MoonQuake Escape Review

MOONQUAKE ESCAPE (Breaking Games)

Playing is for pleasure. Whether we enjoy a good old fashioned battle of wits or the thrilling randomness of a dice roll or card draw, we’re gamers because we love having fun! Breaking Games’ MoonQuake Escape focuses on the fun by giving players lots of meaningful options, an exciting and unique theme, and a few splashes of randomness to make sure the gameplay always stays engaging.

This two-to-six player board game casts players as the most hardened of intergalactic criminals confined to their cells on the prison planet Zartaclaton. That wouldn’t be much fun, except a giant MoonQuake nearly destroys the prison and sets the inmates free. Now, players must outsmart, outgun and outguess one another as they traverse an ever-changing landscape in an effort to be the one-and-only survivor to escape the planet before Zartaclaton crumbles to mere space dust

There are a number of moving parts here, but the primary gameplay element requires that players keep their escaped alien inmates hidden from both the patrolling guard as well as other alien convicts. All cards except blue equipment cards are laid face-down in front of each player. A player’s hand of cards can include a single red alien card that the player is attempting to keep hidden, yellow hazard cards that negatively affect defenders, green trap cards that spell trouble for attackers, and purple cards that either do nothing or affect everyone playing the game. The previously mentioned blue equipment cards are always played face up and can be activated for a cost. Bluffing, therefore, is an essential element of MoonQuake escape. Would it be better to protect a hidden alien with some energy shields or draw opponents’ attention to other cards by spreading said shields across many less crucial cards? Players must constantly ask themselves such questions if they hope to succeed.

There are four phases in each round of play. First, there’s the MoonQuake phase. The moon spinner determines how many battery charges everyone gets. A die is then rolled to see how each surface ring spins. This is the phase that can quickly turn an easy shot at escape into an unlikely path toward victory. The escape phase in next, in which every hidden alien must move closer to the escape rocket and exposed players get to draw more cards before hiding again. Third, there’s the action phase. Players spend battery charges in order to activate actions that range from zappping to expose a card in another player’s hand to stealing unready equipment from others. Finally, the guard phase takes place. The guard then advances toward the launchpad or zappps every alien on his level. If nobody escapes on the rocket, the process repeats.

All of this may seem a bit overwhelming for younger or less experienced gamers, but MoonQuake Escape provides plenty of visual resources for clearing up any confusion and progressing the gameplay as quickly as possible. Each player gets a status card that is used to keep track of battery charges and ready/unready equipment as well as defining names and costs of action icons. These cards can also be flipped to reveal a key of the game’s many terrain effects. The manual also gets the job done. After only one or two sessions, anyone should be able to navigate MoonQuake Escape’s multi-tiered board with ease and get right to the enjoyment of outrunning and outgunning their friends.

One of the coolest aspects of MoonQuake Escape is the customization of its board. All three of the surface rings and the launch pad boast basic and advanced sides, and these sides can be setup in any combination. Basic sides offer only plains and cratered terrain too keep things easy or introduce new players to the game. The advanced sides threaten players with eight different terrain types. Each type can alter a player’s options. Radiation, for example, prevents an escaping alien from saving any battery charges for the next round. Each terrain space also grants a specific bonus action. This forces players to weight the costs and benefits of each space they enter into. With the MoonQuake so often changing the terrain, the best-laid plans can fall apart in a single turn. Thus, flexibility and openness to improvisation can often lead to victory… with a little bit of luck, of course.

The only unfortunate setback that reared its ugly head when playing the game came in the form of a minor production imperfection. The glue that held the top piece on our copy’s base structure did not hold tight. It did bring gameplay to a grinding halt when this component came apart, but all was not lost. The game designer himself offers an easy online repair guide to get everyone back to zappping, zippping, spying and stealing as quickly as possible. Any similar issues can likely be resolved with a little alignment and a quick dab of glue before getting back to the action.

Ultimately, it all comes down to a single question. Is this game worth playing? The answer is a resounding yes! MoonQuake Escape is a rollicking good time. Its whimsical 3D board and cartoony artwork belie the impressively deep tactical experience of racing other alien prisoners to victory. The option to play with any mix of basic or advanced Surface Rings allows for a great deal of difficulty customization and makes MoonQuake Escape an excellent choice for kids, newbies, and hardcore gamers alike. Its relatively short playtime means it can work whenever anyone wants to break out a tabletop game, from the single session during a family gathering to a welcomed addition in the middle of a gaming marathon. (Breaking Games) by Kris Poland

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