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Posts Tagged ‘space’

I am so happy it’s May! I’m going to celebrate by talking about … board games!

I’ve been playing board games since I was a little kid. I started out with Hi Ho Cherry-O and Sorry, graduated to Monopoly and Pay Day, and then played Dover Patrol, Risk, and D-Day with my dad. For several years I was a bridge aficionado (although alas, I am without a bridge group right now). And a couple of years ago I started going to a weekly board game night, so now I think about board games more than ever.

My gaming group. They are fantastic!

My gaming group. They are fantastic!

Here are three board games I’ve been really excited about recently:

Battlestar Galactica

I’ve loved this game (and its expansions) for a long time, and it continues to be my absolute favorite board game. It’s a semi-cooperative team game that pits the human players, who want to survive and cover a certain distance, against the Cylon players, who want the human players to die. But you often don’t know who the Cylon players are…and you can find out halfway through the game that YOU are actually a Cylon.

What I love most about this game is its strong narrative and evocative atmosphere. I’m immersed in the story while playing, and it can really get my heart pumping! Also, having secret Cylons is just super fun. On the minus side, it can be intimidating for new players to learn and it can take a looong time to play.

I’ve gotten to play three times recently, twice with the Pegasus expansion (although not the endgame because I’m not a big fan of it) and once with the base set. One complaint I’ve heard about the game is that the Cylons always win, something I’ve always argued against because the humans have won more often in my personal experience. But in these last three games, the Cylons have won all three times. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that in two of those games, I played a Cylon character brilliantly (and I even finally got to be a Cylon leader, hooray!). And in the third game, some of our human players were unhealthily fixated on their newfound power to put people out the airlock. But in any case, I’m looking forward to many more games, and I especially want to play more with the Exodus expansion.

Alien Frontiers

I’m a fan of White Wolf RPGs, which means I love rolling dice, so this game is a great fit for me. Plus it has a space colonization theme. (Actually all three of these games have space themes. I’m sure none of you are surprised.) It’s Yahtzee meets space awesomeness meets strategy. Um, yeah. Also, all of the regions on the planet to be settled are named after science fiction writers. How cool is that! (Although would it have killed them to include ONE female science fiction writer on the planet? Or even more than one? I think not.)

Anyway, I have yet to get bored with this game. You roll your dice (which represent your spaceships) and try to gain a foothold on the science fiction planet based on different combinations of numbers. If you don’t like to rely on the luck of the roll, you can invest in alien technology that allows you to have more control over your dice. And there are ways to thwart other players, particularly those who may be playing just a little too well.

My main critique of this game is that it can be a bit slow going, especially in later rounds. You can’t plan your own turn in advance very well because you don’t know what you’re going to roll (and because of the game mechanics, you just can’t roll ahead). So you can have strategies in mind but not specific implementation plans, so things can get bogged down. But otherwise it’s a fabulous game.

Sadly, it’s out of stock almost everywhere until its planned reprint in Q4 of 2013. On the upside, it will make a great holiday present! And until then, it is available on the iPad if you can’t wait to try it out.

Space Alert

Space Alert is my newest game love, a timed cooperative game in which your group is trying to survive scanning missions in dangerous parts of the galaxy. It’s like a cooperative version of Robo Rally with aspects of Galaxy Trucker, and that cooperative aspect is really what makes the game for me. Each player can choose to move or do actions, and they have to coordinate where they are on the ship and who is going to deal with which threat (the threats include asteroids, saboteurs, aliens, and enemy ships). But all of your actions are decided face-down as the computer (or CD) counts down your time and introduces new threats. Then you play all the actions out to see what ended up happening. Hilarity often ensues as people fire at nonexistent threats, run out of the energy required to do the things they were hoping to do, and try to take robots that someone else has already taken.

I love this game because it’s exciting and all about communication, decisiveness, and taking responsibility. It’s fascinating to see how things break down, and it’s really satisfying when the team works well together. Plus each mission doesn’t take very long, making the game very flexible in terms of time commitment. As for minuses, it’s really better with the missions being played for you on the computer, which means you need a computer and internet connection for best game play (although there is a CD for when that’s simply impossible).

Games I Want To Play More of Soon:

Dune, Eclipse, Illuminati, Arabian Nights, Race to Adventure (and Spirit of the Century, the RPG on which it’s based).

What are your favorite board games right now?

 

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Sometime in the last few months, I read someone’s Tweet about space travel. I don’t remember who it was, but they said something to the effect of how science fiction set in space felt irrelevant or dated to them. Like it was nostalgia and nothing more. Of course, this was right around NASA’s final space shuttle launch, so depression about the space program and the likelihood of humans doing much in space is understandable. But more than the final space shuttle launch itself, that comment depressed me, and I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since.Has space really become so passé that stories involving it are outdated? I began thinking of my own (admittedly small) body of work, almost none of which takes place in space. I have a few subtle nods to the idea that there are humans in space, even though the stories in question take place completely on Earth, and I believe I have one scene of a trunked story that takes place on the Moon. And that’s it. But I’ve written a lot more fantasy and contemporary fiction, so I don’t see myself as indicative. I actually see my lack of space settings as more of an oversight than anything else.

I love space. I love learning about space, and I love reading stories set in space. Many of my all-time favorite novels and series are set in space, and some of the most formative of my reading experiences came from space operas (the Hyperion books and Dune come to mind). As sad as I am that the space shuttle has been discontinued, I would be a whole lot sadder if science fiction that explored the possibilities of space was no longer being written.

Here’s the thing. Economics and politics are always changing. Technology is constantly being developed, and scientists are gaining new knowledge about the world and the universe around us. Our world isn’t a constant–it’s always in a state of flux.

So there aren’t any huge, aggressive space programs right now. Given the present geopolitical and economic climate, this isn’t a huge shocker. But does that mean there never will be a great space program in any country in the world? I don’t think so. The confluence of events, powers, and technologies during and after World War II led to the Cold War and provided the perfect pressure cooker in which the space race could occur. Such a perfect storm could happen again, this time with different political pressures and different emerging technologies.

In the meantime, it is science fiction that keeps the dream of space alive, whether that be in literature, film and TV, or video games. It reminds us of what is possible. Beyond that, space provides an evocative backdrop for storytelling, in which we can enjoy stories of truly epic scope, explore the other (often in the form of an alien race), celebrate innovation and a spirit of adventure, and encounter different cultures and ways of being human.

Just in the past few days, I saw another Tweet from someone who said they were watching Firefly just to see the spaceships. And i09 had an article about how we need more space adventures. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my love for and appreciation of fiction set in space. Yes, I’m an optimist in a gloomy time, but I hope I can find space in science fiction for a long time to come.

ETA: Just found another great article on the importance of science fiction that seems relevant to this conversation: China has decided that science fiction is the key to its future success in invention and design of new products.

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