“No matter how you slice it, we’re movers, pal. You got something you need delivered? We pick it up, move it, and set it down without a hitch. There is, of course, a nominal fee for our labor. After all, the UO ain’t makin’ things so easy these days. I got a ship, a crew, and a growlin’ stomach – that’s enough for me to take any job, anywhere.”
There’s a lot of work to be done ’round these parts, so long as you don’t get caught by the authorities while you’re doin’ it. Space Movers is a game that plays out exactly as its title suggests: players take the role of a crew aboard a spaceship working as movers in the year 2201. A mover’s job is simple: pick up some cargo, transport it safely to a drop point, and set it down in-tact. If you can pull off the job you’ll earn resources to keep your ship flying. The fuzz is always on your tail, though, and if the Universal Oversight catches you it’s lights out for the crew. Can you work together with your crew to make ends meet, or will you end up in the brig serving hard time?
Inside the Box
Cracking open the box of Space Movers, inside you’ll find everything needed to play:
- Finding Liberty Comic Book
- Game Board
- 2 Ship Tokens (Liberty and UO Scout Ship)
- 1 Liberty Resource Marker
- 1 UO Presence Marker
- 9 UO Eye Markers
- 20 Cargo Markers
- 1 UO Coin Token
- 7 Character Cards
- 7 Character Tokens
- 1 Drone Token
- 10 Plastic Stands for Characters, Ships, & Drone
- 7 Character Dice (d10’s)
- 1 Blank Die (d6)
- 1 Double-sided Roll Mat
- 1 Box Stand
- 60-card Game Deck
- 5-card Adventure A Objective Set
- 20-card Random Objective Deck
- First Edition Bonus Roll Mat & Adventure Card Set
Looking at the list above, that’s a lot of components packed into one small box! Don’t let the packaging fool you, though, as the components are all sturdy and high quality. What’s even better is that the artwork and color quality on each of the components is stunning. Be ready to for wonder when you crack this box open!
Moving About Space
In Space Movers, players take on the role of the crew of the spaceship Liberty. Each player works together with one another as the ship jumps from planet to planet, picking up and dropping off cargo to earn resources. During each game there will be a set of objectives to complete that require players to perform certain tasks, and once the objectives are complete the players win the game. There’s an air of danger, however, as the Universal Oversight, the government elected by the planets to police the system, watches all movement within the system in attempts to keep order. Power corrupts, though, and the UO have begun taking all matters into their own hands while trying to assume full control of the entire star system. If the UO catches up with Liberty part of the crew can be taken away for interrogation, making some tasks much harder to complete down the line. The game can even end in disaster if the UO isn’t avoided or dealt with in a reasonable manner.
The game setup is pretty simple, even for first-timers. To begin you’ll place the game board in the middle of the table with the UO Presence Marker at the bottom of the Presence bar. The UO Eye Markers are placed beside the board along with the Cargo Markers. To the side of the board will be the UO Scout Ship, since it doesn’t start in play. Liberty gets placed on Earth, with its Resource Marker at the 3/4 full battery level on the Resource bar. As mentioned earlier, each game of Space Movers is played out through a series of objective cards that are all chosen before the game. Each set is labeled (Adventure A, Adventure B, etc.), and you can choose which part of the game’s story you want to play through when setting it up.
The biggest part comes in separating the game’s cards. You’ll need to separate the 10 Event, 10 UO Pursuit, 20 Cargo, and 20 Reaction cards into different piles. Next you’ll remove 5 Cargo cards at random from their pile to create a discard pile to start with. Shuffle the remaining Cargo cards along with the Reaction cards and separate them out into 5 piles of 7 cards each. Randomly shuffle 2 Event and 2 UO Pursuit cards into each pile and stack the completed piles on top of one another to create the game deck. This deck is NOT shuffled.
Players then choose their characters. Each character has a unique background and special ability that they lend to the crew and game. They also are represented by a specific character die that denotes their type of skillset. Players will choose a character and take their character card and die to place in front of them. Finally, the roll mat is placed inside the bottom of the game box, which is then placed on the box stand. The UO Coin is given to the last player that chose a character, and then you’re ready to get started!
During a game of Space Movers you’ll work together with your fellow players to complete a set of Objectives chosen during setup. These Objectives are usually tied to a storyline for the game, explaining what the crew is doing at any given moment. For example, one Objective set could see the players picking up a special type of cargo, where others could see them doing research on the UO. Either way, each Objective set will be made of 5 cards that all require you to do something different. Once you complete one Objective card it will flip over and eventually reveal the next in line. If players complete all Objective cards in a set they win the game!
The game is essentially played through a series of rounds during which players take turns as well as maneuver the UO based on the game deck. Each game turn is broken down into phases, like so:
- Phase 1 – Draw: The current player draws a single card from the game deck.
- Phase 2 – Movement: There are 2 steps in this phase: first, a character can be moved from one Liberty space to another and then Liberty may be jumped to an adjacent Planet along visible Route Lines.
- Phase 3 – Action: You may perform one Action per turn. Actions are noted by the word ACTION before them and are located either on game cards or Liberty spaces.
- Phase 4 – Clean Up: The Resource Marker is moved down one space on the Resource bar, the current player discards down to 5 cards if needed, and if the UO Scout Ship is on the board it’s moved one Planet space closer to Liberty.
Each player will take their turn, working with one another to accomplish tasks, earn resources, and avoid the UO at all costs. Players will lose the game if the Resource Marker ever reaches the bottom space on the Resource bar for Liberty or if the UO Marker reaches the top of the UO Presence bar with the skull symbol.
