Time: ~60 minutes
Times Played: 20+
Galaxy Trucker is a real-time delivery game, set in a world where you are an out-on-your-luck space trucker that has to resort to building their ship from the scrapyard from acclaimed designer Vlaada Chvatil. This is a chaotic, frustrating, and sometimes fun game.
First, the basics. Read the rulebook. It’s simple and easy to read and is definitely one of the best rulebooks out there. The text, artwork, and colors are a perfect blend and the book creates a near perfect balance of humor and educating. There is a first-time playing rule set, an experienced rule set, and an easy to include variant.
But if you’re reading this, you probably don’t have the rulebook in front of you so let me get on with it.
Galaxy Trucker consists of three rounds and each round has two distinct phases. The first phase has players simultaneously constructing their space trucks/ships from a shared pool of tiles. The second phase is where player’s guide their ships through space and experience bad, and sometimes good, events that impact their voyage.
During phase one, tiles are laid face down in front of all players. Players then select a tile one at a time to see if they want to add that particular piece to their ship. There are thrusters for movement, lasers and shields for defense, cargo holds for goods, quarters for crewman (and crew-women), batteries for power, and a few other pieces that could help your ship barrel through the cosmos. If players do not want the tile, they place it face up in front of their player board so other players have the option of grabbing it. Players cannot grab their own discarded pieces.
Each of these pieces have connectors on one (or more) of the tiles edges and can only connect to like tile pieces. There are universal connectors that allow anything to connect to it as well. Each round has a defined time limit for players to build their ship. So while you might want all the gizmos and gadgets that could make your ship the end all be all, you more than likely will not have the time to engineer such a beauty. Do keep in mind that while you are trying to create this picture perfect spacemobile, so are the players around you and there are only a finite amount of pieces available to grab.
Building your ship is incredibly fun and to me, the crux of the game. Each round has you building an even larger spaceship; so you get more time to complete the task but you have more that you have to do and the voyages are more perilous.
Players also have the option of looking ahead at the flight deck (described in a moment) during the build phase so they can better prepare what is ahead of them. Each round has a differing amount of cards (8, 12, 16) that will dictate what the future voyage will be in phase two. Each card will be carried out in its entirety before moving onto the next one. Some include safe and good events, such as Open Space, where players use their thrusters to shoot ahead of the competition whereas other cards are not so good, such as Meteor Showers, which can damage and destroy your makeshift craft.
Along the way, players can pick up cargo and accumulate cosmic currency by venturing onto abandoned spaceships and stations. Scoring commences after the last card is drawn in each round. Players will have to pay for any aspects of their ship that were destroyed and did not make the full trip (space littering and all). The players that end with positive space credits after these three rounds are declared the winners.
That’s right. As long as you have a positive line of credit, you have won the game. If one player has +3 and another has +35, they’re both victors. We all know we value one over the other but it’s such a silly victory ruling.
Teaching Galaxy Trucker is incredibly important. There is a lot of information players need to know, understand, and process in a short period of time. This isn’t a game where players can ask questions and hem and haw on their first play through as they try to decide what course of action to take. This is real-time and an incorrect action is just as bad as inaction.
Galaxy Trucker is the tale of two board games. The “pick-up and build” mechanic works well with the game and the building aspect is not too simple nor too difficult to comprehend and keep track of while under the pressure of the clock. There is always one person that makes a mistake and uses a wrong piece or a connector and loses some of their ship before the voyage even begins. Everyone can, and wants to, build a space ship.
Due to the nature of the game, people are laughing with you at the unfortunate turn of events as opposed to at you. With the card draws, they know it’s only a matter of time before pieces of their ship end up with pieces of yours in the cosmos. Due to the randomness and chance, no one is upset by this and players expect this to happen.
That being said, I do not like the second phase of this game. It is much too random and leaves players sitting in their seats waiting for something to happen to them. As there are no tactical decisions to be made and very few strategic ones (use a battery or not, pick up cargo or not), the second phase could be carried out by one player while the rest go do something else. In fact, we tend to zip through the race stage just so we can get back to building a new ship.
The novelty of the voyage is exciting the first two or three times you play but after that, you know exactly what is coming even though the cards are randomized. The complete joy that was building your spaceship has now been replaced by utter dread, not because your creation is being dying in front of your eyes but because you are dying of boredom.
This is exacerbated when a players ship is destroyed in the first few cards and just has to sit around and watch everyone else play. Granted, players are not typically out for long but when you are scoring zero points it really sours the remaining rounds.
It’s also weird that if your ship gets completely destroyed, the enjoyment disappears. If your ship is a tank and survives unscathed, the enjoyment disappears. It’s only when the tattered remains of your ship cross the finish line are you actually enjoying the game, which then leads to the question of build quality. Additionally, no one wants to play against the Deathstar that is impenetrable, knowing they’re playing for second* (*since again, the rules say all players with positive money are the victors). As this is the second time I’ve mentioned the victory conditions, I do want to make note that this game is less about winning and more about the experience that was had.
Galaxy Trucker is a game that I think everyone should play at least once. It’s entertaining and inventive and is great at making everyone look like an idiot. It just doesn’t hold up well after one, repeated playings and two, playing better games. The first time playing Galaxy Trucker I know in my mind I was like, this is a 10/10 but now it hovers in that 5/10 range for me. It’s middling and slightly boring. I hate to be so negative about the game but I know not all games appeal to all players and while there are people who will defend this game to the last of their breath, it just didn’t sit right with us.