Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade
(Don’t Panic Games, Japanime Games)
Number of Players: 1-4 Playtime: 30-90 minutes
Game Type: Co-op Deckbuilding Genre: Sci-fi Noir Anime
“You know the first rule in combat? shoot them before they shoot you.” – Faye Valentine
In Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade you and your friends are tasked with stepping into the stylish bounty hunting boots of the Bebop crew in a faithful recreation of the source material in deck building form. from the outset the theme oozes out of the clever graphic design used in everything from the flashy Big Shot card holder to the rule book.
Gameplay consists of each character moving from the titular Bebop (the home base and ship the crew uses to hunt down bounties across the solar system.) to one of three planets that host a myriad of criminals and oddities for the characters to hunt down and capture for points. another thematic aspect that needs mentioning is the urgency of trying to catch each criminal and have the fuel to do so as your using up the fuel resource to rocket around to each planet while also watching the window to catch each mark before they escape on each worlds fuel tracker.
Combat is done primarily through playing cards from a each character specific deck and adding cards from a community supply. these cards allow you to earn Woolongs (currency) gain attacks and research to help deplete bounty’s defenses so you can capture them and earn points as well as combo moves with other members of the bebop who are in the same location or picking up some useful fuel to do any number of other actions. Those familiar with deck building will be right at home here and the interactions are easy enough to be friendly to new comers as well.
what really comes through in Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade is the duality of working together to take a criminal down while also trying to do the most damage or research to win the game (in which only one person can win). between looking at the next bounty via the Big Shot card holder which is in the style of the bebop’s TV airing the anime’s equivalent of america’s most wanted to the bright colored cards throwing back to the extremely jazzy and stylish show opening. everything about the components really draws into the overall theme and was easily one of my favorite aspects of having Space Serenade on my table with the Jazzy ost from the show playing in the background to seal the experience.
Another fun addition to the game is the inclusion of both miniatures representing the core bebop crew and its worst villian as well as full color standees. the freedom to use either is a nice addition if you plan to paint the minis and use the standees or spare the miniatures from a younger audience who may damage them by using just the standees its nice to have more options. continuing with the components which honestly impressed me the most were the dual layered game boards. something about having those little pockets to place cubes and other tokens always makes a game feel a cut above lesser cardboard options and the sturdiness lends itself to the longevity of your games.
Not everything is positive though as the LTG group found our sessions felt a little drawn out as we worked to get to the bottom of the criminal deck and face the game’s ultimate villain with some wondering if there would be a way to cut down the total criminals to shorten the experience a little. The rule book (while fun with an in-universe cover) was rather informative and easy to follow felt really bland and text heavy with only a few pictures to tie together components and their purpose, a distraction when compared to the very flashy game and cards.
Would I recommend Space Serenade to fans of Cowboy Bebop? absolutely a must own! for experienced deck builders it may be a tad on the simpler side of things but offers a great entry point for curious fans who may just be coming from the anime or are new to deck building as a genre in general.
[ + ] Gameplay: fun and diverse decisions await as you travel through the solar system trying to out maneuver and assist your fellow bounty hunters in a deck building race to the top.
[ + ] Theme: an extreme attention to the source material allows a lot of nice little touches from the colors on the cards to obscure characters and scenes from the show. as well as in game mechanics fostering a co-op/competitive environments that jumps from to the other from turn to turn.
[ + ] Component Quality: high quality throughout with good cardstock, thick dual layer boards and both miniatures and standees being included for the main cast.
[ +/- ] RuleBook: informative and easy to follow but bland in the design department with a lot of text and none of the flash that is exemplified in the rest of the game.
[ + ] Opinion: a fantastic recreation of the source material brought to life in boardgame form. a great entry level deck builder for anime fans to explore the wider world of table top games and a great value for the price with miniatures, dual layer boards, and plenty of content to keep you busy.