Thursday, April 09, 2009

You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought. (Galaxy Trucker, Cosmic Encounter)

I've recently purchased Galaxy Trucker and it's expansion, but I kind of did it despite my better instincts.

I have found two of Vlaada (Vladimír) Chvátil's latest games quite fascinating... Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert. Anyone who reads this blog knows that as much as I enjoy Space Alert, it fell quite flat amongst the rest of the group. Galaxy Trucker has a similar gimmicky vibe to it, and it doesn't have a whole lot of interaction, but I couldn't resist giving it a shot because to me it sounded... fun.

Galaxy Trucker

In Galaxy Trucker, each player must build a space ship out of a common pile of parts (laser cannons, boosters, crew cabins, shields, etc) onto a predetermined ship layout and fly it across the universe in a race to the finish (with extra money to be made if cargo can be delivered at the same time).

The way it works is that there is, literally, a pile of tiles face down on the table. One player yells "Go!" and everyone takes tiles, one at a time, and decides if they want to add it to their ship board. Once a player is happy with their ship, a timer is turned which limits the time left for the other players to finish building. Since everyone is drawing from the same pile, there is incentive to act fast to find the wanted pieces...

Because of the puzzle-like nature of getting all the connections right, and aggravated by the time pressure, the ships that are created are... less than ideal. Connectors stick out, gaps can be found, whole sections of the ship are held by one tiny connecting point. When the ship takes off to fly the dangerous expanse of space, bad things can happen. A deck of event cards is made up for for the trip, and every player must face the challenges one at a time. Space pirates, meteor showers and epidemics on board can have devastating effects on the cobbled together ships. On the bright side, players often have the opportunity to stop and pick up cargo they can sell later on, should they make it to the end.

It's silly, but fun.

In our first flight, my ship was actually fairly well constructed. Shemp made a placement error and had to lose a section of his ship. In the end, it didn't matter much because the flight consisted of open space and cargo pick-ups... I made a fair amount of money and was doing well. In our second flight, I once again had a pretty decent ship. I had a ton of cargo holds, and luckily our flight was again mostly uneventful. I took home a hoard of cash.

By now, Kozure, Luch and Shemp must have been thinking the game was not what I had made it out to be. In in over 20 event cards, we had a single meteor shower. The rest were all beneficial cards.

Ah, but then there was round three. I built out my ship completely, and it had a very good balance of guns, boosters and cargo holds. I was feeling confident that I could turn my lead into a win. Unfortunately, our flight was significantly rougher this time... and I had a lot of sections of my ship dependent on a single connection point. On the first card, I lost 1/4 of my ship to a space pirate attack. The second card was a meteor shower that took out another quarter. Then my shield went. Then everything went. About half way through, I retired from the race with my decimated ship left without a human crew to fly it.

Shemp made it nearly to the end, but ultimately blew up as well. Luch and Kozure made it to the end, and Luch was loaded with goods. When the score was counted, it he had 20x the score of last place Shemp (60+ to 3)!!!

Despite a number of surfae similarities (designer, art, gimmicky design, etc) Galaxy Trucker turned out to be well received by the group. We laughed a lot, and it proved entertaining and challenging. Even the event card phase, where up 16 cards need to be resolved in turn, occurs quickly enough AND has *just* enough decision making to keep things engaging. I'm very happy this experiment was a success.

Cosmic Encounter

This was our second evening playing Cosmic Encounter, though it was the first game for Luch. I was the Vaccuum, Shemp was the Pacifist, Kozure was the (I can't remember the name, but they retrieve used artifacts) and Luch was the Clone.

We played to 5 colonies this time, and the game played exactly in an hour, which was perfect.

There was a couple of memorable moments, such as the negotiations between Luch and Shemp that would have ended the game in a shared victory that were cancelled through Kozure's emotion control (which was, itself, sapped and counter-zapped). A second fun moment occured when I switched Luch and Shemp's races permanently.

The Vaccuum's power of sucking a number of other player's ships into the warp every time I lost some of mine proved to be quite powerful. The sucking noises I made everytime I exercised this power on other players proved to be quite satisfying.

I spent the last few rounds of the game trying to land a shared victory with ANYONE because my hand sucked so bad I knew I couldn't win otherwise. It almost worked with Kozure, but it came down to a tie that went to the defender, Shemp. Kozure spent much of the later rounds with only one ship on each of his colonies, which seems to be a situation that is hard to get out of.

In the end, Shemp managed to claw his way back from a 3 point deficit and get the win!

Again, I had a lot of fun. I like the feel of the game. Negotiation, backstabbing, chaos and fun. Not to be taken too seriously, but there is still lots of room to manipulate the outcome.

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