Would backing Sensor Ghosts make sense or not?
Walking around the upper floor of UKGE 2019, a unique art style caught my eye. Looking like a scanner display that you might see in an old fashioned movie, with what looked like an asteroid moving across it — the design was something that looked a little different from many of the other games on show, so I sat down with designer Stu of Wren Games to take a look at Sensor Ghosts.
Sensor Ghosts is a one to three player cooperative game in which you must guide a ship safely through a dangerous sector of space and back to Earth without being destroyed. The game board is made of a five by seven grid of cards that you place yourself and you control the ship using a deck of cards that represent your fuel. On each turn, you play a card that will either move you, scan tiles ahead or power up your shields. When you move onto a tile you must flip it over and resolve what’s beneath it. This could be a safe area, a booter that moves you ahead, an asteroid that destroys you or your shields, or a huge obstruction that means instant death. Needless to say, this is pretty tough to win due to how many tiles can kill you instantly.
Playing solo, you must play one of the three cards from your hand. Raising shields does just that and a scanner lets you scan —meaning peak under cards — in the direction you’re facing. The movement arrows move your ship, but you can only travel in the direction you’re currently facing. You can change direction by playing two cards at once, but this will use up your deck faster which can also lead to your demise should it run out. You can also play three cards at once to play any action you want, but this will use your cards even faster, making it a far more risky move.
You generally have some idea of what’s on a tile before you land on it based on colour. Green is normally safe, yellow generally aren’t and red will probably kill you. After you move, there’s a phase in which cards in the next row shuffle around, which prevents you from getting stuck and forces you to keep track of what you know about the tiles. Having a good strategy and a good memory will help you a lot with this one.
In the two-player variant, both players play a card at the same time and then have to decide what order to resolve them, which adds an extra challenge. I felt that adding a time limit to this could put a lot of extra pressure on and make the game more intense. With three players, you’re only allowed to play one card at a time, so if you want to take an action that you don’t have, you’ll need to convince your teammates to sacrifice one of their cards to help you, leaving them with fewer for their turn. If you want even more challenge, there’s a harder mode that forces you to get an escape pod back to Earth too.
I enjoyed playing Sensor Ghosts, even though I died on my third turn. The rules were fairly simple to follow and getting started was quick. You never really have to remember more than a few things on the grid, but you do have to keep track of what tile will move where. It’s very tough, but could be finished in around fifteen minutes so it could make a great filler game or one to last a whole evening if you’re as bad at it as I was!