How to Play: Space Alert

November 13, 2016

Our How to Play videos are designed to be short (but still complete) instructional videos, mainly for people who want an overview before playing with someone who knows how to play (in place of that person teaching the rules). Setup and refresh is usually in a separate video, since only one person needs to know the details.

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Transcript (How to Play)
Hi! This is Ambie from Board Game Blitz, and today I’m gonna show you how to play Space Alert.

Game Overview [0:08]
This is a cooperative game where you’re trying to make sure your spaceship survives for the 10 minutes that it’s in space. The actions are played in a real-time action round that lasts 10 minutes, dictated by a soundtrack, and then afterwards you’ll resolve everything and see if you’ve won.

Over the course of the action round, different threats, internal and external, will come out at different times, indicated by these cards. You will need to perform various actions to defeat or protect against the threats. For example, if the soundtrack indicates a serious external threat in zone blue at time T-2, you will draw a card from this deck, and this enemy will appear here on the second turn. The enemy abilities, movement, attacks, shield, and health, are indicated on the cards. For example, this enemy moves 2 spaces at the end of each turn, and whenever it reaches the ‘X’ space on the track it will attack the ship for 2 damage.

Action Cards [0:50]
The way you do actions is through these cards. Each card has two halves, one for movement and one for action. When you play a card, you choose which side to put on top, and it will program your character to do the specified movement or action.

Movements [1:01]
The movements are either moving left, toward the red side of the ship, moving right, toward the blue side of the ship, or using the gravolift, which moves you up or down to the floor you are not currently on. If you’re already in the red or blue zone and play the red or blue arrow, respectively, then you do not move. If the gravolift is broken or if someone else used it before you that turn, then you still move, but get delayed next turn.

The actions are either pushing button A, B, or C, or the battlebot action.

Button A (Weapons) [1:24]
Button A activates the weapon system of whichever station you are on. There are 6 stations in the ship in 3 zones, red, white, and blue. These three upper zones have heavy laser cannons. When the weapon is activated here, it will use one energy from the reactor in its zone. If there is no energy, the weapon won’t fire. These weapons hit the closest enemy in their respective zone for the damage indicated. The pulse cannon also uses one energy from here when it is activated. The pulse cannon shoots in all three zones, hitting all enemies that are one or two spaces away from the ship on the movement track. The outer lower laser cannons have their own source of energy, so when they’re activated you just move the yellow cube to the cannon. These cannons hit the closest enemy in the red or blue zone.  If multiple people press A in the same zone at the same time for any weapon, the cannon is only activated once. If multiple weapons hit an enemy on the same turn, you sum up the damage and only apply their shields once.

Button B (Shields/Energy) [2:10]
Button B is for energy and shields. In the upper levels, pressing B will transfer energy from the lower zone into the shields to its maximum capacity. For example, If I press B here, then I will move one block from the bottom to the shields here for a total of two shield, since there was already one energy in the shield. On the outer lower levels, if you press B you will take energy from the central reactor into your reactor to maximum capacity. For both shields and reactors, if there isn’t enough source energy, all of it will be transferred. In the lower central station, B will use up one fuel capsule, and then you’ll fill the reactor to maximum capacity with green cubes from the bank. If it is already full, you spend a fuel capsule and don’t get any more green cubes. If there are no fuel capsules left, then B does nothing.

Button C (Rocket, Battlebots, Interceptors, Computer, Window) [2:47]
Button C does different things in each zone. In this zone, action C will fire a rocket. When a rocket is fired, it won’t hit anything that turn, but on the next turn, it will hit the closest enemy that is one or two spaces away from the ship. Only one rocket can be fired per turn, and once the three rockets are out C does nothing. In these two zones, action C will activate the battlebots. The first person to press C here will start up these battlebots, and from then on the battlebots will follow them wherever they go. Also, if you have disabled battlebots, pressing C in either of these spaces reactivates them. If you already have active battlebots or if the battlebots are gone from the station, C does nothing. If you have active battlebots, the battlebots action makes your battlebots attack an intruder in whatever zone you’re currently in.

