‘The Captain Is Dead Episode 2: Adrift’

The Captain Is Dead Episode 2: Adrift

So you repaired the Jump Core and escaped the hostile alien ship–but now you’re in an asteroid field. Some aliens managed to stow away and are now sabotaging the ship’s systems, and on top of that, an asteroid has knocked the Jump Core offline. Again. Welcome to The Captain Is Dead, Episode 2: Adrift.

At a glance: Adrift is an expansion (designed by J.T. Smith and Jamie Vrbsky) for The Captain Is Dead, so the base game is required. It’s a cooperative game for 2 to 7 players, ages 12 and up, and takes 60-90 minutes to play, according to the rules. I would allow extra time, though, particularly the first time you play or if you have players who really like to think through their moves. Younger players could probably play this, though they would need to be comfortable with brutally difficult cooperative games. The retail price is $19.99, but it’s currently The Game Crafter’s crowd sale for $10. (Read more about TGC’s crowd sales here.)

Captain Is Dead: Adrift components
Components for Adrift. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components

  • 24 Yellow Alert cards
  • 25 Orange Alert cards
  • 8 Red Alert cadrs
  • 2 Battle Plan cards
  • 12 Veteran Ability cards
  • 1 reference card
  • 10 damage tokens

The cards look a lot like the base game cards, though the backs are marked with a little asteroid graphic so you can identify them easily. Except for the two Battle Plan cards, they aren’t actually shuffled together with the base game cards, so there’s not a lot of sorting necessary. I do wish they’d put the icon on the faces of the cards, at least for the Battle Plans, because now you can easily spot if either of the new Battle Plans is on the top of the deck.

The damage tokens are black plastic gems. The cards themselves are okay–the same quality as the originals. They’re not top-of-the-line cards, but they do all right. Like the original, there are minimal graphics, with mostly text. Most people know of The Game Crafter as a site to order components for prototyping games, though they do also sell finished games, like this one. However, in my opinion the overall quality of the components, even for the finished games, isn’t quite at the level of polish as other major game publishers.

The whole thing comes in a tuckbox that’s a little larger than it needs to be. With the small rulebook and the damage tokens, I can see why it wouldn’t go in just a regular tuckbox, but this one is thick enough that I can’t actually put it inside the original game box and still put the lid on all the way.

Adrift setup
Hmm, there seem to be a lot of aliens on board… Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

How to play

If you’re not familiar with the base game, check out my explanation of The Captain Is Dead here.

The object of the game is still to repair the Jump Core, though in this episode you can also win if the Alert deck runs out. (In Episode 1, if the Alert deck runs out, you lose.)

To set up the game, you replace the entire Alert deck from Episode 1 with the new Alert deck: red on the bottom, orange in the middle, and yellow on top. Also, you start with all of the aliens already on the board–one in each room, and one in each hallway. And you’ll shuffle the two new Battle Plans into the Battle Plan deck.

Each player also gets a Veteran Ability card–these are special abilities on top of whatever character abilities you have, and you distribute them before you choose your characters, so that you can pick a character that best suits the ability.

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Adrift Veteran Abilities
The Veteran Abilities add to your character abilities. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Finally, as before, you resolve the first 5 Alerts, causing some initial damage to the ship (and potentially injuring players), and then the game begins.

The Alert deck is set up similarly to the original, but with a few twists. There are still various Anomalies that will affect you as you go about your business. These, as before, can be removed by researching them in the Science Lab.

Adrift Anomalies
Some anomalies are more problematic than others. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Asteroids are a new type of Alert. Since you’re drifting through an asteroid field, you’ll often be hit by an asteroid, causing various types of damage to your shields or to ship systems.

The Asteroid cards also introduce a new way to override Alerts. In the original, you could spend 3 Command points to override an Alert card you just drew. In Episode 2, your ability to dodge an Asteroid correlates to the state of your Jump Drive: the better your Jump Drive, the fewer Command points it costs to dodge an Asteroid.

Adrift Asteroids
Asteroids are the main source of damage to the ship. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

There’s a new type of damage in Adrift–sometimes rather than being knocked offline right away, a system can be damaged. You mark these with damage tokens. If any system gets 3 damage tokens, it is then flipped offline and must be repaired. Only the “Maintenance” Veteran Ability can remove these damage tokens. On top of that, at the start of any turn when there are aliens present, you add another damage token to any system that already has them.

Finally, there are the alien probes.

Adrift alien probes
Alien probes, as you may expect, are not good. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Alien Probes are ship-type Alerts, and will be placed next to the board. In the original game, alien ships will increase damage to your shields until you shoot them down with torpedoes. This time around, they don’t do damage when they show up, but if you ever have two of them in play at the same time, you lose the game. Ready those torpedoes!

Some of the Alien Probes are only active at a certain difficulty level, otherwise you discard them. So the harder you set the difficulty level, the more probes you’ll have to deal with (on top of having more repairs to make on the Jump Drive).

If you ever take shield damage that drops you below 0%, or if two Alien Probes are attached, or if you ever need to teleport more aliens onto the ship but you don’t have any more pawns, then you lose the game. To win, you must either repair the Jump Drive all the way, or survive the entire Alert deck.

Adrift-vented into space
Yikes! The Weapons Officer (me) just got vented into space. Red Alerts are brutal. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Verdict

I’ve only gotten to play Adrift a couple times so far, but I wanted to get this written up while the crowd sale was still going–you’ve got just about a week left. If you have The Captain Is Dead, I highly recommend picking up a copy: it’s only ten bucks during the sale, and adds a new dimension to the gameplay. (Note: if you don’t have the original, you can also pick that up during the crowd sale. The price is currently at about $38, but that could drop another two bucks if enough people buy it.)

One of my primary concerns when I reviewed The Captain Is Dead was the replayability. You can mix up the characters and the Alerts will always come in a random order, but otherwise the game was the same each time. (The final game did come with even more characters than I had in the prototype.) Introducing this expansion changes the experience and gives you a different set of challenges. The game still feels familiar, but with some tweaks–calling it “Episode 2” is quite appropriate.

I do hope, though, that at some point we get an Episode that isn’t all about repairing the Jump Drive. I mean, the game is built around the Jump Drive–even the difficulty level of the game is based on its initial setting–but it would be nice to have some other type of objective, too.

Adrift alien trap
Ha! Caught the aliens with our Alien Trap Battle Plan. Nobody go in the Cargo Hold. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

I also liked the Veteran Abilities, and the way that it gives you even more possibilities, mixing and matching these new abilities with the existing character powers. They do mention that they don’t recommend using the Veteran Abilities with Episode 1 because the game isn’t balanced for them. The two new Battle Plans are useful, but with only two of them you won’t always encounter them.

If you’re somebody who really wants top-notch component quality, I don’t think The Game Crafter’s games will quite live up to that. While I like Gaetano Leonardi’s illustrations, the overall look (font, card backs, etc.) isn’t quite at the level of major established publishers. However, if you’re willing to settle for good (not perfect) component quality, the gameplay is a lot of fun.

Some of the other issues from the base game still apply here: the alpha-player syndrome in cooperative games is still present, because The Captain Is Dead is a bit of a puzzle-solving game no matter which episode you play, so it’s something to be aware of.

If you like difficult cooperative games, The Captain Is Dead and Adrift would make a nice addition to your game collection, particularly if you’re a sci-fi fan. It’s fun to play through these “episodes” and I’m curious to see what designer J.T. Smith has for us next. Order your copy from The Game Crafter.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this game.

Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.