Space Station Zero | Fortified Niche playtest!

Yo, what if Blackstone Fortress wasn’t set in Warhammer 40,000 and you could use whichever minis you wanted? Because that’s what Space Station Zero aims to be.

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Space Station Zero markets itself as a deadly game – and it shows. The environmental dangers are enough to mulch the weaker (and hence larger) crews even before the enemies get them. As they used to say in HH 1.0, “the air is phosphex,”
What’s especially gruesome is that some mission feature instakill features. And I’m not talking “removes the mini from the board” – it’s “kills the mini in the campaign instantly.” Which gives verisimilitude when you consider what kind of terrain feature it is in-universe (a miniature black hole), but it still doesn’t leave the best aftertaste.
And losing characters is decidedly not great when Space Station Zero does not allow to you replenish your ranks mid-run. You’re also not allowed to abort it, get back to base, and then go back in rearmed and reinforced. The last part is especially painful since the game supports backtracking via your finished encounters. So why not let the team take one last step backwards and onto the base?
You may also run into some A.I. issues. Warhammer 40.000: Blackstone Fortress has AI rules that are specific to each type of enemy. Space Station Zero can’t afford to be that detailed. The universal bot rules try to cover everything, but it can end up with stuff like melee monsters endlessly backing away from you because that’s what creatures with ranged attacks do – and they just so happen to happen a weak spit attack.
The issues I mentioned are a real shame, as this is a lavishly illustrated indie project that has otherwise decent-enough rules. The crew creation is streamlined while still being very, very evocative. You first choose the size of the crew, from eight weedy space goblins to four superhumans. Then you apply the type of the ship they’re from – science, war, trade, etc. – which determines equipment and special abilities. Lastly, you give the crew one special quirk, design the captain, and assign equipment. It’s a quick process, actually!
All in all, Space Station Zero has a solid base idea, some great rule ideas, and art so good it should become standees. However, that effort is hampered by some balancing issues and insistence on deadliness that would make an OSR grog proud.


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