To boldly roll where lots have thrown before
There are times when you want to play a game, but no one is around to play with you. Timing, location, last-minute plan changes – there are heaps of reasons why it can happen.
For me, this is a good time for Video Games to step in. But there are also a lot of times I don’t want to look at a screen anymore. Working in front of a screen all day, sometimes I can’t bear the thought of spending another few hours staring at another screen.
I had heard good things about a Board Game Geek solitaire print and play award winner Deep Space D-6 for a couple of years now. It was always one of those ‘next time’ print and play choices. I understood from a mechanical perspective why people enjoyed it, but never took the time to sit down and play a game.
That has all changed in the last few weeks, and I am glad I finally sat down and played Deep Space D-6 without distractions.
So what is Deep Space D-6?
Mechanically, Deep Space D-6 is a solo dice worker placement game. This is a technically correct sentence, and some people are now interested or turned off.
But hearing the title Deep Space D-6 and looking at the packaging, it’s understandable why people would be confused as to what’s going on.
Deep Space D-6 – is it a Star Trek parody? And why does the box look like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book?
Looking at the back, you see cards, a board with a ship on it, and some dice. Oh, dice – that explains the D-6 in the title. But the cards? Do you choose a route in space or something? It’s hard to follow from the packaging.
You play the role of a captain of a starship. Patrolling a section of space, you receive a distress call and go to investigate. But of course, the request is a trap and know you have to fight your way out of hostile space.
You have to make snap decisions in your role of captain, represented by assigning available crew to different tasks. You need to balance ship maintenance with an ever-growing number of threats and random events that never seems to give you a break.
Still confused? Honestly, I don’t blame you. Having the mechanics make sense to me but not quite seeing how the theme integrated everything kept Deep Space D-6 on my ‘next time’ pile for far too long.
There is a very easy to follow play order in Deep Space D-6. When you first begin, the setup has you already in the thick of the action. Threats are already surrounding your ship, and you have to start making choices.
Roll your dice and see if you have anything appearing on your scanners. Then assign your crew, add a new threat to the board, and finally resolve any threat actions.
You do this over and over again for about 20-30 minutes, depending on a few factors like luck and planning. This makes learning the game (or teaching someone else) incredibly simple as you only really need to concentrate on your actions and card text.
To win the game, you need to have drawn all of the threat deck cards. All external threats to the ship (including the big boss the Ouroboros) while having at least 1 hull point. What could be easier?
You can lose the game in a couple of different ways. The most common is being blown up. Just take too much damage, and as soon as your hull hits 0 points, you’re out. You can also have your entire crew incapacitated. If you start your turn and can’t roll any dice, you will lose – so be careful!
Playing Deep Space D-6
This all sounds pretty basic, and it is. But what you can’t picture from looking at the box or even listening to people talk about playing Deep Space D-6 is the incredible feeling of pressure and tension the game gives you. I have played plenty of games that have used timers to create a rushed atmosphere. Tony Go manages to do this while letting you take all of the time you want.
After the first couple of turns, you begin the gamer mantra of “Come on just roll some (Whatever you need to roll) please!”. You know what you need to do, but first, you need the resources (crew) to do it.
Secondly, every turn, you will add a new threat from the threat deck. There are some ‘nothing happens’ cards (Don’t Panic – just needed a towel!) but these can be taken out of the game if you are feeling masochistic.
Each turn takes about 30-40 seconds. Some will be longer because you have to stop and think, and threat resolution can take a while as more are added, but a turn itself is speedy.
Because you are playing each turn so quickly, you quickly become so immersed in your game that you don’t notice you have been making quick decisions for 30 minutes. Some actions will cause elation and other despair. You begin dreading what you are going to reveal from the threat deck, but you don’t stop from turning them over.
This is the magic of Deep Space D-6 – in the space of about 10 minutes, you transform from slight confusion opening the box for the first time to complete absorption in trying to save your ship. It’s something that until you experience it yourself, you can appreciate the sentiment from an observers standpoint, but you won’t understand precisely what it feels like.
Replayability and Difficulty
Deep Space D-6’s retail version has a lot of variety going for it already in the box.
Firstly, you can remove the ‘Don’t Panic’ breather cards from the threat deck. This makes for a faster game as you are thinning the pile, but it also means you will have a new problem every turn.
I already mentioned the Ouroboros – the big bad boss of the game. It’s a single gigantic command ship comprised of six individual threat cards you fully defeat by destroying its core.
For your first time playing, you can simply leave the Ouroboros out altogether. You definitely have enough to worry about with the threat deck that this omission would not overly simplify the game.
Personally, I would recommend starting with the first optional Ouroboros setup. When you have cleared the threat deck, take the Ouroboros cards and set up the ship. Think of it as the big final boss appearing and trying to stop you from making it back to friendly space.
