The prison-planet Zartaclaton is doomed. A giant moonquake has given the plant’s prisoners a chance to race to the last escape shuttle and escape. Only one can make it off the planet. The rest? They’re just as doomed as Zartaclaton.
Escape won’t be that easy, though. The planet is shifting as it dies, represented by a 3D board with rotating layers. There’s also a guard to take into account, and various environmental hazards.
Each round of MoonQuake escape has the following 4 phases:
The MoonQuake phase is when charges (actions per turn) are decided by a moon spin. The quake die is also spun for each layer and the layers are rotated accordingly.
The Escape phase has players moving their aliens up a layer if they’re still hidden, or grabbing more cards if revealed. Also, any hidden cards on the table can be rearranged.
The Action phase is where players spend their charges to move, play cards, draw cards, peek at another player’s cards, or reveal another player’s cards. This is the real meat of the game where bluffing and careful card play pay off.
The Guard phase has the guard progressing through the board and zapping players when getting the chance.
The first player to the shuttle wins!
Of course this was the most brief overview of the basic rules. There’s also advanced rules with enviornmental effects, advanced guard rules, and more. To get a better feel for the game, watch the video below or check out the full rules here.
The main gimmick of MoonQuake Escape calls for a pretty detailed board setup. The board is made of several cardboard rings and bases to that each level can spin as needed. The plastic arm also connects to the lower base for the moon spinner. It’s really impressive once completely set up.
Unfortunately, the main disc holder’s placement hex wasn’t attached to my copy. Thankfully designer Jeff Johnston told me how to fix it, and a little extra strength glue fixed the issue. Jeff assured me that future copies of the game will fix this issue. Currently, my board is working like a charm, so no complaints here.
Besides the board, the rest of MoonQuake’s charm comes from it’s cartoony, highly colorful artwork. It’s very approachable for both kids and adults. Combine that with the spinning board and you’ve got a quality end product.
I’ve seen MoonQuake Escape demoed by Jeff at several conventions now but hadn’t actually played it myself until recently. The first time I sat down with it was with my 10-year-old daughter using the basic rules. We both loved it! The rotating board is super cool, but the bluffing and deduction aspect of the cards was the real draw for us. Moving onto the advanced rules with environmental effects made the game more fun, more strategic, and really wasn’t much more complicated than the easier rules.
Now, I will mention there’s a bit of randomness to the game that comes with spinning for charges and rolling to determine layer movements. While these can be frustrating, they fit in well with the theme of the game. There’s also some clever card play that can give you a bit more control over the outcomes of both the spin and the roll. In the end is the little bit of randomness a deal breaker? Not at all.
MoonQuake Escape is a great family game that I can highly recommend. The board is cool, the rules are simple, and the gameplay is fun. There’s nothing like catching one of your kids in a bluff and exposing their alien. Of course the bitter sting of defeat when they do the same to you can be a bit much. Mostly because it happens a lot more to me than it does to them!
We’ve had a lot of fun, and a lot of laughs, with this game. Will we keep coming back to Zartaclaton? Well, it’s not Alcatraz. I can see us playing MoonQuake Escape for quite some time.
A copy of MoonQuake Escape was provided free for review by Breaking Games.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.