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Designed by: JT Smith & Jamie Vrbsky
Published by: AEG
THE CAPTAIN IS DEAD: DANGEROUS PLANET
This is the third game in The Captain is Dead series of fun games in the Escape Room genre.  Like all of the 'Captain is Dead' games you need a fairly large table on which to play as the tunnels, cards and other assorted components spread wide and far. 

 

So the Captain died and then the crew carried on the fight until they were captured and taken to an Alien Colony on an Alien Planet. The intrepid adventurous heroes then fought (and sneaked) their way out of the Colony's cells to the launch bay where they stole an Alien Vessel and escaped the Alien Planet and Alien World. This brave crew then 'volunteered' at Star Base High Command to go on another mission to another Alien Planet, this time one that is hidden in another (or similar) Alien World. With a new Captain at the helm, things were looking up.

Landing the Shuttle safely and discreetly, the Captain bravely led his men forwards and onward into the Alien built tunnel, heading towards the Alien Settlement. As they emerged from the deep, dark, tunnel, out into the failing light of the late afternoon, a giant Alien Bug flew down of the tunnel roof with a flurry of gossamer wings and a huge mouth full of gnashing, giant, pointy, Alien molars and fangs, and decapitated the courageous Captain in one foul swoop. Oh well, it's not like you haven't been in a similar situation before, so it's on with the Mission - the collection of Alien Artifacts.

Apart from the components required to play through the Mission there is an envelope containing 15 bonus Yellow (lowest level) Alert cards; these are for one of the variations on playing - Koyashi Baru. This is an 'unbeatable' training simulation. Star Trek viewers may recognise the similarity between 'Koyashi Baru' and the famous 'Kobayashi Maru' which also happens to be an 'unbeatable' training mission. Having played several games of 'The CAPTAIN is DEAD: LOCKDOWN' and the 'CAPTAIN is DEAD: DANGEROUS PLANET' and not yet managed a win - Dangerous Planet being even more difficult to be successful at - I have no idea why you'd want to introduce yet another 'unbeatable' element into the play. Even though the Koyashi Baru cards only replace the 'easy' Yellow Alerts getting safely through them is a joyous event in itself.

The game is for seven players and as such there are seven sets of three different characters to form the crew. Each player takes the three character cards and standees for their chosen colour and then selects just one of them. Unfortunately the other two are then removed from the game - there is no 'new' character for a player if they get killed because in this game player characters cannot be killed, though they can be injured; only Bugs and Alien enemies are killed 'sort of' (they are returned to the supply to be available for the next wave etc).

 

Because there are three choices for each colour character set it is important that the players agree about each others choices. Talk through who is available if you have already chosen your favourite colour, or go through all the possible characters and take the team you think best suit your style of play - ie put aside your favourite colours and take the characters that fit the bill, though you may only have one of each single colour on the team, though I would suggest you always have someone who can access Science. Science is needed to collect Artifacts, and you are required to collect 15 of the 18 Alien Artifacts to win (more if you are playing hard-core).

This is a cooperative game and you need to talk things out between yourselves as often as possible if you want to come close to succeeding. There are occasions, when Comms are shut off, that you are not allowed to converse and it is quite difficult to 'turn off' your chat button having spent most of the game chatting away freely.

Speaking of the Comms being shut off, the Shuttle has six Systems online, at least to begin with. Teleporter, Internal Sensors, Computers, External Scanners, Comm System and Medical Station. All of these are printed on the board but the first five of these systems are represented by cards; one side showing the system ONline and the flip side showing them OFFline; the Medical Station is always online and cannot be damaged (at least while the game is still playing). On the other hand the cards can be damaged and flipped to OFF and then you need to have the correct skills to repair them (as shown on the cards themselves).

 

Each of the systems plays an essential part in the characters mission. The Teleporter allows characters to move to any space on the board that they can see (exceptions being the face down tunnel tiles and the Bug Nests). The External Scanners allow you to see the next Alerts and try to plan accordingly. The Comms allows all characters to chat freely and pass cards to and from anywhere in the tunnels. The Medical Station allows characters to heal (they can be injured, to show this the standee is laid on its side). Computers allow players to gain additional Skill cards - Skills are 'spent' when used unless they are a character's inate ability (Bonus skills printed on the character's card). The Internal Sensors allow players to choose their Skill card/s when they are given the opportunity to draw. This means they can take the top card off the deck as usual or they can select one of the three face up on display. 

Note: There is a minor typo. The Rules Book, the Board and the System cards:- the Symbols for the Computers and the Internal Sensors have been accidentally switched. As long as you go by the Title of the cards rather than the symbols when you setup the game there is no problem.

The Mission is to collect the Alien Artifacts from (mainly) inside the tunnels. Depending on which level of Difficulty you decide on you need to collect 15, 16, 17 or 18 (or 14, 15, 16 or 17) Artifacts - there are only 18 Artifacts, thus if you play the Insane version you have no room for error as there are only 18 Artifacts. Another minor hiccup where the rules and board slightly disagree. You select your difficulty level by placing a clear counter on it during setup. The Difficulty Levels are Novice (on the 15th Artifact space), Normal (16th space), Veteran (17th space) and Insane (18th space). In the rules it clearly states that you lose the game if the number of destroyed Artifacts reaches the Difficulty marker placed at the start of the game. If you set the difficulty level to 'Insane', you cannot afford to lose even a single Artifact during the game. 

