Alien hordes are on the horizon, and you are the only thing that stands between them and your home planet. Everything you do and every choice you make will change the course of history. Will you stand up and be the hero your people need , or will the aliens prove too powerful and break through your planet’s last line of defense?
In Pew Pew! you are piloting one lone ship against the incoming onslaught of alien invaders. Your mission is to destroy them before they destroy you and everything you care about.
How To Play
Pew Pew! is a solo strategy game played over a series of rounds, with each round consisting of eight phases. It is played on a series of four screens that will rotate at the end of the round. The first screen will be discarded, the remaining will move down, and a new screen will be added at the top.
In the first phase you spawn alien ships and then take your player actions. How many actions you take will vary from turn to turn. Actions include firing a pew, moving up, down, left, or right; moving diagonally; dropping a mine; or spawning a heart. Pews and mines do damage to enemy ships and their missiles, while hearts can save you from defeat!
Once actions have been completed, the alien ships move and spawn missiles. Then your pews and their missiles get moved. Anything that gets hit with a pew is removed, and damage is dealt if you are hit by a missile. Your ship then moves up one screen (this is independent of action points). If there is any alien craft remaining on the screen you just vacated, then you get a death marker. After everything has been tallied and a new screen added to the row, you check for victory! Accumulating 10 point markers will win you the day, but if you have had your ship hit 3 times or you get 10 death markers, then the aliens have destroyed everything.
Straight Shooter, or Shooting Blanks?
With its old-school arcade look that pulls on the nostalgia of the classic space shooters of my youth, I was drawn into Pew Pew! by how it takes the down-scrolling nature of classic arcade games and works it into a playable board game. I am a huge Space Invaders fan, and this looked right up my alley. I was excited to find a game that ticked off so many boxes for me that I could also play solo.
The things that made those video games great in the arcade, however, were the fast pace and the reflexes needed to win. They were high energy and tense, and you needed to have full concentration at all times to achieve victory. The games were thrilling even though the graphics were minimal and the game play repetitive. Unfortunately, with Pew Pew! you don’t get those same feelings. There are no snap decisions you need to make and no adrenaline kicking in as ships get closer and closer to you. It feels more like a puzzle than a shooter. So even though the look matches an arcade game, you won’t get the same feeling from the game play.
Pew Pew! is relatively easy to learn and becomes very intuitive after only a few turns. The rulebook explains everything well and gives pictures and examples of every step. I did find myself with a few questions that weren’t covered in the rules, but other than that it was very well put together. After about my third turn, I no longer needed to look back into it. The backs of the screens also have a reference sheet, which is nice to help keep track of the turn order. The screens are placed face down beside your face up screens, so you will always have that sheet without having an extra card in the way.
Footprint for this game is small. As long as the four cards can fit in a row, then that is a playable surface. This opens up the game to be played in a lot of places you normally wouldn’t be able to. Since it is a solo game, this is a desirable trait. It can be brought out in a waiting room, on your lunch break, or on a park bench.
Even though Pew Pew! is described as a strategy game, I found it to be very luck based. Any strategy I was using was very light and mostly relied on timing. Since you know how the enemy spaceships move (it is printed on the front of their game pieces), getting your ship into a position to shoot them down is relatively simple. Winning is somewhat easy, and I found that I didn’t really care about the outcome of the game. It was a bit too abstract in this sense. I didn’t feel as though I was defending anything from the bad guys. If they slipped past me, I got a death token, which didn’t really have that much of an emotional impact on me.
The game can be played in about 15 to 20 minutes, which is good. I don’t think I would want to play the game at all if it were any longer, since after several turns, the gameplay also felt repetitive. Sometimes repetition isn’t a bad thing, but here I found it a bit boring. This contributed to my lack of interest in the outcome.
The artwork is nice, but small. All the robots look the same but are different colors–not that it matters in the game, since all movement for the different ships is listed on the tokens. They are innovative in their look, with the three separate faces, but they are incredibly difficult to put together, and there is no instruction sheet on how to properly do so. I had to take a couple apart once I realized there was an order that had to be followed. The slots to make the triangular ships are small and the cardboard is thick. I destroyed my thumb putting them together, and even though they give you a sheet to wipe off their soot, my fingers still came away black, which actually smudged onto the white part of the faces.
The screens themselves feature space scenes, and while they do work with the game play, they are a bit on the bland side. I am sure the publisher could have added all sorts of different space-related pictures to them without detracting from the ability to play the game. They are also made of very thin cardboard, which makes them a bit flimsy.
I understand where the designer was going with this game. Gameplay makes sense, the scrolling screens idea is fantastic, and the overall setup is innovative. But the feelings the game should capture just aren’t there. When I play space shooters, I want excitement and adrenaline. Other than dexterity games, I just don’t think you can find that same feeling in a board game. Pew Pew! led to some monotonous playthroughs, where my reactions didn’t change whether I won or lost. I felt like there were no consequences either way. The artwork is great, and I liked how I could play it anywhere. And the gameplay itself is solid for what it is. I just wish there was more to the game and that the thrill of the old video games was there. For me, I need the whole package. Nostalgia alone wasn’t enough to make me enjoy Pew Pew!
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of Pew Pew!