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Space Defenders


Néstor Romeral Andrés

Nestor Games

No. of Players:



Gamebox author Lutz Wildt writes about the game:

From the late 1970s until the late 1980s a dangerous extra-terrestrial threat took place: Spaceships in huge numbers tried to conquer the earth. With its slow and uniform movement the invaders attacked the planet in apparently infinite numbers and with never ending power. But brave defenders in their spaceships tried to save the world from capture and destruction. You don't remember that? Then go back in history to the amusement halls of that time with their popular game consoles. Or remember the Atari 2600 console, placed in the living rooms of the self-made-airmen. The fierce combat was fought out in 8-bit graphics and with joystick control. One of the most popular games of that time was Space Invaders by ACTIVISION.

NESTORGAMES teleports this digital fight from the ´80s TV-sets to the analogue game tables of the present age. And Nestor did a great job adopting the mechanics and feeling of the original game. You really think you are back in history, playing the Atari 2600 game. Of course there is no screen and no electronic device. But the defenders, bomb tokens and the mine are made of high quality laser cut plastic, and they look like the 8-bit originals from the console game. The invaders are represented by 8-bit style square tiles too.

The setup is easily done. On one side of the board, the space monsters are placed randomly in the first four topmost rows. On the other side, the defenders are placed in playing order anticlockwise in the bottom row. Finally a mine is placed on the leftmost space between the 2nd and 5th row.

But how ist the boardgame played? Basically Space Defenders follows the same game structure as the original game. The two striking differences are that on the one hand all defenders fight together on the board at the same time, and on the other hand the invaders are unarmed (only when an invader collides with a defender, the defender and the invader are both removed from the game). So, the game is cooperative, because the defenders lose together, if one of the invaders reaches the bottom row of the board. However, in case the last invader can successfully removed from the board, the game ends in victory and the earth is defended. So, the game is competitive too, because then the player with the most points wins the game.

That leads us to the scoring mechanism: To put in in a nutshell, to score you have simply to bring down the invaders! A player´s turn consists of the following steps: First you can move your spaceship in a straight line across empty spaces, either orthogonally or diagonally, ending on an empty space. Secondly your spaceship shoots straight ahead and hits the first object on this way. In return for the downing, the player gains a number of victory points depending on the type of object.

You must know that invaders come in various shapes: Space monsters are worth as many victory points as the number of their eyes (1-5). The flying saucer gives you 10 points, but only after it is hit for the second time, as it consists of two parts. If you shoot a fellow defender in a friendly fire, you can take the lowest valued victory tile from the reserve of your opponent. As a result, you can use this friendly fire to increase your chances to win the game. But of course you must be careful, because in this case you cannot remove one of the real enemies, and you risk loosing the game for all players. Finally, if you hit the mine nothing happens.

A player ends his turn moving move the mine. That´s more or less the whole game! Of course, like in the electronic example, there is also a constant replenishment of invaders in the game. If at least one of the columns is completely emptied of invaders, they all move one space downwards, and the topmost row of the board is randomly filled up with invaders again. There should always be enough targets to shoot, collect points and win the game. A special option (once per game) is to use the mine. It costs 10 points from the reserve, but when you use it, you can bring down all invaders in a whole row at once, and earn all the victory points.

Space Defenders is like a journey through the time. Those of you who experienced the 8-bit-times by themselves like me, will probably love the game just because of its excellent transformation from the old computer game concerning the look and the rules. The others might need some lessons in console-history first. But this should be no problem, because the player with the best arcade game anecdote goes first.

With the straightforward rules, the game is a very fast one comparable to the console game. After a few rounds the players manoeuvre their spaceships automatically, and target the spots on the “screen” which allows them to shoot the highest score invader. Although the rules are pretty simple, there are same tactical decisions to be made like blocking the fellow-players with the mine or your own spaceship, or forcing the reinforcement of the horde in order to bring another spaceship in difficulties. However, players should never forget: The game has still its cooperative side! In order to win, all invaders have to be destroyed. And this could become pretty hard, if you are the last man standing.

From my point of view, Space Defenders is a great looking game, and also a pretty cool adaption of the console game. If you don´t have much time to play or if you already have played a long game before, Space Defenders could be a good choice, because it is easy to learn, and the setup takes nearly no time. And of course, you can use it in order to give some arcade history lessons to your children too.

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