It can be incredibly difficult to design a lightweight game with easy-to-grasp rules and a few components, while still providing enough strategy to keep players interested, but nailing that tension is one of the hallmarks of clean, thoughtful game design. Space Park, the newest release from Keymaster Games, perfectly straddles that line, offering immediate fun and addicting strategy.
In Space Park, players are vacationers out to enjoy a scenic jaunt around the galaxy, visiting destinations like the Cosmic Canyon and the intergalactic Astral Arcade to gather resources needed to claim valuable merit badges. But players can't simply choose the location they want to utilize, one of three silver rocket ships has to be on the location a player wants to take an action on. After an action is taken, the rocket on that specific location is moved one space clockwise around the board. Of these locations, three of the seven provide a different type of resource (red, green, and purple crystals), and the four others allow you to trade a resource for a point, trade in resources to fulfill your merit badge objectives, draw a new merit badge, and gain control of a little robot buddy who helps you gain more resources. These merit badges often require some combination of the three available resources, combo off of each other, or have their own static bonuses once fulfilled. The first player to spend their resources to earn 20 points worth of merit badges wins the game, simple as that.
And while it may, at first glance, seem overly simple, there’s an amazing sense of “gotcha!” at play at the table. Because you can only cash in your resources at a certain spot on the “board” (the board, here, is a randomly laid out selection of location tiles), your turn could come around and you'd find your plans ruined by the player who just preceded you. It’s entirely possible, and a very good strategy, to maneuver pawns on the board to prevent your opponents from being able to use that specific cash-in spot (or any other spot they were hoping to utilize) on their turn, thus halting their efforts. This is where the game’s design really shines, coming off more like an outer space classic strategy game ala Checkers or Othello than an over-involved board game.
All this strategy stuff aside, the game also just feels good, with theming and artwork perfectly in sync. The wonderful illustrations by Brian Edward Miller of Orlin Culture Shop evoke a retro tourism feel while keeping the theming firmly in the future, and in outerspace. You’ll feel like you’re both a cub scout earning merit badges as you see the world, and an interplanetary jetsetter ping-ponging from planet to planet on your rocket ship.
A note on player count: Space Park is designed for one to four players, and becomes a very different type of game with each count. With four and three players, the game feels more tense, as there’s so much going on between your turns. You have to think carefully, anticipate your opponents’ moves, and plan strategically your next action. With two players, it’s easier to predict, turn to turn, the actions your opponent will take (and how that will mess up your plans). For single player games, there’s an entire side-variant of you versus the game, with a built in timer. This ingenious subversion of the core concept of the game turns this into a race against the clock (and, in my experience, was pretty darn fun and very challenging).
A note on “chrome”: There aren’t a ton of components in the box, just a collection of (beautiful) crystals used as the main resource, seven location cards, a few punch-out tokens, and a small deck of merit badge cards. The merit badge cards felt a little flimsy, but the card stock of the tokens and location cards, and the look and feel of the crystals, were right in line with industry standards the big companies hold themselves to.
The bottom line:
Space Park is an easy to learn lightweight game that offers up just the right amount of strategy for an incredibly enjoyable, thirty minute experience.
Get this game if:
You’re looking for lightweight fun to start off a game night.
You want to introduce new people into the hobby in a very low-key way.
The illustrations speak to you — it really is a beautifully rendered game.
Avoid this game if:
You really want a game you can sink your teeth (and some hours) into.
You’re afraid of space travel and are more of a homebody.
The copy of Space Park used for this review belongs to a friend of the author who purchased the game for private use.
Where’s the score?
The TechRaptor tabletop team has decided that the content of our tabletop reviews is more important than an arbitrary numbered score. We feel that our critique and explanation thereof is more important than a static score, and all relevant information relating to a game, and whether it is worth your gaming dollar, is included in the body of our reviews.