Build, Then Fight, in ‘Snap Ships Tactics’

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A little over two years ago, I had the opportunity to review a new type of toy called Snap Ships. At the time, I was impressed with how easy and quick someone could build a ship and then customize it with the many decorative pieces that represented weapon, control, and propulsion systems. About a year later, a new game launched on Kickstarter using the Snap Ship models for tactical combat. After a successful campaign and fulfillment, Snap Ships Tactics is now available at retail. 

What Is Snap Ships Tactics?

Snap Ships Tactics is a is a strategic miniatures battle game you play with modular, fully customizable ship models. It is designed for 1-2 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 45 minutes to play. In addition to the starter box, expansions are also available to allow you to play with more people as well as additional ships and systems. The game is currently available from the Snap Ships online store or from Amazon, as well as local and online game retailers. The suggested retail price of the starter box is $80.

Snap Ships Tactics was designed by Josh Derksen, developed by Team Lynnvander and published by Shap Ships LLC, with illustrations by Ivan Zavorin, Drew Pace, Josh Derksen, and Danylo Yehorov. The Snap Ships model system was created by Scott Pease and Jeff Swenty. 

Snap Ships Tactics Components

Here is what you get in the starter box:

  • 103 Snap Ships pieces including 16 exclusive pieces
  • 2 building instruction booklets
  • 2 plastic ship stands with circular bases
  • 2 vertical stalks (different heights)
  • 2 plastic movement tools
  • 3 range rulers
  • 1 rulebook
  • 8 Chassis cards
  • 24 AI cards
  • 28 Part cards
  • 8 custom ten-sided dice
  • 2 Ship Status trackers
  • 30 blue power cubes
  • 20 red heat cubes
  • 6 Terrain tiles
  • 16 Missile tokens
  • 5 Special Damage tokens
  • 6 Ship ID tokens
  • 6 Activation tokens
  • 1 Initiative token
  • 8 Beacon token
ship models
The Scarab K.L.A.W. Interceptor and the Sabre XF-23 fighter. Each ship can be built into four different models and players can customize the weapons and parts. Photo by Michael Knight.

The starter box includes parts for the Sabre and the Scarab. These are the same ships that were previously available as building sets. However, the game includes 16 exclusive parts which can be added to the models for custom builds.

Chassis Cards
The chassis cards are used during the game and the back side shows the parts to add to the ship.

Each ship has a chassis card. There are four cards for the Sabre and four for the Scarab. Each has a different build. The front of the card lists the hull value and number of power cubes it gets along with the chassis action bar at the bottom which lists the actions the ship can take during that part of its activation. The backside of the card show the parts that ship will have for a preset build as well as the chassis structure. 

parts cards
Samples of some of the parts cards included in the game. Photo by Michael Knight.

Part cards represent the pieces on a ship including a cockpit, thruster, wing, and various systems including weapons. Part cards have an image of the part, the name, the repair cost if any, and then one or two actions which it can perform. Actions show the cost in power and heat as well as the types of actions that part provides for the ship. The flip side of a part card is its disable side. 

status trackers
Each ship has its own status tracker. Photo by Michael Knight.

Along with the chassis cards and part cards, the ship status tracker makes up the control panel of a ship. The top two dials are used to represent the current hull value of the ship while the lower dial shows the current evasion value. The hull value decreases as the ship takes damage. The evasion value is reset at the start of each activation and can then be adjusted by part actions. Evasion helps a ship avoid taking hits during combat. 

AI Cards
The AI cards explain how to control enemy ships not controlled by players. Photo by Michael Knight.

These cards are used to control the opposing side in single player game or coop games where two players are playing on the same side. The front side shows the actions the ship will take during the chassis action and part action phases of its activation. The logic icons along the left side of each row determine the conditions under which the ship will take those actions similar to those found on the chassis and part cards. The back side of the card shows an image of the ship build, how critical hits are applied, and any other passive abilities the ship features. 

rules and movement tools
The range rulers and movement tools. Photo by Michael Knight.

