment cards bring their own separate strategies and unique offerings to the base game, though both can be used together with ease. The equipment cards immediately generates asymmetrical gameplay, as each team now has their own unique weapons and devices to use, not available to their opponent. The fact that this equipment requires dice that are needed for the Capital Ship’s various stations presents quite a balancing act on how often to attempt to use these cards. Jet fighters on the other hand adjust the strategies for attacking and maneuvering during the game. No longer are teams required to place their Capital Ships close to one another in order to direct damage. Jet fighters are more nimble and can quickly fire on the Capital Ship and escape, though its health is almost nonexistent, and it requires quite a bit to relaunch a fighter once its been destroyed. Also, the team must take into account the fact that the pilot
controlling the fighter is not allowed to work on any of the other Capital Ship stations, and the other team members may have to cover more stations at one time.
Overall, Die Fighters is an impressive expansion that improves upon Space Cadets: Dice Duel, and one that any fan of the base game should include. The modules are simple enough to learn that it shouldn’t be too hard to teach new players the game with the expansion elements included, though I’m not sure you’d want to throw a new player in the pilot seat on a jet fighter during his first playthrough (being that they will be in control of all of their own stations). Here’s to hoping that the Engelstein’s and Stronghold continue with this “module” expansion format with the Dice Duel expansions going forward.