Teaching Time: 10 mins
Playing Time: 40 mins
Setup Time: 2 mins
Value For Money: Mid
The main reason that I backed the Oink games collection that came with Moon Adventure, In a Grove and Dokojong was Moon Adventure. To be more specific it was because I love Deep Sea Adventure, a brilliantly simple and tense not at all co-op but interestingly collaborative take that push your luck game. Moon Adventure is, in theory, a co-op version of Deep Sea Adventure. In short, it’s a pretty decent co-op, but doesn’t have the magic of Deep Sea Adventure.
Layout looks identical to Deep Sea Adventure, but gameplay is, in all honesty, hardly anything like it. Play involves moving meeples across a set of tiles representing potential supplies strewn across the surface of the moon. Players are given a set of 5 carry slots in which they can either carry these tiles or oxygen supplies. At the start of each activation an oxygen supply needs to be discarded in return for a random number of action points which are used to create oxygen supply points, move along the tiles, exchange supplies with friends, mark tiles for quick travel or pick tiles up. If any player is ever unable to generate oxygen at the start of a turn everyone loses. If the group makes it back to base with the right number of supplies, everyone wins.
How many supplies that ends up being is one of the first problems with the game. The tiles are picked up face down with usually no way of checking them (one of the crew member special abilities allows checking, but that won’t be present in most games). For two players the number of working supplies needed for the win is five, on our first two player run through we returned with eight supply tiles and ended up with a total of two working supplies. Since the maximum achievable would then have been four supplies it created a pretty bitter taste as an essentially unwinnable game through no fault of our own.
Secondarily, Moon Adventure does have an issue with Quarterbacking. Most co-ops do, but most recent co-ops try to do something about it. In Moon Adventure all information is open and definitively optimal turns are discoverable most of the time, making it a real issue when one player points those turns out to the table. This is magnified by what should be a plus to the game since sharing around oxygen is a real boon making actual direct co-operation a powerful element, but it means that when someone tells you that they’re going to need you to hand them off oxygen or everyone loses, even if you intended to plough your own furrow it becomes pretty tough not to fall in line with the leader’s plan.
The biggest issue with the game is that its always going to be in the shadow of Deep Sea Adventure. As an example, Deep Sea Adventure has 12,000 ratings on Board Game Geek, Moon Adventure has 57. The reason that’s a bit of an issue is that Deep Sea Adventure is simply a far better game. Deep Sea Adventure is one of my go to games, certainly when on the move, it’s a game that I’ve never found someone to not like. Moon Adventure is, well, fine. It works as a puzzle, but its not really anything special. The fact that it provides a decent co-op challenge in a very compact box is a bonus, but even then I’ll be picking up The Grizzled for that slot most of the time.
Oink games are generally known for their incredibly high production values and on one level Moon Adventure keeps that up, in that there’s nothing wrong with its production values, all the stuff is there are its all clear and well made. That said, it doesn’t feel as satisfying in its production as almost any other Oink game I’ve played. The addition of character art in the “Space Brother” edition that I played makes things a little less cute and iconic, the components are pretty much dumped loose into the small box and the feeling is that the main way they were fitted into that well known Oink box was just by making the cards small. It might be a better game (and it is) than In a Grove, A Fake Artist Goes To New York or Dokojong, but opening its box doesn’t feel half as good.
All of which feels pretty harsh on a game that’s totally fine. Its my second choice Oink game and my second choice small box co-op game, and if you have room in your life for a second one of either of those things it’s a very strong second choice. Depending on taste it might even be your go-to for the category. I just really wanted more, I wanted it to be as good as Deep Sea Adventure, only co-op, and its really not. Arguably that’s a big ask, and if you’ve never played Deep Sea Adventure this will just be a really solid co-op in a box you could actually fit in your pocket. But then, if you’ve never played Deep Sea Adventure and you’re wondering what your first Oink game should be, I think you should already have your answer. Not this one.