The game comes with two identical movement tools. They can be used to measure short and long moves using the bases of the ships. The markings on them also help when rotating the ships or making movements to the side. The range rulers are used when determining range for weapons with small ruler measuring for range 1 and the longer rulers for range 2. They can be combined for measuring ranges 3 and 4. 

terrain tiles
Terrain tiles can be used by pilots to give them an advantage. Photo by Michael Knight.

The game includes four types of terrain tiles. Debris clouds provide soft cover (which increases the hit number against a target by 2) and  gives +1 evasion to any ship which enters this terrain. Ice clouds not only provide soft cover as well, but also let a ship entering it to immediately vent one power or heat. Tycho’s Rift provides soft cover and causes the ship which enters it to immediately perform a long move in the direction it was already facing. Finally, asteroids provide hard cover which decreases the total damage against a target in it by 1. Ships with missiles assigned to them automatically get to take an anti-missile roll as they try to use the asteroids to block the missiles.

tokens, dice, and cubes
Tokens, dice, and cubes from the game. Photo by Michael Knight.

The special 10-sided dice have numbered faces from 1 to 8, a blank face which is a miss, and a flame face which represents a critical hit. The blue cubes represent power while the red cubes are heat. Both are used to pay for part actions during the game. The game also includes several tokens which represent missiles, initiative, special damage, activation, and more. 

How to Play Snap Ships Tactics

You can download a copy of the rulebook here.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s ships by reducing its hull to zero.


For this explanation of the rules, we will be describing how to play a duel between two ships. Before setting up the game, the players each use the pieces for their ship sets to construct a spaceship according to one of the models in their instruction booklet. Then create a play area by clearing a 3ft by 3ft space on a table. After rolling a die to determine the first player. The first player chooses which side of the play area they will use as their starting edge. The other player then takes the opposite side. Players choose which model of ship they will use and place it on a stand next to them off the edge of their side of the play area. 

building the model
Players build their ships from the available parts and pieces. They can follow the directions or create their own design. Photo by Michael Knight.

Each player then takes a chassis card matching their ship, the part cards listed on the back of the chassis card, and a ship status tracker. Arrange the parts cards in a row to the right of the chassis card. Set the hull value from the chassis card on the top display of the tracker and the evasion value (also on the chassis card) on the bottom dial. Place a number of blue power cubes equal to the value on the chassis card above the chassis card. Place terrain tiles in the play area as shown in the rules booklet. Finally place all of the range rulers, movement tools, dice, and red heat cubes to the side of the play area as a common pool. You are now ready to play.

game setup
The game setup and ready to play. Note the ships are off of the play area and will be placed during their player’s first turns. Photo by Michael Knight.


The chassis card, part cards, and status tracker form the control panels for the ships. Since the ships start off the play area, then they take their first activation, they deploy to the play area so that their base is touching that player’s edge and can face in any direction. Players take turns activating their ships. Each activation is divided into three main actions: Chassis Action, Part Action, and End of Activation Effects. Let’s take a look at each action of an activation individually. 

Chassis Action

This action is comprised of three steps that are completed in order. They are listed in the bar at the bottom of a chassis card. The first step is to reset the evasion. Turn the evasion dial on the tracker to the value listed in the green evasion icon. The next symbol is a red and blue cube with a number to the right of it. The vent step lets players remove blue power and red heat cubes from their ship parts. They can be removed in any order. The power cubes are returned to the chassis while heat cubes are returned to the common pool. Only part cards with no cubes on them can be used during this activation, so if you want to use a part, then be sure to vent all of the cubes from it. Finally, the movement step lets players rotate and move their ship according to the movement symbols. These must be completed in order. Most chassis cards have a rotation followed by the move. The movement tool is used to show rotation in 45 degree increments and has spaces for both short and long movements. 

Using the movement tool to make a long move. Photo by Michael Knight.

