Review: Space Cadets Dice Duel

DSC_0009I’m a sedentary man and as such boardgaming appeals to me as a hobby. The only muscle I need flex is located safely within my skull, and in these depths of winter I can partake of my favorite pastime without fear of frozen pitches or a necessary but arduous warm up.

And then Space Cadets Dice Duel comes thundering into my collection and things were changed for ever.

My heart races, my chest aches, and my brow is glistening with sweat. This is a game that embraces intensity and all that entails.

There’s a lot going on in the Space Cadets franchise right now, they’re busy over at Stronghold Games, so now seemed like the ideal time to revisit this entry in the series which seemed to fly slightly under the radar, locally at least.

This head to head team game pits two teams of up to four players against each other in a set up familiar to anyone who’s ever watched any science fiction. Each team has a number of stations with their own function and every player will be responsible for the efficient operation of that station. You have weapons, shields, engines, sensors, tractor beams, all the bits of a bridge that would thrill a trekkie.

The operation of each station is based around rolling dice which let you do something. The kicker, and the very heart of the frantic atmosphere this game brings to the table, is that all this happens in real time. There are no turns in space. Did Picard pass a first player token when he was done firing at the Borg? Did he heck.

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Space Cadets Dice Duel isn’t the only game out there to employ real time mechanics, but most of the games that make use of it as a spine for their games are co-operative. While you’ll be working as a team you’ll be in no doubt that the opposing ship flying erratically around the board is very much the enemy and you’ll be wanting to fire rockets at them.

The trouble is nothing is easy in this game. As soon you’re opponent comes anywhere near you the urge to fire will be overwhelming. Often you’ll hear your weapons officer scream the word “FIRE” excitedly.There will be a brief pause in the action while you work out the damage you’ve done. But then you’ll see a thin smile spread across the lips of the opposing captain. You’ve both just realised that your IDIOT weapons officer loaded the missiles into the wrong tube and they have fired harmlessly from the stern of your ship as the target vessel bobs placidly in the ocean of space calmly preparing to return fire.

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This game is hilarious. It’s loud and heart attack inducing and you will make mistakes constantly, but always someone will be laughing.

If I have any criticism of this game it’s that it can be hard to teach. Each section of the ship is essentially it’s own mini game and require careful explanation before you can begin. None of them are overly complicated but they take time to explain. That having been said if you’ve got the right group of people who buy into the idea of crewing their very own USS Defiant or can even just coax out a modicum of patience from your fellow players then the rewards are great.

There’s an expansion available which I haven’t had the chance to play yet which introduces fighter pilots that whizz around causing yet further havoc, but this game thrives in chaos.

Space Cadets Dice Duel is one of the very few games to give me a genuine adrenaline rush. It’s a thrill from start to finish. You’ll want to play it again as soon as you’re done but will probably have to catch your breath first.

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