The Captain is Dead Board Game Review (First Impressions)

Here’s a “survive dire straits” scenario as the players are crew members on a damaged starship under attack by aliens and the captain has just been killed. Can a random assortment of lower level crew hold off the aliens and stem the damage long enough to repair the jump core and escape to safety?

 

captainisdead

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this curiously themed cooperative game, dripping with Star Trek homages and a combination of tongue in cheek humor and impending doom.

If ever there was a game that exceeded my expectations, it’s The Captain is Dead. The odd premise is incredibly fun and engaging from the moment the game begins, as well as being ingeniously integrated into the gameplay and highly engrossing.There’s a real sense of entropy that the players need to get ahead of to succeed.

The mechanics are solid and really conductive to the game’s feel of being able to respond just enough to the ever increasing pressure.  Little touches like random starting damage to the ship and distinct, useful player abilities contribute to the immersion. The implementation of the starships various “systems” is a fantastic hook. In general powered up versions of basic actions are available until/unless that system goes down. It makes it important to repair things and gives the players important decisions while still allowing a minimum level of effectiveness and choice when things are damaged/destroyed.

The group will need to react to the situation as needed, so there is the possibility of some players could have to to run a lot of “damage control” and end up doing the same things over and over. A willingness to adjust play style to what’s needed is key, so this admittedly might not necessarily appeal to players who prefer to be proactive and have total control over their role in the game.

The replayability for this looks to be incredibly high. The random elements in terms of the order of increasingly severe obstacles and a simple but deep card based approach to skills and actions provide great variability from game to game on their own. On top of that though is a variety of player roles with unique powers that have a big effect on gameplay. Changing just one of the four characters we were paying with would have completely changed our strategy and made for a significantly different experience.

With four players (three of us were new to the game) things seemed balanced at like the game would scale well to different player counts. With a bit of luck we survived by the skin of our teeth on “Veteran” difficulty (the exact middle of the seven possible levels), which seemed reasonable with a couple of seasoned gamers at the table. Success felt difficult but possible, which is exactly what a good co-op should strive for.

Great co-op all around. Maybe not something I’d want to play constantly due to its specific nature, but definitely one I want to revisit at some point. Highly recommended for anyone who’s ok with reactive gameplay and the quirky sci-fi setting.

 

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