Lift Off!, Devious Extra-terrestrial Boardgaming

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As kids, my brothers and I loved to play board games, and when we played they got rowdy.  With five of us all told, whether we started fighting or not, it was always an interesting game.  Granted, my oldest brother always made up new rules, so my second oldest brother was always the one consulting the rule book to shoot him down.  Rainy days, snow days, days we didn’t feel like going outside: any reason would do to ransack the attic looking for one of the numerous boxes of board games that my parents kept around.

Lift off is a board game that would have been an awesome find in one of those boxes.  The art is cool and the concept is simple enough for a bunch of kids to comprehend.  The story is something simple and fun: someone tripped over a cord at the center of the planet and now it’s caused a cataclysmic chain reaction that will annihilate the planet!  Sounds like a doomsday scenario that only a programmer could imagine.  One little tiny thing is off and everything explodes.  When you start a game, you build the board.  This is similar to other board games, except that the pieces are HUGE so there is no way to really mess it up.  You start with the core, which is the center of the planet and the game board.  Apparently aliens hang out at the core of their planet, not the surface.  There are four exit points, providing egress from the core, and four lift off points, to get you the hell off the planet!  Once the board is built, everyone draws two cards, the moon is set at the top of the board and the sun is placed in the day tracker.

Also at the center of the board, there is this giant, ugly gargoyle.  He starts in the same place as all your little aliens, whom are in the midst of a mass exodus from the planet, so that never bodes well.  He looks like the embodiment of planetary disappointment.  Your world’s final ‘fuck you’ before you leave it to explode into space-dust.  If you want to follow along with how you play this game, I am basically writing this article alongside the explanation of the game, delivered by creator Eduardo Baraf on his kickstarter.

A lot of pieces, but at least most of them are big.  I hate it when there are a billion tiny pieces for you to lose... cause I usually do just that..

A lot of pieces, but at least most of them are big. I hate it when there are a billion tiny pieces for you to lose… cause I usually do just that with them..

During your turn, you can do any combination of 4 things.  First, you can move your aliens.  Again, these are the little guys that are trying to escape the planet and the focus of the whole game.  Each turn you get 2 moves.  Typically, you can move one alien out to the perimeter via an exit point for one move.  You can also move that alien from one board section to another using one move.  Now, moving is important and all, but it’s not everything.

The next action you can take in a turn is placing your resource cards at a lift off point.  So, at the start of each turn, you draw two cards.  (for those following along, this means on your first turn you’ll have 4 cards)  Now this is how it works.  You can move your little aliens around the board, but when you place him on a lift off point, you have to spend resources to get them “onboard” the lift off point.  For instance, Ed (the game’s creator), shows us that it takes 2 screws to board the satellite and that it can hold up to 3 aliens.  Once you get an alien to the satellite, you spend 2 screws and he boards the satellite.  It’s like paying Charon the boatman, but instead of trying to buy a badass yacht to shepherd souls to the afterlife, I guess he is trying to build one instead.  I congratulate him on his new-found work ethic.  Removing an alien from a lift off point also costs the same amount of resources as placing them, so, unless you want to be stuck in some kind of hardware pyramid scheme, leave the fuckers where they are.  As the aliens pay to board the points, they start paying the cost.  Once the full cost of the point is paid, the point takes off and the aliens are given to their respective players.

Now, the satellite is an easy take off point.  It costs 6 screws to get going, 2 screws to board and takes off at any time.  Some of the other lift off points are more complex.  Take the rocket for example.  That shit can hold 6 people and costs 6 fuel and 6 screws to take off.  You pay 1 fuel and 1 screw to board it.  In addition, it can only take off during a full moon!  The fuck!?  So apparently this moon mechanic is important.  At the end of each player’s turn, it moves to the next slot over on the board.  If you have any talent for physical extrapolation, you’ll see from the pieces of the board above, it forms a circular shape.  Now, if the moon is directly above a section of the board, say the rocket, it is a full moon at the rocket.  If it is on the section of the board directly opposite the rocket, it is a new moon at the rocket.  When the moon is at any section in between the rocket and the section opposite the rocket, it is a half moon.  So the fucking rocket only takes off when the moon is directly above it.  Fucking showboater.

Personally, I would favor the Stargate.  Cause it's fucking awesome.

Personally, I would favor the Stargate. Cause it’s fucking awesome.

Moving back to the original structure of this article that I seem to have abandoned faster than the aliens in this game leave their planet, the next type of action is using action cards.  These cards are where things get really interesting.  They have a variety of effects on the game, all of which Ed explains, none of which I will explain.  These cards let you manipulate the mechanics of the game so that you can get your aliens off the planet quicker or prevent the other players from lifting off.  So, for instance, I might use terraform to swap out a lift off tile that will allow me to take off faster with one of my aliens leaving everyone else to fend for themselves.  Heh heh heh!  I’ll take the jetpack, you assholes can take the trampoline off the planet!  One of the biggest dick moves is to relocate the gargoyle.  If you move that fucker to a lift off point, it cannot take off at all, regardless of how many screws they gave to Charon.  Granted, you can always move him back to the center on your turn with the gargoyle card or when the moon reaches its original resting point.

The last type of action is pretty simple and common to a lot of games.  Discard.  This is basically a way to trade off items and gamble a little to try to get what you need.  You can discard two cards in order to draw another card.  Discard two resources for an action card or any combo of two cards for another card.

Now the way game progress is tracked is the combination of the sun and the moon.  Every time the moon reaches its starting position on the board, the sun moves forward a spot on the day tracker.  There are several day spots and then a run of explosion spots with numbers.  The numbers relate to a number of players.  So with the most players in a game, five, you have nine days until the planet explodes.  This means that with 8 moon slots on the board, the game gives 5 players a grand total of 40 turns to GTFO.  Of course, who ever has removed the most aliens from the board when it explodes wins the game.

Murder, my favorite pass time!  Also, Red Rum, my second favorite drink!

Murder, my favorite pass time! Also, Red Rum, my second favorite drink!

Why should you give this guy you money?  Well, aside from getting a copy of Lift Off! he’ll also throw in a copy of one of his other games, Murder of Crows.  Eddie B has a lot of neat shit they want to do the more money they can get, so check out the entire kickstarter, review the donation options and get neat stuff!  As of right now, this campaign is 51% there.  With 22 days left, this is a project that is worth betting some money on.  But wait!  There’s m0re!  Are you from the EU?  This game is EU-friendly, so all rewards for backers in the EU and US will ship for free.  Stick that in your pip and smoke it.

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