Dale Yu – Review of Wild Space

Wild Space

  • Designer: Joachim Thome
  • Publisher: Pandasaurus
  • Players: 1-5
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Played 3 times with review copy provided by Pandasaurus Games

wild space

Wild Space is a futuristic game where you are competing with your fellow gamers to assemble the best crew to pilot a spaceship to explore the galaxies!  The bulk of the game revolves around the 102 crew cards; comprised of specialists and emissaries of six different animal species as well as robots.  These cards are quite busy with icons for species type, occupation type, bonus scoring, etc found on the small squares.

Each player starts the game with a captain card (the first member of their crew), and each gets the 5 spaceships in a color.  The aforementioned crew cards are shuffled, each player gets a hand of 3 cards and then the remainder is placed as a draw deck on the table.  The top 3 cards of this deck are then laid face up as a display.  Any time you have to draw, you can choose one of the face up cards or take the top of the deck.  The display is immediately replaced before a decision is made on the next card.  At any point on your turn, you can discard a crew card from your hand to wipe the display and have three new cards dealt face up.

The galaxy is represented by five different cards – two starting planet cards, and then one random card each from the “3”, “6”, and “9” decks.   Each planet card has a bottom landing zone  as well as an upper exploration zone.  Additionally, each planet card has two different sides which can be explored.  The starting cards are visible at the start of the game while the “3”, “6”, and “9” cards will be revealed through the course of the game.

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On a turn, the active player has two options – either land one of their 5 spaceships on a planet or use a previously landed ship and explore.  The game will last exactly 10 turns; thus by the end of the game, each of the five ships will land somewhere and each will then explore the planet they landed on.

When landing on a planet, you must choose a target that you can reach, and land on a side of a card which you have not yet explored.  The starting cards are always available, and you can land on the revealed “3” planet card IF you have at least 3 crew cards in front of you.  Remember that you only start the game with a single crew card, your captain.  When you land on a planet, you first check in the bottom left corner to see if there is a cost or requirement for landing there.  This might cause you to discard cards from your hand, or perhaps you have to have certain cards already in your play area.  Make sure you can meet the criteria before landing!  Once this happens, then look to the right for the action gained from landing – oftentimes this is drawing 3 cards, or perhaps playing a card to your crew area from your hand.

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If you choose to explore a planet, you slide one of your previously placed ships upward into the exploration zone.  The action choices here are always the same – either draw 3 crew cards or play one crew card.

So the bulk of this game comes from playing cards to the table.  Again, there are a few types, though they share some common iconography.  In the lower left corner, in a blue circle, you’ll see any conditions that must be met in order to play that card.  Also there, in a grey circle, you’ll see the action provided to you when you first play the card.   Some of the cards come with a veteran medal in the upper left, and these can be important as they allow you to move a marker on your captain card (on the veteran track at the top) – giving you immediate bonuses.

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There are three types of cards.  Specialists come on blue backgrounds, and they have both a species icon in the upper left as well as an occupation icon in the upper right.  Emissaries come on brown backgrounds.  They also have a species icon in the upper left – but in the upper right, they have a unique endgame scoring bonus criteria – often based on species, occupations or a combination of both.  Robots come on green backgrounds; as they are robots, they do not belong to any animal species, but instead they provide VPs in the upper left corner.  They do have occupations in the upper right.  

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Oftentimes, the key here is to get strings of cards that chain together, thus allowing you to play multiple cards on a turn.  You might first play a veteran specialist card whose special ability is to play any Engineer card (occupation=yellow wrench).  You also get to move your veteran marker on your captain card, allowing you to draw an extra card into your hand.  You already have an Engineer card in your hand, so you play it – and this has an icon for draw a crew card and immediately play it.  You do this, and thus you end up playing three cards from your hand to the table, and you also got to draw one card along the way.

When your turn is over, check to see if any new planets have been discovered.  If you are the first player to have 3, 6 or 9 crew cards in front of them, you flip over the planet from the corresponding number deck.  Any player can now land on this planet; but they must have enough crew to do so as stated on the planet card.

The game ends at the end of the tenth round – that is when all players have landed all their ships, and each has explored the planet it landed on.  Then the game moves into the final scoring; which is admittedly a little complicated.  Thankfully the game includes a score sheet to help you tally things up.

