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Escape Pods

The premise for Linus Garriga's Escape Pods is that each player has nine crew members on a shared doomed space ship. You want to get as many of your crew to safety by ferrying them on escape pods to refuges on neighbouring asteroids. Your crew is made up of three each of officers, engineers and scientists but when you place a crew member onto an escape pod, opponents won't ordinarily know what crew type you are placing. End-game scores will ultimately depend on the specific crew member types delivered to particular refuges, so Escape Pods is a game of bluff as well as the action selection needed to board and power the pods to their destinations.

Players each have action boards used to select the actions they are taking each turn. On the basic action board, you can Embark/Disembark a crew member to an escape pod; you can Accelerate a pod to move it to an adjacent sector provided you have at least one crew member on that pod; you can Spy on the crew members in any pod or refuge (ie: look at their crew types); and you can board and launch a Minipod (solo escape pod) if one is still available. On your advanced board, a Board action lets you swap one of your crew members from a pod to an adjacent pod (or from your reserve if you are targeting a pod that is still adjacent to the hangar); the Pilot action lets you move any pod to an adjacent sector even if you haven't got a crew member on board; the Program action lets you place out, move or swap the positions of a beacon on the board (these give a free movement to pods that contain a crew member of at least one matching colour). The Program action can also be used to alter where debris will appear when these block off hexes when crew members reach their refuges. The debris don't just hinder the escape pods movement, they also trigger the end game when their placement has resulted in an impassable barrier.

When you take an action on the basic board, you'll get your marker back at the end of your turn. Markers placed out to take an action on the advanced board don't get returned to your supply until you've taken all three of the actions (Board, Pilot and Program) or if you take the Refresh action on that board to recover your markers. In our plays at Board's Eye View, we found that it was so rare for a player to use one of their actions to Refresh that this might as well not have been an option.

Some players will be particularly drawn to the space theme, and certainly it adds to the game's appeal, but Escape Pod is essentially an abstract game where players will be jockeying for position to get pieces of the right type to the right destination locations. We especially enjoyed the bluff element where players are uncertain over what crew member types they are sharing a pod with unless they take a Spy action. We also had a lot of fun with the special movement rules that meant larger pods bumped on smaller ones: canny use of this could result in a cascade of moves that advance as many as three pods for the expenditure of a single Accelerate action - or even none at all if you have a beacon in just the right place.

Escape Pods has art by Vaiarello Loic and it's published by 2Tomatoes. It takes 2-5 players, with special rules too for solitaire play that inevitably have quite different dynamics. For us, the game is at its competitive best at higher player counts. Play with a full complement of five players and you'll find Escape Pods can be a game of 'take that', bluff and deduction - especially when a player has used a Spy action and other players interpret their subsequent actions to guess at what they've seen... And even with five players, Escape Pods plays in a filler length 20-25 minutes.

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