Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Galaxy Trucker Big Expansion

Galaxy Trucker is an unusual and innovative game. Players compete in real time to build a spaceship, and then they make a treacherous trading trip to try to earn as much money as possible. Sometimes the spaceships get badly damaged. Sometimes they don't even survive. They get hit by meteors, shot at by pirates, suffer epidemics etc. When I bought it, I worried whether the game would be just a gimmick, that the novelty would wear off quickly. It turned out to be better than I had expected. The game continued to be interesting and fun even after the newness had worn off. However, as I got better and better at the game, it started to become less challenging. I don't crash and burn anymore, at least not often and not badly. So, maybe I need Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion.

This expansion comes with a number of different modules, most being optional, and you can mix and match, depending on what you like. There are many new types of spaceship components. This interests me the most. You get cannon boosters which allow you to increase your firepower once, but after that your cannon is destroyed. You get a fridge module (I forget the actual name) which can store 4 hibernating/frozen astronauts (normal cabins store 2 active astronauts), who can be waken up in case you lose some of your crew. There is even a shield thing which cannot be damaged by anything, including heavy cannon fire and big meteors.

There are components for a 5th player. There are Evil Machination cards, which are bad events that players draw secretly and plant secretly into the event deck. There are Rough Roads cards, which introduce special rules and scenarios that make life tough in space. These are announced before you start building your ship, giving you a chance to prepare your ship accordingly. There is a new type of alien. There are new spaceship types.

Chong Sean told me he found the base game to be rather easy, that he always seems to survive the game pretty well. It is probably because he tends to play with more players, and the other players are often new to the game, thus he tends to do better than them. So he wanted more challenge.

Chong Sean wanted to play with the Rough Roads. I persuaded him to just start with the new spaceship types and new spaceship components. We only added Rough Roads for the 3rd (of 3) ship / voyage.

The first spaceship was the "bad luck" ship, i.e. Class I-A ("One A"). The original Class I ship was small, so if you are lucky to roll higher or lower than average when being under cannon fire or meteor strikes, your ship may completely avoid being hit. With Class I-A, this will not happen. Every die roll outcome from 2 to 12 (two dice) will hit some part of your spaceship. Thankfully, all 3 of us survived the first voyage.

The second voyage used the Class II-A template, an unusual one. Your ship is actually a pair of ships. Both sides need their own pilots, and engines, and batteries. When counting engine power (i.e. speed), you count the slower ship, because the other ship has to wait for the slower brother. When counting firepower, you add up the firepower for both ships, because, of course, they can shoot at the some time.

My Class II-A ship. The round blue things at the front are the indestructible components, which can be used as shields. On the lower right you can see a cannon+engine component. These are new components in this expansion.

Chong Sean's ship.

Michelle's ship, before being fully populated by crew. She had to replace that blue alien at the top left with 2 human astronauts before take-off, because your pilots must be human. That round green thing near the top right is a shield booster. If attached to a shield, it can boost the power of the shield and make it protect you against big meteors and heavy cannon fire.

The blue aliens (sorry they turned out to look green under this lighting) and their corresponding card. Blue aliens are specialists. If you employ one, you get to pick 1 out of 5 special abilities.

During our flight, one rather nasty event came up...

I bid a big amount to win control of this event, and picked a coordinate to destroy which caused both Chong Sean and Michelle to lose one of their ships. This was because those components at that specific coordinate were the only cabin with humans remaining on those ships. Once you lose your last human crew, you lose your ship. I bid high because I also had one such vulnerable ship and I was desperate not to lose it.

Michelle lost her ship on the left, which still had many batteries.

Chong Sean lost his ship on the right, which had a purple and a brown alien.

It was costly for me to be able to retain both of my ships, but I think in the end it was worthwhile. Both my ships were able to survive the rest of the voyage too.

Then we played our 3rd voyage. This time we added two Rough Roads cards. These were drawn and announced up front before we even started to construct our spaceships. The two cards that we drew worked like this: 1. Whenever you decide to land on a planet to pick up goods, you get shot at by the locals. 2. Whenever a spaceship loses a component, the component lost falls towards the other spaceships flying behind, becoming effectively big meteors. Because of the 2nd card, we were frantic in our ship-building, hoping to be the one to finish first so that we didn't have to fly behind the others. I have rarely built such an ugly ship with so many odd incomplete ends hanging out.

My Class III-A spaceship. 5 exposed connectors. Near the top left you can see a special furnace connected to a battery compartment. This can convert goods into batteries. The orange coloured cabins and luxury cabins. They can only accomodate one rich human, who pays $1/2/3 for voyages 1/2/3, if he survives.

When I saw this Class III-A board I kept insisting to Chong Sean that it was a new board that came with the expansion. It looked like the starship Enterprise from Star Trek. Later I realised I was wrong. The Class III-A board was always like this, just that I had never realised that it looked like the Enterprise, despite having played it so many times.

The 3rd voyage was tough. Chong Sean didn't even manage to last until the end. So I guess he got his wish of a more challenging game.

This expansion adds many interesting things to the game, and makes it very exciting again. I'm going to buy it. If you like the base game, and are starting to find it easy, then I recommend this expansion.

When playing with Chong Sean, I also learned that I have been playing a few rules wrong all this while. Your start cabin must always be occupied by humans and not aliens. I thought it didn't matter, as long as you have humans on board. Also, when you gain or lose flight days (i.e. move your ships on the flight path determining who is in front and who is behind), the order of moving ships does matter, and there are rules about who should move first. When gaining flight days, the ship in front moves first. When losing flight days, the ship behind moves first. I had incorrectly thought that the order doesn't matter. Another important rule that I missed is when you are forced to lose goods and you don't have any, you are then forced to lose your batteries. Ouch...


nijoos said...

One of my issues with the base game is the rather brainless flight phase. Does the expansion add enough depth in terms of decision-making to be worth a purchase?

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I don't know for sure how much decision-making is added to the flight phase. I have only played the expansion once and did not have a chance to read through the new card decks (Evil Machinations and Rough Roads). There are definitely some decisions added, e.g. one of the Rough Roads cards that I did play makes the decision for landing on a planet tougher, because it's not just losing flight days, you also get shot at. My gut feel is the number of decisions added to the flight phase won't be many, but some seem more interesting, e.g. the event that we had where we could bid for the right to destroy one component at a specific coordinate.

I'd say the game is still mainly in the ship building, and the flight phase is mainly for you to sit back and enjoy watching your ship crash and burn. With the expansion, you probably have a bit more control and can strategise ahead (e.g. with the Evil Machination cards). Well, just my guess.

Aik Yong said...

oo oo, one of my favourite games.

the flight phase isn't where the decision making is at. it's at the ship building phase.

nijoos said...

I agree, I enjoy the game for the ship building but was somewhat disappointed with the flight phase. Had thought of trading it off due to its high value but my wife likes it sufficiently for me to keep the game.

Was hoping the expansion might turn around the flight phase segment for me, but sounds like the additional utility may not match its cost.

Chong Sean said...

There are some rules we are still not sure while playing, i've just checked them out.

1. Only player who has taken a number tiles can do the last flip of the sand timer.

2. The first defeated player of the pirates roll the dice, and the dice roll applies to all the defeated players.

3.Until you take another component, the newest you can move arround the board or even discard...

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Thanks Chong Sean! We should play this again the next time I'm back in KK ya! :-)