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SpaceCorp 2025-2300AD - a Punchboard Review

A Updated April 13, 2022
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
1505 0
SpaceCorp 2025-2300AD - a Punchboard review

Game Information

Publisher
Players
1 - 4
There Will Be Games

After the brain-melting complexity of Gandhi (which is absolutely fantastic, by the way), today I’m looking at another GMT Games game. SpaceCorp 2025-2300AD isn’t a COIN game, but it is a game played on a grand scale, with a large amount of strategy and planning involved.

If you saw the words ‘GMT Games’ in the previous paragraph, and you’re expecting to read a review of a war game, think again. SpaceCorp is a game of exploration, expansion, and exploiting the precious resources found on other planets and asteroids. In fact, I guess you could call it a 3X game, instead of a 4X, as there’s not much in the way of extermination going on. You don’t need me to tell you that 4X has been done to death, but what I can tell you is that SpaceCorp does things differently to the vast majority of exploration games out there.

Economies of scale

Or more accurately, economies and scale. SpaceCorp has both in abundance. As you might have gathered from the game’s name, you’re running corporations, and in the not-too-distant future there’s big bucks to be made in space. Throughout the game you’ll be trying to turn a profit, mainly by running production on your various outposts and buildings as they’re built, but also by beating others to some shared objectives.

SpaceCorp 01

Currency is just currency at the end of the day though. What makes SpaceCorp so exciting is the sheer scale of the game as it progresses. The full game is split into three eras, each with its own board, with each successive era introducing new rules and variances into the game. It’s a bit like a game coming with modular expansions, that are gradually added in.

The first era sees your fledgling corporation building its foundations in the relative safety of this side of the asteroid belt. From there, your small steps turn into giant leaps, as you broaden your horizons toward the outer solar system, and the vast distances and radiation dangers that come along with it. The third, and final, era takes you interstellar, heading to nearby star systems to continue your expansion. The exponential layers of distance and scale each era introduces, make it feel like a truly epic undertaking.

It’s not rocket science

The biggest surprise when it comes to playing SpaceCorp 2025-2300AD is how easy it is to play. If your preconception of a GMT game is something akin to a physical spreadsheet on the table, you’ll be surprised with how simple, and refined, things are in space. Movement, exploration, building, and research are all driven by cards. Instead of cards filled with detailed artwork and fluff text, there are huge, colour-coded boxes, with bold text explaining the value of each. It’s a brilliant design choice, as it removes a layer of comprehension, leaving you free to concentrate on what you want to do, instead of trying to understand if you can do it. I wish more games did it this way.

SpaceCorp 02

The basic gameplay loop is very quick and easy. Choose an action, see if anything else gets triggered by your action, discard any played cards and refresh your hand and the display. Despite turns ticking over at warp speed, it’s a long game. In order to move around, craft your deck and player board, and build everything you’ll need to boldly go, you end up needing a lot of actions.

Every other player is trying to (largely) do the same as you, so strategy really comes to the fore. If your plans hang by a thread, due to you needing to build on a certain moon or asteroid, and someone gets there first, it’s like someone poking holes in your spacesuit. It’s a great example of indirect player interaction, perfect for the sort of person who doesn’t like the warfare of something like Twilight Imperium.

Solo play

SpaceCorp comes with a very slick solo opponent. Its turns are dictated by flipping cards, and instead of adding in a separate solo deck, as many games do, SpaceCorp does something clever. On the bottom of each of the cards of the three decks in the game (one per era) are the instructions for the bot of another era. Flip a card, consult the reference card, and do what it tells you to. It’s absolutely effortless to run, which is my biggest prerequisite in a good automa opponent.

SpaceCorp 03

The bot does a good job of letting you practice the game, and it’s neither too easy nor too difficult to beat, which is great. My biggest disappointment with the bot is that it doesn’t really mirror how a human would play. As an example, if you want to build somewhere, you need to move one of your cubes there. If you’re playing against a person, when they move a cube somewhere, you’ve got a reasonable idea of the sort of thing they might be up to. The bot, however, is random, so it’s next turn might be something else on the opposite side of the board.

It’s not a dealbreaker for me. I still get to play a great game on my own, and learn how to build the engines of industry that’ll propel me to intergalactic glory. Just don’t expect an opponent that feels clever.

Final thoughts

SpaceCorp 2025-2300AD is a very good space exploration game. It captures that same feeling of near-future sci-fi that Terraforming Mars does, for example, but it feels much more thematic. A large part of that is due to the way nothing dives into too much detail. There’s no over-the-top explanation of how the refineries look, or what they do – they’re just a cardboard disc you drop on the board. That’s just one example, but this abstraction allows you to focus on the bigger picture: your corporate machinations in space.

I was so surprised at the relative lightness of the game, especially with it coming from GMT. It’s not light light, it’s a solid middleweight game, but it’s a game you can teach to someone and have them compete at in the same night. I love the fact you can just stop after one or two eras if you don’t have enough time to play all three, and still have the experience of having played a full game, not just a part of one. On the flip-side of this, the way certain things carry over from one era to the next means that it doesn’t feel like three disjointed games, one after the other.

