On the Table: MLEM: Space Agency sees dice and fur fly

Posted on April 18, 2024

In the year of 2075, cats have taken control of the world, and are now looking at taking on outer space. Seems legit. MLEM: Space Agency starts with a fun premise, and with some adorable artwork and a fun push-your-luck mechanic at its core, it’s a delightful experience to bring out on a game night. Just be careful not to crash!

Immediately cute, MLEM: Space Agency is stylish and adorable with its many cats and cat-related imagery. Paws are all over the place, the different cat astronauts are full of colour and personality, and the board itself is not really a board at all, but rather a large playmat that looks and feels very soft and high quality. Even the planets are cat-inspired. A giant ball of wool or a fish bowl make sure the theme remains purrfect, with cat-toy scoring tokens on the side.

As said earlier, MLEM is a push-your-luck game, where you have to roll a bunch of dice and hope for the best as you move from the bottom of the playmat all the way to the top, soaring high in your cat-captained rocket ship. Essentially, every space on the playmat has two or three numbers associated with that space. You’ll need to roll those numbers out of the six dice you have to be able to then move that many spaces up towards the higher-scoring further-along stars and planets.

“…after each move, players will decide if they want to jump off or risk it for the (cat) biscuit.”

There are some smart wrinkles to this formula that make it feel a bit more unique. At the start of each round, while one player will be the ‘captain’, other players will be on the rocket ship as well, and after each move, will decide if they want to jump off or risk it for the (cat) biscuit. The captain makes the decisions on what moves they want to make, so you’re really along for the ride, and betting on them. This makes it a very interactive experience, where you genuinely feel invested in your opponent’s progress. If the captain jumps off, the next cat becomes the captain, and so on.

Of course, there are various reasons why you might want to abandon ship. On a basic level, you want to jump off before the rocket crashes. After a certain number of crashes, the game ends, so trying to get out safely is a good strategy to ensure your cat astronauts score points. Secondly, you have eight cat astronauts to choose from, and they come with different bonuses depending on where they land. Fore example, one might give you double points for landing on a planet, while another might sabotage a captain’s dice roll if you bail early.

Choosing the right cat astronauts, when to play them, and when to abandon ship, along with praying on the luck of the dice forms the bulk of the strategy in MLEM. There are also bonus goals to strive for (like being the first cat to land on multiple planets), and planets that are higher up the board are worth more points, so being first to land there, or having the most cats there, can ensure you maintain the advantage of those locations.

In the games we’ve played of MLEM, it’s always fun to see how far you can go, and how high up the playmat you can get the rocketship. With the right dice rolls and a lot of luck, you can even make it to the very top, ensuring big points are scored. We enjoyed the process of cheering each other on or sabotaging one another, rolling, hoping for the best, and taking in the cute aesthetics.

It’s a short game, and a relatively simple one, which might mean more experienced gamers don’t get as much out of it, but as a game that is entertaining for all ages and experience levels, it works really well. High-quality components certainly elevate it, and we even got to try the BLEP dog expansion, which includes additional modifiers that I’d absolutely recommend for more seasoned tabletop fans.

Overall, I love this little game. It’s charming and great to get on the table as a warmup for something a bit more complex later. As far as push-your-luck experiences go, it’s incredibly satisfying and an easy recommendation.

MLEM: Space Agency is available now in all good board game stores. Thanks to VR Distribution for providing a copy for this review.