Title: Space Junk
Release Date: January 2014
Publisher:Lamp Light Games
Age: 6 and older (according to publisher; I would put the minimum age at 8)
Pros: Easy to learn, fast games (20 to 45 minutes), good for chuckles
Cons: No real strategy, dice are a big factor
Space Junk is a Kickstarter board game, with the Kickstarter still in progress. One of the biggest turn-offs about Kickstarter is you often down know when, or if, you’ll ever receive what you pay for. Once the developers get the money, it takes time to, well, develop the product. That’s not a concern for Space Junk, as I received a completely working copy of the board game (minus the stretch goals, but I can live with that); the game will ship soon after it funds.
The basic premise is simple enough: the players are contestants in a future reality game show. They pilot their ships in orbit around earth, picking up all the space junk that’s been deposited there. Players can use the junk to enhance their ships, and build weapons to attack other players, although ultimately they’re supposed to race around the Earth as fast as possible, to pick up Fame points (but they get points for blasting other players and accumulating junk, too).
On your marks…
Before starting each player gets a character card. Each character is rated in the three abilities in the game (movement, attack, and searching for junk), and each character has a special ability–even a one use ability is pretty good, since Space Junk only takes 6 turns to play. Past that, you just set the markers on your card, set up your victory point markers at zero, and the game is good to go.
As befits a racing game, the board is pretty simple. All you really have are orbits around the Earth. As one might expect, the nearest orbit can be traversed more quickly than the others, and thus is the best orbit for players wanting to win by doing laps. On the other hand, the orbits further out allow the player to draw more junk cards.
Playing a turn is simple. A player advances along his orbit as many spaces as his Movement rating allows. Then he can attack another player (typically the closest ship, since the range penalty is harsh). If he scores hits, he’ll score 3 points of Fame and randomly blow junk off the other ship. This is probably the only weakness in the game, in that the player going first is at a bit of a disadvantage–he’ll have nothing to shoot at, and be a natural target for at least one (if not all) the players going after him. After a few turns, things get mixed up enough that this isn’t a big deal, and destroying junk is such a random affair that it’s not that much of a problem.
There’s a big humor factor to the junk, as you can find things like escargot (good for movement, and, apparently, attack) and a flamethrower (a natural weapon, but also good for propulsion). This is not, by any means, a game to take seriously.
Go…stick junk on your ship
After moving and attacking comes searching for junk. A player draws junk cards based on his orbit and search ability, and keeps them all. You can put the junk in your cargo hold where it’s safe, or mount it on your ship to get bonuses to your ability scores–most junk mounted on a ship is subject to getting blasted, however. A player really shouldn’t fall in love with his junk (yeah, I went there), as drawing half a dozen cards a turn is quite possible, and you can completely reconfigure your ship every turn.
After six turns, the player adds the Fame from his junk to all the fame gained by orbiting the Earth and blasting players, and high score wins.
Overall, Space Junk is good, light fare. You can have three non-gamer friends playing the game in less than five minutes. There are some vague parts in the rules, but this isn’t a serious game, and players can work out their own interpretations of how certain abilities work. The rulebook is a lean 6 pages, and any more than that would probably detract from the main strength of Space Junk: simplicity. If you don’t already have a simple, introductory game in your closet, this is an excellent choice when it’s time to play something light, or welcome a newcomer to your kitchen table.