Part Action

After completing the movement step of the chassis action, it is time for part actions. Here you use your parts to perform various types of actions. Some parts have passive abilities that do not cost power or heat. Others may have two different actions on them with different costs. These actions can include rotation, movement, attacks, venting, or even repair in the case of the part being disabled. A player can use their part actions in any order, but one part action must be completed before beginning another. When a part action has a cost, place power cubes from the chassis and heat cubes on the part card. You cannot use a part that already has cubes on it and if you do not have enough power cubes on your chassis, then you cannot perform that part action. 

control panel
These items make up a ship’s control panel. Photo by Michael Knight.

While each ship gets a movement as part of the chassis action, they can also use specific parts to rotate and move around the map to get their weapons in range of the enemy ship. Collisions may occur if the bases of ships would come into contact. Parts of the models touching does not create a collision and the game even includes stalks of different lengths that can be used so the ships are at different heights physically. This does not affect gameplay. Collisions can cause damage to both ships. 

rotating a ship
Use the movement tool to help rotate a ship. Place the indicator on the tool within the arc of the base and then rotate the base. Photo by Michael Knight.

In order to defeat the enemy, you must inflict damage on their ship through combat. Weapons part cards have attack actions. Before attacking, you must ensure the target ship is both in the firing arc and within the range listed on the part card. If the target is valid, then the player pays the cost in power and heat. Next, the hit number is determined as shown on the part card. This is often a number added to the current evasion value of the target, which can be found on the status tracker. Now roll the number of dice shown on the part card. Each die that shows a number equal to or greater than the hit number is a hit. The flame icon on the die is an automatic hit as well as a critical hit. The blank face of the die is always a miss. Some parts on either the active ship or the target may modify the dice rolls or cause them to be rerolled. Once this has taken place, damage is dealt. Look at the damage value on the part card. This shows how much damage is inflicted for each hit. Attacks from the rear add a single point of damage to the total.

Terrain can also affect damage. Once the total damage is determined, apply the damage by reducing the hull value of the target ship on the status tracker by the amount of damage. If the attack had any hit effects, those are then applied. Finally, each critical hit also disables a part card. To determine which part card is disabled, roll a die for each critical hit, one at a time, and flip over the part card counting from the chassis card along the parts cards going to the right. For example, a roll of 1 would disable the part card next to the chassis card while a three would disable the third card from the left. If a roll chooses a card that is already disabled, or a slot past the last part card, then the defending player chooses the part to disable. 

using range ruler
Using the range ruler to show that the enemy is in range and firing arc of the Sabre’s autocannon. Photo by Michael Knight.

Missiles function a bit differently since they take longer to reach their target. When using a missile part card to attack, the active player makes sure the target is in the firing arc and within range. They they place a number of missile tokens of the type listed on the missile card on the target ship’s chassis card. The missile impacts are not resolved until the end of activation affects part of the activation. The defending player on their turn may use part cards that have anti-missile actions to try to destroy the missiles on their chassis. To do this, they roll a number of dice equal to the missiles on their chassis card. For each die that shows a value equal to or created than the missile’s quality value, a missile is destroyed. These values are on the bottom of the missile tokens. then during the end of activation phase, the missile impacts and inflicts damage in the same way as a regular attack, using the info on the missile token. 

missile attack
The KLAW fighter flies into an asteroid field so it gets a free anti-missile action to try to destroy those four missiles locked onto it. Photo by Michael Knight.

End of Activation Effects

During this step, you resolve any effects that apply to your ship at the end of its activation. These can be done in any order the player chooses. Missile impacts are the most common effect that takes place during this part of the activation. Once this action has been completed, the opposing player begins their activation. This continues until one player has won the game. 

Game End

The game ends immediately when the hull value of one of the ships reaches zero. The player whose ship still has hull points remaining is the winner. 

