This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Number of Players: 1-7
Time: 60-90 minutes
Gamer Type: Team Oriented
Game Type: Cooperative/Mission Driven
If you love space games, then this is one of the games you will want to have on your shelves. The Captain is Dead is a structure oriented game, where your crew must keep the ship running long enough to repair your engines. While you’re doing this, you face a host of troubles that will lower your shields and bring your ship one step closer to oblivion. Do you and your friends have what it takes to command a ship without a captain?
Tell me you love Star Trek without saying “I love Star Trek.” The Captain is Dead has echoes of the Orville in that it is more “Trek” than a lot of the Trek garbage they are putting out these days. With homage to Star Trek, Red Dwarf, and a host of other great sci-fi classics, The Captain is Dead really puts you in the hot seat, even if it isn’t the captain’s chair. One of the great factors is the plethora of different characters you can play, the abilities are balanced, and the skill set really does draw you into that character. Not to mention you are being attacked by aliens as you fly through a field of anomalies, which is cool, too. 8 of 10 for story.
The biggest thing I saw in this game is that they did not go too far down the pseudo port rabbit hole. When building a themed game that hearkens back to legendary stories, there is a temptation to steal their imagery’ look at the United States Space Force, which stole the Federation logo, which itself was stolen from the U.S. Space Command. The artwork in this game is ’50s style art, with sharp edges and that atomic age feel. The board looks like a schematic out of Red Dwarf, which is cool. The box is a standard medium box, which makes storage easy. The insert holds all the pieces. The penultimate feature of this game is the standees. They are amazing, clear plastic with clearly identifiable characters on imaged on. One of the testers stated that these may be better than minis overall, but are undoubtedly better for the price. 8 of 10.
This game has a whole lot going on, which is part of its charm. The characters in the game are scrambling to keep their ship afloat without a captain at the helm. The players need to manage the board in this game and what they do on their turn really dictates what they have to do. While this sounds like talking in circles, every action in the game has a reaction that can make the game harder or easier. For one, we played with a lot of walking around, whereas we could have used the transporter. The randomizer in this game is card based with many decks involved all the time. he combat system is overly simple, but, to its defense, a complex combat system would have made the game a 9 on the complexity scale. Cards and choices are the key to this game, and AEG balanced them well. 7 of 10.
If you go it alone, you die. This game forces you to have a group strategy. If you follow a chain of command and do your job, you will be in a much better position to win – the only problem is that if you are injured, you cannot do your job till you get to the med bay. This means you need to keep as many players at their posts as possible while still moving around to fix systems and get cards to complete the game. Offense can work, defense can work, rush is difficult (but can be done), and engine building (other than actually building your engine) can work (but will be foiled a lot). All four strategies are there, but when you need to use them is constantly shifting, making this a strategic masterpiece. 10 of 10.
There are tons of spaceship games on the market. There are several “fix our ship” games out there too. This one is the best I have seen in the genre, but it is a flooded genre. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I think that The Captain is Dead being the best of a large pack says something about AEG’s ability to put a solid game on the market. They found a space and created an amazing game that outplays others in the area. While not novel, per se, it redefines the genre which makes it a good game in our book. 5 of 10.
You know were are stingy with our 10s here at NRN. With a 10 in strategy all of the GMT guys should be going out to get this game today. With an overall score of 38, this game is a monster of a game. It is a little more difficult than your standard AEG game, which means you may have to watch some play through before you give it a go. Some of the rules are cloudy on your first play; some of the rules are still cloudy after multiple plays. Even some of the rules seem to cause disagreements on the internet (whether you have to be in the engine room or the bridge for the transporter to work, whether you can move out of a room with aliens in it?). If they cleaned up these little errors this could have been the first 40+ game of the year. However, the 38 out of 50 is still a monster score, and this is a great game to have in your collection.
Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.