Overview: Ever wanted to build a rocket? Ever wanted to send your fellow rocketeers plummeting back down to Earth where all their hopes and dreams are dashed to shreds? Then Launch Pad is perfect for you.
Released by Stratus Games, who brought us the simple-yet-highly-customizable Gold Mine, this game is a fun and competitive card game where you and your buddies/rivals construct as many spacebound rockets as possible. The one with the most rockets in the launch zone wins. The only problem? Your opponents are constantly trying to sabotage your efforts! It’s as if Aperture Science and Black Mesa were competing with one another during the space race of the 1960′s, and it’s deliciously devious.
Players: 2 to 4
Ages: 10 and up
Playing Time: 30 to 60 minutes
Rating: Great theme, fast-paced, and highly competitive
Who Will Like It? If you’ve always wanted to be an astronaut and have a mean competitive streak, you will blast off with Launch Pad.
It’s the space race of the 1960′s, with colorful rockets and stylized engineers and astronauts. The theme fits perfectly with the mechanics of the game, particularly the Action and Specialty cards.
140 game cards, 4 reference cards, and a rulebook. The cards are high quality linen stock and their art is colorful and well-printed. Like most card game boxes, this one is bigger than it needs to be, in order to provide ample stock facing.
There are seven kinds of cards in the deck. Rocket cards are the bread and butter of Launch Pad. Without them, you won’t win. But in order to advance the rockets into the launch zone, you’ll need a specific combination of Component cards: metal and fuel. Some rockets require more than others, but they will yield more points once they blast off. Bonus cards can also be attached to rockets to boost your points.
Then there are Expert cards, which help you progress from zone to zone. Your rockets start in the Construction Zone, where you try to amass enough resource cards to complete them. Then, by playing an Engineer expert card, you can advance the rocket from Construction to Quality Control. There is an expert for each zone, as well as the Jack of All Trades, which may be used to progress a rocket in any zone.
Action cards are what make the game so much fun. You can immediately move rockets to certain zones, steal cards from your opponents, or send their rockets back down to Quality Control. The dreaded Abort Mission card actually removes another player’s carefully constructed rockets from play altogether, ditching it into the discard. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll have Specialty cards to defend against such despicable acts, but if not, be careful around young children: their innocent ears may not be prepared for the cursing that will result from plays like this.
The Launch Pad cards are inserted into the bottom half of the deck and serve as a timer. When all four make their way into play and make it up to the Launch Zone, the game is nearly over. After the final round, players tally up their score and determine who won the space race.
I had a blast playing this game. It’s got just the right mix of frustration and exultation, of construction and demolition, to keep even the most bored gamers interested. It has the “take that!” factor of classic games like Parcheesi and Sorry! but with more strategy and theme. The artwork is fun and vibrant and really fits the whole space race theme, and like Gold Mine, Stratus has put a bunch of optional rules variants for Launch Pad on their site, which mean that the game doesn’t have to always be the same.
Wired: Fast-paced, great theme, awesome variants available on website
Tired: May prove a bit too cutthroat for some families