SpaceShipped is a solo card game about being a space merchant or trader. You travel from Planet to Planet, reacting to hazards, and upgrading your ship while attempting to buy low and sell high. All of this is stuffed into a tiny little 18-card game package.
You can find a video version of this review on my YouTube Channel.
Button Shy makes games that fit into a wallet. I’m pretty picky about what games I cover, but ever since I reviewed Battlecrest, a skirmish game in just 18 cards. I’ve been incredibly curious to see what else they could do within the confines of the 18-card concept.
For this review, I am reviewing SpaceShipped with four mini-expansions. Each expansion adds five additional cards, however, you separate them into card types and deal out a set number of each that totals to 18 cards. I’m reviewing them together since the expansions don’t change the core of how SpaceShipped plays, they just add additional variety. Plus the entire set only comes to $28 dollars anyway.
|Gideon’s Bias||SpaceShipped Information|
|Review Copy Used: Yes||Publisher: Button Shy|
|Number of plays: 10+||Designers: Lucas Gentry|
|Player Counts Played: 1||Player Count: 1|
|Fan of Genre: Partially||Genre: Solitare, Resource Management, Puzzle|
|Fan of Weight: No||Weight: Light|
|Gaming Groups Thoughts: N/A (Solo game)||Price: $12 for the base game, 4$ per expansion|
The Button Shy method of game design includes a set of multi-use cards and a nifty Wallet to store them in. The artwork looks great. It captures the feel of a science fiction setting quite well and reminds me of a few old-school video games in a lot of ways. I really love that each card has a tiny glimpse of a planet and they are all wildly different. It’s a small thing, but one that I appreciated.
Naturally, the game is easy to set up, and a great travel companion given its wallet-sized nature. I was particularly impressed, however, that I was able to fit all four expansions in the wallet without a problem.
The compact rulebook had the potential to be messy and leave aspects of the game undefined given its tiny scale. But it did a great job of teaching me the game, and I took to it very quickly.
Since the game only uses 18 cards at a time, each card fills multiple functions. The artwork, overall design, and iconography do a great job of defining each mechanical aspect in a way that’s easy to understand and intuitive to use. For example, on one side of the card, you have an Orbital Encounter, Planetside Encounter, and a Marketplace, each contained in a well-defined section of the card.
Flip that card over, and you have a Ship upgrade with the relevant text, turn that card upside down, and you have a trade good. It’s very clever and works exceptionally well.
That said, the cards are pretty thin, they have to be in order to fit into the wallet. You do need to do quite a bit of shuffling in SpaceShipped, so you have to be extra careful not to damage them.
At the start of each game, you’re given The Blue Herring starter ship, Basic Shielding, a Rookie Crew, and three mega credits. You track your ship’s shield and hull by sliding your equipment card below the correct row of your ship card, and you track your mega credits by sliding your crew card just below the correct amount on the Wealth card. It’s very clever
The goal of the game is to have two Xeno Crystals in your cargo hold before your enemy. Xeno Crystals always cost 20 mega credits, so you have to earn some cash first.
The main way to make money is by trading goods. As the game progresses, cards move and shift around changing the gear you can buy, what trade goods are available, the events you encounter, and the cost of those goods. SpaceShipped is largely a manipulation puzzle in addition to resource management.
At the start of a turn, you will always have a colony row of three planets, a choice of three upgrades you can purchase, and the rest will make up a row of trade goods. First, you encounter the Orbital event of the leftmost colony card, then a planetside event on the middle colony card. Finally, you are able to purchase upgrades or buy and sell goods from the market. The prices of every good are dictated by the market portion of the third colony card.
It’s all pretty straightforward, and the game does a pretty good job of making you feel like a space trader. You essentially encounter events en route to the market, and then choose how to buy and sell your goods, and obtain upgrades.
Upgrades can be really useful. You can get stronger shields, new crews, or whole new ships. Bigger ships can have larger cargo holds as well, allowing you to ferry more resources at a time. That’s important because Xeno Crystals take up cargo space, and you need two to win.
