The Captain is Dead, AEG, 2014

The Captain is Dead is a cooperative board game, one of the new-style games that is designed more for adults than kids, or at least for kids who don't mind a serious rulebook and have good planning skills.

It is essentially Pandemic, but wackier. Okay, yes, it isn't hard to be wackier than a bunch of scientists fighting off deadly diseases, but this is a lot wackier. The backstory is that you are a crewman on a spaceship, and you and the other players have to put out fires, defend against alien invaders, and fix the main engines, all without any central authority (because the captain is dead, you see). Either you get the engines back online and head home at warp speed, or you all die.

As you might expect, the gameplay is essentially the space ship falling apart around you, while the players run around trying to fix everything, gather useful tools and skills, and fight off aliens. It is very specifically designed to be a chaotic mess, and a chaotic mess that is actively trying to kill you. There are some common SF tropes embedded in the game (for example, the Redshirt's special ability is to die, saving the others), but it is not required that you be a SF fan to enjoy the game. However, it is important that you like the people you play with, because you will be arguing, interrupting, and occasionally leaving each other to die.

If you like Pandemic you will probably like The Captain is Dead; the basic mechanics are the same, but there are some extra pluses to Captain. While the Pandemic base game will only allow 2-4 players, Captain allows 2-7. While Pandemic has 7 unique roles, Captain has 14. And of course, this game takes place in a spaceship with aliens.

The flip side is that the game is complex enough that you will probably want a person who has played it before to show you the ropes (there are also walkthroughs available online1). While I quite like this game and certainly recommend it, I don't have any immediate plans to buy it, simply because I already own Pandemic. However, if you like cooperative board games and have been considering buying Pandemic, check out Captain before you buy.

You can generally find this game for about $50.00, which is usual for a game of this size and complexity. It says that it takes 60-90 minutes to play, although depending on players and familiarity with the game, it can go longer. There are currently two expansions, The Captain is Dead - Adrift and The Captain is Dead - Lockdown.

1. I should note that the walkthrough apparently uses a prototype game rather than the final design, which has nicer player pieces.

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