In this section, if you have an active battlebots squad when you press C, you will launch in the interceptors and be in space - otherwise you do nothing. The interceptors attack that turn, hitting all enemies at range 1 from the ship, and while you’re in space, threats and delays that affect players on the ship do not affect you. The next turn, you can either use the battlebots action to stay in space and attack again, or take no action and use that turn to return to the top red zone. If you play any other action, you are delayed, and return to the ship. In this space, pressing C maintains the computer. This needs to be done once in the first two turns of each phase or everyone gets delayed. Here, C lets you look out the window for points. You get more points if more people look out the window at the same time.

Game Phases/Turns [4:02]
There are three phases in the game: 1, 2, and 3, which will be announced by the soundtrack. In each phase, you’ll get new cards from that section of your board. You can’t show your cards to other players, but you can talk about them. These numbers on the board indicate the turns in the game. There will be 12 turns, so you can do up to 12 actions total. When you play actions, you place the cards face down on the specific turn. You can also leave a spot blank if you want to do nothing that turn. For example, if I want to move left on turn 1, then press A on turn 2, I would play this card here with the arrow on top, and this card here, with the A on top. You can rearrange the cards you played at any time during that phase. After phase 1 is over, you pick up the phase 2 cards. Then you cannot change any of the cards in the phase 1 section of the board. You can still look at them, but you cannot change them. The same thing happens for the third phase. You can choose to end a phase early if you want, independently of everyone else.

Soundtrack Announcements [4:47]
Whenever the soundtrack says “Incoming Data,” everyone draws one card. Whenever you hear “Data Transfer,” each player may give one of their cards in their hand to another player. You must complete the transfer before the soundtrack beeps, and it must be transferred hand to hand. When the soundtrack announces that the operation ends, then you cannot place any more cards, and you go to the Resolution Round.

Resolution Round [5:05]
During the Resolution Round, you will resolve all the actions and threats. Each turn, threats can appear, players will perform their actions in player order - starting with the captain and going clockwise, you’ll calculate damage, and the threats will activate. Actions always resolve one at a time in player order, so if one person does an action to transfer energy and another person uses that energy, the order is important.

Tripping/Delay [5:24]
In the Resolution Round, if you realize you misplayed your card, you can say “oops, I tripped,” do the action you meant to do, and then become delayed next turn. When you’re delayed on a turn, either from tripping, using a bad gravolift, from not maintaining the computer, from playing a non-battlebots action in the interceptors, or from a threat’s actions, you move any card that was planned that turn to the next turn. If there’s a card there, it’s moved one over, and so on, until you move a card to an empty space or it’s the last turn and it’s moved off the board.

Threats [5:49]
These are the threat cards, external and internal. External threats appear in one of the three zones, moving toward the ship on the Trajectory tracks. Internal threats use the internal Trajectory track. Threats move each turn according the the speed shown here. The threat’s hit points are here, and these are the attacks that they do when they pass certain spaces on the Trajectory Tracks. Some threats also have text that affect whether weapons can hit them. When external threats attack the ship, they hit the shields first and then the ship. Internal threats deal damage directly to the ship. When the ship takes damage, these tokens are drawn, which make the ship systems less effective from that point forward. This all happens during the Resolution Round, so you don’t know what damage tokens you’ll get when you’re planning out your moves. Each zone has 6 damage tiles, and if you ever need to draw a 7th, you all lose.

Whenever a threat takes hit points, indicate it with red blocks. When a threat has as many red blocks on it as its hit points, it is destroyed. Give the card to the captain, remove the numbered token from its Trajectory Board, and remove any tokens for internal threats.

There are two types of internal threats - malfunctions and intruders.
Malfunctions [6:43] - When a system is malfunctioning, the indicated letter action card doesn’t do its normal action. Instead, it repairs the system for one hit point. If there are multiple malfunctions on the system, then the action repairs the repairable malfunction with the lowest numbered token. The normal actions only happen when there are no malfunctions on that system. For repairing, multiple people can hit the same button on the same turn for more damage.

Intruders [7:02] - To destroy intruders, battlebots must be used. When you attack with the battlebot action, it does one hit point to the intruder. If there are multiple intruders in the zone, the battlebots attack the one with the lowest numbered token. If the threat has this symbol, it returns fire when you use battlebots, and the battlebot squad becomes disabled. Disabled battlebots still follow you around, but they’re lying down and cannot attack.

