Over the past week, I’ve had the chance to playtest several versions of Space Race, but still haven’t managed to get it quite right. The game started as a game in real time, where players would roll their dice at the same time, and race to build a space ship. Once one player finished their ship, the other player wouldn’t be able to reroll any more, would form their ship, and then the two would battle.

The problem with this model is that there wasn’t much incentive to just roll your dice once and then shove them together and shout done – usually any weaknesses in your own ship were much less than your opponents’, considering that they basically had to make do with what they rolled in one or two rolls. As much I would like to keep it as a real time game, in the last playtest I tried something different.

Now, players roll their dice in turn, and may keep any number of dice that they roll (indicating which ones they are locking in). Then the other player rolls, and so on. Each player has a total of three rolls, after which they have to accept all of their results, and then the spaceships battle. At the same time, I’ve simplified the dice so that they are all identical, and no longer require any energy to run (it was always just luck to see whether you got enough energy or not; it wasn’t a particularly strategic or tactical choice). Players are still either trying to win by reducing their opponent to fewer than three dice (you start with 7 dice now), or by collecting a set number of gems from the middle.

The faces are (in order of functioning):

  • Scanner – if you have more Scanners than your opponent, you steal one gem from them. If you are tied, nothing happens.
  • Crane – take gems from the middle. 2 cranes = 1 gem, 3 cranes = 2 gems, etc.
  • Laser – if one player has more lasers than their opponent has shields, then that player blows their opponent out of the sky, and they lose 1 die.
  • Shield – blocks Lasers.
  • Nuke – If you have 3 Nukes, and aren’t destroyed by your enemies’ Lasers, then you force your opponent to lose 1 die.
  • Cog – Copies the die that it is attached to.

I’m considering changing the Cog to letting you reroll it, along with any dice you have already locked in, when you roll it. It might lead to slightly more surprising situations. It also might make sense for the Nuke to discard 2 dice, as it is more difficult to get. In the games we played, it seemed that it was slightly too easy to just collect a lot of gems and not worry about defending yourself. I’ll try it with these new rules and see how it goes. I must say, its a nice change to be playtesting such a quick game – it really lets you get a lot of rapid iterations in!