You'll be familiar with 4X games (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate). In Enrique Prieto's Nexum Galaxy, space is already eXplored, so this is a 3X game in the space opera genre, and it's designed to play in under an hour.
Taking 2-4 players, and with the option too of solo play, Nexum Galaxy achieves its fast play time by using very straightforward rules. Victory comes from winning a certain number of battles or controlling a number of Relics: it's simply a race to either of those conditions. There's no randomness in the basic player versus player game; everything is almost symmetrical: there's only one type of spaceship, only one type of resource (energy), and two actions to choose from on your turn. Lose and you certainly won't be able to shrug off Nexum Galaxy as a game of luck!
Each round, players will either carry out Management, Movement or both. Management means producing energy and building new ships with it; Movement means moving ships and gaining plunder. The first few moves feel like chess, and players might as well do exactly the same as each other, but from then on the struggle for territory and attempts to gain easy victories make it feel like fast Risk (Hasbro) - without the dice! The first different decisions players will encounter come from the four different Relics scattered across the sector that may be equipped to ships to give them special abilities. Each ability will have a major impact on the way you play the game from then on, making for interesting tactical decisions. There are some odd rules about what you can and can't do with the different Relics in the game, plus limits on spaceships per planet, per star, per production phase, and even how much energy you can stockpile. You have to remember these restrictions, but they do become fairly easy to keep track of and do seem necessary, even if not wholly thematic.
One innovative feature of Nexum Galaxy is the system for controlling AI players in solo, cooperative or competitive modes, using a deck of event cards. The cards are laid out three at a time, with half-symbols on their edges pairing up to make endless combinations of outcomes. The only problem is that the difficulty can therefore swing very suddenly from too easy to impossibly hard. It wouldn't be too difficult tho' to devise house rules to prevent unwanted extremes.
Although this game won't take the place of a more complex, longer (4X) game like Twilight Imperium (FFG) or Eclipse (Lautapelit), it does bring some new ideas to tactical area control games and will no doubt be of interest to fans of this type of game, especially those who don't have the half a day needed for some of the 4X beasts. Nexum Galaxy offers a more manageable experience!
(Review by Matt Young)