Here is what an industry insider & Board Game Geek (boardgamegeek.com) Forum member is saying about the game.
"Got to playtest Apollo several times this weekend. We really enjoyed it. The game play was great. While we had to abort several times, it made our successful mission all the more rewarding and showed the complexity of these missions, as you noted.
We rolled terribly a few times as luck would have it. But you know everyone is invested in a game when they moan audibly when a 1 is rolled AGAIN.
I often have a lot of suggestions for smoother game play but in this case I think you’ve accomplished your goal of providing an immersive Apollo mission experience."
From 1968 to 1972, millions of people watched in amazement as the US Apollo program took humanity to the Moon for the first time. Since those missions ended, generations have watched replays and movies of the landings, read books by the Astronauts, and wondered what it was like to be on those missions. But aside from some computer simulations over the decades, there has never been a comprehensive way to immerse yourself in an Apollo Lunar Mission.
Now you can experience the challenge and excitement of flying an Apollo Lunar Mission with APOLLO: The Game of Our First Voyages to the Moon. A collaborative STEM board game for 1-4 players ages 13 and up, APOLLO puts players in the Spacecraft and Mission Control, responsible for critical decisions and maneuvers throughout the spaceflight to the Moon.
The players become the Apollo mission Commander, the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP), the Command Module Pilot (CMP) and Mission Control Houston. Each position has critical roles to play in the outcome of the mission - but if you don't have 4 people to play the game, don't worry - you can easily combine the roles or even play by yourself!
Founded in January 2017, I created Exoplanet Games to fill a void of reality based Space Board games. With all the current emphasis and excitement for space, we believe there is a need to foster that excitement early and often. While many are tempted to create computer games and applications, we believe that the human interaction of the Apollo age was critical to its success and want that to carry over into our games.
Headed by a retired US Naval Flight Officer with over 15 years of experience in the demanding naval aviation environment and for the past 7 years, as a civilian providing critical aviation support to customers the world over. Many of these customers require integration of systems and equipment, requiring detailed plans of action to accomplish on timeline and budget. Large, complex projects are what we do everyday.
Exoplanet Games is led by an organized, results oriented individual whose main goal is mission accomplishment - and our current mission is getting APOLLO: The Game of Our First Voyages to the Moon prepared and launched on time.
Based upon extensive research of public NASA documents, photographs, and mission reports, APOLLO: The Game of Our First Voyages to the Moon begins on the pad at Launch Complex 39A. It's T-minus 15 seconds to liftoff and the players will feel the uncertainty of launching on the most powerful rocket ever made, the Saturn V.
As the players proceed along the launch trajectory, they must keep careful watch over the rocket's Structure Points (SPs) and Apollo spacecraft system. If the Saturn V shows signs of a critical failure, the players may choose to Abort the launch or risk continuing.
Neither choice is hazard free - Apollo launch aborts have never been tested with Astronauts aboard.
After achieving Earth Orbit, the Apollo Game Flight Plan will guide the players along the turns of the game, known as "Programs" on the Mission Game Board (more information on the Apollo Game Flight Plan in the Game Components Section below).
Programs require various actions and spacecraft maneuvers - they involve drawing various types of game cards, rolling dice, and GO / NOGO decision by the players.
The GO or NOGO decisions occur at critical junctions of the game and are used to determine whether the mission to the Moon will continue ("GO"). After each player has analyzed their data, they'll have a chance to recreate a scene you see in movies like "Apollo 13" and "The Martian". Mission Control Houston leads the GO / NOGO call:
- "Lunar Module Pilot?" (GO / NOGO)
- "Command Module Pilot?" (GO / NOGO)
- "Commander?" (GO / NOGO)
- "Houston recommends (GO / NOGO) for P3 - Trans Lunar Injection (example program)
If the decision is unanimous, that is the path the mission will take. If not, the Commander must use their authority to make the final decision. Every type of mission abort profile in the Apollo program is available to the players, so the course of the mission can be changed at any time.
Additionally, the rigors of launch may have affected spacecraft propulsion, electrical or life support systems, requiring repairs and assessment to determine if a Lunar Landing is still possible. System Status is tracked for the Command and Service Module (CSM) and the Lunar Module (LM, pronounced "LEM") on the Apollo Mission Game Board. The 8 Lunar Mission Goals are also tracked as well.
If the players are successful in completing several spacecraft maneuver Programs (Trans Lunar Injection, Transposition and Docking, and the Lunar Orbit Insertion), they will arrive in orbit around the Moon and have a final opportunity to repair troublesome spacecraft systems before deciding GO or NOGO on the Lunar Landing attempt.
After commencing the landing attempt Programs, the players will have to manage diminishing fuel stores in the Lunar Module (LM) and plot a course for the landing zone. Arriving over the landing area low on fuel and/or off course will increase the risk of a hard landing; players may elect to Abort if the challenges become too great or they may continue with the landing attempt.
An off target landing isn't the worst possible outcome - a hard landing may cause damage to the Lunar Module spacecraft and make liftoff difficult or impossible.
If the players successfully land on the Moon and take humanity's first steps onto another world, they may be tempted to bask in the pride of this great accomplishment.
