I would like to congratulate Jupiter Deep on winning The Game Crafter’s Co-Op Design Challenge. Bringing to the table a professional look, addictive gameplay, refined ruleset, brilliant cooperative design, and infinite replayability, Jupiter Deep is a game that deserves to go far.
The premise of the game is that a floating space colony above Jupiter is being besieged by alien creeps. The inhabitants of the colony are, well, pretty stupid, and it’s up to the players, acting as robotic worker drones, to work together to escort the colonists to the escape pod before the colony is overrun. This is pure co-op fun at its finest, and no matter how many players, it offers a new challenge and an engaging session each time.
The first thing that grabs you upon setting up this game is that it is beautiful. Whenever I played this with groups at the gaming store, we got throngs of looky-loo’s peering over our shoulder and asking what we were playing. That’s a very good sign. From the tiles to the cards, and even to the rulebook, the layout and artwork help to build a fantastic sense of theme and it is all tied together well.
The rules are written very clearly with multiple examples and images. The game is complex, so there were many times where players had to reference the rulebook, which is something I don’t like to see too much. Still, the basic flow of the game is intuitive, and the questions were about specific situational matters.
There are several clever parts to the game that, taken together, make it an instant classic. The use of the escape pod – with space only for 7 colonists at a time and needing a full turn to leave and return – is smart. The action cards doubling for a player’s unique ability is great, instead of having separate role cards. The actions themselves, and their ability to stack and perform combos, is brilliant (though I recommend bigger font size and listing one or two combos on the bottom of the cards themselves, to prevent running back to the rulebook).
The only minor complaint I have is that the difficulty of the game varies wildly. Some games are simply cakewalks, while others are grueling. This is all random, though, and it adds to the “you never know what you’re gonna get” feel of the game. Further, every game – from difficult to easy – the players involved immediately said that they wanted to play again.
This is a deep strategic game despite its relatively easy game flow, and it does fall prey to those who suffer from analysis paralysis. These are not negatives about the game, though, just words of caution. The game can drag a little if you are playing with people who REALLY think about each action.
I want to commend Mark Major for this brilliant strategic cooperative game, and wish him success with it. I give this game my highest recommendation, and look forward to playing it many more times!