1-6 players, Semi-Cooperative, Star Ship Survival
Designer: Glenn Ford
Artwork: Henry Peters
Publisher: Man O’ Kent Games
Release Year: 2020
Overview of Gameplay
Very much akin to the movie “Event Horizon” if you’ve seen it, SSO has players assuming the roles of various space people to board and investigate the Star Ship Omega and discover what happened to her crew. The gameplay consists of players drawing and selecting certain movement cards that will allow them to move about the different cabins of the ship which in turn will allow them to manipulate the different systems, ultimately to try and keep the ship stable long enough to burn through the challenge deck and win the game. Read on to gather my thoughts on the different aspects of the game.
Components/ Game Board
After playing a few games I can easily say that this is one that would benefit HUGELY from a total component overhaul. Let’s not be coy here, this is a small box game and you can easily tell it doesn’t have a huge budget to expend for all the bells and whistles. Although I will say that they did add a good amount of quality-of-life component additions with the Rage of Montalbano deluxe expansion (which I would highly recommend getting alongside the core game). Discussing JUST the core game, it’s really small and very easy to just carry around with you which is a plus! BUT, it also lacks SO much that makes the game better component-wise, such as the wooden meeples for your characters, crew dials for oxygen and morale and most importantly, a MUCH better rulebook, which comes with the Rage of Montalbano.
Even with those additions, the game is average component-wise. As I was sitting at my table playing it, I was envisioning a higher quality set. Perhaps cardboard ship location pieces for the playing surface or maybe one of those nice mousepad style playing mats that already has the locations printed on it and spaces for the decks. To be honest IF the game had a playing mat I think I would have enjoyed it more. Overall, it’s easy to pack up and travel with since it’s such a small package even with the deluxe expansion but doesn’t quite fill me up for a home game based on the components alone.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The artwork on the location cards is pretty basic, nothing really caught my eye or stood out as spectacular. I do like how some of the cards have this green monitor look to them like you are reading the info from computer terminals on the ship. But overall, there really isn’t much to see in this game from the art department. Nothing stood out as flashy or interesting which is another thing that I think could be improved in possible future versions.
I like the theme, or rather, the idea of the theme. There are different challenge decks you can add into the game to give yourself a bit of a different taste such as a parasite infection or a crazy captain that’s trying to kill everyone on board. But playing through those they all felt very samey. Most of the cards in each different challenge deck are copies of each other challenge deck, such as losing oxygen with only a few cards that are different pertaining to the specific style of deck like the parasite. They DO give the game flavor but only a small taste and nothing extra flavorful, which is a shame. I would have liked to see completely unique challenge decks to really spice up the replayability.
Ok, so the rulebook included with the SSO core game is abysmal. First off, its black pages with mostly white tiny font print. Very hard to read from that standpoint AND its text upon text upon text with no picture examples of ANYTHING. Just setting the game up to play (there IS a pic of this at least) is a chore. Some advice if you only pick up the SSO core game, just go to the developer’s website and read through the rules from there, it’s much easier to grasp.
Now, there is a MUCH better rulebook that comes with the Rage of Montalbano expansion that goes over things much better. That said, it’s still very much below average. I went through that rulebook when trying to set the game up and got frustrated pretty quickly as there was no card/component glossary to differentiate what all the different cards were. It actually took me quite awhile to figure out how to separate the decks of cards especially since there are apparently TWO sets of the RoM cards that do not have distinguishing markings and I finally found info on those at the very back of the rulebook.
Ultimately, the rulebook suffers from the WAY it’s written more than anything. It’s not a user friendly speak, written almost Algebraic, with LOT’S of steps for everything which in turn makes it more complicated. Heck, even some of the location cards are confusing right out of the gate like the Oxygen Hydro Pod ability: Crew Oxy + Y, Gen Oxy – Y. The first time I read that I thought I was doing a math problem. Overall, NOT an easy game to learn and I would argue with the box saying the learning time of 30 minutes is accurate. Between the rulebook confusion and wrapping your head around the language used I would say learning this would be a minimum of an hour….and that’s just too long for what this game is right out of the box. Even though this is a easy to travel with game, this is not one that I would just whip out as a filler.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
Another knock on this game would be the player interaction…..because, well….it just doesn’t make any sense. It’s labeled as a Semi-Coop but I have such a hard time understanding that label. You are requested to work together from the get-go, to discuss your movement and what you would be working towards fixing on the ship to keep people alive. BUT, when it comes to doing missions, welllllll perhaps you don’t WANT to help with that mission….but WHY?! I mean, ultimately YOU are trying to stay alive until the challenge deck is exhausted (runs out) so why wouldn’t you work together to keep everyone alive? People ARE going to die, the challenge cards basically make sure of that with some of them just flat out targeting rooms that have people in them to shut down all of a sudden. But again, who cares who lives or dies because as long as 1 person is alive, the game is won!
It’s this kind of thing that makes me feel that the game is at odds with itself. And honestly, kind of kills some of the fun factor for me. I think the game would be better served if everyone on the ship was working together AGAINST the ship, not against the ship and MAYBE against other players.
Now, beyond all that I did have a pretty enjoyable time with the game mechanics once I got all the rules figured out. Figuring out where to move your crew to manage the different ship functions (kinda reminds me of that computer game Among Us) to keep the ship going just a little bit longer. And then getting hit with the random challenge card which would toss yet another wrench into what you are doing which in turn gives you a mission that you may or may not try to fulfill depending on the requirements. All that was fun! And if the game was JUST that and cleaned up a bit to make it easier to understand, this would be a solid 7/10 game. But, with the weird semi-coop voting aspect and messy comprehension it’s much lower.
Optimal Player Count/Replay Value
To be honest I think this game is best played as a solo game. I really dislike the voting and semi-coop aspect which I already griped about. So, removing those aspects and just going through the game trying to maintain the ship and hitting up the missions if you can, makes this game a very enjoyable AND replayable experience. As I mentioned earlier there are a number of challenge decks you can add in to give a slightly different flavor to the game. And although I don’t think these decks change it up THAT much, it’s enough to keep you interested at least. I do wish there were more movement options as those get pretty stale after a bit. One thing that I will mention is that there are quite a few different characters to choose from and each one has a unique ability for better or worse. Those alone will give the game a decent amount of replayability when mixed with other cards.
Positive Final Thoughts
It’s a decently thematic space opera survival game. It plays best solo with the semi-coop and voting aspects removed entirely. I would rate the game a solid 7/10 as it stands – 8/10 if it had a nice playmat.
Negative Final Thoughts
Wretched rules and wording make this game MUCH harder to comprehend than it should be. The artwork is pretty drab and doesn’t catch the eye to draw players in. And I despise the odd semi-coop nature and voting aspect in parts of the multiplayer game.
The Bottom Line
I would say if you primarily play solo and you like the space style theming then this is one I would for sure recommend picking up. However, I would NOT recommend picking it up to play with a group as I feel it’s not as nearly as enjoyable.