Galaxy Trucker – Review
There is something about outer space that has always been interesting to me. Movies and video games have glorified space travel to no end. Thanks to Star Wars every kid has pretended to have swashbuckling adventures in space. Who didn’t put themselves in the place of Luke Skywalker, pretending to take down Darth Vader and in turn the whole empire? There wasn’t a kid in the 80’s that didn’t feel he had what it took to be a star fighter and was just waiting to be recruited through an arcade machine.
When technology advances to the point of being able to travel to the far reaches of space and inhabit distant planets, we aren’t all going to be hero pilots coursing through the Kessel Run. Somebody’s going to have to do the boring, everyday, jobs such as interstellar plumber, cosmic accountant, and lunar hotdog vendor. Galaxy Trucker, by Vlaada Chvatil, puts you into the shoes of someone working one such job.
In Galaxy Trucker you are hired by an interstellar cargo company, commissioned to gather goods and deliver them safely for a low cost. This company you work for loves to pinch pennies. You and up to 3 other opponents will be building your cargo ships from scrap parts and flying your jerry-built ships into less than desirable situations, trying to reach your destination first.
The game is split into 3 rounds with increasing difficulty. Each round is broken into two phases. First you have the construction phase. Each player is presented with identical boards that show an outline of your ship. You will have to build within that shape. In the center of the table are dozens of tiles placed face down. These are the parts that will make up your ship. Once the game starts the players scramble to grab tiles and add them to their ships. Once a tile is placed it cannot be moved. All pieces show connectors which must match with the pieces already on the board.
In the mess of parts, you will find lasers, living quarters, shields, engines, batteries, and cargo bays. Lasers are needed to destroy any potential meteors you may encounter or to fight off pirates that will try to kill off your crew. Engines are needed to propel you through space. Each living quarters will hold 2 crew members who can be used to go on missions for you. Shields can be used to protect from weapon fire. Batteries offer power to shields and some engines and lasers for a single use. Cargo bays will be used to hold any cargo you manage to scrounge up on your travels.
It is important to be mindful of your placement of tiles and how many of each type of tiles you use. You don’t want to have tiles in front of your laser cannons or you will end up shooting yourself. You don’t want tiles behind an engine or they will burn that part of the ship off. The outermost tiles on your ship will be the most vulnerable to taking damage on your journey so maybe it’s not a good idea to place your only battery right out front.
There is a lot to keep in mind during this frantic phase which makes it all the more fun. You will be cursing yourself out for foolish mistakes and laughing at your opponents as they do the same. The order in which you finish your ships will decide turn order for the second phase, travel. Before you disembark, you will have a moment to inspect everyone’s ships to ensure they followed the rules. Any illegal placements must be removed and placed on the side of the players’ board as a cold reminder of their poor decisions.
Once all ships are complete there is a deck of event cards that are shuffled. These are flipped over one by one and players resolve them in turn order. On these cards you will encounter space stations that will ask you to send crew aboard to collect goods, abandoned ships which your crew can commandeer, planets you can land on to gather resources, or maybe just open space. Players decide in turn order if they wish to take these actions. If one player takes the action, it will impact their travel time and ultimately their position in turn order.
If one player takes an action it won’t be available to the other players so moving back in turn order is never an easy decision. Not all events are optional. There are cards that will punish you such as smugglers or pirates. They will steal crew members or supplies until one player has enough firepower to defeat them.
The last type of card you will come across are cards that affect everyone at the same time. Your convoy may enter a meteor storm where one player will roll dice to determine where meteors will hit all players simultaneously. You will need lasers to blast them away from your ship or shields to deflect them. If unsuccessful, you will lose that tile and any other tile it was holding on to the rest of your craft. These tiles join any tiles you may have on the side of your board from the building phase.
If you manage to make it to your destination you will be paid an amount of money based on the order you arrived. Also there is a bonus for the best looking ship, or more accurately, the least horrible looking ship. This is determined by the ship with the fewest open connections hanging off of it. Lastly, you get to sell the cargo you collected. From your mountain of cash you now have, you have to pay for each piece of your ship that fell off… But don’t worry; you have a good insurance policy which will cap how much you will have to spend out of pocket.
Once that is all settled all pieces are returned to the center of the table face down. Ship boards are flipped to the outline for the next level and you do it all again. The only thing that carries over from round to round is your money so if you really screwed the pooch on your first vessel, you have a fighting chance to redeem yourself.
I love this game. The building phase brings you back to childhood playing with blocks except here every piece has purpose. Are you going to hunt and peck through the pile of tiles till you have everything just the way you want it or are you going to throw caution to the wind and try to finish first? The panic you feel when someone finishes their ship and you haven’t even put a single engine on yours is as fun as it is nerve racking.
The art is very well done and the cartoony nature matches the mood of this game. The components are nicely molded plastic, although they may be too tiny to have around small children. There are alien crew members in the game that are referred to as orange and purple but my orange aliens are a lot closer to brown.
The instruction book is very well written. The rules very clear and entertaining. There are plenty of humorous lines peppered throughout the text along with cartoons on the poor crew members who will be under your employment. In the instruction there is a section that will have you play a sampling of the game before you finish reading the book. This works great. After reading the rules the first time and following the directions on the sample game, I had a firm grasp on the rules and didn’t need to refer back to them again.
Galaxy Trucker plays in roughly one hour but if you are anything like me, you will be craving a second play through immediately afterwards. There is an expansion for the game out currently titled “The Big Expansion” as well as a second planned for later this year titled “Another Big Expansion”. Also around the release of the second expansion they will be releasing a collector’s edition with the main game and 2 expansions.
I highly recommend Galaxy Trucker. It achieves the most basic goal of any board game; it provides the players with a fun time. Every play through of this game, I didn’t care if I won or lost. I just had a great time experiencing this game. The rules are not convoluted, they all make logical sense. You could teach this game to anyone and they would have a good time. This one is worth seeking out.