GALAXY TRUCKER by Vlaada Chvatil
A 2-4 player game for 10 year olds and upwards lasting just over the hour per game.
Eastern European games companies are really shining through with new game ideas and quality presentations and productions. One of the top companies from the former Eastern Bloc is CGE (Czech Games Edition) who have been wowing Western Europe and beyond with some truly good gaming experiences. A lot of gamers think that many of these games have a darker edge or look, and usually come with a translated rules book that is like a mini manual (ie a small book not a manual for a Mini car)and almost all of these games are in one way or another quite serious.
Vlaada Chvatil has here created not just a very good game but also a game with a set of rules that are clearly defined, easy to follow and even better still and unexpected, filled with humourous sidebars throughout.
The game pieces are wooden, card and plastic with some heavy fuel cell beads that could well be glass, so no expense spared when it comes to components, plus there is also a pair of D6 dice and an egg timer (though there are no eggs to time). During play the rules allow for gently thumping the box lid against the head of any player taking too long for their turn in the first round – the egg-timer saves sore heads in the later rounds. The Adventure cards are marked on their backs I, II and III for the three rounds. The basic Spaceship boards are flipped for round 2 and then new boards marked 3 and 3A are used for the final round.
GALAXY TRUCKER is played over three rounds with each round specifically detailed in the rules book so that you can read and play one at a time. The first round is played allowing the players to take their time and get to understand what is expected of them but subsequent rounds are played to the timer, thus adding an extra edge (and panic). All three rounds play out in similar fashion though the second and then third rounds add new elements to the play.
Each player begins with a basic Spaceship template on which they place their ID colour Cabin tile (on the allocated space). This tile has all four sides with multi-connections allowing for any other tile to be laid adjacent to it; other tiles have only a single, a double or indeed a multi, connection. When placing tiles (components) onto your ship they have to be placed so that an orthogonal connection (flat side against flat side and no diagonals) must be made with a previously played tile or tiles. The second and third rounds see the players building larger Spaceships.
The component tiles begin each round as a face down mess (err mass) in the centre of the table. To add them to their ships the players have to take a tile, bring it to the ship, turn it over and place it anywhere on the ship – all using just one hand. They now look to see if it is a useful tile and whether they can place it adjacent to another tile. If they can use it, and want to use it, they are allowed to move it from its original position and set it in place. If they don’t want to or cannot place it they put it back in the centre of the table, but this time face up so everyone can see it; they then take another tile and repeat the procedure.
There are all types of components available, new Cabins, Engines, Cannons, Batteries, Shields, Cargo Holds, Special Cargo Holds, Modules that offer different connections and odd bits (alienware that begins to really count in the second and third rounds). All of these can be placed anywhere on the ship with just a couple of exceptions, and it is these exceptions that cause you the most problems. Exception one are the Engines. These have to be placed facing upwards (so the thrusters are facing the rear of the ship) and may not have another tile positioned directly above them – there must always be an empty space or the back edge of the ship. This is because any thrusters burning at the necessary power would burn up the component adjacent to them. The second exception are the Cannons. These may be placed facing up, down or sideways but are the opposite of the Engines, they cannot have a tile placed directly in front of them (you can guess the reason. If you can’t guess then you have no place flying a spaceship).
The first player to complete their ship takes the number tile “one”, second takes “2” etc, these being the order of launch for the spaceships (ie 1st player, 2nd player etc). Players do not have to fill every space on their Spaceship board and can stop building at any time. There are times when you have planned badly (or purposefully) so that you can no longer add components, but it is best to have as few open connections – connections that are not connected be they within the spaceship or on its edges – as these may cause you problems later in the play.
Once everyone has finished their ship it is up to the other players to inspect each other’s boards to ensure there are no illegally placed tiles – it is very easy when you are under pressure to wrongly position a tile. As soon as all ships have passed scrutiny the Cabins are filled with spacemen (2 per pod) and the Batteries are charged (one green bead per battery). The Adventure card deck is prepared – there is a specific set of cards for round one, after that a random selection from the second deck and later the third deck is used.
Cargo Holds are sized as 2 or 3 compartments and Special Cargo Holds sized as 1 or 2 compartments. Cargo Holds cannot carry Toxic Waste (hazardous cargo – pink blocks) this can only be placed in Special Holds. Cargo is obtained from Adventure cards and can be delivered at the end of the flight.
At the start of the flight the top Adventure card is flipped over and activated. The player holding the 1st Player tile is first in line and gets first choice or first hits and gets to roll the dice for Meteoric Swarms. Adventure cards may be hazardous or they may have bonuses, or both. The aforementioned Meteoric Swarms simply do damage unless you have deflector shields or cannons aiming the right way. Any meteors that get past the first ship hit the second etc etc etc or they may miss altogether depending on the die roll (as the ship template rows and columns are numbered and the die roll determines which lines the meteors travel along).
The game may have been launched in 2007 (it now has several expansions available) but I only saw it for the first time at Spiel Essen 2015. It is fun, edgy, amusing, and in my opinion it should be an award winner.