After several months of getting distracted by other game-related endeavors, I picked the “play every game I own” mantle back up this past Tuesday at Quarterstaff Games. This time it was Save Doctor Lucky, the decidedly more benevolent prequel to Kill Doctor Lucky. In the past, whenever I’ve brought a pile of Cheapass titles and the choice was to save or kill the good doctor, the vote’s always gone to murder the bastard — a perfectly understandable sentiment, but it does get in the way of ever finding out how Save Doctor Lucky plays.
So this week, I brought only Save Doctor Lucky and the Save Doctor Lucky on Moon Base Copernicus expansion, with a couple of Cheapass’ hip pocket games, Cube Farm and Agora. Despite never having played the basic game, I decided to forge ahead and use the moon base board. “Just how different could it be from Kill Doctor Lucky?” I reasoned. Besides, space stations are way more interesting than ocean liners.
In normal Save Doctor Lucky, everyone’s running around a sinking ocean liner, trying to be witnessed saving Doctor Lucky with no regard for their own lives. As the ship sinks, levels of it are removed from play, meaning the available area in which to move shrinks, pushing players closer together. On Moon Base Copernicus, the station they called “unexplodable,” just that is happening. Able astronauts that they are, the players race to be the one to get Doctor Lucky on board the last escape pod out of Dodge.
The interesting things about Save Doctor Lucky emerge when you compare it to its murderous older sibling. There’s a time limit on this version, as when all the decks run out, the ship / space station is destroyed, killing everyone and leaving no winner. This ameliorates the problem some people had with the original, that it goes on far too long before the failure cards finally run out and someone offs the old man. It took me by surprise when we figured that out in play, as I had assumed discarded non-failure cards went into other decks, but really that makes no sense at all.
Some of Moon Base Copernicus‘s rooms have video monitors, which change the lines of sight in curious ways. A player can be across the base, all by themselves, but still have a witness to make their rescue attempt on Doctor Lucky. There are also transparent force fields and opaque one-step passageways to other parts of the station, AKA “rocket tubes,” which both seem to be responses to people figuring out how to ride the Doctor Lucky train, a situation where a player manipulates the Doctor’s movement so that player takes a number of turns in a row. With force fields and rocket tubes, finding a promising series of rooms to lead Lucky through becomes more of a challenge. I stumbled on a four or five room chain entirely by accident, which may have been facilitated by having the right move cards in hand.
Jonathan decided to take a dive on the game, giving the win to Andrew. That part of the original game remains unchanged: if someone’s tired of the game, or feeling cantankerous in general, all they have to do is decline to spend failure cards. I’ve noticed it becomes a particular issue when a specific person is at the end of the failure circuit. Getting stuck being the one expected to supply the bulk of failure points sucks, particularly if you can’t get into position to scrounge up more cards.
My primary goal for the evening achieved, I jumped around from game to game: a session of Dominion in which the Thief and Spy and no virtual money cards made us hustle hard to scrape together cash for provinces, a quick game of Cube Farm that demonstrated it’s not terribly interesting with only two players, as they both tend to concentrate on opposite sides of the grid building their cubicle paradise, and then two hands of Fluxx in which I let myself get way too irritated with being corrected about which rules were in effect or the order in I chose to play cards. It happens to everyone sometimes, and I have the tendency to take it as an attack on me personally, rather than the perfectly reasonable act of pointing out when someone’s made a mistake. It’s a particularly irrational attitude on my part, and I’d like to do away with it, but it crops up more frequently than I might like.