Review: Laser Attack
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1978
Tagline: Attack & Destroy the Dreaded Enemy Laser

Laser Attack cover all black background and neon letters

how we met

This is still more evidence that my local thrift shop is magic. No one that visits this small-town shop buys the same games that I do, so it is not important that I go frequently, which is downright luxurious. What can happen then is I go one random day and find an old electronic game from 1978 for half off $1.99 because its color tag is on sale that day. I mean…

how it plays

In Laser Attack each player is a different colored ship and your goal is to shut down the monster space station in the middle shining nasty lights at you. Here’s how it works.

4 ships with 5 matching energy pods

4 ships, 5 energy pods each

Each ship has five energy pods placed at specific areas across the board. The goal of each ship is to collect their energy pods and then move towards the center to the space station. They can then turn by turn plug empty spots of the space station with energy pods. If the spinner’s light shines on a plugged spot then that energy pod owner wins the game!

Overview of the board with ships and pods in place

The game set up, where your energy pods are so far from your ship

The game board is web-like with vertical white lines and horizontal green lines. On their turn, a player can move one space along the white line (so up or down) or any number of spaces around the green line. When a space ship lands on a space with one of their energy pods they add it to the top of their ship.

Spaceship with 5 pods stacked on top that looks a little phallic

This is what a full spaceship looks like #nofilter

Ships can’t pass over any piece, not ships or energy pods, and sometimes get blocked in. Them’s the breaks.

The board also has three different rungs representing various levels of danger. The closer a piece is to the space station, the more danger they are in. If an energy pod is in the DESTRUCTION ZONE and the light shines on it then it is destroyed and removed from game. If a ship with pods is in this zone it loses one of its pods.

The end of each vertical line includes instructions saying that either you or all ships starting with you need to do a specific thing, like move your ship one space, move an enemy ship one space, move one of your pods one space, etc.

Text shows Space control moves one opponent's spaceship one space

SPACE CONTROL means the player whose turn it is

Text showing All Captains move their spaceship one space

All captains is all captains, starting with SPACE CONTROL

A player’s turn has four phases. In turn they:

    1. move their ship
    2. spin the space station spinner and note which white line the light shines on, which is an actual light shining down in a line along the space it lands
    3. move any ships or energy pods in that line forward towards the space station or destroy them per instructions
    4. follow the instructions at the end of that line

That’s about it. Track down those energy pods and plug them holes and cross them fingers.

how it went

Laser Attack is photogenic and beautiful. The game play is fairly interesting for a kids game. I also think the mix between cooperative (the space station is the enemy of all of us) and competition (take THAT!) introduces kids to interesting nuances in gameplay. It’s not really cooperative in play but it is in theory. We enjoyed starting to collect our energy pods and work towards taking that space station down.

With four on the board things can get a bit crowded. John’s suggestion was that someone retheme the whole game as LAX. The crowding does put your ship in some painful spots, often painful spots that your enemies have placed you into. As with most of these vintage games, luck was a big variable at the table. And being ahead at the beginning is no indication of how the game will end.

My energy pods had a terrible game. They were doing serious time in the DESTRUCTION ZONE and I ended up having two thrown into oblivion. At the time, I shed an internal tear for those lost energy pods. But towards the end of the game it was clear that it is crazy difficult to get all of your energy pods. And you can’t try to attack the space station if you have any energy pods left on the board. I think near the end both John and Keri would have thrown their own pods into oblivion if they could have. So the moral of the story is it’s not the worst thing to lose your energy pods to greater space. It hurts at the time, but one day you will thank me.

Because Laser Attack becomes a grind. We are not forgiving and even when we are waiting for a game to be over, we make the smart decisions when being allowed a “take that” opportunity. That extends the game for us.

Bill was the first one to get all of his energy pods. I was second, and I had fewer. John and Keri were still working on a couple of their own. Since each player spins the spinner on their turn, whoever is first to plug any of the SPACE STATION holes has the best chance for a win. And Bill won.

Shows lit up blue pod

The very moment of the win, showing the light shining through the blue energy pod

Bill pointed out that Laser Attack seems very inspired by Star Wars. I am no expert on Star Wars, but I can see the argument. The concept of attacking a space station is odd, unless you think of that space station as an enemy, like the Death Star. There are lead ships based on different colors. They are gathering their energy shots, and only the shot in the exact right spot will end the space station. Bill could explain at length how hugely Star Wars shifted and transformed the entire toy landscape almost immediately from 1977. I can see this as an example.

play or pass

Pass. There’s a lot of novelty to be had here, but in the end the game is a grind. Where original content was possible, Laser Attack chose to duplicate content. For such a futuristic-themed game, it’s like they didn’t plan for a review 40 years later.