Why You Should Play Snap Ships Tactics

When I first had the opportunity to build several Snap Ships models, I really liked how many cool pieces they included. There were just a few cubes that served as the structure of the ship and everything else was weapons, wings, engines, and much more. I remember thinking with all of the customizations, it would be cool to make a game out of it. Here were some great models with lots of features in search of a game. While I heard about the Kickstarter campaign for Snap Ships Tactics about a year ago, I missed out on it and didn’t really think it would be much of a game, considering it more a simple game for kids. However, as I learned more about the game, and had a chance to read the rules, I became excited to try it out. After having played it, I have found Snap Ships Tactics to be a much deeper and detailed game than I had expected. 

First off, I like how the game includes two of the earliest models of the line. You can build all three models of each of the ships as well as an additional model of created just for the game. Now all of those cool parts you put on the models actually have some use in the game. While the models are fun to build and look great, it is the other components that really make the game. I like how the base stands have markings in 45 degree intervals to help with rotations as well a showing firing arcs and other information. The movement tools are one of the best tools I have seen for miniature games since the make short and long movements easy to do and are even used to help with the base stands for rotating a ship. The power and heat management system is simple yet elegant. You have a limited amount of power cubes and some of your parts will also generate heat when they are used. However, there is a cost. You can usually use more power and gain more heat during a turn than you can vent the following turn. If you can’t vent and remove all of the blue and red cubes from a part, you can’t use it that turn. Therefore, do you only apply cubes that you can vent the next turn or do you go for an all out attack knowing that some of your parts will not be available for a few turns. The critical hits which cause damage and also disable parts can then force you to spend power cubes if you want to repair them so the will be available the following turn. 

A victory shot.
In our first game, I reduced my son’s K.L.A.W. interceptor down to 1 hull point and then fired 4 missiles. He then made some tight maneuvers and used his blade wings to ram me, causing 4 damage and destroying my ship. While he won, at the end of his turn, the missiles would have destroyed him. We wondered if that should actually be a tie or just a short-lived victory. Photo by Michael Knight.

Combat is also simple to calculate and resolve while also allowing for several factors. Some ship models have parts you can activate to increase your evasion level, making it more difficult to hit you. The terrain tiles also affect combat. In many games involving flying vehicles, terrain is something to be avoided. In Snap Ships Tactics, you want to fly into or behind terrain to gain benefits and make it harder for the enemy to hit you. The different types of terrain also have different effects which can be used by the players to their advantage. Plus, whether you want to play solo or co-op, you can use the AI cards to control the enemy ships. Each ship model has four AI cards which are actually pretty easy to use and provide a challenge. 

The starter box comes with two ships and everything you need to play a duel. However, you can also purchase additional ship models, card packs for those ships which include new chassis cards, AI cards, and parts cards unique for those ships. For playing games with more than two ships, you can even get a stand pack which has stands and bases for two ships as well as two status trackers. Not only can use use the new parts on these expansion ships, but the parts and their part cards can now be added to the rest of the parts and cards for some custom builds. 

Some of the expansions available to add to the starter box. Photo by Michael Knight.

I have always included miniature games with airplanes or space ships. However, many times the rules can be difficult and involved with the customizations requiring more rules and represented by cards or counters. It can take a while to setup as well as play a game. Snap Ships Tactics is different. When you customize a ship, you get to not only choose parts, but actually snap them onto the model. The chassis cards make customizing easy since each model has a limited number of slots for various types of parts. For example, you always need a cockpit, an engine, a wing part, and then additional parts. Some can be weapons systems while others can be for maneuvering, evading the enemy , or helping vent heat and power so you can have more options for your turn. Don’t let the toy nature of the models fool you into thinking this is a simple game. The designers have really put some time into creating the rules and playtesting them so they combine simplicity with depth until there is a fine balance between the two. If you would like a miniatures game of ship to ship space combat with models that can be quickly built and taken apart, do not require painting, and can be played from build to finish in less than an hour, with some great rules that involve tactics as well resource management, then I recommend Snap Ships Tactics.  

For more information, visit the Snap Ships Tactics page!

Here is a video about Snap Ships Tactics from the Kickstarter campaign.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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