Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
The first time I was introduced to a real time mechanic in a board game was when I played Space Alert. Despite the group being awful at the game our first few times through, I was enamored with the mechanic. I loved how you could get a full experience of a game in ten minutes without the slowdown that occurred while players decided what they were going to do on their turn.
Today we will be examining Meteor, a real-time cooperative game that has already reached funding on Kickstarter. In Meteor, players work together to build rockets to destroy incoming meteors that are hurling towards Earth to destroy humanity…in just five minutes! Let’s get into the preview to see if this is a game that you would like to add to your collection.
Apparently, all government space agencies around the world were taking a coffee break for a few years and didn’t notice that the Earth was going to be in the direct path of a group of asteroids. Now that the asteroids have entered the atmosphere, it’s up to the players to save humanity. Everyone will have to work together to build and launch rockets, develop technology to gain the upper hand, and retrofit unusable resources to stop these impending impacts. Players will need to destroy all of the meteors before the five minutes are up or else they lost the game. This might seem simple; but the time constraint isn’t the only issue. Players are also not able to speak to each other…Dum dum DUMMM!
How to Play:
When setting up the game, the first thing to do is shuffle the collection of meteor cards together and place the required number of cards face down on the table. On the back of the meteor cards is the size range of that meteor, either 1-3 or 3-5. The players will need to fire a rocket at these cards to see the actual size and rocket power required to destroy them, more on that later. One player will be chosen as the timekeeper for the game. They will be in charge of managing the altitude zones card and the sand timers during the game with each timer representing one minute of real time. Lastly players will receive a number of cards from the resource deck. This deck consists of a mix of energy, rocket and technology cards that players will have at their disposal to win the game. All of these cards will be used on launch sites to upgrade technology, trade in a set of resources for new ones, and most importantly firing rockets.
The number of launch sites equals the number of players in the game. Each player will be in charge of the launch site in front of them, but this is where the cooperative nature of the game comes through because anyone can start or assist in completing a project on the table. There are three types of projects a player can build while trying to save the world.
Players will place a technology card on the table and if the team is able to complete it with the required energy cards, they are able to use that new piece of tech. These technology cards can allow players to talk, draw extra resource cards, or to flip over all the meteor cards exposing their true size.
Players can work at collecting the right set of four energy or rocket cards to draw at least one new card into each player’s hand.
Players will first place a rocket card into a launching site and if they are able to have all the required energy the rocket will hit the meteor of the players choosing. Rockets always do the amount of damage indicated on the card. If the meteor is being struck for the first time, the player will flip the card over and see if the rocket they fired will destroy the meteor. If they are right on the number, the meteor is destroyed. But if the players are under the required number, nothing happens. Something interesting does happen when the damage you do is greater than the size of the meteor. The meteor is destroyed, but because of the overkill of force used it causes the rest of the meteors to move closer to Earth. This requires a move immediately to the next altitude zone which the timekeeper will administer.
As a reminder, this all has to be done without talking, but players can gesture, flash symbols or whatever means necessary to get their point across. The game will start when the players are ready and the game will continue until the meteors are all destroyed or they have hit Earth and destroyed the human populous.
There are two things that I look for in a real-time game, simplicity and chaos. Escape: Curse of the Temple is my favorite game that uses the real-time mechanic. The simple use of dice is easy to explain and it also has the mad dash of having to get back to the center tile while the soundtrack builds the tense atmosphere. Meteor is certainly a chaotic game. Not being able to speak throws a huge monkey wrench into solving the problem the game presents. People have to rely on non-verbal communication to explain their plans and needs to the other players. Players will do a lot of pointing, grunting and unique facial expressions that will make you laugh a few times during the game. People might be turned off by this, but this adds a nice new element to a real-time game that requires you to stretch your communication skills. Despite not being able to talk to one another, you must work together to even have a chance. The game is not an easy one to win. You are never quite sure if you will get the necessary energy and rockets to stop the impending apocalypse.
Another thing that adds to the chaotic fun is the hidden values and traits of the meteor cards. There is a high sense of anxiety when you decide to fire that first rocket at a meteor card. Do you have enough power, maybe too much, or what secret trait does this meteor possess? The high and lows from this game comes from launching the rockets. Players will experience pure joy when you manage to take a meteor out with one shot and the dread of losing more time because the rocket’s power was excessive. The hidden aspect of the meteor cards also hides the traits of a card. About half have special rules associated with them. They can require certain energy types, split into two smaller meteors or even destroy other meteors of the same size around them, but you won’t know these traits until you flip the card.
Meteor is an easy game to learn how to play. The energy and rocket cards are very easy to understand, but the same isn’t true for the technology cards. The cards are completely driven by the artwork on the cards and are void of text except for numerical values or rockets and meteors. The issue is that the game tries to do the same to the technology cards and for me, the pictures are not completely clear on what power they grant. This happens on some of the other cards in the game as well. I personally would have liked a small bit of text on the card explaining what they do. Even if you explain them before you start the game, players will still have questions, forcing you to stop the game to explain. Not a game breaker by any means, but it does break up the action in the game. Luckily the simplicity of the rest of the game easily makes up for any issues with these cards.
Each time you play the meteors are different, as well as the resource cards you draw. This makes each game feel just a little different than the others. That is also only with the base set of rules in the game. There are more cards that you can add to the game such as boss meteors that have special abilities that activate when they are placed on the table or when they are destroyed. All of which are bad for the players. There are also power cards that can be used by the players to gain advantages during the game such as extra launch sites, drawing more cards or giving rockets an extra boost of power. These you will really want to have when you start going against some of the boss meteors. However, if you start becoming a meteor destroying master, you can add challenge cards that make things way more difficult to win the game by limiting what a player can do or adding new problems to solve. They all work very nicely together and add some new wrinkles that keep the game fresh every time you play it.
I found Meteor to be a very enjoyable game. It fits nicely as a filler game to start off a gaming night. It has a good mix of simplicity and chaos which is what I’m looking for in a real-time board game. Each game of Meteor is never the same and having additional cards that add new powers, boss meteors and new challenges gives the game a new feel for even the seasoned player. The lack of verbal communication not only is an interesting mechanic, but it leads to some entertaining moments as you are trying to save the world. If you are looking for a real-time to add to your collection make sure to back Meteor.
If you’d like to become a backer, pledges start at $35 for the full game and all stretch goals. Meteor is scheduled to be in backers hands in December of 2014 and you have until Thursday, October 30th to become a backer. So head over today and check it out.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review