“It is difficult to say what is impossible,
for the dream of yesterday
is the hope of today
and the reality of tomorrow.”
– Robert Goddard
Relive the golden age of space exploration in this set collection game designed by Yuri Zhuravlev and published by 25th Century Games. Space Explorers supports 2-4 players, ages 12+, and lasts about an hour. Build a team of Specialists and launch projects into space!
How to Play
Each player starts with a set of five Research tokens and a single Specialist card in hand. They also have a Research & Development Hub, ready to hold up to five columns of Specialist cards.
Form a Specialist Research Center in the center of the table with 6 face up Specialist cards. Next to this, set out randomly-selected Project tiles.
On your turn, you can either add a Specialist to your hand, or you can “recruit” a Specialist into your R&D Hub.
After doing either of those actions, check to see if you fulfill the requirements for a Project.
Recruiting a Specialist
To recruit a Specialist card, you must pay its research cost. Whether you’re recruiting from your hand or from the center does not matter.
Mix and match from the following three methods to pay for recruiting a Specialist:
- Pay Research tokens, passing them to your neighbor on the left.
- Discard one or more cards from your hand to the center – each card discarded counts for two Research icons of any type.
- Some Specialists in your Hub may provide Research icons that you can use each turn when recruiting.
You also get a discount on the cost for each Specialist already in the Division (column) where the new card will be placed.
Many of the Specialist cards have abilities that come in to play once they’re in your Hub – as long as they’re still visible. (in-game abilities go away once a card is covered by a new Specialist).
Complete a Project
It’s nice that our Specialists are making friends, but the reason we want them in our Hub is to do research!
At the end of your turn, compare the skill icons from all the Specialists in your Hub with the requirements for available Projects. If you meet or exceed the requirements, you can take one! It will add to your score at the end of the game.
The game ends after someone either:
- takes the last Project, or
- recruits their 12 Specialist to their Hub.
Finish the round, then add up scores. Every Specialist card in your Hub has a scoring value. Some are marked with an asterisk, which means they score based on a special ability. And don’t forget your Project points.
Will you win the race to explore space?
Space Explorers does a great job capturing the feel of the golden age of space exploration with the art style and specifically the color palette and saturation. Though the actual card art is limited, the images still help to categorize the cards quickly, as all Specialists with the same picture relate to the same Division.
What we found less clear is the symbols used for Skills and Research. Skills are used for launching projects (and sometimes bonus points), while Research is for recruiting new Specialists. But both Skills and Research use the same five colors, making it easy to get confused.
Space Explorers is straightforward set collection; but don’t mistake straightforward for simple. Again, 25th Century Games did an excellent job with organization – each player has a robust player aid with details for each of the cards
The adults found this logical and helpful. We didn’t need to discern what a jumble of symbols meant for a card’s special ability because we could always look it up in our player aid index.
Best for Adults
Because of the style and complexity, we found the adults preferred Space Explorers a lot more than the kids in the Family Gamers household.
As the game wears on, the options to acquire Projects dwindle, and players tend to focus on fewer and fewer Specialists. This causes the game to slow down as players wait to see the next cards that are revealed. (You could go for high value Specialists instead, but that’s a hard sacrifice to make.)
Research tokens are necessary to add flexibility to the game and they are passed around the table. One player can easily gum up the works by hoarding tokens, which is very frustrating. There are ways to mitigate for this (discarding cards in place of Research tokens) but it’s hard to work around, especially in a game with 3-4 players.
Finally, though the box says 20-40 minutes, we’ve never played a game in under an hour.
We really like the theme and the plethora of ways that the cards tweak the set collection mechanism. But we’d recommend Space Explorers mostly for adults. The historical theme just doesn’t grab kids, especially when most games take an hour or more.
The game is inexpensive and the box is small, so it’s a worthwhile addition to your game shelf if you like the theme.
Find it on Amazon or at your friendly local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Space Explorers from 25th Century Games for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 12+
Playtime: 20-40 minutes (we say 60-90 minutes)