Leaving Earth is a work of passion, that much is clear. Created by one-man-army Joseph Fatula, the game comes in a disappointingly tiny but extremely packed box, and the materials have a distinct home-made feel about them. But take a step beyond first impressions, take a trip into the void, and you may land on one of the best solo experiences to ever grace the boardgaming world.
The whole visual vibe of the game is heavily inspired from the 60s/70s Space Age and the cover of science fiction books and comics that followed. All illustrations were made by the designer himself, and most design elements and font choices fit in nicely. I have to admit that if this wasn’t the case and the game went with safer and more boring art choices (let’s say generic, unnecessarily bright and vaguely skeuomorphic sci-fi design, such as what you see in any sci-fi boardgame ever), I doubt I would have looked at it twice. Thankfully that’s not the case, and Leaving Earth stays visually thematic throughout.
Out of this world
The instruction manual, while designed to look a lot like a NASA informational booklet, is one of the areas where Leaving Earth leaves some to be desired, as concepts are partly explained then reprised later on and many special-case scenarios are completely left out (can I test at home a technology that is on a ship I have already launched? Can I execute a re-entry while attached to an element that cannot do re-entry but can land? To be fair though, the author has been active and helpful on the dedicated BGG forum). It ends up committing the capital sin of BG manuals: all info on a game element or mechanic are not necessarily in the same place, forcing you to go through the whole thing again and again when looking for something. On a positive note, there is an extra chapter in the end that lists some historical facts on space exploration, which puts some concepts in a wider context.
Another point that cannot be ignored is the reliance on some rather basic math that is required for every launch. It is nothing more than additions, but every trip has to be calculated backwards (if it takes an Atlas to go from C to D, do I need a Soyuz to get an Atlas to C? How am I supposed to get a Soyuz to… and so on), and if you want to split and re-attach (called Rendez-vous in the game) your ships to be more efficient and execute more objectives at the same time, things become exponentially more complicated. It was part of the fun for me, but I guess some people might not enjoy it.
Life on Mars?
After playing many games solo and a couple with 4 and 5 players, I was kinda surprised to find out that Leaving Earth was great fun on all occasions. You are given a few missions of a difficulty of your choice to complete between 1965 -76, and take the role of the space agency of a given country and just like the good ole days of the Space Race, you try and get there first. After buying a type of technology, you can use the relative components (rockets, probes, capsules, landing, etc.) and are given the choice to test them spending money and time, or go blind and hope for the best. Planning the missions and how much of your luck you want to push is pretty much what all the game is about.
The publisher releases batches of a few hundred copies now and then, so you may have to wait or buy some overpriced second-hand copy, but beside the home-made feel and brain-burning behind some missions I ended up happily playing Leaving Earth on my own for weeks before looking into the 2 expansions, which will be reviewed at some point in the future.
But is it fun?
Leaving Earth is a (rocket) blast solo or multi. If you have any interest in space exploration, like the visual vibe of the game and are not afraid of a bit of math go ahead and let the rocket engines burning fuel so fast, as up into the night sky they blast.
Value for Money
Visually immersive, its looks is what makes it more than the sum of its parts.
Graphic design is well researched and works great with the artwork
Great fun to play, either solo or multi.
Materials could be better.
There is a bit of math involved, but nothing too complicated.
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