#576 – Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet! [Preview]

Box

Base price: $40.
1 – 5 players.
Play time: 30 – 45 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter!
Logged plays: 3 

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet! was provided by Pencil First Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game. 

New year, new Kickstarters! I don’t have a ton at the moment, but I have a few coming down the pipeline. There’s this one, 10 Gallon Tank, Coniferous, MIND MGMT, Hunker, Blockers’s relaunch, and who knows what else I’ll get into trouble with? Well, either way, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so, might as well get to it.

In Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet!, you’ve been messing with the planet for a bit too long when suddenly, you realize that you may have pushed it a bit farther than it could handle. The core’s going critical and, well, it’s time to go. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one who’s realized this, and they also would like to get off the planet too. Limited resources, you know how it goes. So you’re going to need to evacuate before the planet’s gone. Hopefully you can.

Contents

Setup

Setup is decently involved. Basically, you’re going to set out the board:

Board

Place the core in the center:

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And then alternate Exit Points around the board:

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Between them, put out Lift Off! Points:

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You can choose whatever, but make sure you’re familiar with the effects of each or else you might pick stuff that doesn’t synthesize well. Give each player an Escape Pod:

Alien Ships

And have them put the aliens of that color in the core:

Alien Meeps

There are various tokens:

Tokens

The Sun and Moon go on their respective spaces, some of the others are used for specific Lift Off! Points, and the Scrap Tokens are used for the solo mode along with the Garglore Cards. There are a variety of Lift Off! Point-specific tokens, so make sure you grab the right ones. There are also custom dice that are occasionally used. Set the relevant dice nearby:

Dice

Shuffle up the Game Cards:

Cards

Deal each player 5 to start. Set either the Garglore or the Guglore tokens in the Core, as well. You should be ready to go!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

A game of Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet! is relatively straightforward. Your goal is to get your aliens to Lift Off! Points and help them escape the planet. If you get all yours off-world first, you win! If you delay for too long, the planet will explode and it won’t matter too much. In that scenario, the player who got the most aliens out wins!

A game is played over a series of turns, but turn order proceeds counterclockwise. Don’t forget that. On your turn, you may take any number of actions in any order you want.

Move

Gameplay 2

You have up to two Movement Points you can use on your turn to move aliens. An alien may be moved to the surface via an Exit Point for 1 Movement Point and moved onto a new tile for 1 Movement Point. This means that you may get a alien from the Core to a Lift Off! Point for 2 Movement Points, usually. There are some special Exit and Lift Off! Points that may change that.

Play Action Cards

Gameplay 5

You may use Action Cards for a variety of effects. When you do, discard them.

You may use them to pay Launch Platform Costs, as well. Generally speaking, being on a Lift Off! Point isn’t enough to launch your poor sweet alien into the uncaring void of space; you usually have to get them onto the platform, first. This may cost Screws, Fuel, Action Cards, Movement Points, or, well, there are some create-your-own-Lift Off!-Points, so, it could be anything. You can even overpay, if you’d like to push the Lift Off! Point closer to launch. Note that unless the cost is Movement Points, there is no Movement Point cost to get onto the Launch Platform from the tile.

You may also trade 2 Cards for 1 Card. Discard 2 Cards to draw 1. It’s inefficient, but, you need that sometimes.

Lift Off! Point Activation

Gameplay 3

Lift Off! Points may activate during, after, or between turns. When they do, all aliens are moved from the Launch Platform onto their respective players’ escape pods. See the specific tiles for their more specific rules.

End of Turn

Gameplay 4

When your turn ends, move the Moon one space counterclockwise. This will shift the Moon Phase for Lift Off! Points:

  • Full Moon: The Moon is directly above the Lift Off! Point.
  • Half Moon: The Moon is not directly above the Lift Off! Point or on the complete opposite side of the board from the Lift Off! Point.
  • New Moon: The Moon is on the complete opposite side of the board from the Lift Off! Point.

If the Moon passes the Star Icon, advance the Sun one space on the Round Track.

Then, draw 2 cards; your turn is now over.

End of Game

Gameplay 6

The game ends when a player successfully evacuates all 10 of their aliens or when the planet explodes! When that happens, the player who evacuated the most aliens wins!

Variants

You may play with any number of gameplay variants:

  • Family Fun: Play somewhat cooperatively. Remove the Tornado and Electric Storm cards. The game doesn’t end when one player evacuates their aliens; all players are encouraged to try and get their aliens off-world. You can also remove the Garglore and Garglore Cards, if you want 0 Take That.
  • Let’s Team Up!: Play in teams. Teams may use Action Cards on their teammates’ turns, but cannot share cards. A team wins when all 20 of their aliens are evacuated.
  • We Don’t Have Time: The fast mode. Everyone starts one day closer to the explosion, and everyone only has to save 8 aliens instead of 10. When you want to Lift Off! on a budget.
  • Cutthroat Planet: The mean mode! Move Your Alien Cards can now move other players’ aliens, even off a Launch Platform! They have to pay to get back on. Also, start 1 Day later. To be even meaner, you can use Terraform to get rid of occupied locations; aliens on those spots are sent back to the core.

Player Count Differences

This depends a lot on which things are in play. If there’s no limit to the number of aliens on a platform, then, it might just be that there are more little baby aliens running around this doomed world. If there are limits, then you’re going to be noticing an increase in tension as the player count increases. It may be wise to choose your modules so that the game scales a bit fairly with player count, otherwise you’re inviting a lot of conflict that you may not want. If you want that conflict, though, then go for it. Keep in mind as well that at two players, you both get a lot of turns per cycle, but you may need to manipulate the moon if you ever want it to be full above something you care about. And that happens! These are all things you need to make sure you’re tracking ahead of them becoming relevant. I’d say this probably plays the most interestingly at higher player counts (due to all the hectic interactions), but I didn’t mind it at 2; thought it was pretty fun.

