Game Review: Jump Drive

A quick card game review—

Jump Drive. 2–4 players, 10–30 min.

2007’s Race for the Galaxy remains one of the very best and most deeply satisfying games I have ever played. Ten years later, Jump Drive is the no-calories version. It’s literally a direct simplification, from the same designer and using many of the original’s card titles and art with closely related but less complex mechanics. Whereas Race arguably has somewhat of a learning curve that yields an impressively elegant system, Jump is just straightforward. It’s definitely a “filler” game, not nearly as deep in strategy or storybuilding as the original. But in that role Jump is very solid. It’s short and sweet, with just enough decision making and theme along the way. Right when you start to wonder how interesting the game actually is, you realize this is the last round and you need to make a couple very optimized decisions if you’re going to win. So in no way does Jump Drive replace Race for the Galaxy, but it seems a lot more friendly to introduce to more casual gamers, or to play when you’re really pressed for time. Overall a valuable contribution to the RftG franchise.

Baleful First Prototype (Updated)

First goofing around with pieces on the table of a new game I’ve been thinking about off and on for a bit now: Baleful.

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Next day update: Now we’ve got a whole world to play in!

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Most fundamentally, codifying line of sight and movement with straight walls over the hex grid was looking to be too complex. Definitely possible, but lots of awkward edge cases and not fast to play. So now all the terrain is on hex bases so that it can clearly occupy entire cells. The segments with angled ends are to enable making right angle corners in the walls. It looks a little funny with the odd indentation where walls meet, but the readability for gameplay is very clear, and it looks and plays a lot better than having lots of 60° corners.

The scatter terrain is a mix of computer consoles (two-hex segments), equipment (bigger boxes), crates (smaller boxes), and barrels (cylinders). They provide cover as well as serving as objectives.

A long long time ago I made a very simple prototype sci-fi dungeon crawl using 20mm Micro Machines Star Wars figures that my buddy Daryl and I played a bunch of times. It used hex tiles rather than the standard dungeon crawl square grid tiles. They were a real pain to cut out, but made for a different tactical experience. That prototype also had neat little 3D papercraft crates and computer consoles on which I’d drawn screens and controls and such, so this harkens back to that nicely. By far the highlight of those testing sessions was when the Rebels unlocked a door and accidentally let loose a Rancor. Fun times were had by all!