Nostalgia is a powerful thing. So, I approach games like Starship Awesome 3000 carefully. It’s a theme I absolutely couldn’t resist and a game that screams nostalgia all day long. From the brilliantly loud cover art to the simple, yet retro-inspired map and graphic design. This is a game that draws heavily on ‘80s video game nostalgia, and from a visual perspective does it very well.
I was recently provided an early preview copy of the game from the designer ahead of the Kickstarter launching this week, and had a chance to dig into what is ultimately a love letter to the battle-infused cheese of silver age science fiction and ‘80s video games. Let’s dig in a bit further.
Dice Combat…In Spaaaaace!
Starship Awesome 3000 is a game about blowing up other starships. Drones, your opponents – doesn’t matter – you’re rolling dice, activating weapons and blowing up whatever’s in your way.
The game eases you into it as well. The quick start play through basically tasks you with chasing each other down and firing until someone is knocked out. Alone, it’s a very simple mechanic that would get repetitive fast.
Fortunately, there’s more here to add some depth to the dice rolling and improve what could easily become a dice chucking luck fest.
To start, here’s your player dashboard:
When you start, you’ll be dealt six cards, several face up and several face down. Each card corresponds to a potential die roll. You are also given a d12, 2-d6, and 2-d4. These sets of dice will be assigned to your engines, weapons, and shields. They are rolled every round and will dictate the amount of movement you can make, the strength of your attacks, and your ability to activate and subsequently block attacks with shields.
Every round, each player rolls their movement dice (whichever set they assigned there), with the highest roll going first. Then in player order, they will move, maneuvering around obstacles like asteroids (which move between rounds), and other ships, and lining up to attack someone.
Then they will fire. Shots are taken in a straight line until they hit a ship, a drone, or an obstacle (asteroid). You can also modify your attacks with the cards in your slots. These cards can be chained together as well, allowing you to activate more than one of them at a time across multiple possible die rolls. This ability to customize the attack cards is very important, allowing you to swap cards around, bring in new cards, or chain them up.
If your target is another player’s ship, they will do a shield check. If shields are active, they can roll their shield dice to try and block the attack. If their shields are not active, they will take the hit and can roll again after to try and activate their shields. A hit is a hit, no matter how high the weapon roll is, and will remove one of the cards from the dashboard. So each player effectively has 6 hit points to start the game. Run out, and you’re dead in space.
The big twist here is that Starship Awesome 3000 comes with a traitor mechanic. Sometime into the game, a Rogue card may come out of the deck. When it does, the player who activates that card will become immune to the attacks of the drones on the map. Their new goal is to attack other players, knocking at least one of them out. The end condition in this case? Knock out the Rogue or be knocked out.
If the Rogue card does not come out, everyone will continue going after the drones – ultimately aiming to destroy them all before they can attack and destroy you. The meat of the game, though, is that Rogue ship coming out, as it creates a cat and mouse style game, and really forces you to protect yourselves until it does, lest someone become easy pickings at the end of the game.
Is this Starship Truly Awesome?
The big question here is how the game plays and whether it’s worth of the ‘80s nostalgia that it so effectively triggers for me.
For all accounts, yes. While the version I played was preproduction and rules and components are sure to change before it is fully released after the Kickstarter, the game is a lot of fun. Is it a dice chucker with a ton of random luck built into it? Absolutely, but it’s also a game that only takes 30-45 minutes and that allows you to drive your spaceship around, blasting drones and each other out of space.
There’s not much more to it, nor is there meant to be.
I am, for all intents and purposes, primarily a euro player, but I have a very important place on my shelf for games like this that I can play while goofing around with friends, and it does a good job in that space. It’s goofy, it’s retro, and it’s quick.
It’s not a game I’ll build game night around, but it’s certainly one I’ll have along when I know we need a good cooldown, or when the theme matches the setting.
If you’re a fan of the theme, love dice-driven combat that moves fast and provides just enough punch without overstaying its welcome, check out the Kickstarter for Starship Awesome 3000.