Galaxy Trucker: On the Road Again
It’s hard to believe but Czech Games Edition first released Galaxy Trucker 15 years ago in 2007. The game was well-received, but might be best known for the mobile game version that came out seven years later. Now, CGE has relaunched Galaxy Trucker in a new edition with new art, new components, and a few gameplay tweaks. Can you teach a 15 year old game new tricks? Let’s find out.
Galaxy Trucker is a game about quickly assembling a space-traveling freighter out of tiles and then traveling a trade route by turning over a series of randomly selected event cards.
Players draw from a common face-down pool of tiles first, during the ship-building phase. Like most tile-laying games, what’s on the edges of the tile dictates where it can legally be placed. In Galaxy Trucker, these are “connectors”, which have either a single, double, or universal “fitting”. (The universal fitting can connect to either a single or a double fitting). If you are discovered to have made an illegal connection, you’re penalized! That tile and all tiles that only connect to your ship via that tile immediately fall off your ship and you take penalty points.
The first edition of Galaxy Trucker had somewhat of a negative reputation as a table-hog, due to the enormous tiles. The new edition shrinks the tiles to a square inch. Many will prefer this size, but I found it more difficult to see the connectors on the smaller tiles (and took a few more penalty points as a result).
There are just three major tile types: crew quarters, engines, and cargo holds. You need these in order to score points and win. There are also laser cannons, battery packs, shield generators, alien life support, and connector-only “pipe” tiles, too. These are enhancements to your ship and not absolutely required, but they’re handy for surviving the events on the trade route.
You might feel bewildered at first by the variety of event cards, trying to figure out how to interpret the symbols on the card and what to do about them (for example – shields can block little meteors but not big laser blasts from a pirate ship). But please notice that all the symbols are helpfully explained, although wordlessly, on the central scoreboard. For all but the most eccentric of event cards, you should be able to figure it out.
As in the first edition, Galaxy Trucker comes with three levels of difficulty. At the higher levels you build bigger ships but face tougher events along the route. CGE says they have tweaked some of the event cards to better balance the game. We felt like the difficulty progression of the levels was very fair.
No matter which level you play, you only use a handful of randomly-chosen event cards. This also adds to the replay value.
There is also a new Trans-Galactic Trek mode, in which you play a level one game, followed by a level two, and then a level three. In this mode you’ll carry your credits (points) from game to game and earn achievements called “titles”. These “titles” both add difficulty in subsequent games to the achievement winner but also provide opportunity to win bonus credits. These titles – and their tongue-in-cheek explanations in the rulebook – are an exemplary mini-expansion.
CGE wisely doesn’t allow them to mess with the basic gameplay too much, keeps them in-theme, and provides just enough incentive for players to try to achieve them. They also included a wide enough variety that it takes several playthroughs of the Trek to experience them all. It feels perfectly right-sized.
It was very interesting to play the new edition with my kids. They never played the original board game, but were very familiar with the mobile app. More than any other change, the Trans-Galactic Trek mode feels meant for such a player, and indeed, they did enjoy it. It is a bit of a long-haul to play three games in a row – though with a bit of careful box repacking and rebagging you could probably split it up into three play sessions.
The game’s instruction manual tries to set a tone for lighthearted fun rather than cutthroat play, but that’s not going to stop overly-competitive siblings. During the flight, randomness dominates and so there’s not a lot you can do to target another player.
But during the ship-building phase, older siblings with good spatial awareness and planning skills can finish quickly and force bad decisions from stressed out younger ones. Since this takes place at the beginning of the game, it can lead to feelings of defeat before you even really get started. To that, I really recommend this as a game to play only amongst players of similar age or maturity. (Parents – we trust you to play to your kids’ level as you see fit).
Stack them Eights and Hammer Down
If you never played either the original or the mobile app, I highly recommend this new edition. (I also highly recommend the app).
Perfectionists might have a hard time here – the game almost gleefully punishes those who try to optimize. But Galaxy Trucker excels when you buy into the zaniness the game wants to convey. The rulebook even calls everyone a winner who manages to survive to the end of the route and collect at least some credits.
So don’t take your ship-building skills too seriously, roll with the punches when a meteor knocks a third of your ship off, and have a great time.
You can order your own copy of Galaxy Trucker at Amazon or at your friendly local game store.
Czech Games Edition provided The Family Gamers with a complimentary copy of Galaxy Trucker for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Galaxy Trucker: On the Road Again
Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 30 minutes