Space Movers 2201
From: KnA Games
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck
The free trader sub-genre of space travel science fiction is one largely unfamiliar to mainstream audiences. Much of this has to do with how, aside from Firefly, it has not really been employed in the film and television media (where there’s a preference for more epic storylines). However, this more blue collar approach to science fiction has been a mainstay of Traveller campaigns for decades. Space Movers 2201 continues the sub-genre’s association with tabletop gaming.
From the rulebook:
“Movers specialize in getting cargo to its destination as efficiently as possible. As you deliver cargo, you are rewarded with resources that are needed to keep the Liberty flying. But you must do this without drawing too much attention from the Universal Oversight.”
Unlike many pick-up and deliver games, Space Movers 2201 employs co-operative gameplay. The premise is that you are the crew of the Liberty, a free trader vessel (referred to in-universe as Movers), trying to keep their ship in operation as they attempt to complete a series of objectives. Meanwhile, they’ll try to avoid attracting the attention of Universal Oversight (UO), a corrupt government agency that regulates space travel.
A player’s turn starts by drawing a card from the deck. Depending on what type it is, the card either goes to the player’s hand or is immediately put into play. Movement may then be conducted by moving the Liberty one space and/or placing your crewmember in a different section of the Liberty. The player may then perform an action. The sort of actions that will be available depend on factors like what section of the Liberty the active player’s crewmember is in, which cards are in play, and where the Liberty is currently located. The turn ends with the player discarding down to five cards (if necessary), adjusting the Resource bar down one notch, and moving the UO Scout one space towards the Liberty (if it’s in play).
Skill checks are handled in a very different fashion from other games. The common wisdom in gaming is that rolling more dice is better. The exact opposite is the case for Space Movers 2201, where all the dice rolled must be five or higher for the skill check to succeed. But while it may sound punishingly brutal, this is not really the case thanks to a dexterity element. A skill check will show which ten-sided dice (each a different color to indicate which crewmember they’re attached to) are to be used. Assuming they’re all available, each die is rolled one at a time. If a die comes up with an undesirable result, you can try to hit it with your next die roll and hopefully alter it to something better. Players may wish to get in some practice rolls (a marble shooting technique is the most effective one I tried) before the game starts to get the hang of it. To prevent the dice from flying off the kitchen table and getting wedged under the refrigerator, skill checks are conducted in the game box top. Once all the ten-siders have been rolled, a blank six-sider is employed to make any needed final adjustments. An important feature of the dice is that a caduceus takes the place of the ten. Should a die display a caduceus when a skill roll is completed, the crewmember associated with the die becomes injured. Until a successful Medical Bay action is performed, that crewmember’s die will remain unusable except for Medical Bay actions by that player.
From the box front:
“Remember what it was like to go on an adventure.”
The game deck consists of four different types of cards. Cargo cards are the bread and butter of the Liberty’s livelihood. On his turn, a player can play a Cargo card from his hand as an action to load the cargo, so long as the Liberty is at the indicated planet. When the cargo’s destination is reached, the active player can deliver it as an action and increase the Resource bar by the indicated amount. Reaction cards can be used to give the Liberty’s crew a boost. As the name implies, Reaction cards get played based on the action during another player’s turn. However, only one can be played per turn. Event cards introduce complications when drawn. While in play, the listed effect is applied and the card can only be removed by successfully performing the indicated skill check as an action. A UO Pursuit card brings the UO Scout into play. This also increases the UO Presence bar by one and places an Eye marker on the Liberty’s current location. The Scout can be removed from play in the same fashion as an Event card. It’s not necessary to immediately complete the skill checks on the Event and UO Pursuit cards. However, neither is it advisable to let them go unattended. Should an Event or UO Pursuit card be drawn when another is still in play, it replaces the old one. Replacing an unresolved UO Pursuit card immediately moves the Scout one space, while replacing an unresolved Event card reduces the Resource bar by an amount equal to the number of unresolved Event cards (one the first time, two the second time, etc.). To prevent a rapid succession of these two types from occurring, the deck is subjected to a stacked shuffle during set-up. This involves distributing each of the different types of cards evenly between five piles. These are then shuffled separately and placed one on top of another.
Universal Oversight is a constant hindrance for the crew of the Liberty. Once the UO Presence bar reaches a certain point, skill checks are penalized while at a location with a UO Eye marker. The bar can be reduced using a Communications Room action, but this requires the expenditure of resources the Liberty may not be able to spare. Then there’s that persistent UO Scout. While it may at first appear to be easy to evade, an incautious crew can find themselves boxed in if they don’t pay attention. Should the Scout catch up to the Liberty, a die is rolled to determine which crewmember is taken in for questioning (with an eight, nine, or caduceus meaning they get off with a warning). As long as a crewmember is detained, the associated die cannot be used in skill checks. Plus, if the crewmember in question is being used by a player, he cannot perform movement or actions on his turn, nor play Reaction cards. To get the crewmember back, the Liberty must go to UO Headquarters and perform the listed skill check to bust him out.
There are multiple ways to lose, but only one way to win. The most common way to lose is when either the UO Presence bar tops off or the Resource bar bottoms out. Certain cards will also indicate automatic loss conditions for when they’re in play. To win, the crew of the Liberty must successfully resolve a series of five Objective cards. This can either involve randomly drawing five cards during set-up or using a pre-selected set (more of which will be available in future expansions). The former method has the advantage of greater replay value. However, the latter guarantees a balanced series of Objectives, as well as possessing an overarching theme. The first objective is revealed once the crew has successfully delivered a cargo, while the other four are revealed after the preceding Objective has been completed.
In conclusion, what had the potential to be an exercise in frustration is avoided thanks to the stacked shuffle and the dexterity gameplay. The Resource bar is also an effective abstraction with considerable appeal for anyone who doesn’t like keeping track of multiple assets.
Space Movers 2201
From: KnA Games
Type of Game: Board Game
Game Design by: Kevin & April Cox
Cover Art by: Jon Hrubesch
Additional Art by: Jon Hrubesch
Game Components Included: Rulebook, Finding Liberty comic book, Game board, 1 Roll mat, 2 Ship tokens, 7 Character tokens, 1 Drone token, 1 UO Coin token, 7 Character cards, 20 Cargo cards, 20 Reaction cards, 10 Event cards, 10 UO Pursuit cards, 5 Adventure A Objective cards, 20 Random Objective cards, 7 ten-sided dice, 1 six-sided die, 1 Liberty Resource marker, 1 UO Presence marker, 9 UO Eye markers, 20 Cargo markers
Retail Price: $60.00
Number of Players: 2-7
Player Ages: 13+
Play Time: 60 minutes
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck