Back home everyone's watching with bated breath as the crew of the Apollo 11 take their first tentative steps on the moon. Good for the crew of the Apollo 11, but you've been on Minos — a small planet very far from Earth — for over a year. And besides, you've got bigger fish to fry, as you're trying to colonize this alien planet for America before the Soviets, the Japanese, and other interested parties. You've been trying to develop your mining operations, but you're not sure if the Indian Space Agency has already tapped all the resources in your sector. You've been putting bids in at the supply depot, but the damned European Nations keep outbidding you for the materials you need. And on top of all this, there are these strange relics scattered all over the planet... what's the deal with those? This is what it's like to play Godspeed, an auction/worker placement game designed by Adam Hill and Clayton Hargrave, released by Pandasaurus Games.
In Godspeed, two to five players take on the roles of national expeditionary forces trying to lay claim to the planet Minos during the Cold War. At the end of ten rounds, the player with the most victory points wins the game. Players gain victory points by completing development cards which raise their nation's standing on a prestige track. Players have five worker tokens — Captain, Trader, Engineer, Biologist, and Ambassador — which also have point values on them. They'll use these workers for every action on the board.
Each round is broken up into four phases: High Council, Supply Depot, Actions, and Resolution. In the High Council phase, players are given a decision they need to make as a group. By revealing a Council card, they'll all be called on to fulfill the requirements on the card by placing one of their five worker tokens. If all the players agree to do so, everyone gets a bonus. If one person decides not to do so, no one gets a bonus (and that person who decided not to participate is penalized). In the second phase, Supply Depot, players secretly bid (using their workers, more on that below) for valuable resources, including the ability to act first in the next phase. In the third phase, players place the workers they have remaining on various action spaces, gaining resources, gaining development cards, and completing those cards for points. The final phase involves taking back used workers and generating additional resources. Through thoughtful layout on the board — there's a section for each phase on the board going in order from left to right — gameplay is smooth and natural-feeling.
The interesting twist on the mechanics here is this combination of worker placement and auction-style bidding. Your workers who you place around the board each have a numerical value on them, which is used for the Supply Depot round. So these workers, along with being a resource you need to use carefully in the Action phase, are also currency that you use to attempt to gain resources. I'm always a fan of the kind of worker placement game where you have too many options to use with too few workers, and the way Godspeed forces hard decisions in each of its ten rounds is, to put it plainly, a lot of fun.
My only real complaint with the game is that the rulebook takes a bit to start making sense of itself. For gamers who hope to dive right in by reading the rules and playing, it'll take a beat longer than it should. Godspeed has a rich backstory and theme, which weaves itself nicely throughout, but the first two pages are dedicated solely to telling the story of Godspeed, and then setup takes up the next four pages, so we don't get to the game objective until page eight. This in no way means the game's impossible to learn from the rulebook, I just think a bit of reorganization would go a long way toward helping with clarity.
The Bottom Line
By combining traditional worker placement game mechanics with secret bidding, Godspeed is a game that rewards careful planning and a bit of bravado at the same time. I like the theme a lot, this idea of an alternate history where we really spent most of our time during the space race on a planet light years from Earth, and it's clear that the designers put a lot of love and care into it. While relative newcomers to the board game design space, Adam Hill and Clayton Hargrave are absolutely names to watch in the future. Godspeed, with its big table presence and interlocking mechanics, is certainly worth a try for players looking for that next new spin on worker placement.
Get This Game If:
- You're looking for a balanced mix between worker placement and player interaction
- You're looking for a mid-weight strategic game
- You like the idea of a Cold War sci-fi setting
Avoid This Game If:
- You want something a bit lighter (or heavier — it really is in that perfect middle spot)
- You prefer your global Cold War intrigue grounded in reality
The copy of Godspeed used in this review was provided by Pandasaurus Games.