I jumped on the Kickstarter for Rayguns and Rocketships in the spring. It’s a board game produced by IDW for 2-4 players. As the title suggests, this is old school pulp sci-fi. The players take the role of one of four factions fighting for galactic supremacy: the Galactic Astro-Rangers, the Blaarg Collective, the Grand Zardian Navy, and the Space Mercenaries of Samadi. Created by a veteran video game designer, Scott Rogers, the game hit their stretch goals, so I also received a pack of mercenary captains and their captain cards (which can be used with any of the factions.) I’m not certain these will be standard on later editions or not. Delivery for the backers started this month, but Amazon is already showing a listing, so I suspect there will be general availability in the next month or two.

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Set up is fairly quick. The players get a rocketship board for their character pieces to be placed on. Each faction has a rocketship piece that is placed on the star map board. They each get a deck of cards with maneuvers from which they can choose three maneuvers per round or play. Each turns over their card and performs the maneuver in turn, with some modifications for if they’ve placed crew on engine or bridge spaces in their ships. Next, they take turns shooting at each other’s ships, if in range. The vessel or the rayguns, specifically, can be targeted. The players with ships hit can sacrifice a crew member rather than take blast points, if they are in the area targeted. Lastly, in turn, they can move their crew, including exiting the craft to fly around on their jetpacks, or to raid the other vessels.

Each of the three card reveals is a “turn”, with three turns a round. The rules were a bit unclear on this the first read through. At the end of the turn, any action points accrued but not used for damage control, extra moves, etc. are lost and the whole process starts again. There are points given for crew killed, rayguns destroyed, ships destroyed, and the like, and the length of games can depend on the target points. There are scenarios that can set other victory conditions, as well.

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My daughter an I played through a round the first day we had the game, and finally got a chance to play a full game this afternoon. A standard game took about 45 minutes for two of use, and would most likely hit the 90 minutes suggested on the box. Age recommendation is 14, but my kiddo is six and had no problems with the rules or the time. Play was fast and fun, and “programming” your moves proved tricky. We both used special maneuvers (or “star”) cards at inopportune times. In the end the Astro-Rangers barely squeaked out a point victory before the obvious victory that the Star Pirates were headed for.

Style: It’s a nice looking game with quality boards and cards, and good plastic pieces —  4/5 stars. Substance: the game plays well and quickly, and was enjoyable — 4 out of 5 stars.

So is it worth it? For the $70 I pledged and at the price point of most games like this: a qualified yes — mostly because I suspect it will be closer to $50-60 if and when it hits Amazon and other game outlets, then it will be a more solid yes.

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