  • Sets of like animals – for each species, earn 5 VPs per set of three like animals, and then 5 VPs EACH per animal more than 3.
  • Complete sets of 6 different animals – score 15 VPs for each complete set of 6 different animals
  • Emissary cards – each brown Emissary card has a scoring rubric on it; score for each based on your crew at the end of the game
  • Robots – each green Robot card is worth VPs as shows in their upper left corner
  • Veteran’s Bonus – Each captain has a VP bonus on the Veteran track, score the points if your veteran marker has reached or exceeded the space with the VP printed on it

The player with the most points wins. Ties go to the player with fewest crew cards played. 

My thoughts on the game

From my initial rules reed, Wild Space seemed like it would be a simple game of playing cards to my personal tableau.  In reality, it is actually a little complex – there are a lot of possibilities to chain actions together, and it proved to be a pleasing balance of simple rules but relatively complex gameplay.

The game is mostly solitaire play; there is some indirect competition for cards that are seen in the display, and some of the Emissary bonuses require you to have strictly more of a type of card than any other player – but otherwise, you’re building your crew in your own little sandbox, and there isn’t a lot (well, anything) that your opponents can do to derail your plans.   This sort of game usually works well for me, and I definitely approve of this arrangement.

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The cards are quite varied, and the different combinations of species and occupations coupled with the different possible actions makes the decision of choosing a card to play fairly complex.  That being said, there really aren’t too many different possible ability bonuses, so it’s easy to learn what each card does – the trick is figuring out how to maximize the turn by chaining together actions.  Sometimes, this might mean that you spend a turn or two doing nothing but drawing cards in order to give yourself the best chance to set up one or two nice chains of play.

The varied ways to score points helps you have varied options for playing cards.  I have found that I tend to try to score for the species sets – in one game scoring 20 points for 6 monkeys and 10 points for 4 bears.  That 30 point total alone kept me competitive for the win.  However, the Emissary bonuses and VPs on robots quickly add up, and that gives you another good option for play.  A lot of times, your strategy will be determined by the cards you draw early on – and once you are set on a path, you might be best off trying to make the most of that initial strategy.

The game plays fairly fast, usually 20-30 minutes now.  I’d definitely recommend playing on a large table though.  While the box is small, and the individual cards aren’t very big; we routinely get tableaus of 12 to 16 cards EACH – and this takes up a fair amount of space; and don’t forget that you’ll need to keep an area in the middle for the crew deck and draw tableau.

The game offers some variability in setup with a few different “3”, “6”, and “9” planets -each with varying restrictions on landing and varying actions for landing- but in the end, the bulk of the variability/replayability comes from the near infinite different ways the crew cards can end up in your hand.  The challenge is getting enough cards in your hand to generate synergistic card plays without spending too much time drawing cards rather than playing cards.  After my first game, I felt that players who had a lucky initial hand of cards that let them get to 3 crew cards early might have had a small advantage as they could access the “3” planet first – but in retrospect, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, and things tend to even out over the course of the game.  The rewards of the “3” and “6” planets are not so great that they would cause a runaway leader issue.  And anyways, as each player is limited to their five ships, and each side of a planet can only be visited once, it just doesn’t turn out to be a big deal at all.

The graphics are nice, and there are a lot of whimsical renditions of animal astronauts and robots on the cards.  The cards have a lot of information on them, but the iconography makes it relatively easy to understand.  There are a few icons that I think maybe could have been done a bit better – to keep the icons consistent – but in the end, there aren’t too many different icons, and the entire set fits on the back cover of the rules.  We just left this page face up on the table for everyone to refer to as needed.

If you’re looking for a tactical game that lets you play around with card combinations without forcing you to memorize the composition of the whole deck of cards; this is probably a good fit for you.  Individual turns go fairly fast, but it will take you some time to make a coherent plan; figuring out when it’s best to draw cards and when you need to play cards.  You can’t wait too long for the perfect hand of cards as there are only ten total rounds in the game, so you have to make them all count!

I feel like I liked this one a little bit more than the gamers in my regular group – for me, it reminded me of the card interactions found in deckbuilders or Magic: the Gathering; though to be clear, there is no deckbuilding.  You just try to make the best out of the cards that you have, and that sort of challenge is right in my wheelhouse.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, John P
  • Neutral.  Steph H
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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2 Responses to Dale Yu – Review of Wild Space

  1. Marcel Sagel says:

    But… does the game include pigs? As any Muppet Show fan knows, pigs are the best space-faring animals!

  2. Florian says:

    For new players I copied the icon overview. Agreed:The iconography is okay but could have been easier to understand.

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