Heroic Actions [7:22]
At the beginning of the game, each person will have one heroic action, these gold cards. You play the cards the same way as regular cards, but they have better effects, and you cannot pass them in a data transfer. If used for movement, your figure will teleport directly to the highlighted station. If you fire a weapon with the A+1 card, the weapon has one extra strength. When you transfer energy with the B+1 card, if you transfer at least one block of energy, add an extra block from the bank to the receiving energy system. This can exceed the maximum capacity. If you repair with a B+1, you repair for two hit points. When you use the heroic battlebots action, the battlebots are not disabled if the intruder returns fire. If you use this in space, the interceptors attack with one extra strength.

End Game Scoring [8:00]
After you’ve resolved all your turns, if your ship was destroyed you lose and don’t get a score. If you managed to survive, you win. You get a score according to the difficulty and the point values on the threat cards. Any threats that you survived but did not destroy, which the communications officer has, you get the lower point value for. Threats you destroyed, which the captain has, you get the higher value. You get negative points for each damage done to the ship, each damage done to the most damaged zone, each disabled battlebot squad, and 2 negative points for each knocked out player. Then add visual confirmation points, marked on the Mission Steps Board, to get your final score.

And that’s how you play Space Alert. Click the link for setup, details on the resolution round and threats, playing with fewer players, and campaign mode. Check out our website for more videos, podcasts, and blogs. Thanks for watching Board Game Blitz!

Transcript (Setup)
This is setup for the standard 4-5 player game. Place the board in the middle of the table. Put one energy cube on each shield, two energies on each side reactor, and 3 in the middle reactor. Also put 3 fuel capsules in the middle reactor. Put the yellow energy cubes on the lower laser cannons. Put 3 gray cubes on the computer and 3 on the window. Place the two battlebot squads in their stations. Put the 3 rockets in the lower blue station.

Shuffle the damage tiles by color, placing them in stacks near the board. Randomly select 3 trajectory boards for the external threats and place one in each zone. Randomly select another board for the internal threat and place it by the board. Shuffle the action card deck and place it near the board.

Put the mission step board to the side with the mission step marker on the first space.

Each player chooses a color. Choose players to be captain, communications officer, and chief of security. You can have multiple roles. 

All the player pieces go in the top center zone of the board. 

Choose a difficulty level for the common threats - lower, higher, or mixed difficulty. Prepare the common external and internal decks with the chosen difficulty level by shuffling each deck. Do the same with the serious threats. You can choose a different difficulty than the common, but the internal and external threats should be the same difficulty for each case.

The external threat decks go by the communications officer and the internal threat decks go to the chief of security, along with the internal threat tokens.

Place the energy blocks, damage blocks, and the threat tokens near the board.

Each player gets their phase boards and 5 action cards per phase, face down on their boards. For phase 1, one of the 5 action cards is the gold heroic action card.

Pick a soundtrack for the mission and begin.

Action Round Announcements [1:26]
The action round is narrated by a soundtrack. These are what the different announcements mean.

When you hear, “Alert. Enemy activity detected. Please begin first phase,” start the game.

The soundtrack will specify what type of threat comes out at what time. For example, “Time T+1, Threat. Zone Red,” means an external threat will appear on the first turn in the red zone. Internal threats are similar except the soundtrack will say “Internal threat.” If the threats are serious, they will be specified. The communications officer is in charge of external threats, and the chief of security is in charge of internal threats. When a threat is announced, the person draws the top card of the specified threat deck - external or internal and common or serious, puts it face up near the Trajectory Board of the zone, and gives it a number token with the indicated time.

For less than 5 players, ignore anything that comes right after the soundtrack says “Unconfirmed report.” In a 5 player game, everything happens.

Whenever the soundtrack says “Incoming Data,” everyone draws one action card.

When the soundtrack counts down for a Data transfer, each player can give one non-heroic card to another player. The card must pass from hand to hand before the beep.

Sometimes the soundtrack will say “Communication system down.” This means everyone cannot communicate, until the soundtrack says “Communications restored.”

When the phases are going to end, the soundtrack will give a warning - at the one minute mark, twenty seconds, and countdown from 5 seconds. Then it will tell you the phase has ended and to begin the next phase. When a phase ends, the actions for that phase are locked. Everyone picks up their cards for the next phase. Each person can choose to start the next phase early if they want.