There is also the option of randomly shuffling the Ouroboros cards into the threat deck. If you draw one, put it to one side of the play area and reveal another threat card. When you have all six Ouroboros cards out, deal with the Ouroboros as an unveiled threat. You still need to clear the threat deck to win the game though.
This represents a more random timing to the encounter, while also building the tension and suspense as you begin revealing more and more of the Ouroboros. Most will also probably tell you it’s the more ‘advanced’ way to play.
The infirmary even has 2 modes of play you can choose from. You can play the standard way and have dice sent to the infirmary usually as a threat effect. Or, you can play where you put one die in the infirmary to make another die wild. This allows you to mitigate bad rolls but lowers your dice pool until a medical officer can treat everyone in the infirmary.
Finally, there are four different ships to master.
The Halcyon is the general all-rounder ship that is good for beginners and getting used to the gameplay. It has a Stasis Beam that lets you stop a threat from activating each turn.
Then you look at the next ship, the Athena Mk. II. On the surface, it appears the Athena has different hull and shield values – nothing unusual. Looking closer, you will see that all of the worker roles have different effects compared to the Halcyon.
So what’s wrong with it?
Frankly – not much. Not with the game itself at least.
For example, the Halcyon lets you add up all of your damage and split it amongst multiple targets. The Athena inflicts 2 points of damage to a single threat for each gunnery icon. It’s a subtle adjustment but can make a world of difference in how you play subsequent games.
The same goes for the other two ships – the AG-8 and the Mononoaware. In my head, each board is an expansion that messes with the base rules, giving you new challenges and experiences. I think it will take a long time to be bored with Deep Space D-6.
The component quality is excellent. The dice are solid and roll well, the boards are heavy enough and functional, and the heavy card stock speaks well for durability. The artwork on cards is lacking, but I do like the clean, simple designs this allows.
My biggest issue with Deep Space D-6 is the rules explanations and vagueness of some terms. If you learn to play the game yourself, Tony Go has been very active on the Board Game Geek Forums which is handy. Tau Leader Games also has a pretty good FAQ on their website.
While it’s great these are happening, as I got a second edition/print copy, I am a bit disappointed they are still needed. There wasn’t anything game-breaking that I needed to lookup. I was mostly right with my instincts on how things resolved, but that is just gaming experience I think.
If a new gamer pulls a card that doesn’t make sense, they don’t want to have to hunt on the internet for what it means, it should have clarification in the rule book.
Deep Space D-6 is not the first or last game to suffer from this. Hopefully, in a new reprint and/or the upcoming multiplayer Deep Space D-6: Armada, this can be resolved.
More than one player?
Not yet. That said, my favourite round of Deep Space D-6 has been when I taught Alpal how to play. She had a copy from the original Kickstarter, and I have the newer release, and we just set up our games, and I talked through the rounds.
It was the truest multiplayer solitaire gaming session I ever played. We were both in wildly different positions, and it was fun to see what the other was going through.
I was going through the game faster once I left Alpal to play on her own after the first couple of rounds, so she would look up and just see a ton of cards scattered everywhere. She would laugh at my exasperation at being unable to roll anything I wanted, and I enjoyed watching her get just as beaten up by her game.
As I mentioned before though there is a multiplayer version currently in development. If Deep Space D-6 sounds like something you would enjoy but want to play with some more players, maybe hold off for Deep Space D-6: Armada.
Still not sure if you would like it? Try the free print and play!
Still not sure if Deep Space D-6 is for you? Makes perfect sense. I put off trying it for the exact same reason. The good news though is if you don’t mind printing your games, there is a free print and play version available!
It comes with the Halcyon (although it’s not named in this version), some threat cards and the rules. I haven’t made a direct comparison to the retail version, but the cards included are representative of threats in the retail version. There just doesn’t seem to be quite as many, so games will probably run quicker.
Using a conversion chart for the symbols can slow the game down though. When I was looking to play the print and play, I planned to write the pip values over the symbols meaning no lookups. Adds a few minutes to the initial setup, but it will make your life easier.
Deep Space D-6 regularly manages to make me more immersed and invested in a ‘quick filler game’ than a lot of big-box games manage, and that is quite a feat.
There is a lot about Deep Space D-6 that I know will discourage large groups of players. It’s a solo game with a high luck factor with dice rolling and drawing from a deck. There isn’t a lot to the game component-wise. But what is seen by many as drawbacks all make for strengths in Deep Space D-6. It’s great that the print and play is available to everyone, but I also understand that only some people enjoying building their games this way.
I really think if people had the chance to sit and try it, it would catch on even more than it already has. Hopefully, the upcoming Deep Space D-6: Armada with multiple players will help with that 🙂
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