A small empire engine
Micro Space Empire is a very attractive PnP. The sci-fi art (taken from NASA) makes half the game. The other half, that is the gameplay, unfortunately left me wanting. There is nothing wrong with the way it plays, considering that it is a 10 minute game. But that is exactly the problem: it falls a bit short.
The rules are very simple and straightforward. A round consists of 3 phases: first, you explore. You draw one Near System card, and roll a D6 to see if you can bend its resistance. If you roll equal to or higher than the resistance number, you conquer it, and it becomes part of your empire.
The second thing you do is gather resources. Your Home System gives you 1 Wealth and 1 Metal each turn. The Systems you will be adding to your tableau over the course of the game will augment either your wealth or metal production. Then, you decide how to spend them: raise your military strength or advance technology.
In the third phase, you draw an event card. Most of the events put your empire at risk: invasions, revolts, strikes and a pandemic will hit you and you may lose the systems you acquired with your hard-earned die roll.
You will be performing these steps for two 'years' (until you exhaust the event deck twice), then count victory points. The game is a beat-your-own-score, which is for me a huge downer. I just don't have the incentive to go back and try to earn 20 points instead of 16. Decisions are obvious, as you focus on buying technology to build a more efficient engine. Luck of the roll can be annoying, because low rolls will delay your progress. The biggest asset of this game is that it creates tension. I found myself getting anxious as I was racing against the timer (event deck), especially when an invasion snatched a System out of my hands.
I see that many BGGers enjoy this little game, so please don't let my critique dissuade you from trying it. As I gain more gaming experience, I come to realize that micro games don't satisfy me as much, so it is a matter of taste. There are extra cards in the files section which you can add to your game to increase replayability. It may also be a good idea to seek out Galaxy Command, the enriched and published version of Micro Space Empire. I am not familiar with it, but since it has 54 cards, it may feel more varied than its PnP predecessor.