In the vastness of space, there is so much to be discovered. Empty Space is a game about exploring space tiles and racing to the exoplanet of their player color. The game plays 2 to 4 players and also includes a solo mode.
To set up the game, 4 exoplanet tiles are put on the table face down. This is the goal for the 4 player colors as they race through space. The shuffled game tiles are then placed in columns under these 4 exoplanets. What I really love is the variable setup for this game board. You can essentially set up a simple or difficult game board by building a design using these tiles. Creating bottlenecks to force players through, widening an area of the play space and having branching paths all make a difference.
Empty Space starts by each player revealing 2 Universe cards on the table. This can give players some information on which path is the best option once they buy their space probe.
All players start with a hand of 4 random space cards. These cards will include 1 of 4 colors or could be a wild card that contains all 4 colors. You may also receive a black hole card which we’ll talk about in a minute. On a players turn, they will “Research” or “Explore” space. Most turns you’ll take the research action. This means you can collect 2 cards then have the opportunity to play cards. Playing cards can allow you to buy a space probe (4 like colored cards), change the Universe (3 like colored cards), reveal or peek at a Universe card (2 unlike colored cards) or play a black hole card.
Exploring Deep Space
Something unique about Empty Space is that players don’t pick a color. In the early game, you’re saving up 4 like colored cards in order to buy that color space probe. Players need to move the space probe through space in order to find and reach the exoplanet of their color.
Players can take the explore action to move their space probe once they have purchased one. With this action, a player can play a blue card to move onto a blue Universe tile. If they player is controlling the blue space probe, they can move onto that blue Universe tile for free. It’s important to keep a range of colors in your hand so that you can move quickly to the goal.
After reaching your color exoplanet, you’ll be ready to buy your rocket (turn in 4 cards of your color) and make one last trek through space to your final destination.
Empty Space is a light game that is a solid choice for families. Player turns are pretty simple with hand management being one of the toughest aspects of the game. Since you can only hold a total of 4 cards in your hand, you often feel limited trying to hold on to specific card colors. This limit feels good because it makes you choose wisely and it’s tough to feel overpowered during the course of the game.
The Landscape of Space
Personally, I’m a fan of a little “take that” in my board games. The black hole cards are exactly that in Empty Space. Players can play a black hole card on any tile in the game (except for on top of the exoplanets). Players cannot land on a black hole and it forces them to go around these tiles. This could disrupt a player that has an easy path leading to their exoplanet. Any player can cover up a black hole by using the “change the Universe” action and submitting 3 like colored cards. Black holes are a great way to slow down and disrupt others.
Empty Space uses NASA images on the Universe tiles with images of different Apollo space crafts on the wild cards. The tiles are too small to appreciate some of the great imagery that was used. The graphic design for the game is fine and isn’t a selling point for this game in my opinion.
Empty Space is easy to recommend for anyone looking for a light racing game. It was easy to teach this to our youngest who is 11 years old. I really like the variable game setup and how it changes the difficulty of the game for all the players. After the first couple rounds, the flow of the game feels natural and moves quickly as you develop a strategy.
If Empty Space sounds like a good fit for you, head over to the Kickstarter campaign that runs through July 22, 2019.
Peter Collins provided us with a prototype copy of Empty Space prior to the Kickstarter campaign. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.