10th Jan2020

‘The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

danger-planet-box

Featuring the semi-slapstick idea that their Captain has been killed for the third time (with this being the third game in the series) The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet takes the players to a Starship Troopers inspired alien home world where they must gather relics in order to better understand their insectoid adversary. Obviously, there’s a lot that can go wrong, and that’s where we come in…

Dangerous Planet is a two to seven player game that plays like a board game but feels like a party game at higher player counts. There’s a fair bit to take in for a very casual gamer, so this isn’t a game to produce once you’ve had four or five beers, but it is great to see an at least moderately complex game that caters for such a high player count. Each game takes about an hour and a half, but it can be shorter with just a few players.

The objective of Dangerous Planet, as I mentioned before, is to obtain alien relics. This is done by exploring the alien homeworld by advancing into one of several tunnels that will be placed during setup. These tunnels are placed completely randomly by the players and broadly speaking the shorter the tunnels, the harder the game. This is because as the players head outwards to collect relics, the bugs head inwards to try and damage their shuttle.

As a cooperative game, the players of Dangerous Planet will be working together to achieve their objective, and it’s critical to use the specific abilities of each crew member wisely. Some characters are capable of dealing lots of damage to enemy bugs whilst withstanding a lot themselves, whilst others are more suited to retrieving relics quickly whilst avoiding combat. Others can repair the ships systems more efficiently, whilst some seem to be pretty much useless and are there for expert players only.

There are a few other things to consider besides simply the movement of the bugs and the actions of the players. In addition, the player shuttle will have a number of systems activated at the beginning of the game, and these do things like show the upcoming event cards (which spawn the bugs.) If these systems become damaged, they cease to function, which can lead to making the situation feel more and more desperate as the game goes on.

To counter this, the player characters have access to skills and gadgets that can be drawn as the result of their abilities or by exploring the map, and will usually have positive effects. For example, there are weapons that allow multiple bugs (either in a row, or in a single space) to be dispatched with a single action point, where usually each action point would only dispatch a single enemy.

Since I’ve mentioned action points, let’s talk about what a player will do on their turn. Firstly, the top most event card will trigger – this is almost always bad, but as long as the shuttle has active scanners, the players will know what’s coming. Event cards do things like add bugs to a spawn location, force bugs to move towards the players, add bugs in random locations (like the same space as each player) or something similar. Having foresight of what these events will be is invaluable as you can imagine, since it then allows the players a turn before each event occurs to plan for it.

When this is done, the players will then take their turns one at a time by spending action points. Each character has about four action points to use for things like moving from space to space, attacking a bug or repairing the shuttle. Some characters have more points than others, whilst in game effects can increase or decrease action points either way. The flow of the game feels a bit like Pandemic, albeit with a very different theme – and it makes sense for the players to plan their moves together on most occasions.

Of course, Dangerous Planet is designed to ensure that goes go wrong very rapidly, and when playing on the harder difficulty levels, players will have very little margin for error. If the bugs damage the shuttle then it’s game over, but equally, the harder the difficulty level you set, the more relics you’ll have to collect. Add to this the fact that the bugs can destroy the relics and move the track in the opposite direction, and you have a situation where it’s possible to lose the game within just a few turns because the bugs destroy more relics than you’ll need to recover.

The production value of Dangerous Planet is unusual, but like most AEG games, it’s quite good. The tokens that make up the board, the bugs and some of the other features are pretty decent, although the art style isn’t the most engaging. Where the slightly quirky, angular look of Dangerous Planet really stands out is on the cards that represent the characters and items, for example, and this is complemented nicely by the clear plastic standees. The only downside to these fairly unique pieces is that it’s quite hard to differentiate each character during setup.

When all is said and done there’s always room on my shelves for games that work well in different modes and Dangerous Planet fits the niche between board game and party game, and it also accommodates more players than most other games. Combine this versatility with a fun, somewhat silly game that is often very challenging (to the extent that it causes a lot of hilarity) and you have a bit of a winner. On the downside, the setup is a little fiddly and the gameplay is straightforward enough that repeated plays do hurt it.

***½  3.5/5

The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator

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