Our taste buds can't repel flavor of that magnitude! (Thanks, Robot Chicken!)

Review: Space Food Truck

I love geeky tabletop games, especially the kind with a dozen different decks of cards, scores of specialized counters, multiple boards and player reference cards with charts and tables. Call me Ameritrash, but that’s the way I like it. Unfortunately, I have young children: my oldest is taking an interest in games now, but at age 5 he’s not ready for Twilight Struggle or Terra Mystica yet, and my youngest is mostly interested in teething on the pieces. As a result, I mostly play my board games on a tablet these days, and keep notes on which ones I might want to pick up when the kids get older.

I say this because Space Food Truck is a digital board game. There’s no print edition yet, and that’s a shame because if there was, I’d have purchased it and put it in a place of honor in my collection, there to wait for the day we can sit down as a family and play together. If you haven’t picked up on my subtle hints, what I’m trying to say is that I love this cooperative multiplayer game.

Space Food Truck is more like Sentinels of the Multiverse than anything else, but cooperation isn’t just important in Space Food Truck, it’s absolutely necessary. That’s part of the interest inherent in the single player experience, setting up each crewmember for success, and in multiplayer that interdependence makes the game into an actually-compelling teambuilding exercise.

Here’s how it works: you have to get a series of three increasingly complex meals (sets of cards) to specific planets on a sprawling galaxy map. Only the Captain can move zig, you wouldn’t get two parsecs without  breaking down without your Engineer, without the Chef the game would just be called “Space Truck,” and only the Scientist can research advanced job cards.

There’s more to it than that, like the Chef’s proficiency for card cycling and burning cards you don’t want anymore, but it the cooperative element is always paramount: Chef tends to develop the best deck, but if Chef and Captain (who restocks cards and buys first) gank all the best stuff, your Engineer (who buys last) won’t be able to repair that critical damage to your life support system. Whoops!

Space Food Truck is also the funniest card and/or board game I’ve played since Munchkin. All sorts of ridiculous things can happen to you, every star system in the universe has a tagline, and you need to acquire the most ridiculous ingredients. All come described in terms that find a sweet spot somewhere between Douglas Adams and Tex Avery, with a generous sprinkling of reference jokes.

The humor blunts the sting when it all goes wrong and the Truck crash-lands. You get a final shot of the crew dealing with the setback, Chef wailing as the Captain eats her feelings, and a negative review from a disappointed sentient being who never got their Black Hole Soup.

Space Food Truck does have one signature flaw: it’s too easy to hoist your own petard at some points. In one game I was out of Zapmart cards and and at the end of a galactic cul-de-sac when I accidentally tapped the Resupply button without adding and new cards to the store. This combined with a little bad luck to leave my crew buying Leftovers four rounds in a row and crashing soon thereafter.

Blue meat. It's what's for dinner.
Blue meat. It’s what’s for dinner.

Maybe the humor will wear thin with repetition, and maybe figuring out optimal play will undermine the chaos and the fun (I’ll tell you this much – don’t neglect your Engineer!), but right now I’m very much in love with Space Food Truck: it’s one of my favorite games of the year, and hands-down my favorite family game. If you like board games, deckbuilding games, cooperative games, food, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Red Dwarf, Star Trek, or space opera in any form, you owe it to yourself to pick up Space Food Truck.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think that flailing by the window means that my Gargleblasted Sarlac Mac & Cheese is ready.

Notable Replies

  1. I was looking forward to this for months. I watched multiple gameplay videos, etc. then it came out, and for some stupid reason, I still haven't grabbed it.

  2. I wanted to add my comments about Space Food Truck in case anyone is still contemplating buying it. First, I want to say that the game is fun. Not quite as fun as Sentinels of the Multiverse where you get to be a super hero. But still fun.

    What I don't like is the UI. It just sucks. The game looks really nice, but you really cannot see the information you need (or that I need) on the main page. To play you have to tap on the card to see the card because they are partially hidden, Tap on another player to see an abbreviated view of their cards, tap on them again to see more information if you don't know the cards by heart just yet. When playing as the scientist your special ability is to unlock upgraded cards. You can preview some abilities before unlocking them. When it comes time to unlock them though, you cannot see the full preview. This is less of a problem if you know the cards. When playing as the captain your special ability is to fly the truck around the map. But the UI for moving and expanding the map doesn't work well. In addition, some stars are so close together you have a hard time selected the right one. It can also be difficult to see which stars are connected. This wouldn't be so bad if when selecting your route through the stars you could start over if you make a mistake. But you cannot. You'll waste time flying back and forth to stars you didn't mean to fly to.

    The was originally a game for a computer and the UI shows that. It needs optimization for tablets (and phones). Maybe this is also why it crashes a lot and drains the battery. Toward the end of the game it would crash more and more frequently. It did remember where I was so I didn't lose the whole game though. It even crashed right before I won. But I was happy to see that I could still view the win screen. I'm playing on an iPad mini 3.

    So, in summary. The game was fun but the act of playing was difficult (not in a fun way) and it took a long time to play a game because I had to fiddle to see the information I needed to play. The UI experience really drags the fun of the game down so I'll probably not play it again.

    I contacted the developer about the UI issues. He said that they were working on other projects so may be back to it in the future. So I don't know if improvements will be made or not, but it will not be anytime soon.

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