Galaxy Trucker review
Score : 7
Frantic real time fun
Can be some down time
Space part of game mostly plays itself
We were on the last leg of our journey back home. Thankfully, as my "spaceship", which at the start had all the things you would expect to find in a ship, engines, shields, lasers and the like, was now very lopsided, drifting along the final descent with barely half the ship left. The rest having been destroyed by a combination of pirates, meteors and some poor build decisions. The final encounter to avoid was one final small meteor. As long as it missed me, or hit me dead on the front, where it would bounce off the hull, I would be fine, and would survive to sell my cargo. Anywhere else, and my final crew member would be sent spinning off into space, leaving my ship drifting forever. What was left of my ship was now so small, surely there was no chance of it hitting, was there?
Galaxy Trucker is really played in two very distinct stages. The first stage is where you build your ship, in real time. Starting with a board and just a central life support hub, all other component tiles are placed face down in the middle of the table. Players then grab these, bring them to their board and flip them, before deciding whether to place it in their ship, save it for later (two such items can be stored at any one point) or return it to the middle, face up, where anyone can grab it later.
These tiles could be lasers, engines, shields, life support systems (some will enable alien crew members), cargo holds, batteries or connectors. If you are thinking that all of those components sound critical to a well functioning ship, then you are right! Of course, space in your ship is limited, so you have to choose carefully which components you keep, even assuming you find them in the first place!
There are also certain restrictions in place, so engines must point backwards (and not have anything else directly behind them), certain tiles will only fit to certain connector types. This wouldn't be so bad, except that the first player to finish gains an advantage in phase two, and also, once finished, can move the timer so that everyone else only has limited time to complete their ships.
This often ends with people having all sorts of messy ships, with exposed connectors leaving them vulnerable to meteors, or suddenly realising they forgot to include any engines or other essential features.
Phase two then starts, which sees the ships actually go into space. A small deck of event cards are then revealed. These were mostly built in phase one and can be scanned at that point if you are happy to use up valuable time, but a few surprise cards are included. These are then revealed in turn, and include various hazards.
Meteors can be shot if large and you have lasers in the right place, or ignored if small and you have a well built ship or shields. You may encounter pirates or slavers, who loot the front ship first unless you have enough firepower to defeat them and claim the prize, before they work their way through the other ships, damaging them or stealing crew members. Planets can be landed on, which takes time but allows you to grab valuable cargo (if you have the space), or you find treasure on an abandoned station if you have enough crew to visit it!
Ultimately, most ships end up having key components destroyed at some point, and if that piece happened to be the only connector to other parts of your ship, then those parts will float off into space as well, possibly taking your crew with it! Any ship lucky enough to make it back will then be rewarded with credits, depending on its speed and any cargo held. You are also penalised for any of the ship that has been destroyed or lost.
These phases repeat over rounds two and three, with bigger ships and more dangerous events until one player is declared the winner based on credits amassed.
Unusually, I'm honestly undecided on what I think of this game. It is a classic, and with the right group and mindset, it can be great fun. Panic building some hideously constructed ships and then watching them all systematically be blown apart can be hilarious. There's quite a sense of achievement too if you do make it back and your ship somehow survives all the events due to a well-built ship. It is not often you can see this either, but the manual is superb and is a joy to read.
However, for a game that's fun and light, it can be quite admin heavy. Explaining to new players what all the components do and the rules around construction can slow the pace, and checking all the ships are built correctly can be a little fiddly. The second phase pretty much plays itself, with player involvement restricted to decisions about whether they will use time to visit a planet, or whether to power up engines or lasers in certain situations. You can also get your ship destroyed very early in a phase, and although it is a fairly quick game, spending the next five to ten minutes watching others is no fun. There is a large element of luck in the game too, with the hidden event cards, and meteors or laser fire being directed to parts of the ship based on dice.
Overall, if you have a group of friends who can go into this with the right attitude of it being a fun game, not caring so much about the competition, then you could get a lot of enjoyment out of this. There are a lot of expansions too which improve the core experience. However, others find this fiddly and annoying and don't see what the fuss about, and recent plays of this have left me in both camps, depending on the group.
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
Number of players: 2 - 4
Play Time: 60 mins