The soundtrack ends by counting down the operation end. When you hear, “Mission complete. Jumping to hyperspace,” the Action Round ends, and all actions are locked. Everyone can agree to end the Action Round early, anytime after the end of the second phase announcement. Then the Resolution Round begins.

Resolution Round [3:03]
At the beginning of the Resolution Round, return all the game pieces to their initial setup position. Make sure the correct threat cards were assigned to the correct trajectories and numbers. During the Resolution Round, move the mission step marker along the Mission Steps Board and resolve the indicated steps.

Threat Appears [3:16] - If there is a threat with the number of the current turn, put a token with that number on the first space of the corresponding trajectory board. If the threat is a malfunction, take an oval token with the indicated letter and cover the affected system. For an intruder, take the token with the intruder’s picture and put it in the indicated zone.
Player Actions [3:31] - Everyone reveals their actions, making sure that the top half stays on the top. Starting with the captain and going clockwise, players do their actions in order, marking hit points for internal threats, energy, and weapon activations with the cubes. If you misplayed your card, you can say that you tripped, do the action you meant to do, and then become delayed next turn. Whenever a threat is destroyed, give the card to the captain, remove the numbered token from its Trajectory Board, and remove any tokens for internal threats. Weapons that are activated during the action step don’t do damage until the compute damage step - just move the energy cubes to indicate that the weapons have been fired. If someone maintains the computer, place a gray block from the bridge and put it on the Computer Maintenance step of the Mission Steps Board for the current row. If there’s already a block there, nothing happens. When a rocket is launched, place the rocket on the first space of the rocket track. If there are no rockets or there’s already a rocket on the space, nothing happens. If anyone pressed C in the bottom middle zone, at the end of this step put a block on the numbered square on the Mission Steps Board corresponding to the current phase and the number of players that looked out the window this turn. You only care about the highest number per phase, so if there’s already a block on a lower square, move it up instead of taking a new one. If there’s a block on a higher square, don’t do anything.
Compute Damage [4:34] - Now you compute damage done to the external threats. All cannons with a block on them, a rocket on the second square of the rocket track, and interceptors in space do damage. The trajectory tracks have 3 distances - distance 1, 2, and 3 from the ship. Each weapon has a range - 1, 2, or 3, and a strength.
First you determine which threat a weapon targets. These laser cannons target one threat each - the closest threat in their zone. The pulse cannon targets all threats in all zones that are distance 1 or 2 from the ship. A rocket targets one threat - the closest threat to the ship in any zone, as long as it is within range 1 or 2. The interceptors target all threats at distance 1. If there's only one threat at that distance, they have strength 3. If there are multiple threats, they have strength 1 for each. Text on the threat cards can affect whether it can be targeted. When weapons target one threat, If multiple threats are on that closest spot, you target the lowest number threat. If there are no valid threats in the targetable area, then the weapon doesn't hit anything.
For each threat, add up the strength of all the weapons that targeted it, and then subtract the shield points to get the damage. If the damage is positive, place that number of red blocks on the threat card. If the number of blocks on the card is equal to or more than the hit points, the threat is destroyed. Damage and targeting does not carry over to other threats.
After all damage is done, remove the green energy blocks from the cannons and any rocket on the second square of the rocket track and put them in the bank. Move any yellow cubes from the light cannons back to the power packs.
Threat Actions [5:49] - Now the threats move. Starting with the lowest number threat and going in order, each threat moves on its Trajectory Board a number of squares equal to its speed. When it lands on or passes an X, Y, or Z space, it will perform that action as indicated on the card. When a threat gets to the end, it performs the Z action and can no longer be affected by player actions. The card goes to the Communications Officer and the token is removed from the Trajectory track. Intruder tokens are also removed, but malfunction tokens remain and the system is unrepairable after the Z action. After all the threats move, move any rocket on the first space of the rocket track to the second space.
Computer Maintenance Check [6:20] - If there is not a block here, meaning that no one maintained the computer yet this phase, then everyone’s next turn is delayed.
13th Turn [6:26] - In the 13th turn, there are no actions, but a rocket fired on the 12th turn will resolve right before the game ends, so compute its damage like normal. Also, if anyone is in space, they return to the ship. The threats also get one more Threat Action step.

