The Captain is Dead Board Game Review (AEG)

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The Captain is Dead, and you're facing an onslaught by hostile aliens. Can your crew survive long enough to engage your warp drive? The Captain is Dead is a board game that perfectly encapsulates the second half of many Star Trek episodes. Absolutely everything has gone pear-shaped: aliens are boarding the ship, systems are going down, and bizarre (almost magical) anomalies are impacting the crew. Through cooperation and a little bit of luck, you'll have to manage each emergency as it comes.

The Captain is Dead Board Game Details

Players: 2 to 7

Game Time: 60 Minutes

Age: 10+

Genre: Cooperative / AP

How Do You Play The Captain is Dead?

To begin with, players select their role. There are 18 characters to choose from, each of which is a certain 'type' of character. Some characters are engineers, other characters are soldiers, while other characters are artificial crew members. Characters have a certain amount of AP cards, resource discounts, and some special features. They also have an "rank," which denotes their turn order.

The brightly-colored game board of The Captain is Dead makes most actions intuitive.

During the game, players will take turns trying to repair ship systems, getting inventory items, and sending out missiles. Doing things on the ship requires 'skill cards,' which are the game's primary resource and can be traded between players (at the expense of actions). At the end of every turn, a new event will occur. These events may create anomalies, spawn aliens, or damage the ship's shields. If the ship's shields give out, the game is over. 

The ship's systems play a significant role in the game: if the communications systems go down, players can't trade skill cards. If the teleportation goes down, players need to waste more time moving around. If the ship's scanners go down, players won't be able to see what's coming next. 

Anomalies can be fixed (most easily by the science officer), but they can also make the game significantly harder. A "fear" anomaly might make it so that players can't repair items without another person in the room, while a "gravity" anomaly might make movement take twice as long. Towards the end of the game, there will be aliens, anomalies, and enemy ships all around.

What Happens If You Die in The Captain is Dead?

The Captain is Dead, but you can't die. During the game, aliens will board the ship, often injuring players. Players can get knocked down and will need to crawl to a doctor or to the med bay to get healed, but they can't get killed. However, if thy are injured, they need to get healed before they can be useful again.

Players can only hold a certain number of skill cards, and these skill cards can be difficult to come by.

If aliens are around a player, the only action they can take is to fight an alien. Fighting an alien automatically removes it, but they can respawn at an alarming rate. If the ship is over overrun (no more alien tokens are left to place), the game will end.

Other than that, the only loss condition is losing all of your shields. You can repair your shields, but the enemies also get progressively stronger. If you haven't repaired your warp drive and warped out in time, you're going to be dead.

How Do You Win The Captain is Dead?

Overall, the best strategy for The Captain is Dead appeared to be to focus doggedly on repairing the warp drive as fast as possible. It's easy to get distracted with other things, such as repairing non-essential systems, but the best plan is to get the engineer all of the skill cards they need and have them try to fix the warp drive before the harder events come out.

One way of doing this was to have someone pulling plan cards in the War Room constantly. The plan cards all have positive outcomes and some of them are quite powerful. One type of card will just fix a level of damage on the warp drive immediately, and there are multiples of these cards. Some player characters can pull plan cards "for free" because they don't need to spend resource cards to do so.

Is The Captain is Dead Worth Buying?

If you like challenging cooperative games with a science-fiction twist, The Captain is Dead is a good choice. It's a difficult game, and most players will lose a couple of times. The danger ramps up very quickly, and players need to be working together to win. Once the danger ramps up enough, it becomes almost impossible.

At the same time, this is a game that lends itself very easily to quarterbacking. The characters are not overly complex, and all their discounts and traits are easily seen on their cards. Everything players have -- skills and inventory -- are in plain view. Consequently, it's very easy for one person to jump up and begin directing each action. In fact, in terms of winning the game, it's almost desirable.

It was rare that we finished a game of "The Captain is Dead" with players actually playing their characters. Instead, every time someone's turn came up, there was some group discussion about what that character should do. This isn't something that will ruin the game for most players, but if you like being in charge of your own characters and your own actions, you may become frustrated.

The Captain is Dead Board Game Review
  • PRO: A challenging cooperative experience for up to 7 players.
  • PRO: A fairly in-depth simulation of the worst day ever on a space ship.
  • CON: May have some players feeling left out, as others may begin to play their turn.
  • CON: Not extremely replayable.