Mole Rats in Space…Space..Space…February 3, 2020
Ryan looks at the co-op game Mole Rats in Space (for ages 7+), designed by Matt Leacock of Pandemic and Forbidden Island fame.
\Editors note: A version of this article was originally published on our brother site, The Inquisitive Meeple back in 2017. It has since has had a name change to Space Escape, though we will be keeping the original name in this article. This article has been edited (including the cutting out of an interview with the designer) to better fit the style of Adventures in Gameschooling.
What is this game?
“In Mole Rats in Space, you and your teammates are mole rats on a research station that has been invaded by snakes. You need to collect your equipment and escape the station before you’re bit or time runs out.
On a turn, you carry out the instructions on the card in front of you, perhaps moving yourself or your teammates, moving one or more snakes, or adding a new snake to the board. Land on the bottom of a ladder, and the character (or snake) advances one level toward the escape pod; land on a chute, and you descend a level — or are shot out into the vast reaches of space where you die slowly of asphyxiation. Make sure that only snakes suffer this fate or you lose the game!
If you land on a snake, you’re bit and must return to your starting location; get bit a second time, and you die. Run out of cards, you die. Let a snake board the escape pod, you die. In case that threat of death isn’t enough for you, the game includes a pack of cards to add to the deck once you’ve triumphed a few times so that you can increase the challenge.”
A co-op Chutes (Snakes) and Ladders set in space, with actual snakes trying to kill you. That is the premise of Peaceable Kingdom’s and designer Matt Leacock’s (Pandemic, Forbidden Island) new co-op game for ages 7+. Is it any good? Let’s check that out…
Mole Rats in Space, while perhaps the most complicated of Peaceable Kingdom games, is by far Matt Leacock’s simplest game and is very easy to play. On your turn, you play a single card, take the indicated action (usually two actions: moving mole rats and taking an action related to the snakes), collect 4 items and everyone needs to make it to an escape pod. However, true to Matt Leacock form, there are many ways to lose the game. The game does come with an advanced version that you can “unlock” (it comes in a separate envelope) after you win three games. This ramps up the difficulty (we haven’t tried it yet) and adds yet another way to die.
The game is perfect for the younger crowd it is intended for – basically kids too young to play Forbidden Island and a little too old to play other Peaceable Kingdom’s co-op games (ages 7-10 range). Despite only giving players a single card to use (no handful of cards to choose from), it is still quite a fun game. There can be tense moments during play, and in fact, we are horrible at playing this game. We always die near the end of the basic game (watch out for those snakes!). I am sure that if I took over and wanted to play as an Alpha Player, we could win – but that isn’t the point, this is a game to enjoy with your children.
Let me also add that the production is top rate. Player pawns are plastic mole rats in space suits with backpacks that actually carry the cardboard tokens you are collecting. The insert is very professionally done as well. I was very impressed by the production, which is something I don’t typically say about games.
Mole Rats in Space may not be for the adult-only crowd, but it is a great game for mixed company. When it is all said and done, it may end up being the most played Matt Leacock game in our house, only time will tell. It is very easy to teach and can handle young ages. It also can have some tense moments near the end of the game (not to mention teachable moments “Maybe we should have gone this way…”).
How does Mole Rats in Space compare to other Matt Leacock games?
Well, this is the easiest of all of his games both to teach and to understand. Instead of having a handful of cards, like in Forbidden Island or Pandemic, you only have a single card to play. In between turns, there are no setups for the next turn (no sinking island, no diseases to spread, etc), also there are no special action cards or variable player powers. There also isn’t any Action Points to spend. The only thing Mole Rats in Space has in common with other Matt Leacock co-op is the magic number 4. You have 4 things you must collect. Oh, and there are lots of ways to lose. You lose if you run out of cards if one of your players gets sucked into the cold vacuum of space, if one of the players is poisoned to death by a snake, or if a snake gets into your escape pod.
Mole Rats in Space is one of those children games that parents won’t roll their eyes about when the kids in the house ask them to play it. If you have kids within the age range of 6 to 11 years old, this game is a must-have for your gaming library.
Note: Thank you to Peaceable Kingdom for sending a review copy of the Mole Rats in Space for an honest opinion.