Cats in Space? MLEM Board Game Review
For the longest time, my family (mostly for my kids) were obsessed with Celestia, a game where players hopped on a hot air balloon and traveled from location to location attempting to earn points.
Cards were played to move, and at some point people either decided to get off the balloon or crashed with it and earned no points. MLEM is doing a similar thing, but with cats in space. Does it do enough different stuff to replace a family favorite? Let’s take a look!
In MLEM, players will place their cat tokens on the rocket ship, and then roll dice to move that ship through outer space. Each spot on the game mat requires a certain dice roll in order for the ship to move forward. Fail to get the number required, and the ship will crash.
Players continue to use a depleting pile of dice to see how far they can get into space before either jumping off onto planets / moons for points, or crashing and earning nothing. The game is very simple, but provides a nice push-your-luck mechanic that works well, and doesn’t feel too mean when you fail thanks to cat powers.
Before we dive deeper into the review, I think it’s time to quickly talk about the production quality of MLEM. What I love about this game is that the game board isn’t a board at all, but rather a neoprene mat. Better yet, the mat fits in the box when not in use, which is a huge bonus. I really hope more games move towards neoprene or rubber mats for games as opposed to game boards. They are much nicer to play on, and you don’t have issues of tearing or splitting when constantly folding like you would with a board game.
The other components in the game are good as well. The cardboard is nice and thick, the dice feel good, and the artwork is really cute and fun! It’s not blowing me away, but it’s solid and worthwhile.
Ok, back to the game. MLEM is a straight push your luck experience with a few variables provided by the cat powers on the 9 tokens each player has. These tokens allow you to jump off after the rocket crashes, earn double points for landing on moons, provide a free 1-pip dice value, and so much more.
The variables are really necessary to make sure the game doesn’t feel too unfair, but ultimately you need to be OK losing big if you want to play this game and have a good time. Ultimately, this is still pretty much a game of luck, and if you are not OK with that, this probably isn’t the experience for you.
I love push your luck games because they tend to play really quickly and can be wacky fun. And MLEM is definitely a game full of crazy moments, really high highs, and really low lows! There are not a ton of strategic decisions to make, but there are enough to make you feel like you are still playing a game, as opposed to just clicking a button and crossing your fingers.
While this isn’t something that will come out on board game night with the adults, I love to play this with my kids. The cat theme mixed with outer space is definitely odd, but adds to the charm of the experience.
I generally love to make these reviews well over 1000s words as I dive into all the decision making moments and more, but MLEM is a very basic, but VERY good experience that is easy to teach and easy to play. There are a few included modules (a really good UFO experience!) so there is some replayability and an ability to ratchet up the difficulty and complexity if you so choose. We will discuss these alternative ways to play in a future article, but if you are looking at the base game of MLEM, I think it’s a great experience with fantastic production.
Honestly, the setup and card laying of Celestia was the number one thing I hated about that game. I can toss it now, because MLEM 100% replaces that experience.