Radio Review #41a – Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter

 

 

die_fighter_cover

(2014 – Stronghold Games)

 

“Some people call me the space cowboy….”

 

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.

 

 

 

Components:

– Jet Fighter game boards

 

– A set of Jet Fighter action dice

 

– Jet Fighter markers

 

– Experimental Equipment cards

 

 

 

 

Modules:

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.

 

 

Jet Fighters

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.

Taking a look at the Jet Fighter board, you can see that it houses all of the stations used by the pilot. The only die that the pilot will not roll during the game is the Shield Die. Fighters have no shields, and only 3 points of health. Therefore, the Shield die is used solely as a reference to the amount of health left on the fighter, with the pips on the die representing that amount. As the fighter takes damage, this Die is decreased until the fighter is destroyed. Once a fighter has been destroyed, the team can choose to either pay 3 Crystals or take 1 damage to their Capital Ship in order to relaunch a fighter. The fighter is then placed in the same space as its own Capital Ship, and a pilot is assigned from the team.
The remaining stations consists of the Helm (2 die spaces), Sensor stations (four spaces for Locks & 2 spaces for Jammers), and Weapons (3 die spaces). While mobile and flexible, jet fighters are also limited in some areas. Beyond the low health and lack of defense, they also are unable to use tractor beams and have limited jamming abilities. Loading and firing missiles with the fighters works similarly as with the Capital Ship, however when a Capital Ship takes damage from a fighter’s missile, the Capital Ship is treated as having an additional Shield die than it would normally have (although it will always remove at least one Shield die, when hit).
One of the most unique features found with the fighters are their use of Pulse Bombs. While the fighters can’t use Tractor Beams, the pilot controlling the fighter is still provided a Tractor Beam die. This is for use when attempting to build a Pulse Bomb as opposed to a regular missile. The difference between a regular missile and a pulse bomb is that the middle red Weapons die is replaced with the lightening bolt symbol on the Tractor Beam die. Pulse Bombs can only be used when attacking Capital Ships and can only be launched when the fighter ends its movement on the same space as the Capital Ship. When resolving a Pulse Bomb attack, the pilot will call out, “BOMB!”, and then roll both of the red Weapons die that were used to make up the Pulse Bomb itself. Each dice showing a hit icon when rolled will equal one point of immediate damage done to the ship.
Player B’s jet fighter has finished its most recent movement, and ends up in the same space as the opposing team’s Capital Ship. Luckily he has already built a Pulse Bomb and calls out, “BOMB!” before the opposing Capital Ship has a chance to move out of the space.

 

Player B then rolls the two red Weapons dice that made up the Pulse Bomb on his fighter display and rolls a total of 2 damage, since both dice resulted in hit icons. This damage can not be blocked by the Capital Ship.

 

 

 

Experimental Equipment Cards

Most players of the original Dice Duel game will remember that some of the icons on the action dice were never used. These icons were being saved for this expansion, and are required for the Experimental Equipment. Teams can use these various types of equipment in order to give their Capital Ships powers and special abilities that were not available within the base game. At the beginning of the game, four cards are drawn from the deck and placed face up for both teams to see.

 

– Team A will select a card of their choice from the row.
– 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:

 

 

 

Rotational Thrusters

– By placing a Shield die with the pictured icon facing on this card along with a Movement die, players will be able to rotate their Capital Ship in the direction of the Movement die. Usually, resolving a Movement die would require the Capital Ship to move from its current space.

 

 

 

Fusion Torpedo

– The new expansion comes with various Equipment cards that include special weapons. When placing the required dice on this card, a team can build a Fusion Torpedo. Normally, when resolving an attack, a player will roll the red dice that make up the missile and count the blast icons as possible damage. With the Fusion Torpedo, blast symbols and the icon representing the nose of the missile will both count as possible damage.

 

 

 

Warp Damping Field

– Some Equipment cards include “lock” icons. Normally, when dice are resolved for a card’s ability, those dice are removed from the card, and the icons required would need to be rolled again before they can be placed back on the card. If there is a lock icon however, these dice can be left on the card and used as ongoing abilities. A crystal and Sensor die with the required facing are required in order to use the Warp Damping Field. Having this active will keep the opponent’s ships from being able to make a Warp Jump if they are within 3 spaces of this team’s Capital Ship.

 

 

Warp Nav

– Some cards also include a “snowflake” icon. This represents that the game will immediately pause whenever a card with this icon is resolved. The Warp Nav allows the Capital Ship to warp to any other space that includes a crystal icon, instead of having to roll the dice, which would normally decide where the Capital Ship would warp to.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts:

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.

 

 

 

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