At the end of a turn, everything shifts, and this is where SpaceShipped really becomes a puzzle. First, the right-most colony card flips and becomes a new upgrade card added to the upgrade row. This means that you can always anticipate your next Planetary Encounter since it will be the same card that you had an Orbital Encounter with the last turn.
Next, you rotate the rightmost upgrade card so that its resource is facing up, and you add it to the trade row. Finally, you flip the rightmost trade row card to the colony side. This will form the new Orbital Encounter for the round, and the planetary encounter next round.
In this way, you can also track market fluctuations. If you notice that Asteroids are going for one mega-credit now, but next turn they will be priced at three mega-credits. You can know you can stock up on them and sell them for a profit next turn.
Advance planning is the key to the game. You never know what your Orbital Encounter is going to be, but you can predict some of the market changes, your planetary encounters, and which trade good and upgrade is going to leave next turn. However, you don’t have the luxury of taking your time. You have an enemy vying for those crystals.
Each time a Xeno Crystal flips, you turn the enemy card 90 degrees. When the number one is up, that crystal is removed from the game, and you flip the card, if it happens again, you lose. You can also lose if your ship is destroyed.
The race for the crystals means you can’t simply buy resources willy-nilly. Each time you buy one, you cause a slight shift in the row. Any Xeno Crystals to the left of what you just purchased, are that much closer to flipping down and triggering the enemy card.
SpaceShipped manages to be a very cerebral game despite its simplicity. It’s not simply a matter of just generating credits to buy the crystals. You have to plan on making a profit amid the upcoming events and how your manipulation of the cards will affect future turns, especially the positioning of the Xeno Crystals.
Since the Orbital Encounter is always unpredictable. It has just the right amount of randomness to prevent you from outright solving the puzzle, which means you have to constantly adapt and that’s great.
You have to make some tough decisions. Many upgrade cards make your life easier, but can you spare the credits to buy them? Timing is a pretty big deal in SpaceShipped, and a poorly timed purchase can cause you to lose a Xeno Crystal to the enemy.
The expansions add cards with pretty simple tweaks to help spice things up. They add new enemy cards you can use. They generally follow the same principle but have new abilities. The Chaos Hunter, for example, steals resources from your cargo hold. On the other hand, a card with Market Flux forces you to use the prices listed on the left-most colony card instead of the right-most. Each little expansion adds a nice bit of variety to the game
As thoughtful as the game is, SpaceShipped is exceptionally simple to the degree that there isn’t a whole lot that you are doing to actually play it. When you break it down, on most turns you are simply deciding how to spend your credits and goods. A few events give you a choice, but many of them are simply things that are happening to you, rather than something you interact with.
On one hand, this means that the gameplay in SpaceShipped flows extremely fast. You can play multiple turns in under a minute. On the flip side, there just isn’t a lot you’re engaging with either.
When I reviewed Battlecrest, I was impressed by the amount of depth the game managed to capture in just 18 cards. While I love the cleverness of how the cards are used in SpaceShipped, I don’t have that same level of awe and wonder.
SpaceShipped being a categorically light game isn’t strictly a bad thing. Especially since it’s a solo game that fits in your pocket. It may not be something I’ll pull off my shelf to play, but it’s certainly something I’ll shove in my pocket whenever I’m going anywhere with some downtime. A small flat surface is all I need to play it, and it makes for a wonderful lunch break game.
SpaceShipped offers a thoughtful and unpredictable puzzle that’s a real challenge to solve and has a surprising amount of replay value, even without the expansions. However, picking up the game and all four expansions is a relatively inexpensive commitment, and doing so amplifies the game’s strengths further. That makes going all in on it a pretty easy recommendation for me to make.
The cardholders I use in my reviews are courtesy of InfinitionsTabletop on Etsy
Pick up SpaceShipped from these stores
- Quick set up and very portable
- The multi-use cards are implemented in a clever way
- It’s a very cerebral game with a challenging and replayable puzzle to solve
- A great solo game to play on a lunch break
- Low price
- Fast-paced gameplay
- Thin cards and shuffling means you have to be very careful not to damage them
- For the most part, you are only engaging with a single gameplay mechanism