May 14, 2014

[Games] Galaxy Trucker (Anniversary Edition)

Our sizable collection of board games at the Sietch is largely because of my partner Tobie. He's always been quite the avid game and his interests have covered both tabletop RPGs and board games that are a heck of a lot more interesting than just Monopoly or Snakes & Ladders. And he continues to look up other games in order to look for new play experiences for us to get into.

Hence titles like Galaxy Trucker, which I had never heard about before Tobie started ranting and raving about the game. He was so determined to get a copy that he actually ordered one from the US and got it shipped over here just so we could play it. And one has to trust in his gaming tastes given how much we've come to enjoy this particular game. When possible, it has become quite the staple of our Sietch gaming nights.

Galaxy Trucker is a science fiction board game designed by Vlaada Chvatil. The game is good for 2-4 players, or even 5 players if you get the expansions. This anniversary edition of the game includes the base game, The Big Expansion, and Another Big Expansion.

Players are all different space truckers working for Corporation Incorporated. Using the limited number of ship components available to the company (represented by tiles), each player will try to build their cargo ship that will get them all the way to the edge of the galaxy with their cargo. To this end, each player has a ship design (represented by a board) where one can place the various ship pieces on. All players build their ships at the same time and thus one can focus on building a ship faster (for additional bonus credits) or perhaps build one better (with its own rewards as well). Once all ships are assembled, the flight begins and all players then try to survive the dangers of space with the ships they've hastily cobbled together.

During the Flight, there are a variety of cards, cards will be revealed presenting various events that the players must resolve. Resolution is handled in the order of the ships in the flight, which is initially determined by how soon each player finished building their ship. Thus being the first ship has its own share of dangers since you face all meteor showers or combat zones first. But it also means you get first pick of other cards like investigating planets with goods or zooming through open space. At the end of the flight, the players tally up their cargo and get deductions for damage to their ships - assuming they even made it to the end.

The game is fun on a number of levels. First, the build phase is crazy as everyone works to put together a decently working ship in so little time. You have a variety of components available like weapons, cargo bays and even alien life support systems. But each component has to fit in a certain way based on the various connectors at the edges of each tile piece, so that adds other challenges to ship-building. Placement is truly key here and a well-designed ship can stand a good chance of surviving. But if you plot out your connectors badly, a single stray meteor getting through your defenses may result in half your ship breaking apart.

In theory there's not much to be done about the Flight since the cards to be drawn will affect your ships no matter one. The only decisions you can make during the Flight are pretty much how you'll spend your battery charges for powering special double blasters or double engines. Energy is a limited commodity for the entire flight and thus you have to know when to spend for the best result. The other aspect is figuring out which cargo to go for and which cargo to ignore, especially since card interactions typically result in delays to your journey.

The weird race nature of the whole trip is pretty interesting and the game includes a comprehensive system of bonus payouts for being first to arrive, having the prettiest (least damaged) ship and then of course there's your cargo. The expansions open up other ways to score with special alien roles or even VIP cabins that pay extra should the passenger make it all the way to the end.

The expansions also provide new cards, new rules, new ship templates and of course new ship components! Thus you can have blasters that face in two directions, armor that cannot be destroyed by blaster fire or meteor strikes and combination tiles like cargo holds with battery packs. Figuring out what to use is never easy regardless of the tiles available since ultimately your connectors will end up limiting what your ship can do. Even the direction that your blasters face is important since threats can come from all sides.

Galaxy Trucker may seem like a lot to take in at first glance, especially if you get this anniversary edition. But once you go through your first test Flight, everything will fall into place and the game will really increase in interest for you. Thus this amazing collection gets a full 5 meteors pummeling everyone's ships out of a possible 5.

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