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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Looking at Space Cadets: Away Missions

The kickstarter for Space Cadets: Away Missions has stalled out a little bit, and I suspect it's because many pledgers were hoping for lots of freebies, which aren't coming (read more at the end of this post). Everybody likes to get those great bonuses for sure, but you really need to step back and take a look at that core product you are pledging for. If you like the core product, then offer your backing, but don't back something hoping for more. You wouldn't walk into a movie theater, buy a ticket and expect the theater to provide you with free snacks and drinks.

Anyway, here is why I like Space Cadets, and why I think you should take a closer look. Unlike the current big-box, minis-heavy phenom, Conan, or previous campaigns such as Zombicide, Space Cadets doesn't have gobs and gobs of miniatures. They don't have dynamic poses and they're not designed by the most famous artists in the industry. But they are part of a game inspired by a simpler age in science fiction, when the monsters were guys in rubber suits and the heroes and their acting were stiff as a board.

I appreciate the figures because, for me, the stiff poses and sculpts give off the perfect 1950s, low-budget scifi movie vibe. There are plenty of super-dynamic, giant-gun-toting, pigeon-toed, ultra anima style figures out there, but sometimes, I want something that is pure and simple and communicates its intention as a game piece should: "This figure represents Captain Riggs, and that figure is the sentinel he needs to destroy." Honestly, do people spend more time sitting at the table admiring how amazing a board game miniature looks, or do they spend more time playing the game?

Looking at Space Cadets, reminds me of how I watch the classic Star Trek TV series -- I look past the rubber-suited Gorn, and cardboard backdrops and actually pay attention to the story; Star Trek has some great (and a few bad) storylines for being from the 1960s. If you still don't like the "rubber-suited" minis with Space Cadets, then try looking past them to the "story" -- the gameplay itself. After all, Space Cadets is a board game first.

Granted, I haven't played yet, but the how-to-play video is actually quite informative. After my very first read of the game's description, my thought was that Space Cadets was just Zombicide in space, and I originally passed on this kickstarter. I took another look a couple days later and actually watched the video, and from what I saw in the video, I think Space Cadets will be much better than Zombicide. Zombicide, like Space Cadets, uses an action point system in which you have limited points to spend on actions. In Zombicide, this translates to one point for one action, no more, no less. It's a great and simple system that's easy to teach and plays well.

But Space Cadets adds the "overkill" option: If you perform you're action well, extra successes on the dice translate to you being able to build on that action. In Zombicide, for example, you can use an action point to shoot once at the zombies -- done. In Space Cadets, taking a pot-shot at a saucer man can evolve into finding some new equipment and capturing a brain in the jar, and you're still left with more action points. It really opens up things a bit.
(Note: The rules are available in the files section of the Space Cadet page at Board Game Geek.)

Other quick observations: I like the use of smaller hex tiles; they allow for a great diversity in layouts, and the art has been improved. I like the "schematic" concept, in which some items can't just be picked up, you need to use your smarts (IQ) to build the items from parts found during a mission. Brains in jars -- how many games are there where you can dominate a brain in a jar? This game represents another opportunity for me to paint some figures in my monochromatic style. If you don't like the game, but you do like the minis, there's a minis-only pledge level, too.

Kickstarter rant

As I mentioned above, too many people jump on board a kickstarter hoping for freebies. People are looking for "value," trying to get more minis per dollar, and jumping off the wagon when they realize they're not going to get MORE than they pledged for. There's nothing wrong with trying to find a good price, but those peoples shouldn't look on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is meant to help creators get a core product off the ground. Period. If the core product meets its goal, and the funding goes beyond the goal, then the creator has the option of using the extra funds to provide those freebies, but the creators are not required to offer freebies, nor should anyone complain if the freebies don't come or are not to their liking.

When you pledge on Kickstarter, you are pledging for that core product and nothing more.
Part of the issue is that Cool Mini or Not and other big-boxers have made it a routine and are expected to offer tons of extras. But people bring this same expectation when they pledge for a game by a smaller company. They go to a small restaurant expecting a hamburger to cost less than a dollar because that's how much they can get one at McDonald's.

Should the big companies stop giving freebies? No, but people need to realize they're not entitled to freebies everywhere else.


  1. You are totally right, it is the reason I pledge on KS anyway. But there are so many complainers.
    Some small companies also get themselves into trouble by trying to keep up with the bigger companies and offering a lot of freebies.