Space Cadets

A Guide to Space Cadets – Rules, Instructions & Strategy Tips


Space Cadets is a cooperative, real-time board game where players work together as a crew of a spaceship. Each player has a unique role, from the Captain to the Helmsman, each with their own mini-game that contributes to the success of the mission. The game was designed by Brian, Sydney, and Geoff Engelstein and first hit the shelves in 2012. I find it worth playing for its blend of puzzles, dexterity, and strategy, all set in the thrilling expanse of space.

The goal of Space Cadets is to complete a series of missions that range from fighting off enemy ships to navigating through asteroid fields. The game is set up with various stations that players man, and each station has a different task that requires specific skills. The game is played in real-time, with players simultaneously performing their tasks within a limited time frame. This creates a chaotic but fun atmosphere as players shout, scramble, and strategize together.

Since its release, Space Cadets has gained a following for its immersive gameplay and the unique challenge it presents to players. It’s not just about what you do, but how well you can work with your team. Now, let’s get you ready to jump into the captain’s chair and lead your crew to victory!

Quick Tip for Space Cadets

Communication is key! Always keep talking with your team to coordinate your actions and adapt to new situations quickly.

Rules for playing Space Cadets

Understanding the rules of Space Cadets is crucial to playing the game well. The game is designed for 3-6 players, and each player takes on a specific role on the spaceship. The roles include the Captain, who decides the mission strategy; the Helmsman, who steers the ship; the Weapons Officer, who charges and fires torpedoes; the Sensor Officer, who locks onto enemy ships; the Shield Officer, who protects the ship; and the Engineer, who generates energy for the other stations.

The game is played over several turns, each divided into three phases: the Planning Phase, the Action Phase, and the Resolution Phase. During the Planning Phase, the Captain gives orders and the crew plans their actions. In the Action Phase, all players simultaneously perform their tasks within a time limit. Finally, in the Resolution Phase, the results of the actions are resolved, and the game state is updated.

Each role has specific mini-games that players must complete during the Action Phase. For example, the Helmsman plots the ship’s course using tiles, while the Weapons Officer assembles a puzzle to load torpedoes. The Engineer distributes energy to the other stations, which is necessary for them to perform their actions.

Players must work together to complete missions, which are drawn from a mission deck and have specific objectives. Missions might involve combat with enemy ships, navigating through obstacles, or rescuing other ships. If the crew completes the mission objectives, they win the game. However, if the ship is destroyed or the mission objectives are not met within a certain number of turns, the players lose.

Equipment and Setup for Space Cadets

To play Space Cadets, you’ll need the game box, which includes a variety of components. These include the main game board, station boards for each player role, energy cubes, tiles for navigation and weapons, cards for missions and events, and tokens for shields, damage, and other game elements.

Setting up the game involves placing the main board in the center of the table and giving each player their station board and components. The mission deck is shuffled and placed face down, and the event deck is prepared according to the mission’s instructions. Players choose their roles, and the Captain starts by drawing the top mission card to set the game’s objective.

The types of tiles in Space Cadets include navigation tiles for plotting the ship’s course, torpedo loading tiles for the Weapons Officer, and crystal tiles for the Sensor Officer. Each type of tile is used in the mini-games that players must complete during their turn.

If you don’t have the game or some components are missing, you can create DIY elements to replace them. For example, you can use paper and markers to draw your own tiles or use household items as energy cubes.

How to Play Space Cadets and Game Mechanics

Playing Space Cadets involves understanding the key game mechanics and how each phase of the game works. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Setup: Prepare the game board, shuffle decks, and distribute station boards and components to players.
  2. Gameplay: Follow the turn structure, which includes the Planning Phase, Action Phase, and Resolution Phase.
  3. End of the Game: The game ends when the mission objectives are completed or if the ship is destroyed.

During the gameplay, players will go through various phases:

  1. Planning Phase: The Captain discusses the mission with the crew and gives orders.
  2. Action Phase: All players simultaneously perform their tasks within a time limit.
  3. Resolution Phase: Actions are resolved, and the game state is updated.

Each player’s actions depend on their role and the mini-games they must complete. For example, the Helmsman might be plotting a course while the Weapons Officer is loading torpedoes. Coordination and timing are essential as all actions happen at the same time.

How to Win at Space Cadets

To win at Space Cadets, players must successfully complete the mission objectives outlined on the mission card. This requires teamwork, quick thinking, and efficient use of resources. Beginners should focus on understanding their role and the mini-games associated with it. Intermediate players can start to anticipate the needs of other stations and prepare accordingly. Advanced players will be able to strategize several turns ahead and adapt to changing situations on the fly.

Winning strategies involve managing energy efficiently, as it powers all actions on the ship. Players should also prioritize tasks based on the mission’s objectives and be ready to change plans if unexpected events occur. Communication is vital, as is a clear understanding of each player’s role and responsibilities.

Best Strategies for playing Space Cadets game

The best strategies for playing Space Cadets involve a combination of planning, adaptability, and teamwork. Here are some strategic plays to aim for:

  • Always keep an eye on the energy levels and distribute them wisely among the stations.
  • Coordinate actions so that the ship’s movements, shield positioning, and weapon firing are synchronized.
  • Use the Sensor Officer’s abilities to lock onto targets efficiently, allowing for more effective attacks.
  • Be prepared to adapt to new threats, such as enemy ships appearing or navigating through asteroid fields.

Sneaky tactics can also come into play, such as feinting movements to mislead enemy ships or saving energy for a big push when it’s most needed.


During a game of Space Cadets, players might find themselves in various scenarios. Here’s how to turn them to your advantage:

  • If you’re surrounded by enemy ships, focus on maneuvering and shielding to buy time for a counter-attack.
  • When low on energy, prioritize essential actions and consider a retreat to recharge.
  • If a mission objective seems out of reach, reassess your strategy and look for alternative ways to complete it.

By staying calm and working together, you can overcome even the toughest challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Space Cadets game

Here are some common questions and answers:

  1. Q: How long does a game of Space Cadets usually take?
    A: A typical game lasts about 60-120 minutes, depending on the number of players and their familiarity with the game.
  2. Q: Can you play Space Cadets with two players?
    A: The game is designed for 3-6 players, but two players can play by each taking on multiple roles.
  3. Q: What happens if we run out of time during the Action Phase?
    A: Any actions not completed within the time limit are considered failed for that turn.
  4. Q: Can we change roles during the game?
    A: Yes, players can switch roles between turns if they agree it will benefit the mission.
  5. Q: Is there a way to pause the game?
    A: Since Space Cadets is played in real-time, pausing isn’t generally part of the gameplay. However, you can agree on breaks between turns if needed.

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