Galaxy Trucker board game review
In 2007, when the original Galaxy Trucker came out, real-time tabletop games were still new. As a result, the new shipbuilding system he used, where everyone grabbed the tiles from the same stack and ran to finish first, made it a big hit.
Over time, however, the concept has proven to have great endurance. As other games explored the design space in real time, Galaxy Trucker continued to sell in droves and received several expansion sets. Now he’s back in stores with a new tweaked formula to try and appeal to a whole new generation of gamers.
What’s in the box
While the cartoon style may not be to everyone’s liking, there’s no denying that it’s a new look that suits the game. Most of that heavy box is taken up by cutting boards from which you can use it. Bring out the array of shipbuilding tiles and other tokens. Beside them are an hourglass, wooden dice and a deck of cards.
But it’s the plastic components that are the star of this show. Fun little plastic astronauts and alien figurines are here, along with lots of marbled plastic cubes to represent cargo. But best of all are the batteries, little neon plastic tubes that look like sour candy. Don’t eat them.
Rules and how to play
Galaxy Trucker is literally a game of two halves. In the first, each takes tiles from a central stack and tries to build a ship as quickly as possible, following a set of connection rules. In the second, players then take these ships and pilot them through an intergalactic obstacle course, trying to collect the loot and get it across the finish line.
Shipbuilding is an absolute blast. You can add a dizzying array of ship components: lasers and shields to protect your ship, thrusters to give you speed, batteries to power them. There are also more esoteric elements, including life sustaining for alien crew members, which can give your ship a speed or strength bonus.
Despite the range of components at your disposal, it is easy to learn because the building rules have a literal and visual meaning. Cannons that do not point outward and thrusters other than the rear of your ship are not allowed. You cannot connect an edge with two pipes to an edge with one pipe, and so on. There is a time limit, enforced by the included hourglass.
Yet, as easy as the rules are in theory, following them in the heat of the moment to tear face down tiles from a stack as quickly as possible, discarding the ones you don’t want, is quite another. . Not to mention the fact that you are running to do it against your opponents. Not to mention the fact that you want to throw as little as possible since you are doing it face up, offering them to other players. It’s frenetic, frenetic, and fun, while still allowing cold heads and clever builders to prevail.
Not only are you distracted by the racing aspect, but you can also spend precious time building ships looking at the maps that will make up the upcoming race. This gives you vital information on how you might want to build your ship. If there are a lot of planets or space stations, for example, you can add extra bunkers to keep the loot you can find there.
Fast players also control when to flip the hourglass, increasing the pressure on other players. Trying to divide your time between tiles, cards, and the timer while making the best use of both is information overload of the best kind, mental spin with fire discs. It’s this combination that makes Galaxy Trucker still stand out from realtime games after thirteen years. Finding the right balance between speed and information is rewarding in every way and very difficult to do.
Your reward for completing your ship first is to start the race from pole position, with each other player lining up behind at the end. But beware! Before you can cast, other players must verify that you have followed the shipbuilding rules. Failure to do so means you need to remove components until it is legal. In extreme cases, it can almost cripple your ship if you have a bad connector in the middle of the structure. Worse, discarded tiles will count as a penalty once the race is over.
The race is where the most changes are in this new edition. That’s okay: some encounter cards are less drastic, and you now run only one longer race with your ship instead of three different ones with new ships. This reduces downtime, making the game shorter and tighter. If you want to play the old fashioned way, it is included as a variation.
However, despite the adjustments, racing is still the poor cousin of the shipbuilding aspect. You flip the top encounter of the shared deck, then all players apply the effect in run order. So if you are leading the pack, you will have the first choice between stopping to loot the cargo or confront the crew, those who do so lose their position in the race. But you are also on the front line for smuggler or pirate attacks, although there is a reward for whoever can see them go.
Despite a good variety in the encounters, from meteor swarms to the galactic plague, the application of the effects seems static and processional compared to the insane building of the ship. The race leader guides everyone through the appropriate actions such as rolling the dice to see which part of the ship a meteor hits. Of course, there is excitement, especially when a barrel could split your ship in half. But there is always the feeling that you are watching things happen instead of being directly involved.
For your first few races, it will also be tempting to believe that between the dice rolls and the cards, your building skills won’t matter much. But this is where the balance between checking cards while grabbing coins becomes important. If you know there is a lot of free space in the deck, you are using a lot of engines. If there are a lot of pirates, be sure to build weapons and shields. You can’t check all the cards, so there are always surprises even for the best prepared.
At the end, you get a credit bonus based on your position in the race, just like the best-built ship. Then everyone totals up the race proceeds in terms of selling cargo or bounties from the defeated pirates to see who wins. Playtime is influenced by your choice of ship size – there are three of them – but you’ll be done in 30-45 minutes, which is perfect for this relatively light title.
Galaxy Trucker (2nd Edition) is available at various retailers for an MSRP of $ 29.99.