Filler Games · Reviews

Review of Empty Space Explorers

Game: Empty Space Explorers

Designer: Peter Collins

Players: 2-4 Players

Playtime: 20-45 Minutes

Play Type: Racing/ Set Collection

Kickstarter Link (Live June 26th): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/emptyspaceexplorers/empty-space-explorers-board-game

Synopsis:

You have fallen deep into the space race. It is now your job to find a new Exoplanet and colonize it. Race to send out your probe to find a new planet, and once you have make sure you get your rocket to it before your opponents land theirs.

Game Play:

Empty Space Explorers is an easy to learn set collection, hand management and racing game. Players will set up a board consisting of four Exoplanets and four rows of seven cards extending out past those planets for their first starting game. During later games, this race track can be modified to make the game more difficult or more interactive. Players will then shuffle all remaining tiles into a draw deck, placing two face up and the remaining in a stack face down. Then deal four cards to each player. Finally each player may turn up two of the cards in the racetrack.

Players may do one of two actions during their turn. The first action they can do is research. When players research they will do a three step process: pick up cards, play cards, and then discard down to a hand limit of four. When players pick up cards they may either draw from one of the two face up draw pile options or take a face down card from the top. They then have the option to play cards which allows them to take a variety of actions. Let’s take a quick look at those actions:

  • Buy a Probe/Rocket (4 Cards of the Same Color): When players buy a probe, they spend four cards of the same color and take the matching colored probe. This becomes their player piece for the duration of the game and allows players to begin exploring space.  Once a player has reached the Exoplanet, all players will be allowed to purchase their matching colored rocket by spending four cards of the same color.
  • Reveal the Universe (2 Cards of Different Colors): Play two different colored cards to peak at any card on the board except the Exoplanets.
  • Change the Universe ( Three of the Same Colored Cards): Pay three cards of the same color to switch out two universe cards. Take one card from the board that does not have a spacecraft on it and replace it with a card that you just played. You cannot change unrevealed cards.
  • Black Hole- Place a black hole card to hinder the movement of another player. They cannot be played on spaces with a spacecraft.

The other option players may take during a game is to explore. When players explore they first have the option to play cards and take the action above. Then players can explore the board. This is only possible after players have gained a space probe.  When exploring, players will discard cards to move their rocket throughout the universe. Players must be able to either discard a card of the matching color of the planet they are attempting to move on, or move freely onto planets matching their space probe’s color or wild card spaces. The ultimate goal of exploration is to move the space probe and rocket to the Exoplanet matching their player color. Once the players have revealed the Exoplanets, they may also purchase a rocket in their matching color. Rocket movement works the same way as space probe movement.

The first player to land their rocket and space probe on the Exoplanet matching their player color wins the game.

Components:

**I was provided a prototype of Empty Space Explorers, all components are subject to change**

Empty Space Explorers is a very simple game with few components. In the game box players will find four different colored space probes and rockets, four player aids,  four four different colored Exoplanets, and 76 universe cards. The cards have beautiful photographs depicted on them. The photos are all based on different aspects of space and use photos of those elements of space. Some photos include satellites, galaxies and black holes.

The symbols on the game are easy to understand, and I like that the player aids include all the information needed for players to play. These simple reminders are very helpful for new players. I do wish that the individual rockets and space probes had their own symbol or space that could be associated with them. I worry that as the game is currently, it may be difficult for those who are color blind to enjoy the game as it is heavily color dependant.

Overview:

Positives:

  • Quick to Play
  • Easy to Teach
  • Language Independant
  • Family Friendly
  • Possible Educational Value
  • Light Player Interaction

Negatives:

  • Replayability
  • Not Colorblind Friendly
  • Title Easily Confused
  • Luck Based

Empty Space Explorers is the perfect game for a family who wants to introduce more STEM to their children. The game is very simple, and could easily be taught to children as young as five or six. The realistic depictions of space can be a gateway into learning more about our universe and space. I love that this game is a joint design effort between Peter Collins and his two daughters, because it puts a strong focus on the game being accessible and family friendly.

Empty Space Explorers is incredibly quick to teach and easy to play. Players can learn the rules in as little as five minutes and be set to play. Throughout the game when players need reminders, they have access to a player aid which gives all relevant information in an easy to digest format. However, players do not need to know the language written to be able to play Empty Space Explorers. There is little to no reading necessary to play the game.

That simplicity means that the game can be taught to anyone, and the fact that it has very few components means that it is easily transported. It makes this the perfect gateway game or filler while waiting for the entire group to show up at game night.  Players will also enjoy that while the mechanics are simple, there is some strategy to it as well. In order to be successful, players have to be able to manage their resources and choose their turn actions carefully. There are even some elements of player interaction, where players can use one of their turns to hinder an opponent. If black hole cards are used smartly, it can really have a large impact on game play.

While the simplicity of the game is part of the beauty, I could see the game being too light for serious gamers. While there is some strategy involved, many of the mechanics leave it being very luck based, and poor card draws can take a person from being in first to last with very few ways to recorrect. Additionally, while the game is a great quick filler, I am not sure there will be enough variety in the mechanics to ensure that it has staying power in a collection. I do like that players can switch the board up to help keep things fresh though, as I do believe that this adds some replayability and an additional layer of depth to the game.

I also find that the title of Empty Space Explorers has left some of my friends and family confused. With Space Explorers published by 25th Century Games just delivering from Kickstarter, many players assume that I am talking about that game when discussing this one. While it might just be poor timing, the two titles being so close may lead to some confusion.

All that being said, I am very excited for Empty Space Explorers. The main benefit I see to this game is that it could easily be used in the classroom for educational purposes. The streamlined gameplay means I could teach a class how to play it, and then give them time to explore the universe with their tables.  This could be a great segway into researching aspects of the universe that most interest them. I love that Empty Space Explorers chose to use real imagery and elements from the universe because it adds so much possibility within the classroom.

If you are someone who enjoys light filler games focused on space such as Planet Defenders or Tiny Epic Galaxies, you would find that Empty Space Explorers would be a great fit. This may also stand out to you if you are looking for a great starting game for a family, especially for a family with space loving children. Additionally, if you are an educator looking for an easy hook into a space themed unit, this may be something to look into. I would not suggest Empty Space Explorers for players who prefer games with little to no luck, or for players who seek out heavy game play though! If you are interested in learning more about Empty Space Explorers, check out their Kickstarter preview page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/emptyspaceexplorers/empty-space-explorers-board-game?ref=d7obz1&token=76006cfd

4 thoughts on “Review of Empty Space Explorers

  1. Thanks for your positive review Mackenzie and we are glad you are so excited for the upcoming launch!

    We just wanted to update you on the accessibility issue you raise about colour blindness and you were spot on. We started addressing this a few weeks ago with help from The Nerdy Meeple and also some other people on Facebook with colour blindness and we plan to do as you say and change the shape of the rockets on the cards to make them more accessible.

    Here’s a link to the picture and debate on FB https://m.facebook.com/groups/210675258986501?view=permalink&id=2315992541788085

    Thanks again for your review 😀

    Like

    1. I’m so happy to hear that you are listening to reviews and addressing those issues! It makes me excited to see the final product and how it continues to grow! Thanks for the opportunity to review it.

      Like

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