Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Release Year: 2010
Once again Rio Grande showcased and demoed a large suite of games at the 2010 Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. This year, one of the newer games in the demo area was a fast paced slick new game called Asteroyds.
Game enthusiasts familiar with Robo Rally will instantly recognize the similarities between these two games. The game play is remarkably similar as is the type of tactical thinking necessary to do well in the game. Despite these obvious similarities, the differences in the two games are more than just cosmetic and it is these differences that define Asteroyds.
As the name suggests, Asteroyds is a game that takes place in space. Each player controls a space ship and attempts to maneuver it through a dynamic asteroid field in order to reach four space gates. The first player to do so wins the game.
Besides the obvious thematic difference between the two games, Asteroyds has a second major difference. Instead of each player receiving random cards and needing to program based on those cards, movement is programmed from a specific set of choices that is the same for each player. In addition, each player has the option to activate a shield that blunts impact with asteroids or to use that energy to program an additional move.
Much like Robo Rally, the board is the enemy and there is a random element to movement. But, unlike in Robo Rally, where the random element is how the players can move, the random element is how the board elements move. Each turn dice are rolled and every asteroid moves based on the results. The complication is, while dice are rolled at the beginning of the turn, players must program their ships before the asteroids move. After programming is complete then asteroids move, followed by ship movement. This requires players to visualize what the board will look like for programming movement.
This visualization and programming is not as easy as it seems at first glance. Some asteroids will push others and some asteroids will move in multiple directions in a single turn. Even without a timer, it is not uncommon for players to accidentally run into an asteroid or end up significantly off-course.
Naturally, what is difficult without a timer is incredibly hard with a timer. The recommended timer for average players is 50 seconds. This is about half the time given in Robo Rally and barely sufficient for skilled players, let alone average players. For experienced players, the game recommends only 20 seconds to program the ship. To put that in perspective, that is roughly how long it would take an average person to read this paragraph from start to finish.
With such short times, it should come as no surprise that this game is very quick to finish. An average game should take about thirty minutes and experienced players can easily finish in fifteen minutes. In fact, a skilled player can conceivably reach all four space gates in exactly four turns.
The short duration of the game fits well with the tactical thinking necessary and is a welcome difference from the frustratingly long games that are common with Robo Rally. An unwelcome difference, though, is that players have absolutely no way of interacting. If a player is firmly in the lead and sure to win, there is nothing any other player can do to prevent the victory.
On game play and presentation alone, this is a truly spectacular game. It is flexible on the number of players it accommodates, has good replay value, and is comfortably brief. One facet of the game significantly impacts its value. The suggest retail price is approximately $55 and even the best online deals are rarely below $40 for a new copy. As fun as the game is, it simply does not come with enough pieces or provide an intense enough game play experience to justify that kind of expense.
Fans of Robo Rally who are looking for a shorter version of the game will unquestionably enjoy Asteroyds. As a family game, the tactical thinking necessary may be beyond young children and even many teens or adults. And, for anyone who doesn’t enjoy that type of thinking, the game has no appeal whatsoever. Also, with just the slightest modification in rules, the game is a perfect party game that easily allows players to join and leave at will. Still, no matter the reason, unless the game will get very copious amounts of play, due to its price, it should only be purchased used, rather than new.
Rating: 3 of 5