Threats [6:38]
These are the threats. Some of them have special abilities explained by the text. The appendix of the rulebook has further clarification for them. The basic abilities of threats are here, and they happen whenever the threat lands on or passes that letter on the trajectory track.

An attack means the threat attacks the zone it is in for the indicated damage. Each energy block in that zone’s shield reduces the damage by 1, and you return the block to the bank. The remaining damage is applied to the zone. When a zone takes damage, you draw one damage tile from the zone’s stack and put it on the indicated part of the ship, making it not work as well. If the attack says all zones, then the threat attacks all the zones from left to right, each for the indicated strength.

The internal threats deal damage directly to the ship, bypassing the shields. The damage goes to the zone that the threat’s token is currently in.

These threats can adjust their shield or speed.

When a threat heals or repairs, remove that number of red damage blocks from the threat’s card, or all of them if it has less damage.

Internal threats can move around the ship. Move the threat token the indicated direction. Threats can move even if the gravolift is in use or damaged. 

This makes anyone whose figure is in the indicated area delayed next turn. 

This will knock out players. When you’re knocked out, lay your figure down on the board. The rest of your actions don’t do anything. If you had battlebots, they are also disabled.

If these get activated, you immediately lose the game.

Damage Tokens [7:52]
Each zone has 6 damage tokens. If you need to draw a 7th token for that zone, you lose.
These reduce the strength of the laser cannons. This reduces the range of the pulse cannon to only one distance. These reduce the maximum capacity of the shield or reactor. When it’s damaged, any extra energy is returned to the bank. These damage the corresponding gravolift. Anyone that does a gravolift action using a damaged gravolift gets delayed the next turn. These are structural damage and don’t have any effect.

Variants [8:18]
2-3 Players [8:20] - For a game with less than 4 players, you’ll need to have android players - one in a 3-player game and two in a 2-player game. You can also have one more android to get 5 total figures. During setup, each android only gets one card, which is a heroic action card. In a 3-player game, each player gets 6 cards total per phase instead of 5. In a 2-player game, each player gets 9 cards for the first phase and 6 cards for the other 2. If playing with 5 figures, each player gets one extra card in the first phase.

During actions, each android’s card is revealed at the start of the first phase. Any player can play an action for an android by playing their own action card or the android’s heroic action on the android’s board, face up. Once you play a card for an android, it cannot be moved. If you’re playing with 5 total figures, unconfirmed reports apply to your game.

During the Resolution Round, the androids are just like players - their actions are executed and resolved in player order with the other players, and anything that affects players also affects them, except androids cannot trip.

Solo Game [9:11] - For a solo game, play with 4 android players. Each android is dealt a face down heroic card for the first phase, and you get the entire action card deck face up in front of you. Reveal the heroic cards when you start the soundtrack. Each android can use any action card, but only its own heroic action. You can change planned cards until the end of the phase. Ignore Data Transfer, Incoming Data, and Communication System Down announcements.

Exploration Campaign [9:34] - In an Exploration Campaign, you play up to 3 consecutive games, or missions, choosing the difficulty levels and a random soundtrack separately for each mission. At the end of a mission, damage on the ship will stay, with some repairs. All oval tokens get removed, so malfunctions are repaired. Then, starting with the captain and going in player order, each player or android can repair one damaged tile or one disabled battlebot squad. Knocked out players cannot repair anything - they just stand up. Repaired damage tiles get shuffled back into their respective stacks. In each zone, no more than 2 damage tiles can be repaired.

In the next mission, the remaining damage tiles have their usual effects. Also, any unrepaired reactors and shields have one less block during setup. Unrepaired structural damage means that any damage to that zone in the next mission will be doubled once it gets past the shields. Any unrepaired battlebots squad isn’t placed on the board in the next mission. If you only have one squad, you choose which of the two stations it starts in.

Record threat scores and visual confirmation points as usual for each mission, but not the penalties. If the ship is destroyed in any of the missions, you lose and don’t get a score. You can decide to end after any of the 3 missions. After your last mission, don’t repair the ship, and record penalties like a normal game. For the final score, add up the points for all the threats from all the missions, subtract the penalties from the last mission, and add the average of your visual confirmation points from the missions, rounded down.
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