On the box, Deep Space D-6 is described as a “solitaire crew assignment game.” The story takes place on a starship that’s just been lured into a trap by a vicious enemy. Your job as the captain is to organize your crew and try to survive the onslaught.
Deep Space D-6 is a worker placement game where dice rolled at the start of every turn represent available personnel that can be assigned to deal with internal and external threats. The game has been around since 2015 as a print and play game. My copy from 2018 is the second retail edition of the game. The game was designed by Tony Go and released by his own publishing company Tau Leader Games.
Deep Space D-6 comes in a book-size box with a great looking cover that’s an obvious homage to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. Inside the box are four different ship boards, six custom crew dice, one threat die and a deck of 54 tiny threat cards. The game has a uniform graphical design, dry, clear, mostly black and white with the odd color popping out here and there. The artwork is reminiscent of blueprints, schematics and cross sections in technical manuals or on tactical displays. This minimalist aesthetic suits the theme really well and in my opinion the game looks beautifully utilitarian.
After opening the box , the next step in getting to know a game is the rule book. The rule book for this game is rather strangely organized and some rules text is located on the inside flap of the box. Setting up the game according to the instructions is simple enough, though. A turn has few steps and the game has few rules. Getting started is no problem.
After playing through just a few turns with the help of the rule book I have a surprising number of rules questions that can’t be resolved without turning to the World Wide Web. There are unexplained rules terms and inconsistencies. The effects and workings of some cards are implied or taken for granted rather than clearly explained. I get the impression that the use of text in the rule book, on cards and on boards has been minimized, perhaps due to physical constraints or in an effort to achieve clarity. Whether or not that’s the case, the resulting text is ambiguous and needs clarifications.
Fortunately it’s easy to find answers online. The designer, Tony Go, has been actively answering rules questions on BoardGamedGeek, and on the Tau Leader Games website there’s an FAQ. When the rule book is supplemented by these online resources learning the game isn’t hard, but needing to jump back and forth makes it more frustrating than you would expect from a small game with few rules.
Playing Deep Space D-6
Setup takes about a minute once you’ve decided the difficulty level, whether you want a quick, medium or long game and which of the four available spaceships you want to command (more on those below).
Gameplay revolves around rolling the dice and assigning the workers represented by the different faces to different stations on the ship. First the dice are rolled and allocated, and actions are taken accordingly, and after that a new threat is drawn from the deck of cards that represents your enemy. Finally the enemy attacks. If you manage to survive the onslaught until the threat deck is depleted, the Ouroboros capital ship, represented by six cards and not just one like the other threats, is put into play for the final showdown.
There are five kinds of personnel: command, science, engineering, tactical, and medical. The sixth side of the dice represents a threat detected. Whenever that side is rolled the die is allocated to the scanners to assess the threat. Once all dice slots in the threat scanner section of the spaceship are filled, you draw an extra threat card and get the dice back to use on the next turn. Rolling threats temporarily makes those dice unavailable. Dice can also become unavailable if workers are injured. When that happens they’re sent to the infirmary to await medical assistance.
Here’s a rundown of the what the different types of personnel allow you to do. It varies between the different ships you can command, so this is a generalization. Tactical fires weapons at the enemy. Engineering does repairs. Science maintains the shields and uses different technical equipment like stasis beams. Medical takes care of injured crew members. Command, finally, is like a wild card. Command personnel can duplicate other dice or change the facing of other dice rolled.
The threats you deal with are either external (enemy ships, mainly, but also asteroids and solar winds and the like) or internal (malfunctions, boarding parties, problems with morale and so on).
The four ships offer different challenges for the captain. The Halcyon is versatile, a jack of all trades. The Athena Mk. II is more focused on offense. The AG-8 is manned by robots that can be reprogrammed, and as the captain your job is to set up automated functions and watch them take care of the enemy and the repairs of your ship. The spherical Mononoaware is an alien ship that’s very different to operate from the other ones.
Deep Space D-6 is a tactical game. On each turn you have to do the best you can with what you have. Usually this means that you have several choices, several ways of dealing with the situation, but in some cases the roll of the dice forces the decision upon you. Some ships provide more obvious ways of dealing with the enemy than others.
The theme comes through beautifully. The science fiction terminology feels thoroughly connected to the mechanisms of the game. The sense of narrative isn’t very strong, perhaps, but the mood is. For the most part the threats keep you busy and on your toes and when there’s a turn where you don’t really have to do anything there’s a feeling of relief.
The game takes between 20 and 35 minutes to play.
Things to Consider if You’re Interested in This Game
- Luck is a factor in this game, but so is skill. A player can learn and improve, but sometimes bad luck will crush you.
- The rule book and wording on cards and boards makes learning the game and playing it correctly a challenge, but if you use the available online resources it will be no problem.
- This game has what I call a sense of flow to it. It’s one of the four qualities that I enjoy in a solitaire game, the other three being the challenge, the theme and the narrative. This game is strong in the flow department. By flow I mean zoning out, an almost meditative quality. It’s fast paced, smooth and not too challenging.
- This game is also thematically strong. As a trekkie I feel very much at home.
- You can easily adjust the length of the game and the difficulty level by adding or removing cards from the threat deck. I soon started winning most of the games on the easy level. Hard is still rather hard, but I wouldn’t call the game particularly challenging.
- The different ships are pretty different to command which makes for some variation.
- Components are of good quality.
- This game ONLY plays solo (but a follow up for one to four players called Deep Space D-6: Armada is being developed).
- The game has a lot of dice-rolling and dice-rolling is a lot of fun.
- Apart from my issues with the rules text, the whole package feels very well integrated with regards to look, theme and game mechanisms.
I recommend this game to any solo gamer with an interest in science fiction and some tolerance for luck. You have to be ready to be at the mercy of the dice on occasion. For the most part, however, deliberate planning and the right choices will triumph over luck. This game is well designed, it’s fun, and the theme is strong. Despite the issues with the rules text it’s a winner.
I will definitely keep Deep Space D-6 and I will try to get my hands on the expansion. This is a cleverly constructed game and it’s great that it will be expanded upon. I’m eager to see what becomes of Deep Space D-6: Armada.
Other People’s Opinions
If you feel unsure about this game you should check out Neil Thomson’s extremely thorough review. For the most part I think we agree, but his review is way more detailed and it’s well worth reading.
I hope you found this review useful. Thanks for reading! Meow!