Many Actions and Events in Space Movers require the use of a Skill Check. This is where the game’s uniqueness comes into play with flying colors – literally. Each character has a set of skills, represented by a certain color d10. When the game calls for a skill check the current player must assemble a dice pool containing a specific set of dice (usually noted on the Action or card) and roll them in the game box. When rolling for a skill check you’re looking for 5’s or better on the dice rolled. It’s not a simple as rolling dice in a box, though, and that’s where Space Movers gets interesting. The game incorporates a unique rolling mechanic where players actually use their dice to hit one another in order to strengthen their chances for success.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say I draw an Event card that requires a skill check. The card shows a Pilot (black), Communications (red), and Strength (wild/any) roll. I would then need to take the black, red, and any other dice and roll them for the check. Each die is rolled one at a time. I roll the black die in the setup game box and score a 6, which is a success. My next roll with the red die is a 3 – not good. I roll my Strength die last, resulting in a 5 – success. Now the blank die comes into play. With this die I can roll it so that it hits my red die to try and change its face, resulting in a potentially higher result. I roll the die, hitting my previous red die sitting in the box. I manage to change the red die to a 7, making each roll a success, completing the skill check and succeeding for the crew!
This may seem a bit confusing, but it’s terribly fun. You can even roll each die so that it hits your previous roll if needed. In that example I could have rolled the black die, then rolled the red die so it hit the black die, and so on. There were plenty of instances where I tried to hit multiple dice to change their result. It might look chaotic, but it’s quite enjoyable.
As you play throughout the game you’ll draw UO Pursuit and Event cards from the game deck. With a UO Pursuit card you’ll increase the chances of the Universal Oversight encountering Liberty and causing a whole mess. When this card is drawn you must place a UO Eye Marker on the Planet space Liberty is currently on and move the UO Presence Marker 1 space forward on the UO Presence bar. Then the UO Scout Ship is placed on the board in its starting location. As an Action on their turn, a player may attempt to remove the UO Scout Ship from the board by overcoming a Skill Check. While UO Eye Markers are on the board, Skill Checks become much harder at their location. Players can remove the Markers by taking an action on Liberty.
Event cards will show up from time to time, affecting gameplay in many ways. Some cards stay in play until a Skill Check removes them or another Event card takes their place. If you reveal an Event card while one is already in play, the current one is removed from the game and you lose Resources for each Event card removed from the game thus far. Not dealing with Events is a good way to lose the game, and a quick one at that. Each Event card will have special text (in red) that takes effect immediately and adds a rule to the game while in play. As an Action on their turn, a player can try to overcome a Skill Check to remove the card and its rule until a new one is drawn.
You’ll also come across Cargo cards that let you pick up and drop off supplies to gain Resources. These are essentially jobs that you take once you get to the correct planet and set a course for its drop off in order to keep your Resource bar towards the top. You have to be careful, though, as your course may cross paths with the UO or end up on a Planet with UO Markers that will make your job tough if not monitored.
Play continues through rounds as each player takes a turn, moving both Liberty and the UO forces about the board. If players work together and avoid the UO’s ever-seeing eyes, they just might make it through the system alive and with some Resources to boot.
Are the Batteries Full?
Space Movers moved me in a big way. Its gameplay reminds me of a light-hearted Firefly mixed with a bit of Battlestar Galactica, all without the betrayal and backstabbing that you get from those rusted out Toasters. Not only is Space Movers action-packed, it’s got its own story that you’re unraveling as you play through it. If you read the comic book intro to the game (which I HIGHLY recommend you do) then the game takes on a whole new light.
Speaking of the comic book, it’s pretty awesome. The artwork is well-orchestrated, and the storyline is full of humor. I found myself drawn in by the characters, wanting to know more of what happens with their shenanigans. Some would read this and say it’s too close to something like Star Wars or Firefly, but I feel like that’s just what it’s supposed to be – a celebration of those space operas we all love. This is effectively a space opera in a board game that lets players work together as a badass team upon an even more badass spaceship.
The dice rolling mechanic really shook me. I didn’t get it at first, but the more I played the game the more it became second-nature. Not to say that it wasn’t fun, though, as it was always high tension throwing those dice around inside the game box. If you knock any dice out of the box during a roll it’s an automatic failure. So you need to practice dexterity and control in the midst of chaos in order to succeed at these Skill Checks. And believe me, there’s ALWAYS a Skill Check that “needs to be passed or we’re all going to frakking lose!”
KnA Games is still working on the game, and they’ve released extra content for it that keeps the story going. There’s already an Adventure Expansion available for the game that offers up more Objectives for players to complete. Of course, the Objectives each give a little more story as you complete them, giving just a bit more insight into what the crew of the Liberty is dealing with out in the deep black.
Space Movers is a great Game Night game as well as a gateway game to get new players into the mix. It’s definitely replayable, and can be one of those games that’s not so easy to win each time. Of course that only makes you want to play it more, and the space time continuum loop continues. Before you know it you’ll be on your 115th playthrough of the game as its sucked you into its black hole of fun!
Seriously, I really like this game. The only downside to it is that if you’re not into a sci-fi theme or new dice-rolling mechanics this could turn you off. Especially if you’re a “dice thrower” this game might not be one for your list. But if you like crazy space operas, awesome comic-style art, and a unique gameplay experience then sit down and strap in for where Space Movers can take you!