The Captain is Dead! Will the Ship Survive? | Casual Game Revolution

The Captain is Dead! Will the Ship Survive?

The Captain is Dead

Oh no! The captain is dead, the ship is under attack and it’s going to take some work to get the jump drive energized to pull off an escape. Can the crew work together to survive without their trusty leader to guide them?

Published by AEG, The Captain is Dead is a sci-fi cooperative board game designed for 2-7 players.


The game board shows a series of rooms on the ship, interconnected by hallways. Each player is given a pawn of a random color and then chooses one character in that color. Each character comes with a unique ability and set of strengths. Each character also comes with a set hand limit, and number of actions to spend on his turn.

Players win the game by getting the jump core tracker token to the top of its track. Players lose the game if the ship takes damage when the shield tracker is at zero, if they have to place an alien on the ship and there are no more left, if they draw a specific red alert card and cannot prevent it from triggering, or if they go through the entire alert deck and must draw another one.

At the start of the game, each player is dealt five skill cards and chooses which four to keep, discarding the fifth, face-up, into the cargo hold. These skill cards come in one of four colors. On your turn, you can use your actions to move (up to two rooms and/or hallways for one action) repair a system on board the ship, discard an alien from your location, move with another character at your location one space, give or take a card to another player at your location, or use a system on board the ship. If you are in a room with at least one alien, the only action you can perform is to attack the aliens or use the teleporter.

Each room on the ship has one or more systems associated with it. Systems often allow you to perform special abilities as long as they are working. For example, the comm systems allow you to give a skill card to a player at any location, while the teleport allows you to move between any two locations. Those two can be used anywhere on the ship. Many systems require that you be in a specific room to use them, such as the computer which allows you to draw more skill cards, and the cargo hold which allows you to choose a tool when you are there.

Some systems also require skill cards as well as actions to use them, such as the security station that requires one red card in order to attack an alien anywhere else on the ship. The engine room has an action that requires multiple action points and multiple yellow cards to advance the jump core tracker. You can also upgrade the ship at the research station (although the ship can only have two upgrades) or draw battle plans that give players powerful one-time-use abilities. Alert cards will often cause certain systems to be damaged, and you need to go to that system’s room and spend a certain number of skill cards and an action to fix it and make that system usable again. Many characters have particular strengths in certain skills, meaning they have to spend fewer or sometimes no skill cards of that color when performing an action that requires it.

Once a player has used all his actions on the ship, he draws an alert card. This will often damage the ship’s shields, a system, or add aliens to a specific room on board. This can also lead to a player becoming injured. If your character is injured he can only perform a small range of actions until he goes to the infirmary and spends an action to heal. After the alert card is resolved, it is now the next player’s turn.

The alert cards become increasingly more dangerous as the game progresses. Some of them can be prevented from triggering if the active player can discard four blue cards when they are drawn. As long as the external scanners have not been damaged, players can always see the next two alert cards that are coming and can plan accordingly. If you can get the jump drive token to the end of the track before the ship is destroyed, the players win the game.

The Captain is Dead cards

Example cards from The Captain is Dead (image provided by the publisher)


The Captain is Dead is one of those co-op games where something is constantly going wrong and you’re always feeling one step behind. Systems are breaking right, left, and center on the ship and it frequently feels like you need one more action or one more card than you’ve got. You have to prioritize what needs to be done, and that leads to fun and challenging decisions.

There’s a really nice range of characters, each with powerful abilities that end up being key during the game. This gives each player the feeling of importance during the game as they pull off their unique ability in a key moment. It also adds some replayability to the game as players tend to focus more on different systems based on which characters they’ve got.

The game does have a bit of a "quarterbacking" problem — the tendency for one player to take over and dictate to other players. There are no rules against telling each other what cards you have, and the language the game uses even exacerbates that issue as the player aid cards say as an action you may ‘take a card from another player’. This is an action you can take in other games, but typically it’s described in rulebooks as something both players must agree to. The Captain is Dead does not add that requirement, and with the wrong group, this can lead to arguments.

Occasionally, the game also doesn’t offer you the best options. It is completely possible to have a turn in which you don’t get to do anything fun, where you spend the whole turn just drawing cards. Also, since the ship can only have two upgrades and there are really one or two that are obviously stronger than the others, you don’t end up getting to play around with the upgrades as much as you might like.

That being said, turns are really fast in this game, and there’s a fun pace to the gameplay. The action escalates nicely across the rounds, as the situation grows more and more dire on the ship, and as the jump drive inches closer and closer to full, the suspense ramps up nicely. Will you be able to keep the ship together just long enough for that last jump drive action? You might have the cards to complete it, but now the teleporter is offline and the door to the engine room is broken, throwing more obstacles between you and the finish line!

It’s a fun theme, with bright, colorful components and artwork. There is minimal upkeep during the game and the result is a nicely challenging cooperative game that doesn’t overstay its welcome and is pretty easy to teach as a lot of the iconography is intuitive and the rules and abilities are helpfully written on the components.

Pros: Great theme, easy to learn with a lot of the components and cards saying what they do or how they’re used, fast turns

Cons: Lends itself to quarterbacking, some turns end up being boring