I did it… I managed to escape ma Bernard, the psychotic computer that locked down the assembly line on the spaceship manufacturing platform…
…now I have to traverse my way through the void towards home…Earth…
Home, my arse, I should, they have disowned me…shunned me…to win favour back and be permitted to land I shall have to take a detour and waste precious oxygen searching for some samples of space dust or fossilised alien poop or something equally unexpected….
…oh, well main thrusters…IGNITE
Blast, the wick has gone out in the engine again, and me only in my Wednesday shirt.
(Press play for a deep space ambiance to accompany your read)
Way back in space and time the sci-fi game Assembly emerged from the void with its was a brain melting puzzle nature of a sci-fi game which was, for me, almost impossible to escape from… but I finally did and now I am jet-setting it across the universe with my ship sensors playing up, trying its best to thwart my escape. Typical huh? Sensor Ghost is a sequel-esque card driven movement/push your luck game with a small element of pick-up and deliver… and even with its small table footprint, compact card count, delivers a mammoth challenge to us, the budding space piloting soloists gamer.
What’s All The Fuss About?
Touched upon above, the fuss here is for the eagerly awaited sequel to the very successful Assembly. A randomly generated, gridded playing area provides us with the deep space void wee must negotiate on our journey back to earth. Ahead of us are innumerable obstacles, wormholes, meteorites and even the occasional free space sector. Earth, for some inexplicable reason hates us and fears our return with our mad computer so to appease then, we must collect various items, equipment and such to offer as appeasement…then we can land and be free of the nightmare. Sounds simple? Hmmmm!
Immersion or Subversion?
In essence, this game is relatively abstract in nature, but the deep-space setting and the amazing component rendering (by designer Janice) really embellish the concept of space travel and generate an additional feeling of tension, as we navigate the treacherous gridded vacuum. I most certainly felt like I was at the helm of a space craft, asked with a multitude of life threatening decisions, navigating all that space has to throw at me. The mechanics within the game, the card driven movement mechanic, the randomness of the void (during setup and changeability via numerous encounters) and the disruption deck (a deck of cards depicting circumstances thrown up as a result of our friendly antagonistic on-board computer…all of which can play merry hell with the path we planned to take through space)
I think that considering it is an abstract game, theme has been seamlessly woven into the fabric of the game and we, as a solo player, can become inextricably engulfed in a deeply thematic game of space survival, as we solve the puzzle before us.
Card driven movement features as the principle mechanic. Cards drawn from a deck into the hand, offer the limited number of movement choices which can be taken… how we use them to negotiate the vast number of hazardous sectors in space is where the game cleverly burdens us with constrained and difficult choices. Effect cards also add to the chaos of space and effectively emulate the mad-cap actions of the psychotic computer, hell-bent on out demise…it also adds the inherent dangers of deep space travel. Special abilities from selected crew members can be drawn upon, but their influence is very short lived. In essence, we have very little in the way of resource (some minimal resource management also features), skills or magical super powers. This game relies upon our ability to solve puzzles with the smallest of external assistance, and, for me, is where its design is strongest.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
As the game stood when I played and reviewed initially, all was very much prototype scraps of paper and place-holder are. As time went on, I was fortunate to receive a very fancy prototype with some excellent sci-fi illustrative components. Visually, the game will look excellent and, if its predecessor is anything to go by, all other physical components will be of a high quality when the production copy lands on Kickstarter backer’s doorsteps
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Janice & Stuart Turner
- Artist: Janice Turner
- Game Publisher: Wren games
- Playtime:(recess for those of the American persuasion) 10-20+ minutes
- Gangs of One: Solo
- Age of Consent: 8+
- DOB: 2019
This is a cooperative game for two players but has been fundamentally designed with the soloist in mind. There is a character/or two if playing cooperatively, possessing certain special abilities that can be called upon once during a game but beyond that, there is no book keeping or maintenance required for characters. In fact the only tracking is that of shield tokens a vital aspect as they are frequently bombarded, depleted and generally abused… and if reduced to zero we are space dust, so careful maintenance is crucial). It is a very “thinking game” that can be all consuming but works exceptionally well as a solo game. Purpose designed, it certainly delivers a short, sharp shock to the gaming system.
Bots and Wotnots:
There is a strange irony here in that the game is fundamentally about a psychotic computer/bot, that is once more hell-bent on our demise… yet there is not an AI bot, as such, in the game. There is a deck of cards that present a wide variety of unusual circumstances/events that are as a result of this computer’s shenanigan but no Bot system we need control or operate. This aside, the system works particularly well, as events usually result in disruption to our plans, be it hindering our movement or even complete and catastrophic changes to the space matrix/layout of cards on the table…in fact it appears to work all to well when I play…grrrrr
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: This is definitely not a walk in the park. It is exceptionally challenging but not impossible but as each game will never replicate a previous session, there is always an intellectual mountain of decisions to make. It is a fun challenge come win or lose and after several plays it becomes apparent certain techniques work with certain situations (which is helpful) but as the layout is always different, these techniques will always have to be adapted or improvised as we progress.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: My prototype has eleven pages of A5, fully illustrated with game layout and simple rule explanations. It is quick to get started and the complexity is low, which enables gamers of all abilities to quickly digest gaming concepts…and get stuck into the action quickly
- Lucky Buggers: The turning of cards from both the Command (movement/action) deck and from the Disruption deck is very much reliant upon the draw, but beyond this pretty much all gameplay relies upon our cunning and wile to navigate, negotiate and activate our grew and ship. This is a decision making game, not a game of chance…although we do push our luck at times with our decision making/predicting possible negative effects that may flip cards, revealing nasty surprises.
- Highs and Lows: It is always a bit of a blow to lose a game but this title offers us such an engaging challenge, a loss is merely a learning path to future victory. I have always come away from my plays feeling very positive.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: The as set-up requires laying out a grid of about 70cm x 60cm, depending on how spaced out (like the pun?) a player prefers
- Set IT Up Just To Tear It Al Down Again: There is a moment or two we must set aside for set up because of the randomised space grid used at the start of each game, and time to ponder which special character to take, but in real terms there are few components (a set of location cards, and two decks of cards) which means that little more than ten minutes need be set set aside before we can begin
Me, Myself and I:
It was a tricky venture to try out Sensor Ghost, having had such a good experience with Assembly, its predecessor. The anticipation of a follow up game can lead to great disappointment…but I need not have worried…even in its unrefined development state it proved to be an exciting challenge. Since then it has seen development, refinement, superb graphics and has now funded on Kickstarter…it will become a reality for backer before too long.
It is us against the game…no fancy complex AI flow charts…just our wits verses the mad computer, and all the unforeseen events we may encounter…this is what tests our metal…our ingenuity and adaptation of limited resources.
It is a very challenging game, but one that stimulates and engages from start to finish…assuming you get to the finish. So many times I have failed…yet every time I am compelled to try again…to try and learn from my blunders. This has to be the sign of a good game to keep us wanting more even after failure. I like this game a lot, me and myself are in accordance so three heads are obviously better than one in this instance. Small-ish, compact and pretty quick to play, it suits the soloist down to the ground. Brain exercise that is easily accessible, quick and fun to play but all in a very small package. perfect
Yay or Nay?
Despite the enormity of isolation in deep space, the BSoMT 1d8 has sped through the vacuum of space for a very creditable, deeply spacable (7)
I am truly afflicted by asteroids….oh, the misfortune, the torture, the… lack of effective medical treatment in deep space… where is that inflatable pilot-seat cushion?
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
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