Before I begin, I was provided with a review copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would rather watch a video of this review you can check it out below, and get your own copy here.
I am always on the lookout for a good co-op game that plays fast, and plays to my wife’s strengths. She is a master of making sure things get where they need to be, when they need to be there. So obviously Solar Storm immediately was attractive to me. Here is a game that plays in under an hour, and is, at its heart, all about using your resources wisely and managing the clock to keep your ship from blowing up.
In Solar Storm you find yourself on a ship that is too darn hot. Why is it too darn hot? ‘Cause it is next to the darn sun. Why is it next to the darn sun? No clue. I can only assume hubris. In any event the ship’s core has shut down and your only hope is to reroute power from all the other rooms on the ship in order to power the core and get the heck out of dodge.
As you play the ship will be consistently taking damage, and you have to balance repairing the ship with trying to divert the energy. Of course if there is any damage to the room you are unable to reroute the energy. Each room has it’s own specific power that you can use, this might be repairing a room across the ship, or activating a radiation shield in another room, or looking at the upcoming damage cards and re-ordering them.
Each player gets three actions per turn, which allows them to move, fix a room (if they have the right resources), divert power, activate a room power, or scavenge for resources. In addition each turn, you will gain some resources, and more damage will be dealt to the ship, and the longer the game goes on the more damage gets dealt each round.
You play until either the ship blows up, or you escape.
So what do I think?
I like the overall look of the game, the meeples are cool and custom, the box art is off the hook cool, and the rooms have a good look to them. I also appreciate that this is a truly small box game, and there is even room in the box to sleeve the cards if that is your jam.
The game is extremely easy to pick up and play, and the solo variant does a good job of changing enough of the rules to make it manageable without really changing the experience of the game. It also really does capture the feeling of you running around and putting out fires all over the ship as you try to get the thing fixed so you can escape. I do think the theme is realized. The core mechanics of how you gain and use the resources is well done and satisfying to do.
There is definitely a luck factor to the game. If you try to scavenge for more parts you are reliant on a die roll. This is thematic yes, but it can feel frustrating when you roll four 1-2’s in a row and get nothing. Yes this happened to us last time we played. Speaking of the die…why is it green? Make it orange, or yellow, or if the KS funded well enough a cool marbled color so it looks like fire.
This game is punishingly hard. I have now played ten games (3 two player, 7 co-op), and I have won a grand total of zero times. The closest I have come is just having to jump start the core once. All the other games I never got closer than two rooms away…so not close at all. A lot of people like a REALLY hard co-op game, but if you are not one of those beware.
I also wonder if the game will not eventually start to feel a little same-y. There are only 8 rooms (plus the escape pod which you use on 3-4 players). Yes the arrangement of them changes every game, but I have a feeling you will start to wish you had some other room options. Though there is a mini-expansion that offers some different rooms, or at least changes the abilities on the rooms.
Bringing it all together
Solar Storm is a fun, and thematic game that finds you constantly running around a putting out fires. It really makes you prioritize what you can put off until later and what you need to do now. While the core mechanics of the game are very reminiscent of The Captain is Dead, the game feels more streamlined, faster, and at the end of the day is a different experience. The game has a small footprint, and good components (though I grumble about that green die!). The game is PUNISHINGLY hard, but if you are the type that likes a hard co-op this is one worth checking out, especially for the price.
Yeah…no one is reading all the when we are about to fall into the sun
* Streamlined rules, easy to play, VERY hard to win
* Good art, and components
* Both the solo mode and multi-player co-op are good experiences
* Would benefit from some additional rooms, or variant abilities
* Good value for the price, especially if you are looking for a real challenge