In Heists in Hyperspace, each player takes on the role of a Captain, leading a crew of mercenaries, mining through a galactic bazaar to get useful resources and execute as many heists before the vaults close up again.
The game is setup like so:
Each round of the game is played through five columns of Encounters. Encounter Cards on the top row are placed face down and cards on the bottom row have additional resources that are determined by the different scenario cards.
There are two types of encounters. Bazaar Encounters enable Captains to gain Resource tokens to exchange for treasures during their heists. Vault Encounters also enable players to gain resources, but they are more perilous because of the dangers that lurk ahead. Within these Vaults, Captains may hire mercenaries to join their crew or use their resource tokens to gain treasures.
The first two rounds are made up of three columns of Bazaar Encounters and two columns of Vault Encounters. The third and final round will comprise two columns of Bazaar Encounters and three columns of Vault Encounters instead. The number of rows played is determined by player count n +1.
There are five different types of resources that each crew will need in order to gain treasure. Treasures are worth varying renown points. All five tokens may be used, in various combinations, to pay for treasures, but each resource has its own additional benefits.
For example, all treasures require a number of Might and Smart tokens but Mercenaries can only be hired to join your crew with Preparation tokens. Discovery tokens are used for refreshing the Mercenary and Treasure deck in order to find other suitable crew members or more profitable treasures. They can also be used in exchange for re-rolling a die when dice rolls are called for. Each pair of Gem tokens serve as valuable wildcards that can be used in place of any other resource tokens when needed. Last, are the Vault tokens which represent different things in each of the five different scenario cards.
Scenario cards set up the Vault in different locations and modify each game slightly. For instance, one scenario takes place in an oceanic abyss where Vault tokens act like oxygen tanks and determine players’ abilities to engage in Encounters. No Vault tokens means players have no oxygen and cannot dive for treasure! In another scenario, players are heisting in a volcanic chasm while Vault tokens keep track of eruption incidents. The player who has the most Vault tokens at the end of the game has faced the most eruption encounters and is in danger of losing their treasures into the chasm!
The last thing to prepare are the Player roles. There are six different Captains to choose from, each with their own special ability, including resource tokens they have at the start of the game. Each Captain also has a secret Ambition card which further characterizes their role by adding a unique scoring mechanism for each player at the end of the game. In some circumstances, it is even possible to gain additional Ambition cards for more bonus scoring at the game’s end.
In each round, all players move through the Expedition Area from left to right, taking turns from top to bottom. Players can choose to face an encounter on any unoccupied card in the column. They then flip over the encounter cards if they choose the card in the top row or take any resources available if they choose cards in the bottom row. They then resolve any card effects from left to right, then top to bottom. Some cards require a die roll to determine their outcome for Bonuses or Penalties specific to Vault Scenario cards.
Once players have made their way through the Bazaar, they enter the Vault. After resolving encounters within the Vault, players may choose to either hire a Mercenary by paying its Resource cost or Heist a Treasure by choosing one and paying its Resource cost.
If players do not have enough resources, they may still Mark a Treasure up to a maximum of two, by reserving it for themselves. A Marked Treasure is placed upside down in the player’s own area but they will not count for Renown points at the end of the game unless paid for in a later turn.
Finally, the Captain whose crew grabs the most renowned treasures before the vault closes in three rounds is the winner.
The Next Dimension
One of the most striking things when setting up the game is the immaculately detailed and captivating artwork that not only covers the entire card but extends into the background as well. There literally seems to be a whole other dimension to this game which piqued our curiosity as to the backstory behind each character and item featured. Even the Captains have evocative names, inviting more intrigue into their histories. Shadowlord Saren is Lord of what? Who does CEO Wolfgang manage? And what is Sheriff Vim’s beef?
Which then leads you to wonder about the Mercenaries. There are 24 different rogues, each with names that beget a story. They hail from 6 different factions; the Cyberkin, The Order of The Claw, The Lizard Wizards, The Badlands Brood, The Shark Mob and the Commandoggos. Between the artwork and their faction names, I want to know more about the space–time continuum that these characters come from.
It follows then that the names of the items in the Bazaar and Encounters in the Vault lend themselves to whimsies of the imagination. There are the classic science fiction tropes to encounter within the game such as armoring up, stockpiling armaments, surveillance, defense shields, drone vehicles and blueprints for the vaults, all right out of Star Wars.
In terms of game mechanics, there is a little push-your-luck element that our family enjoyed, since the top row of each column is placed face down. As players’ choice of encounters determines turn order, high-risk players who approach the face down encounter cards right at the top each turn could stand to gain from a first player advantage. Thankfully, this is somewhat balanced out by bottom ranked cards enhanced with extra resources.
The box states that the game plays 2 to 6 players and up to sixty minutes each game. In our 3-player games, we averaged about forty minutes. But, what is important is that players never felt the game was long. In fact, if anything, how did the time spent playing pass so fast, like it traveled faster than light? The game wraps up quickly after only 3 rounds, which gets players antsy by the end of the second, since the vaults close in the 3rd round and the game ends. Playing a fourth round would have probably given players more opportunity to better maximize the skills of their crew and hoard more resources to gain even more treasures.
As for scoring, so long as each player had only one Ambition card and their unique scoring advantage, the game did seem balanced. But if a player gained a second Ambition during the game, their points avalanche quickly, leaving the rest behind. Fortunately, this did not detract too much from the pleasure of losing ourselves in the game.
If you are disposed to Cyberpunk Science Fiction, this is a great game to immerse yourself in and take on a role within a parallel universe in Hyperspace. I go on and on about the sci-fi comic artwork, but it really is detailed and breathtaking enough to just admire the cards. The tableau of Encounter cards in the playing area is a great way to showcase various permutations of what exploring Hyperspace might look like. If you are up for an evening of science fiction, this is a fun game to spend a family night outwitting your rivals and cementing your renown as the greatest Captain in the galaxy with.