SpaceCorp 04

Clear iconography, great reference cards, three different boards, a ton of cards and so many different ways to approach the game. There’s a lot to like about SpaceCorp. The solo bot is a great addition, with the caveat I mentioned above, and I love the way the options available expand in-line with your own exploration. I remember feeling genuine tension at the first time I had to cross the radiation zones on the Planeteer board. For a game that looks as plain as this does at times, it draws you in like you wouldn’t believe.

If you want a sci-fi theme and a ruleset that won’t make your brain dribble out of your ears, SpaceCorp 2025-2300AD is the way to go.

Review copy kindly provided by GMT Games. Thoughts and opinions are my own. All photographs ©Scott Mansfield.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
4.5
SpaceCorp 2025-2300AD
In space, no-one can hear when you're trying to find which of the three boards you need to start the game. Space-faring fun from GMT.
A
1 reviews
Adam Richards (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Adam lives in Cornwall, UK. He has been playing tabletop games in a ‘serious’ way (i.e. something other than Cluedo and Blackjack) for 10+ years now. If it goes on a table, he's happy to play pretty much anything, as long as it’s not roll-and-move. However, he loves Eurogames most of all, especially anything with worker placement or a rondel, as well as social and hidden-role games. His favourite designers are Alexander Pfister, Shem Phillips, Stefan Feld and Uwe Rosenberg.

Outside of board games he has a lifelong obsession with videogames, and loves gardening, space exploration and pretty much anything nerdy in the slightest. You can find more of his reviews and articles on his site - Punchboard Reviews

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Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #332314 14 Apr 2022 20:52
I have one fundamental disagreement with your review. I think GMT completely dropped the ball on the art in this game. Some of it is really very impressive, yet it is relegated to small windows on cards that have pretty overwhelming gray backgrounds. A wasted opportunity to feature some fine work. And frankly the effects of the cards, the big colored rectangles that largely have a single digit of useful information beyond their color suck up much of what remains of the card. I almost get the feeling that this is what the playtest cards looked like, and no one with enough imagination considered how the cards could be changed for the published game.

So, you compare it to Terraforming Mars and I think that's fair, or at least would be fair if SpaceCorp had done much of what Terraforming Mars did in its exposition -- show the art big and put that nerd-fest science factoids on each card so that "Nano Slicers" could have some cool science added that describes how it works and what it does. As it stands now, a Nano Slicer is simply a Build 5/Genetics 3 card. Nothing very interesting to look at. I don't mind losing at Terraforming Mars because the cards are so damn cool. This game is far more mechanical in nature due to the setting being relegated to at best a supporting role.

I think the game would have greatly benefited from a complete redesign of the cards, and still could in a version 2 at some point in the future.

I traded my copy away, and I was pre-pub on this one. Looked like really my thing. But in the end it proved mechanically sound, but not terribly interesting from a science point of view. It also didn't have any of the science that appears in the books of the same title, which are associated with it (and this isn't just the art thing above -- the types of science in the books doesn't appear to be represented in the game at all.) I don't know, maybe I set my expectations too high. It was a Butterfield title with about as cool a theme as you can get, and good books associated with it. I was pretty pumped when I got the shipping notice.

One of my buddies wants to play it again and we don't have a copy. Perhaps I should give this another go now that it's been a few years. I'm in my late fifties now, and am more measured.
logopolys's Avatar
logopolys replied the topic: #332317 14 Apr 2022 21:44
This game gets a lot of plays from me, solo and multiplayer, base and expansion. One thing I'll note is while the bot doesn't really play exactly like a human opponent (as you observe), it does forecast most of its plays, so you always theoretically have time to react. In this sense, it feels like a live opponents, since at its core, SpaceCorp is a racing game.
adamr's Avatar
adamr replied the topic: #332326 15 Apr 2022 10:10

Sagrilarus wrote: I have one fundamental disagreement with your review. I think GMT completely dropped the ball on the art in this game.

It's funny isn't it, that it was the complete opposite for me. I find the teach very easy with SpaceCorp because of the clarity of the actions and numbers, and I love being able to see at a glance what my opponents can or can't do on their boards. Different stroke for different folks, and all that :).
adamr's Avatar
adamr replied the topic: #332327 15 Apr 2022 10:12

logopolys wrote: This game gets a lot of plays from me, solo and multiplayer, base and expansion. One thing I'll note is while the bot doesn't really play exactly like a human opponent (as you observe), it does forecast most of its plays, so you always theoretically have time to react. In this sense, it feels like a live opponents, since at its core, SpaceCorp is a racing game.

I know what you mean, it's just when I play with a human and they go somewhere, I know there's a very good chance their next play will be to the same location, and it might mean I go somewhere else in reaction. Against the bot though, there's a very good chance it'll be two, three, or more turns before they do, so I can reactively go after the space.
Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #332344 15 Apr 2022 16:00

adamr wrote:

Sagrilarus wrote: I have one fundamental disagreement with your review. I think GMT completely dropped the ball on the art in this game.

It's funny isn't it, that it was the complete opposite for me. I find the teach very easy with SpaceCorp because of the clarity of the actions and numbers, and I love being able to see at a glance what my opponents can or can't do on their boards. Different stroke for different folks, and all that :).


Agreed. I did a fair amount of playtesting on this and never saw anything but the final art. While Terraforming Mars may have cooler art, the difference is that in a multiplayer game of SPACECORP, its nice to be able to clearly see across the table not only the cards in the offer table, but the cards in other players' INFRA in case you want to copy theirs on your turn.