Strategy

  • Keep cards that let you manipulate the moon. They’re super handy for certain bonuses and effects that require the moon to be in specific spots. They’re also very useful if you’re petty as hell and you want to just play 10 of them on your turn to end the game instantly. I can’t recommend that as a lifestyle but I can respect it as a practice.
  • There’s risk and reward for taking too many of your aliens out of the core. You need to worry about a Tornado blowing them all back into the core, if you have too many exposed. I usually try to get most of them to Launch Platforms when I move them out of the core, but there are, of course, reasons why that’s not necessarily viable.
  • Going deep may not be a bad strategy, since you win if you have the most aliens off-world by the time the planet explodes. Going wide means you have aliens everywhere but you haven’t necessarily committed to getting them off-world. You need to, though, if you want to get anywhere close to a victory, so make sure you’re getting some aliens launched at least periodically.
  • Make sure you understand what the Lift Off! Points do. There’s a lot of iconography on them that may not necessarily be the most helpful when you’re skimming, but you need to know what the cost is, what the Lift Off! criteria is, how the moon affects that, and how many aliens can fit on the spot. If you know that, then you’re well-set-up for getting your aliens away from the planet before it blows up.
  • It may be worth not leaving certain things to chance. You gotta have your own risk tolerance, but if your risk is getting your aliens knocked back to the core, it may not be worth it.
  • It may also be super worth leaving certain things to chance, if you can make that Warp Gate work. You can get a preposterous number of aliens evacuated if you can clinch that die roll perfectly. Is it worth risking the entire game on? Well, maybe.
  • If you see a player hoarding, it may be worth playing your aggressive take-that cards. If you want to hurt someone, make everyone discard their hands when they’ve got good cards going for them. Or if they haven’t committed their aliens to a Launch Platform, blow them away with the Tornado! Just make sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot with that kind of nonsense, since those cards affect everyone.
  • Blocking with the Garglore right before the planet explodes is cruel, but it might be worth it. The Garglore prevents Lift Off! Points from working, which may be enough to strand your opponents’ crucial aliens on the planet so that you can take the win. Does it make you a good person, though? No. It’s very mean. But it may win you the game.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Very cute art. It’s very fun and pleasant. It’s an interesting contrast to Sol: Last Days of a Star, which has some similar themeing but a very different mood. Like, aggressively different mood.
  • Again, love a modular board. It’s so variable! There are many different ways to play and hopefully the Kickstarter unlocks even more. It’s a lot to remember, for sure, but if you can keep it all in your brain there are a lot of different ways to play Lift Off!.
  • The range of style and difficulty of the modules really makes for a lot of variable play, which I appreciate. always like variant play options in the rulebook. Even if I don’t personally use them a lot, it allows different players to really get what they want to get out of the game. And with the number of modules and variants in this one, there’s gotta be something for just about every player if you look long enough.
  • The whimsy of the game is also very appealing. I just generally like whimsical games; they’re upbeat, pleasant, and fun, and that resonates with me.
  • Pretty simple game that’s likely great for families. I think the theme isn’t too aggressive and there are some family-friendly options that allow newer gamers to feel like they’re still making progress in the game. You can also use teams or play somewhat cooperatively to help get everyone off of the planet, which is equally nice.
  • I appreciate that there are more and less aggressive modes. really like this. This was one of my favorite things about Unfair, as well; it has a lot of take-that, but you can ignore it, which is equally excellent.

Mehs

  • The very luck-based parts of the game can be … well, a bit lucky, in ways that might be annoying for some players. How good are you at rolling dice? Hopefully very, if your Lift Off! Points require them. Thankfully, you can just choose points that avoid them, if you’d like.

Cons

  • The take-that can range from mildly to extremely annoying. Planning a strategy only to lose all your cards means that you might have two or more useless turns coming down the pipeline for you. It’s very frustrating. Similarly, putting a lot of your energy into getting aliens out of the Core before getting hit with a Tornado can be equally annoying. I’m not a huge take-that person, though, so I usually just play without those cards.
  • This is also a game that can really fall victim to kingmaking. I can figure out pretty well if we’re a round away from the game ending and I’ve got four aliens in the Core that I’m probably not winning. So now, what do I do with all these take-that cards? Do I pick a player and make them win? I personally would try to avoid that, but it’s definitely doable. Be careful with some of the take-that if you hate kingmaking.

Overall: 7.25 / 10

In Progress

Overall, I think Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet! is a nice game. It has the unwieldy task of trying a bit hard to be everything to everyone, but I think it smartly uses the Kickstarter model of modularity to its advantage. You can see a bunch of places where the skeleton of the base game can be easily augmented with stretch goals and social goals to add things like new variants, more Exit and Lift Off! Points, more types of Action Cards, and the other common trappings that we’ve come to expect from games surging off of likely-successful Kickstarters. There may be a space to talk more about that, but I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with it; it’s just a different paradigm of game design that’s more tactically-focused on appealing to the folks that will likely be in this game’s target audience. It’s why you can’t just take a retail game and throw it on Kickstarter and expect instant success; there are ways of doing this. But that’s a conversation for another time. Lift Off! does a nice job synthesizing modularity and whimsy into a fun experience that’s never quite the same game twice, and I’m a fan of that sort of thing. Naturally, there’s a bit more take-that than I usually like in my games, so, I’m generally going to be playing this with take-that reduced if I play it more in the future just because I’m a fan of calmer experiences. Either way, though, there’s something in here for a lot of gamers, so if you like intensity, whimsy, take-that, cooperation, aliens, space, or the imminent threat of planetary destruction, I’d recommend taking Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet! for a spin! I certainly had fun with it.

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