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POWERSHIPS

Reviewed by Kevin Whitmore

POWERSHIPS (Cwali Games, 2 to 7 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes; 32€ plus shipping)

 

Powerships is a 2018 release from Cwali Games, the private label of game designer Corné van Moorsel.  Corné is a well-established designer.  He has found several previous successes with his designs including Factory Fun (Summer 2007 Gamers Alliance Report).  In 2008 he released Powerboats to fair success.  With this release of Powerships, Corné has taken the basic ideas of Powerboats and built an updated game worthy of your consideration.

While the original Powerboats was a nautical race, in Powerships you will now race around the solar system.  The mechanisms are very similar, so if you have played Powerboats you will instantly feel right at home.  But if you are new to Powerships, the learning curve on the rules is short and simple.

At the beginning of the game, the map must be assembled.  The board comes in many different segments and is back printed.  A hexagon grid is imprinted on the board to regulate movement.  Assembling the board can be slightly confusing, as there are three different shaped board types, and care must be taken to avoid building any gaps.  Each board has a more and a less complicated side to it.  It will be possible to lay out a number of different board configurations with the tiles included. 

Once the board is assembled, a race course must be laid out.  For example, you might start at Earth, race around Venus, then around Mars, on to Jupiter, and then end the race in orbit around Mercury.  Several routes can be contemplated, and there are four buoys provided, so you can adjust the duration of the race to your taste.  The buoys are nice painted wooden dowels.  Each end of the round dowel has an arrow marker, so you can determine if the buoy is to be passed clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Up to seven players can race.  Each pilot has a chunky plastic racing ship.  This is a quibble but I find them just a little hard to pick up; I wish the tail had a bigger tail fin.  To move, each ship can add one die per turn to build up speed.  The dice are nicely engineered 3-sided dice which roll beautifully.  On any given turn you can either keep the values of the dice you previously rolled or you can re-roll any or all of your dice.  Each turn, you can add one more die to the total number of dice or, should you need to slow down, you can reduce the number of dice by one.

Since racing is almost never just straight ahead, top speed is not always needed.  Instead, you must pass around space buoys, avoid space dust, planets, and of course, the sun!  Further, the board has additional features such as space drifts, gravitational whirlpools, warp speed triggers, and hyperspace jump points.  Each powership requires its own space which raises the possibility of other pilots occupying that critical space you were wanting to land on.   

Maneuvering is limited to a single course correction to be taken at the beginning of a turn.  The game movement is regulated by a hexagon grid.  Powerships must always face a hex edge.  Each turn, a powership can adjust its heading by 60 degrees.  Once movement starts, there can normally be no course corrections.  Since there is almost always something that will lie in your path, you will constantly be looking for the most efficient path to your next goal.

The hazards on the board can cause your ship to be spun 60 degrees, shunted over a hex row, or even double your speed.  The only random element is the dice you roll for acceleration.  You must move your full roll or at least try to.  But it can happen that a pilot drives his ship into another planet or some surprisingly dense space dust.  Should this happen, your ship will take damage and you will come to a stop (clearing all accumulated dice).  Normally, a ship can have up to five dice in acceleration but should you have a collision, damage markers will occupy your dice slots, and limit your speed capabilities.  Fortunately, it is impossible to crash out of the race and you can even do some repair work on your ship during the race.

Player turns are usually brisk.  After considering any route corrections desired, the player will choose to roll their dice, or retain helpful dice from the prior turn, and possibly increase or decrease the number of dice by one.  After rolling the ship is moved.  There are no random events after movement begins.  This allows for swift turn resolution and moving on to the next player.  A game with seven players will take longer, but this reviewer found the game still moved along nicely.

If you play, it can be helpful to visualize your entire route for the race.  Since acceleration is random, your plan will certainly have to be adjusted.  Also, the actions, and the spaces occupied by the other pilots will impact your plan.  While colliding into board elements such as planets or the edge of the board are extreme events, it is also possible to use another ship as a softer bump.  The rules disallow two ships to ever share a space at the end of movement.  Should that happen, the moving ship will move 1 space less.  I have found using the other ships as a brake to be effective.  But mostly, I suggest being open to adjusting your course based on your dice luck, and potentially learning a neat move from one of the other competitors.

Powerships has a lovely theme, a fun race and plays in less than one hour for almost every configuration you might devise.  If you enjoy brisklypaced race games I recommend checking it out. – – – – – – – – – – – – – Kevin Whitmore


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