But the mission isn't over yet - Lunar samples need to be collected and scientific experiments carefully setup. And in order to rejoin with the CSM and return safely to Earth, they must launch back off the Moon, conduct an orbital rendezvous with the CSM, and a critical Trans Earth Injection burn to leave Lunar Orbit.
Completing the game -
The primary goal is landing an Astronaut on the Moon and returning all of them safely to the Earth - to that end, the game has 8 Lunar Mission Goals to track the players progress.
- Reach Earth Orbit
- Fly the CSM to the Moon
- Land the LM on the Moon
- Walk on the Moon
- Live TV Broadcast From the Moon
- Return Lunar Samples
- Setup Lunar science experiments
- Return All Astronauts Safely to Earth
Depending on the objectives accomplished, missions are ranked for comparison to other attempts.
While it may sound routine, many game events can combine and play out in ways that were never experienced in the actual missions. For example:
- How would the Astronauts of Apollo 13 have survived if the Command Module oxygen tanks had exploded after they had landed on the Moon?
- What would the Astronauts do if the Lunar Module was unable to dock with the Command Module while orbiting the Moon?
- How would Astronauts deal with loss of communications with Mission Control Houston?
- Apollo 6 (unmanned test flight) experienced severe launch anomalies (rocket engine failures and vibration) - how would Astronauts on a manned mission have dealt with them?
- All of the spacecraft maneuvers on the mission were critical to success - what happens if a maneuver fails?
- Earth Re-entry and Recovery was a dangerous time for the Astronauts in real life and those hazards are replicated in the game.
All of these possible events and more will combine to challenge the players during their unique mission to the Moon.
The main game provides an Apollo 11 mission experience; albeit with the potential for many more "what-if" events than in real life. We looked at all the mission debriefs for the Apollo spaceflights and if a potentially serious anomaly occurred, it's a possibility in the game.
For players wanting a greater challenge, the game includes an advanced section that allows you to fly the historic Apollo Lunar Missions (Apollo 8, 10-17). These missions have modified game flow, goals and scoring which emphasizes the objectives of each. For example, Apollo 10 only proceeds down to 50,000 feet over the Lunar surface before testing the LM Abort system; while Apollo 15-17 have a deep space EVA where the CMP retrieves scientific film from the outside of the spacecraft.
If we are fortunate enough to exceed our initial funding target, we may look to create the cancelled Apollo 18-20 missions and possibly some of the Apollo Application Program (AAP) Lunar Missions as stretch goals. But we can't get ahead of ourselves, we need to get the main effort backed first!
The game will arrive in a game box containing the following components:
- 1x Game Manual
- 1x Apollo Game Flight Plan
- Game Pieces - 4 x Diecut with plastic stands representing 4 spacecraft configurations throughout the Apollo mission
- Three Gameboards (11x17)
- 50 Game Cards
- Two Twelve Sided Dice
- Ten Status Markers
The Game Manual provides an introduction and explains how to play the game. It describes how the game was conceived, some of the factors that were considered in its design, and credits all of the people who were critical in making it a success! It is pictured in the photo of the components above.
The Apollo Game Flight Plan is the heart of the game. Designed like the real flight plan on Apollo Missions, with durable construction and easy to reference, it directs the players during the course of the game. Each "Program" (turns of the game) has two dedicated pages - the First page describes the mission events and is helpful explaining how that step in the Apollo Mission occurred - as players get more comfortable with the game they may choose to move immediately to the second page. The second page is the game Program Procedures and contain the steps the players must complete to move on to the next Program of the mission.
Programs require collaborative decision making, die rolls, and drawing of various game cards before moving on to the next one. The players begin at P1 (Saturn V Launch) and progress sequentially through the programs to P17 (Re-Entry and Recovery) - unless the mission experiences difficulty. In that case, the players may utilize the Abort Programs or Alternate Mission section in an attempt to save the Astronauts from a hazardous situation that jeopardizes crew safety.
Three 11"x17" Game Boards allow you to chart your mission to the Moon. The Saturn V Launch and Lunar Landing Boards replicate high tension events in the game and the Apollo Mission Game Board Tracks overall mission progress, Spacecraft Status, and game objectives. Photos of the 3 current prototypes are below:
Game Cards come in several varieties and are used to replicate the Saturn V Launch and Lunar Landing attempt, as well as inject risk and historical events into the mission. Not all cards are obstacles to success - some provide unexpected help and assistance.
Players also have "Save the Day" Cards, which represent the hundreds of hours Astronauts trained to deal with emergency situations and the thousands of people supporting the mission from Mission Control who are able to provide technical advice throughout the mission. Each position has specific card(s) concurrent with their specialty. They can help the players overcome challenging mission situations, but must be used wisely!
Photos of the cards are shown above the content overview photo and in the introduction video. Below are some digital examples of the card files currently in use.
Game Pieces, Dice and Status Markers - To replicate all of the Saturn and Apollo Spacecraft configurations throughout the mission, the production pieces will be high quality color die cut game pieces.
