I hadn’t planned on writing about Light Speed but it came up when I was talking about Cheapass Games. And I realized that I’ve been occasionally playing that game for almost twenty years. There’s not a lot of games that I can say that.
Light Speed, originally part of Cheapass Games Hip Pocket line, is one of the only Cheapass games not designed by James Ernest. (It’s by Tom Jolly) It is said that James Ernest will be sad if you tell him it’s your favorite Cheapass game. It’s pretty damn good, though. (I do like Button Men more, James)
Light Speed is a real time game where everyone gets their own deck of ten spaceship cards in their own color. Each one has one to four hit points and one to four lasers shooting out and some shields to block lasers.
Gameplay is dead simple. It’s a real time so no turns. You are slapping cards down and that part of the game is over when someone runs out of cards. Then you need to see what the lasers hit. Get out a piece of floss or a retractable ID holders and follow each laser’s path to see if it hits anything.
The cards are numbered and they go in order. The Moth is fragile with one of the weakest lasers but it also shoots first. The Destroyer has lots of hit points and a whopping four lasers but it goes last.
You score points by destroying other folks’ space ships. You can also mine an asteroid for minerals but, I’ll be honest, half the time we don’t play with the asteroid and just focus of blasting away at each other.
When I first played Light Speed, all those many years ago, it confused me. Was a game allowed to be this simple? Did it count? When I first tried it, I was primarily a RPG player and I was used to needing several books to play a game.
Since then, I’ve played hundreds of games, including very simple RPGs. The whole complexity equals value is a false paradigm as far as I’m concerned. I mean, since then, I’ve learned how to play Go and that can be broken down to less than ten rules. And one of those rules is you use a board to play!
(Then, we start arguing about depth versus complexity. Go is not complex, folks. It _is_ deeper than the Mariana Trench.)
Yes, Light Speed is very, very simple. Yes. Scoring with a retractable ID badge you stole out of your WH40K box takes longer than actual game play. But it is also very clever and unbelievably intuitive and a lot of fun. You can explain it to anyone with half the explanation just showing them the cards. And they will love it.
Light Speed gives you a chance to set aside being a game snob and just have a good time. And I spend plenty of time being a game snob.