Space Lion

I like Space Lion. I liked it when I played it PAX East last year. I’ve liked it as I’ve played the various head to head and 3 player modes. I think it’s a really cool semi-asymmetric bluffing/placement board game. There’s one catch though: Space Lion doesn’t actually exist yet.

Space Lion is currently running its Kickstarter, and with 70 hours left, they are incredibly close to hitting their funding goal. They’re just under $15,000 of the $16,000 they need. So if anything about what I’m describing sounds cool, check out the Kickstarter here. And if you’re the sort of person who would never back a board game without playing it first, there’s a Tabletop Simulator version here, and a Tabletopia version here.

So yeah. I think it’s cool, and if you stop reading this article right now to just go play the game, or look at the Kickstarter, I’d consider that a win. But if you want to stick around, let me talk about why I like Space Lion.

Or just click this image to go straight to the Kickstarter.

I’m not gonna cover the full rules of the game, but I do want to go over them in brief, so I can explain why I like it. You start by picking an army, and then choosing a commander. Each army has 7 unit cards, with strength values of 0-6, and one of those units can be swapped out for an upgraded version. While it won’t have a higher strength value, it will have stronger abilities.

On the left, the default version. On the right, the upgraded commander.

At the start of each round, you fight across three battlefields. Each player takes a turn where they deploy up to four units, placing them face down onto one of the battlefields. Each battlefield starts with a base for each player on it. Once everyone has deployed their units, you flip up your cards and the first player to deploy chooses the order in which battle are fought. If you have less total strength than your opponents in any battlefield, your base on that battlefield takes a point of damage. Take two points total and that base is destroyed, meaning that any future losses you take there deal damage straight to your home base. Run out of health, and you lose. (And for anyone going “Wait wouldn’t the first player have an advantage?” don’t worry, the first player token switches between rounds.)

There’s one big thing here, though, that I haven’t covered, and that’s how your army actually works. You actually start the game with all 7 of your cards in your hand. There’s no randomness, or drawing from a deck. You have all the tools.

Instead, you’re limited by your deployment choices. If you deploy one card to a battlefield, even if you lose the fight, you’ll get that card back in hand. But if you deploy two or more, those cards are exhausted for the next round of placement. Trying to force a push with your 6 strength and 5 strength units in one lane means that next round your opponents know that there’s simply no way for a single facedown card you’ve played to be stronger than 5.

There’s a lot of I’ve left out here, but this tension of “Where do I commit to putting pressure?” and “What can I afford to give up for the future?” is why I like Space Lion. It’s not super rules dense either, which means you can focus on those choices, instead of trying to keep a million different systems in your head.

Also, like I mentioned above, this is a semi-asymmetric game. While each army has the same strength values, their actual playstyles and abilities vary quite heavily. The Leon Army can upgrade all of their units to the more powerful commander versions, and also has a nuke. The Castell Army can place degrees on various battlefields, giving them permanent bonus or adjustments in those arenas. The Enerhiya builds a pool of energy and other resources they can spend to trigger effects, but also to power up their giant mecha. And my personal favorite, the Vacuus function as a sort of twilight zone version of the other armies, with many of their units being warped or twisted versions of units from the other armies.

The normal marine moves itself around, but the corrupted marine moves your opponents’ units!

I think this is a decent, if brief, overview of Space Lion, and why I like it and want to see it as a fully physical game. Hopefully this article got you interested enough to check it out. If you’re looking for folks to play with, Solis Games has a Discord server here where you’d be able to find a play group. Maybe I’ll even see you there.

Disclaimer: I’m not not associated with Solis Game studios in any way. Kickstarter is a pledge platform, not a pre-order platform. Crowdfunding can be risky. I’ve backed the Kickstarter because I think it’s a cool game, and I want to see it be a full thing. Also hoping they’re not annoyed at me for ripping images from their game for this article.