A lone asteroid tumbles slowly through the inky vastness of darkness of deep space, as it has for millions of years . Suddenly a ship winks into existence just a couple of hundred metres away - emerging from hyperspace in a purple flash. Milliseconds later it is joined by another, and another, completely surrounding the lonely rock. The Empire has sent a fleet to liberate the rare ores that are urgently need for the war effort. But the purple bursts have been interspersed with bright blue flares - the Federation has also sent a fleet. Lasers flare, this will all be over in seconds...
Light Speed describes itself as a real-time space combat table top game - sounds impossible but this simple little game manages to fit a lot into a very small package. Each player (up to 4) starts with a deck of cards, each representing a particular class of ship. Each ship has a number of lasers, a hull rating (life points), a speed rating and possibly some shielding to protect it. The battle begins by all players drawing a ship from their deck and placing it on the table in a hopefully advantageous position where its lasers will do the most damage to either the asteroid or to an opposing ship. Once a ship has been played it cannot be moved. Once a player has placed a ship they can draw and place another one as quickly as they like without waiting - the game ends when the first player has warped in his entire fleet so everyone needs to be paying attention. If a player still has cards in hand the un-played ships do not take part in the battle.
Once the ships have popped out of hyperspace (this takes about 30 seconds), a huge battle commences. This constitutes the scoring and takes a lot longer than actually playing the game. The smaller, speedier ships fire their lasers first but tend to have less powerful weapons and little shielding. The more powerful ships have massive armament and are well protected, but only get to shoot at the end of the battle meaning that they might already be fatally damaged before firing a shot. Space battles are not for the careless, friendly fire is a distinct possibility. Players get points for destroying enemy ships and mining ore from the asteroid (with the multipurpose lasers).
Light Speed is well named, being both light and speedy. The rules are simple and the play fast-paced. Even the scoring, a purely mechanical process, is quite fun as the battle turns on a few well placed (or misplaced) cards. There is certainly an element of luck, but quick thinking and cunning rules the day with plenty of opportunity for table talk.
Highly recommended, especially since it only costs US$5.00!