- Saturn V Rocket (front) / Apollo Spacecraft w/S-IV (back)
- CSM & LM Docked (front & back)
- CSM (front & back)
- LM (front) / LM Ascent Stage (back)
The Dice and markers are quality components that round out the game. All are visible in the contents photo at the start of this section.
We are proud of the game and feel that it is nearly complete. But before launching it to the public, we want to harness the power and imagination of backers and Apollo Space enthusiasts to make this a true community game - much like the Apollo Program was a community effort from people all over the United States.
The funds received will be utilized to improve the game artwork and smooth the designs throughout, as well as prepare / format it for final production with the help of our PlayTester backer program. Many things will be improved to transform the current working copies into seamless, comprehensive components worthy of the Apollo namesake.
We also intend to team with a US based board game manufacturer - while that has increased the overall cost of the project slightly, we feel that it gives us much more control over the design and production process. This will also allow us to visit our manufacturer before and during production, to ensure all goes according to plan.
Additionally, keep in mind that we are making a game about the Apollo Space Program - the missions that landed 12 Americans on the surface of the Moon. While we could attempt to drive down costs and have the games printed in an overseas factory, we just feel that shouldn't be our first or second course of action.
If the Campaign is funded, Stretch Goals will allow us to recreate the cancelled Apollo Lunar Missions (Apollo 18-20) as well as the Apollo Application Program (AAP) Lunar Missions, in addition to some other upgrades we have available.
Setting timelines and goals for a project is critical - we have developed our initial plan to allow for unforeseen delays in production and delivery for the best chance to launch this project on time. Our mindset is to make a plan with contingency time built in to allow delivery ON or before our targeted date - to avoid an unrealistic plan, forced to continually slide delivery later and later. If we are running ahead of schedule, we will move forward with an early launch and delivery! The Timeline will be updated as needed during our weekly project updates (see communication plan below).
Backers participating in the PlayTesting program will be contacted with specifics after successful funding. Depending on number of participants, all PlayTesters may receive a prototype for testing at the same time or it may be a phased process conducted in 2-3 groups.
Effective communications are key to the success of any large project, just like they were to the Apollo Space Program. We have witnessed too many crowdfunding projects that go weeks without an update - that WILL NOT happen with this project! Our communication plan and contract with our backers is as follows.
Shipping - After researching multiple ways of accounting for shipping through crowdfunding projects, we will be charging shipping once the Kickstarter is over, based on the actual costs.
With projects that will take months to complete, there is just no fair way to charge shipping upfront without significant risk for all of us - charge too little or experience rate increases, and the project budget falls apart - charge too much and backers overpay.
So we will collect desired shipping destinations after the campaign ends, provide updated shipping estimates when the game is complete, and collect actual costs before shipping commences.
Shipping Estimates (1-2 games) - we will work with shipping to offer the most cost effective way to ship larger amounts of games.
UPDATED - we are now EU / Canada / Australia Friendly, shipping without additional customs charges.
- USA: $10-15 to most states.
- CANADA: $20-30 to most cities.
- ASIA: $40 to China and Hong Kong. $50 to most other countries.
- OCEANIA: $30 to Australia. $45 to New Zealand.
- UK - $25
- EUROPE: $25-$30 to France. $25-$35 to most other countries in the Europe and the EU.
- LATIN AMERICA: Variable, from $35-85 depending on the location.
- REST OF THE WORLD - Variable, from $40 - $95, depending on exact location.
Additionally, for our members in the USA (or traveling here), we will offer in person pick up at designated locations and events across the country.
Risks and challenges
Kickstarter requires this section - instead of leaving it without a banner, we want to ensure that all backers see and read our position because that is who we are. Straightforward and honest.
With any large project come challenges to success. Risks typically associated with board game projects include production problems, shipping issues, and difficulty managing the project.
Our plan to help mitigate the first two risks is to produce the game with a US manufacturer with US based facilities, instead of one using an overseas factory. This will make it easier for us to manage production, ensure quality, and overcome shipping challenges. We will be visiting the facilities several times to ensure we have a great working relationship with the manufacturer and will stay in contact with them throughout the production and shipping process.
To mitigate the third risk, we have a team at Exoplanet Games who have years of experience managing large projects. We are successful at what we do because we have a process of developing a plan, communicating regularly with our clients and partners, and building in room to handle problems (time and resources). Our Apollo Project timeline has several months of cushion built in, which will allow us to overcome production and shipping challenges or allow for additional play testing / artwork development if it is needed.
Conversely, if Playtesting and production goes smoothly, we will launch the project as soon as it's ready, ahead of timeline.
Lastly, some notes - content in the project is still a 'work in progress' and with the help of the PlayTester backers, will surely change some as they express their ideas. Also, we are continually working on the project, making improvements and corrections as we go. But the game as outlined here will remain in this recognizable format.
Note about Backer Digital Game Cards* - these have zero value and are intended as Holiday gifts to represent the finished product. The Backer may, at their shipping expense, choose to have copies shipped to a different or multiple addresses. Only the Backer can make that change.
There is no actual or implied endorsement by NASA for this project - extensive NASA public domain materials were utilized in the creation of this educational game project but its use is IAW guidelines on nasa.gov.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)