Nestled towards the end of the bustling middle row within the Exhibit Hall at Gen Con, a space adventure waits. Beyond the iconic castle-like presence of the eBay booth is a booth adorned with an array of boxes, each displaying captivating toy spaceships. A closer look reveals a table with these very vessels displayed outside their packaging. A nondescript bin rests unassumingly on the table and within its depths lies a revelation – these seemingly toy-like ships transcend the realms of toys or models; they are the heart and soul of Snap Ship Tactics a new board game by publisher Snap Ships.
In a fusion of creativity and strategy, Snap Ship Tactics emerges as a vibrant intersection between the worlds of construction, tactical combat, and sci-fi allure.
Imagine if Lego and Star Wars: X-Wing came together and made a new, creative means of interstellar warfare – that’s Snap Ship Tactics. With its modular design, Snap Ship Tactics lets players construct their miniature ships using a library of many distinct plastic components. These components snap together seamlessly, allowing for rapid assembly and reconfiguration, akin to kitbashing, but without the need for glue or the feeling of permanence.
“It looks like a Warhammer model or something that is a one-shot thing but it’s totally interchangeable, says Scott Pease, cofounder of Snap Ships. “You can swap weapons and wings and all kinds of stuff to build your unit.”
The ability to swap pieces is the heart of what makes Snap Ship Tactics so cool. Like a drafting game that uses the draft portion as the first quarter or even half of a board game, making the ships that players are going to use is a key part of the experience. You are drafting and optimizing your ship to your playstyle, creating something that will either dominate the table or crumble due to poor planning.
“Once you build the actual model, then you collect the cards that match up with the equipment that’s on your ship and it builds out this control panel to control your ship,” says Pease. “It’s like the core stats for your ship.” Parts of the ship’s performance such as the hull, weapons, wings, and energy consumption are all impacted by the pieces that players snap into their ship. Players can go for straightforward builds or create flexible machines. Pease shared that there are many possibilities, from stealthy ships that focus on sniping, to ships with tons of armor or are loaded with weaponry.
After the ship is created, the gameplay unfolds on a battlefield that doesn’t need a board, just a floor or table. Ships are placed on a circular stand, which enables smooth, calculated maneuvers. Energy cubes are used to power ship actions, offering a tantalizing blend of resource management and tactical maneuvering. The balance between spending cubes on your current turn and planning for the next creates a dynamic gameplay rhythm that keeps players engaged. Movement is determined with rulers included in the box that measure short or long movements. As battles unfold, components break and players must adapt to changing circumstances.
Snap Ship Tactics is designed for versatility. The starter box offers everything needed for a two-player game. The modularity extends to gameplay modes, including a card-driven AI for solo play and cooperative modes for team battles. The system accommodates various player counts, allowing for squad-based warfare or massive fleet engagements if players purchase expansions and standalone ships. The Scout Ship Pack includes two new ships that give players a total of 50 new building pieces to integrate into their game. The Elite Ship Pack adds two larger ships and over 90 pieces. With the two ships in the base game and the additional ships available, multiple players can compete, with two or three ships on each side for large squadron battles.
A game like Snap Ship Tactics doesn’t happen overnight. “The game itself took about two years to make, but prior to the game, we actually worked out the toy line and connection system separately two years before,” says Pease. This is the third Gen Con that Snap Ship Tactics has appeared in. “Two gen cons ago, we had a very first playtest, and then last year the near-final versions were being played.”
I asked Scott Pease about the biggest challenges that the team faced while creating Snap Ship Tactics. “It’s the complexity of everything,” he says. Pease notes that the modularity of all the ships and parts were challenging to work with, pointing out that the core box has 100 pieces.
“And then, on top of that, there’s a full board game’s worth of tokens and terrain items, punch boards, cards, dice, cubes, and rulers,” Pease says. “They all have to be of the highest quality and all work well together.”
One would think that Pease has a background in toymaking, but his background might surprise some, especially fans of video games in the 2000s. Pease was a game designer for Activision in the late 90s and then Studio Development Director for Neversoft for 15 years. When Pease mentioned Neversoft, I instantly connected him to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater a key part of many of our childhoods. “That was my baby. I was there for Tony Hawk 1 all the way through Tony Hawk 9,” he recalls. “We did seven guitar hero games as well, a Western game called Gun. And then I helped make one Call of Duty, and one was enough for me,” Pease says with a laugh.
Players can learn more about and purchase Snap Ship Tactics on the Snap Ships website. Snap Ship Tactics will launch at retail, including hobby stores and Amazon at the end of August. “If you love building LEGOs and you love sci-fi and battling then this is the game for you,” says Pease.