Review: ‘Space Match’

Education Entertainment Family Games GeekMom

We are a gaming family. We love ’em, all four of us. Card, board, RPG, you name it, we have at least one example of the type; we’ve even played most of them at least once. Our six year old is patient enough for Doctor Who RiskGloom, and the Imperial Assault training missions (we haven’t tried the longer missions yet). Even our rightfully shorter-in-the-attention-span three year old will play Trouble, Surprise Slidesand King of Tokyo.

Finding time to game as a family can be challenging, however, with my weird and irregular nurse schedule, which includes a fair number of weekends and evenings, and the boy being in school full-time plus attending Hebrew School on Sunday mornings. In an effort to increase playing opportunity, nights we’re all here, we’ve been trying to take the half hour between dinner and bedtime once devoted to the day’s non-educational television (except on Dinner and Rebels night; nothing shall replace Dinner and Rebels night so long as there are episodes of Rebels to watch) to play a family game. Not that there’s anything wrong with TV. There isn’t. I love the stuff, probably too much, but it’s more fun for the four of us to spend that half-hour engaged with one another when we can, especially since we don’t have that time as regularly as many families.

The only issue with the four of us gaming together is that we have to find a game all four of us enjoy and can remain engaged in from start to finish. Since hubs and I are nominal grown-ups, the friction is mostly between the boy, who has infinite game attention, and the girl, who tries really hard but isn’t quite old enough for a commensurate intense focus.

We have finally found a game that works for everyone, courtesy of our wonderful friend Steph.

It is called Space Match.

Space Match was part of a larger Kickstarter, Epic Space Adventure (it closed back in October; the preceding is the link to the McLongneck’s Epic Space Adventure, an alphabet/space book that was part of the package). The book is adorable, as are the stickers, but the card game is definitely our favorite bit.

Rules and Game Play:

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Photo by Shiri Sondheimer. Game c. New Horizon Games

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Space Match is an astronomy-themed hybrid of Go Fish and Uno with a tiny bit of Fluxx thrown in. The aforementioned sets of World Cards vary in size from two cards (Mars and Phobos, for example) to five cards (Saturn, Mimas, Rhea, Titan, and Iapetus). There is a list of set members at the bottom of each card for those who can read and each set is also marked by a different colored border for those who aren’t yet able.

Photo by Shiri Sondheimer. Game c. New Horizons
Photo by Shiri Sondheimer. Game c. New Horizon Games

The game ends when all of the World Cards have been drawn at which point everyone gets to “space pirate” a card from another player. It’s a nice twist that ends the game on a high note for everyone because even if you’re getting your butt kicked, your last move is inevitably a victory.

Photo by Shiri Sondheimer. Game c. New Horizons
Photo by Shiri Sondheimer. Game c. New Horizon Games

If Space Match were a regular round-robin sort of game, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun but, and this is where the Fluxx adjacent bit comes in, each turn is governed by an Exploration Card.

Photo by Shiri Sondheimer. Game c. New Horizons
Photo by Shiri Sondheimer. Game c. New Horizon Games

The Exploration Cards are reshuffled and recycled as many times as is necessary to complete the game. As you might imagine, Space Pirate is the favorite in my house.

Victory is based on the total number of cards you’ve managed to combine into complete sets. If one person has two sets with two cards each and another has one set with five cards, that second person is the winner so there is a bit of strategy involved when deciding which sets to try to collect and which to trade around.

Why We Like It:

It’s fun and educational. I know, I know. And I’m all for games for the sake of games, but my kids love space stuff so porque no los dos? The little is learning which moons go which with planets and the general arrangement of the various celestial bodies in our Solar System, while the boy, who can now read when he feels like putting some effort into it, gets reading practice, a solar system orientation refresher, and a chance to learn some new facts. Being geeks like hubs and myself, they like this bit of it as much as they like the game.

Space Match moves quickly. The Exploration Cards keep things flowing and eliminate some of the confusion younger kids can have vis a vis matching with games like straight up Go Fish and Uno. Some of the cards also give you the opportunity to screw with your game-mates, which the boy finds hilarious and satisfying. A game lasts somewhere between fifteen and twenty minutes which makes it ideal for that awkward swath between dinner and bedtime.

The colored border that identifies sets on the World Cards makes for a good deal of independence for the three year old. Even though she can’t read the list of set components, she can count how many cards comprise it and then use the color to find the right ones.

The rules are relatively simple which means if Grandma and Grandpa are here, they can join in family game time without us wasting the entire half hour trying to explain the game (we made that mistake with King of Tokyo one night; getting the boy out to the bus the next morning after the extended game time was like dragging a slug through molasses).

One can attempt to strategize or not depending on the desired level of play but the Exploration Cards can blow the most carefully crafted plan out of the water which adds to the excitement of a given game.

The kids think it’s better than TV. Which in and of itself makes it worthy.

The only complaint I have is that I couldn’t find a purchase link outside of the closed Kickstarter. Maybe this was the first run and New Horizon Games, which appears to be primarily an RPG company, will release a second edition if this one gets enough coverage?

If you can get your hands on Space Match, do. There is much family fun to be found in this little stack of cards.

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