This last statement implies that if you lose the 18th Artifact on the Insane level then you immediately lose - you are required to collect all of the 18 Artifacts - as you cannot collect them all if you lose one. Under the rules for the Artifact Track it says to win the 'Normal' game (Normal being on the 16th space) you need to collect 15 Artifacts, thus stopping the collecting before reaching the selected space. This would mean to lose when playing the Insane level you could actually lose one Artifact from the 18 and still have enough (17) left to win. Using this as the base rule you can lose 1 Artifact at Insane, 2 at Veteran, 3 at Normal or 4 at Novice, and still win. 

 

The Tunnels. Large tiles that are placed adjacent to each other with their 'pointy' end away from the Shuttle/ These tiles have 2 spaces each and may contain Bonuses or Hazards.
These lead up to the open doors of the Shuttle. There are 8 setups shown that have either 2 or 4 openings at the Shuttle end but always have 6 Bug Nests and no separate open ends; you can use one of the shown complexes or you can design your own as long as you stick to having 6 Bug Nests. These are special tiles marked A, B, C, D, E and F. Although the setups show them placed mainly in alphabetical order, they needn't be, in fact you are supposed to shuffle them face down and then randomly place them on the open ends of the tunnels, as far from the Shuttle as possible.

The Bugs. Represented by small Counters.
Like those Aliens in the  'Starship Troopers' movie, the Bugs in this game keep on coming. First they move slowly but gradually they speed up and they move during every player's turn not just at the end of a Round. If Bugs are injured they die (are placed back into supply). Bugs only move forward towards the Shuttle. If a Bug reaches a special Device they destroy it on touch. If a Bug reaches a character they injure them, but then they ignore injured characters. Whenever a Bug deals damage to anything the Bug dies.

The Devices. Zapper. Blaster. Railgun. Force Field. Shock Field. Stasis Field. All are represented by standee miniatures.
These can be built by the characters using their Skills (inate or cards) and placed in the tunnels facing away from the Shuttle. Devices can be activated by characters and will also activate automatically once per player turn. Each Device has a specific range limit and a specific damage value. Devices will keep Bugs away for a while but unfortunately once a Device is overrun by Bugs it is destroyed and removed from the game (we played our last game allowing players to rebuild/repair destroyed Devices and we still got our collective Butts kicked).

 

At the beginning of the game 5 Alert cards are activated. After this one Alart card is activated in each player's turn. These usually add Bugs to certain areas. It is possible for a Bug to appear on an occupied space, destroy or injure the occupier and immediately die. Alerts are known in the game as the 'Big Bad Stuff' but they aren't always as hurtful as an Anomaly. Alerts are read and activated then discarded. Anomalies stay in position until removed.

DANGEROUS PLANET is one of those fun and frustrating games. The components are colourful, mainly card, and strong enough to sustain many hours of play. It can be played solo or with up to a compliment of 7 players, the difficulty remaining the same however many players there are. Playing solo doesn't mean having just one character, you'll need 3 or 4, but you have to stick to the rules, except whatever the rules say they cannot stop you talking to yourself.

There are a lot of interestingly good mechanics in DANGEROUS PLANET. Not being killed after being injured means that no one is knocked out of the game, you win or lose as a group. Teleporting allows characters to move themselves or each other around the board. Being on the Shuttle space allows for Healing and Skill card gathering. External Scanners lets you know what new hazards are coming along, forewarned can be fore-armed but it doesn't always mean you can do something about it. I like the way the tunnels are constructed. The tiles are laid face-down and only revealed when characters move onto them, but Bugs can scuttle along them flipped or not. The Artifact track has a few special spaces; some release new relics and others increase the speed of the Bugs and with all Bugs moving every turn this can get deadly quickly. These are just a few of the things that make this game a truly difficult challenge.

 

Don't expect to win your first game (or even your 6th) as those Bugs swarm quickly and deadly. They only need to reach the Shuttle to damage it and 4 damages destroys it. Everything is against you. The number of Bugs that appear, the speed they can move, the total loss of the Special Devices after just one hit, having to spend a skill and an action to collect each Artifact while Bugs only have to touch to destroy them. Alerts are almost always against you and they can only be overridden by the player whose turn it is and they have to have 3 Command skills to do so - generally unlikely even though the sensors give you a chance to see this coming and to try to have the player whose turn it will be collect enough Command points. Collecting skills isn't hard but it costs actions, one action per card, and then players can only hold a specific number of cards (as shown on the character cards).

The game's name, the entire series in fact, is designed to look somewhat amateurish and animated Star Trekky, thus giving the impression when first seeing it on a store shelf that it likely to be a silly, parody of a game. It (this game and the series) is certainly not a frivolent lampoon of a strategy Escape Room game. I haven't played the first game in the series so I cannot comment except to say that I have come across it during research and they all have a familiar visage. I can say from playing LOCKDOWN and DANGEROUS PLANET that owning this series seems like a good idea. They are all stand-alone games but can also be played one after the other as part of a campaign, though when doing so you may have to accept that the defeat at the end of one game becomes a success for the beginning of the next.

I play a fair number of games and enjoy most of them, some obviously more than others as that's the nature of the beast. Cooperative games can be fun but often not as satisfying as games with a specific definite winner. Luckily for us, The CAPTAIN is DEAD games that we have played are great fun as cooperative challenges and so far they do have a defined winner - the game! We will continue to Boldly Go until such time as we lose our Red Shirts.

Found in Your Local Game Store for between £30.00 - £35.00 this is easily of good value.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015