This week, we played one of the most attractive looking games from Essen 2007: Galaxy Trucker, designed by Vladimir Chvatil (who designed Through The Ages) and released by Czech Games Edition.
The basic premise of the game is that you manage a galactic trucking firm and you put together makeshift spaceships and explore the universe trying to make your fortune in cosmic credits. The game is played over three rounds and each round has two phases. Firstly there is a timed mad dash where you draw random face-down tiles (components) in an effort to build your ship before everyone else does, while making sure its structural integrity is sound. A poorly constructed ship will not last long against the ravages of deep space. Tiles consist of crew cabins, freight cabins, Guns, Thrusters, life support units and connectors, all of which must be linked together within the confines of your shipyard. At the start, you can only build relatively small ships but in subsequent rounds, your shipyard’s capacity increases so you can build bigger and better ships. The earlier you finish, the better your position in the exploration phase.
So, once everyone has completed the building phase and the inspectors have confirmed your ship is space-worthy, you set out to boldly go where no other space trucker has been before. The leader flips a series of cards from the "event" deck, and players do their best to navigate their way through these. Some allow you to collect goods from planets you encounter, others present meteor showers, smugglers, slavers and pirates who come to steal your goods, crew or simply to blow bits off you. So, your ship falls apart slowly as you fly it, which is fun to observe and quite tense as to whether you will be able to complete your journey. If you arrive safely, you get to sell the goods you transported and get rewarded for your position in arriving and if you have the most presentable ship. After three build / explore rounds, whoever has the most cosmic credits wins.
You can’t call this game terribly strategic as there is too much randomness in what can befall you with the event cards. It is more an experience game and is quite fun as such although might be a little long for this. It’s not a game that Nige was likely to enjoy as it has a spatial awareness aspect to it and a fair amount of time pressure. The puzzle element of trying to find pieces with the right connectors was interesting but I was never sure what the right balance between crew cabins, cargo holds, battery units, cannons and thrusters was likely to be and in a couple of rounds forgot to get at least a decent amount in one of these areas, particularly in the final round when I forgot about my crew cabins and ended up with a paltry four humans and one alien. The fact that one of the first events was an encounter with slavers who were more than enough to polish off my guys (and those of Mark K) meant that our final adventure was more like an episode of Lost in Space. Nevertheless, Mark K had in this and previous rounds concentrated on shipping the most valuable red goods and collecting and selling these was the key to his victory.