18 June 2021
Less spacewalk, more cakewalk
As opening hooks go, ‘The Space Race was a lie’ is certainly effective. The era of superpower one-upmanship makes for a rich land of board game possibilities. I look forward to playing a game that explores them, as despite the evocative tagline, Godspeed delivers a very different experience.
Godspeed takes two to five players through ten rounds of discussion, auction and actions. Everyone starts with five different worker tokens, some resources and a beginning objective, with the goal to create game winning developments by drawing cards and expending resources to play them.
At the start of each round a high council card is drawn, offering a reward if all players are willing to lose a specific worker, or penalizing players who don't contribute. Next, a selection of supply cards (and the first player token) is put up for a closed fist auction. Every worker has a different value and you can bid as many of them as you want, though anything bid cannot be used again until next round. The winning bid gets first and last pick of the supplies, with cards ranging from extra resources to special one use powers. Once everyone has picked their supplies, we finish off with a traditional worker placement series of actions. Two actions each, workers can only go on their matching spaces and only if there's room. These actions are the meat of the game, as the development cards created using actions help push your faction up prestige tracks or gain chunky milestone gems – the two main ways to win.
And it's... fine. Every stage of the round gives players something to consider, looking for the best way to build up their point producing engine that will send them to the top of a prestige ladder. The game starts generously, helping players to get the ball rolling, then maintains that momentum throughout. It's hard to completely screw things up, but also hard to intentionally take the lead. The game's proportionally-costed developments ensure you always get a fair amount of points for the resources expended and milestones are often claimed through determined slogging at one or two development themes. Two-thirds of the way through players gain an alien relic power, which provide a unique ability that seems overpowered, but again have been fine tuned to such a degree that it's rare for a player to aggressively abuse it to win.
The polish on the game's mechanics has smoothed over any risks, teaching concepts quickly and playing well. In doing so, however, it ensures that every experience with the game is roughly the same motions, despite the variety in factions, alien powers and game objectives. Many turns feel the same and players rarely interact outside of general table talk and jostling for actions, typical of worker placements. None of the high council ‘decisions’ are deeper than ‘Do I care if I can't use this worker this round?’ The same goes for auctions; despite the wide variety of interesting powers up for grabs, the option taken first most frequently is ‘first player,’ because losing an action you need too many times is the only way to lose.
The biggest deal breaker for me is the theme. While the production and art design are brilliant (although making development cards stylistically different would help colour-blind players read the game better) I never feel like I'm playing a space conspiracy. This could have been a renaissance town or medieval castle building game and the mechanics would be identical, which given how strongly the advertising pushes its theme is disappointing.
You'll have an okay time with Godspeed and if you really love the sci-fi look it'll prove to be entertaining for a few games. It's just not the space conspiracy game I was promised.
It looks lovely and plays smoothly, but won't take long before its tenuous theme and arbitrary scoring system keeps it on the shelf. Ideal for game collectors who enjoy novelty.
Both games have inventive auction systems and lovely production values, Godspeed is more accessible but Keyflower rewards repeated plays.
Designer: Adam Hill & Clayton Hargrave
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Time: 60-80 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Game board
- 5 Player boards
- 200 Cardboard resources
- 274 Game cards
- 7 Plastic milestone gem statues
- 25 Cardboard production building tiles
- 8 Cardboard alien power tiles
- Tie breaker marker
- First player marker
This article originally appeared in issue 48 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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