Leaving Earth by The Lumenaris Group
The space race has been intriguing to me since I was a kid. When the “Leaving Earth” game was brought to my attention, I was excited to play it as it attempts to portray the spectacular events of our forays into space. It also has a great look to it and accommodates 1-5 players.
Below is a brief summary of how my recent solo game played out. Hopefully, it’ll give you a feel for how the game’s relatively simple mechanics and choices come together to create a believable narrative.
1956 NASA constructs its first rocket capable of putting a probe into low Earth orbit. Despite a sound plan, the Juno rocket suffered a major failure and exploded during liftoff, destroying the probe along with everything else. Back to the drawing board and more testing.
1957 While imperative to get a spacecraft into orbit, NASA opts for increased testing of their new Juno rockets. Late in the year following multiple successes and failures, the Juno design is advanced to a safe and effective delivery platform. The multiple launch tests also enabled advances and testing of landing techniques and technology.
1958 NASA builds another Juno rocket platform and this time there are no hiccups (or explosions) during the launch. However, upon its return from low Earth orbit (LEO), the probe landed hard and was destroyed. Valuable lessons were learned and the faults were quickly addressed.
1959 NASA begins contemplating re-entry solutions and utilizes basic capsules to conduct testing.
1960 The larger and more powerful Atlas rocket makes it appearance, but as with the initial Juno tests, a major failure causes the loss of the first test rocket. Having learned their lesson with Juno, NASA did not attempted a major mission with the first Atlas, instead launching the rocket alone.
1961 Atlas testing progresses to a point where NASA feels good enough to attempt a two stage rocket to finally put a probe int orbit and return it to Earth. The launch was successful and American technology orbited our world. Upon return, the probe was completely destroyed in a violent landing. While unfortunate, this landing failure led to the finding that would finally perfect all future landing technology.
1962 Unmanned re-entry from earth orbit testing continues and must be perfected before any astronaut will be allowed to proceed.
1963 Saturn V rockets begin testing. Despite their previous caution, NASA elects to use the new rocket to attempt to put a man in orbit. (Perhaps the Russians were pulling ahead?) Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom gets the call and rides the massive rocket into space and into history. After orbiting the earth, Grissom’s capsule splashed down safely and America had her newest hero.
1964-66 It becomes apparent that it will be necessary to be able to conduct orbital rendezvous to successfully get to the moon and back. Testing in Earth orbit continues feverishly, and despite numerous setbacks, NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts perfect the ability to rendezvous and separate spacecraft.
1967-68 Saturn V rockets are thoroughly tested, as well as landing and re-entry. There can be no major risks when America heads for the moon.
1969-70 NASA struggles with the final plan to get to the moon and back, and finally agrees on a multistage plan that involves deploying assets in orbit and the utilization of multiple transfers. The moonshot was delayed until 1971 at the earliest. The delay primarily resulted from a simultaneous effort to launch a survey probe to Mars to garner more public support. (Testing, while important, simply does not make the headlines.)
1971 “Star voyager” Gus Grissom again gets the nod and makes the long journey to the moon, finally walking on the lunar surface. Grissom again garners America’s love and adoration upon his safe return home. As Grissom pla
nted the flag on the moon’s rocky surface, NASA’s Mars probe left on its three-year flight to survey the red planet.
1972-73 New missions to Mars enter the planning stages, but this time a landing will be in the offing.
1974 The Mars probe arrives and begins sending magnificent images and data of Mars and her two small moons. Preparations continue for larger efforts to explore the Solar System and its hidden wonders…
My game ended there as I had enough victory points to secure a solid “win.” There was one mission remaining, but there was not enough time to complete it before the technical ending of the game (which spans 1956-1976).
If you enjoy the space race theme and games with narrative elements, and don’t mind a little math (okay, a lot), you will very likely enjoy Leaving Earth.