Space Base or the Brutal and Calculated Murder of Machi Koro

I’ve never seen a crime scene like this before. Cards ripped in half and sprayed across the tiled living room floor. Dice smashed into small pieces. And the box ripped in two. The gruesome nature of the murder points to one thing.

A crime of passion.

Picture of Space Base's cover. A lot of rocket ships flying away from a satellite.

Name: Space Base

Players: 2-5

Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group

Designer: John D. Clair

Artists: Chris Walton

This review is a bit of a hit piece on Machi Koro. A game I loved. The simplicity of its engine building made for a quick, clever, replayable game on top of a cute city building theme. It exuded fun like chocolate from a melted Easter egg. Until two weeks ago, I thought it was the best game of its type.

It’s not.

Space Base blows it out of the atmosphere. This isn’t because the two games are similar. It’s because Space Base has been designed by someone who analytically dissected and systematically addressed all the shortcomings of Machi Koro. Whether or not that’s true, it certainly plays like it.

The Space Base market place. Four rows of six cards each. Each row more powerful than the last.
We need cards… lots of cards

Let’s start with the biggest and best difference between the two games. In Machi Koro you have a choice before you roll. Do you want to roll one or two die? And what you roll is the number you get for your turn. In Space Base you’re always rolling two die. And the decision you’re making is do I take the total sum of the two die, or take the two individual values?

This isn’t a decision you make alone. Everyone around the table has the same choice about the die you rolled. It’s an engaging decision that keeps everyone involved throughout the length of game.

It’s also the Sun that brings life to the rest of the mechanics in the galaxy.

Which looks like a pretentious metaphor as I’ve written it. But it’s true, the rest of the mechanics introduced in Space Base would not nearly be as exciting without it.

Back to Machi Koro. It has three main types of cards. Green which activate on your turn. Blue which activate on anyone’s turn. Red that activates on other player’s turn. Space Base streamlines this by only having one main type: blue cards that activate on your turn. Though you can only have one blue card in each 1-12 slot, when you replace a card in an activatable slot, its secondary red power is added to your tableau. From now on, this red power activates on everyone else’s turns.

This both simplifies the mechanics from Machi Koro and makes the game more engaging.

A Space Base player board mid way through the game.
Feeling good about this game!

As you can imagine, Machi Koro often left you in a place where you have a minor focus on green and red cards. Making other player’s turns a great time to retreat into your phone and check the latest review on Roll to Review. Try that in Space Base and it will slap you in the face. It forces you to have an array of cards that activate on everyone else’s turn. Meaning you’re always invested in die rolls – and the dicey decision you must make.

The other benefit of this red blue switcheroo is the speed at which your engine builds. Every buy gives you a new activatable power for your turn, as well as a power for everyone else’s.

This also adds a layer of strategy not found in Machi Koro. You must now give something up to build your engine. This can be sometimes heartbreaking as generally the strength of blue powers far outweighs their red counterpart.

While talking strategy, it is another differentiator between the two board games. While both follow a similar flow: build an engine until you’re ready to transition to victory points. Machi Koro focuses on negatively affecting your opponents, with their red and special cards. Space Base differs by introducing dice number manipulation, and activatable abilities. Creating a more joyful experience that leads you to consistently pull off smart plays and crazy combos.

An example of a combo. Sectors 9 and 11 pointing to Sector 10 which gives 3 points. Meaning on a roll of 9/10/11 I will get 3 points. Pretty sweet!
Cheeky 3 point combo

I say consistently because despite Machi Koro’s 4-4-2 variant, it was difficult to see and plan multi-card combos. This limited the strategy to buying cards for their singular strength.

Space Base took one look at this and said: yeah that’s going to be a no from me, dog.

Because Space Base has players always rolling two die. They aren’t concerned with separating the cards based on die number. Instead they separate the cards into three power levels. Which smooths out the levelling up of your engine, but also adds another strategic dimension to the game. Will you buy the Tesla cards? Or hit up craigslist to see what’s in your area?

The market offers 6 cards per power level. With 18 cards on offer, it’s extremely rare that you don’t want something.

There’s more to Space Base that I’ve yet to mention. But at this point I can’t carry on my Machi Koro comparison. So to keep it brief. They’ve added a new currency: fuel. And colony cards, which wipe out your blue slots in exchange for points. Both are great additions as they both open up alternate paths and strategies to victory.

However, this added goodness comes with an increased learning curve and time to play. This is where Machi Koro still stands strong.

Additionally, the rule book for Space Base should have gone to an editor one more time as there are more grammatical errors than contained in this review

For me, Space Base is a surprise. I didn’t think Machi Koro would be displaced so easily. But have you heard stories about twins in the womb? Where one twin eats the other, and becomes more powerful than you can ever imagine? That’s Space Base. Both these games stem from the same idea, but everything is done so much better in Space Base. It’s a great addition to my collection, and hard to see how something can top it. Critical Hit!

Chester trying to sleep.
Chester trying to sleep again.

Last day of work tomorrow before a 10 day break from work. I’m looking forward to it. Not that I’m doing anything, but I’ve been mighty tired recently. So if nothing else I’m looking forward to sleeping… a lot.

There may also not be a post next week because of the break. Or there may be several. I’m not sure just yet!

What I’m sure about is catching up on T.V. shows sometime throughout. I have watched nothing but all 9 seasons of The Office recently. So it’s time to branch out and see what else is going on. I’m open to suggestions.

12 comments

  1. I’ve played Valeria Card Kingdoms once and it’s pretty good. I can see the comparisons between it and Space Base, and I think I like Space Base a bit more.

    However, i do like that when you are applying dice rolls for your resources/card effects, you apply *both* each individual dice as well as the total. So you are in effect checking three numbers.

    That’s pretty cool.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Personally, I could see both in the collection. They are different themes and there are some differences that make them both interesting.

        If you must have only one, though, I’d say Space Base. 🙂

        Caveat: I’ve only played Valeria once while I’ve played Space Base 8 times, so my opinion may be skewed…

        Liked by 1 person

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