Galaxy Trucker was originally published by CGE in 2007 and it's a game I have had on my radar for some time so when this new edition arrived I was pleased to crack open the box and give it a whirl.
Designed by Vlaada Chvátil, Galaxy Trucker is a light tile placement game for 2-4 players, with a play time of around 30 minutes. It is quite literally an engine builder. The artwork on the box is charming: bright colours and a jolly cartoon style that leap out at you. The game itself has a great many tiles - again with art by Tomas Kucerovsky - and components that might look initially daunting. It soon becomes apparent tho' that Galaxy Trucker is nowhere near as complicated as it might look at first sight. It's a game explained via the most cheerfully informal rule book I have had the joy of reading. The streamlined rules are evidently one of the improvements in this new edition.
The game begins with all of the ship component tiles being laid face down on the table within easy reach of all of the players. Each player is dealt a player board that corresponds to the size of the ship they are building. This can be varied from game to game to increase the complexity, and this edition gives us more ships than in the 2007 original. The score board is a sort of race track, and each player's ship token is placed on the starting line...
A timer is flipped and then players turn over tiles from the communal pile simultaneously, revealing components which are then laid onto their player board to build their ship.
There are a great number of components, from engines and lasers to cargo containers and cabins and more. The lion's share of the rulebook concerns the rules of placing these components. You can't, for example, have a part of your ship 'behind' an engine module, as it would get vaporised. Your aim is to build a ship that will fly the fastest, carry the most cargo, with the largest crew, in the safest manner possible. But, of course, you flip the tiles blind whilst the timer runs down and everyone else is frantically doing the same: all scrabbling over the same rapidly dwindling supply of components.
The net result will be a bewildering array of ship designs, and any initial plan you might have of making a balanced, neatly symmetrical ship that reminds you of your favourite sci-fi vessel, flies out the airlock. The player to your right might manage, through sheer luck, to find most of the really good weapons, so they have a ship bristling with turrets on all sides. However, they barely managed to find any cargo pods, so they wont be carrying much. You find yourself with lots of connectors but few useful modules, so your ship becomes a tangled affair of spaghetti pipework connecting a handful of scattered cargo pods with an unseemly number of engines strapped onto the rear. You are fast, and you can carry a lot, but you are going to have to cross your fingers if you run into danger!
When the timer runs out and the ships are built, the game moves into its second phase. Cards are drawn from a deck that represents your voyage through space, with each offering an opportunity to gain cargo, crew, or a boost of speed to out-distance your opponents. These cards will have an immediate effect, such as 'An asteroid appears! Lets hope you have some lasers....' to choices you can make, 'Leave one crew member on this planet to gain one red resource cube'.
As cards are turned over, your ship will gradually fill up with cargo and lose or possibly gain crew. Unlucky players will also lose bits of their ship, as asteroids, pirates and solar flares blow random sections to bits. These attacks can be (mostly) thwarted by the correct placement of lasers on your ship if, that is, you managed to find any and had the time to fit them facing the right direction...
Once the cards have all been used, scores are calculated based on the number of resource cubes you have in your ship, with some being more valuable than others. The winner, naturally, is the player with the highest score.
Galaxy Trucker is a simple easy-to-play game that especially shines with three or four players, ideally with the liberal addition of snacks and lubricated with wine or your tipple of choice. I can also seeing it being very popular as a family game, as kids will love the frenetic ship building. The ship building itself is great fun, reminding me of a high speed, time-sensitive Castles of Caladale (Renegade Game Studios) in space. With lasers.
Tho' the game is great fun, I found myself looking for a little more depth. The second phase of the game has no real interaction between players: you flip a card and see if you take damage, choose to take the action, or don't. I would love to see more ways to interact with your opponents. Perhaps there could be special modules that let you shoot an opponent's ship, or re-direct a comet into another player...
None of this detracts, however, from the heart of the game, which is likely to involve desperately flipping tiles looking for a shield array, finding one with 10 seconds to go and roaring in triumph, only to realise you don't have the right connector to attach it to your ship as your wife just swiped it from under your nose as the timer reached zero...
Galaxy Trucker is great fun: a light-hearted romp that gets surprisingly competitive and an excellent option for the family gaming cupboard.
(Review by Toby Hicks)