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Subject: How to make gamers cry... rss

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Eric Flood
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I normally enjoy very heavy games with little to no randomness. Then along came Pandemic, a game I've enjoyed thoroughly, despite immense amounts of randomness. And within a month, Galaxy Trucker, another immensely random game, comes along and sweeps me off my feet. Why has this quickly become one of my favorite games?

Components

Oh, the beautiful components. I have not heard one valid gripe about the cost of the game versus the components on this one. CGE has gone above and beyond with their production, and I couldn't be happier. While all I really care about is functionality, the production here is phenomenal. This is another standard-setting production, in my book.







Rules/Gameplay

The rulebook is highly humorous, and worth the read even if you know the game already. It also lends itself to be accessible to new players by only giving them a certain amount of information at a time, to try to ease them into it, as well as providing some less stressful piece-placing rules - very well-done.

That being said, there still is a *lot* of information for new players to process very quickly, and the first game can be not very enjoyable as a result. My own first play with this game had this result, and I wasn't sure how well I actually enjoyed the experience. Every play since then has been a much more enjoyable experience, and I like the game more the more I play it.

In addition, the rulebook's introductory formatting can make it very difficult to find a detail, as it could be in 5 different areas of the rulebook. The FAQ does a good job of clearing most things up, but not everything.

Galaxy Trucker has two main phases, followed by a short "scoring" phase.

In the first phase, each player is building a ship with a unique (and surprisingly fair) timed-building rule where players flip the timer over when they choose to (also dependent upon a few extra rules). This lets everyone have a similar pace, and gives those getting most flustered a little more time to build a better ship than those who have raced through it and made some large mistakes. In this phase, you may also take valuable chit-grabbing time to look at what adventures are ahead for you. While you generally will have a similar ship structure regardless, it can be vital to know that you WILL need 10 cannons on your ship when those pirates come up, and plan accordingly.

In addition to the cards you could see while building the ship there will be an extra 1/3 added to the drawing deck that no one will have seen.

The next phase, you are simply flipping over cards and going through their effects. Some of the cards are pretty benign, some don't really do much to anyone, and some are absolutely devastating. If you ever lose all of your pilots, your ship is done. If your ship breaks into two, you can let the large, 20-piece chunk float off while retaining only the 5-piece cabin-cannon-booster-cargo-cargo piece and hope the remaining asteroids fly right by. This is the real fun of the game, and it can be oddly satisfying to watch your opponent's left wing break off to their cries of woe while your ship receives no damage.



IF you make it through all the cards, you get a series of bonuses depending on your arrival time and state of your ship, as well as credits for any cubes you have delivered.

You begin with a small ship, Round I; then a larger ship, Round II; then a very large ship, Round III. There is also an optional Round III-A with a differently formed ship. Once you have completed the desired number of rounds, you add up your credits and see who wins.

The game also has an interesting change of difficulty depending on the number of players. If 2 players are playing, there will always be a large number of tiles from which to choose from. With 4 however, those tiles run out mighty fast, and you are reduced to putting a 2-cargo piece with three open connections on your front-left square where you *really* wanted to put a cannon. The more players, the harder the game is. I am wondering now if you're not supposed to remove a number of tiles with less players, I'll have to check on that - it might be a variant worth considering to keep the game tight, if not.





Fun/Randomness

A word on randomness. I tend to hate randomness in a game, and it must be a very fun game or a very short game to make me want to play it again.

A word on “fun.” By fun, I am referring to how enjoyable the game is in the time that it takes to play. Some games would be fun if the game took half an hour, but since they take 3, they are no longer any fun. Some games are so fun, they would continue being fun for 3x as long as it takes to play. Sometimes this is characterized by the desire to play again immediately.

Galaxy Trucker is an extremely fun game, as well as an extremely random game. The fun outdoes the randomness for me, however, and I enjoy the experience greatly.

There is a lot of yelling going on in the game, and despite the title, destruction is usually accompanied with a smile on all parts. It's even fun to watch your own ship get torn to pieces (although it can be very frustrating as well), and it's even more fun to see others' ships break into two!

While the game isn't always one you want to play again immediately, it is one you will likely be excited to play again the next session.

*note* 5 stars on fun is if you finish and immediately want to play another game - something which probably won't happen with games longer than an hour. 5 Randomness is simply rolling dice, 0 randomness is entirely predetermined.

Fun:
Randomness:

Plays Best With...

As indicated above, 2 players makes for a very easy experience and 4 players is very difficult. This could be modified with the removal of some pieces, or using the Rough Road Ahead Expansion.

It depends on whether you like the game to be difficult or easy. I believe the game is meant to be evil, and plays best that way, so:

Another note: 5 stars means the game plays best with this, all other stars are relative amounts.

2:
3:
4:


Conclusion

Galaxy Trucker is a wonderful game which will likely inspire designs for years to come. I welcome this, and hope to see some creative changes to invoke different designs in the future.

There are a few problems, most notably the accessibility for new players. The first game could overwhelm players, and some might not come back for a second try due to there being so many different things to memorize within 2 minutes. I think I've only seen one person who hasn't really liked the game so far, but your results my vary.

I'd also like to see the cards make variability within the ships matter more - flipping through them usually gives you a small perturbation of an idea as to what your ship needs, and generally isn't terribly useful.

I've printed out the expansion, and am really itching to try it at some point. Having ships arrive mostly intact gets a little boring .

This game is very sought-after and hard-to-find right now, for good cause. Get it if you can, you will not be disappointed.

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Tokelau
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Nice review. I'm waiting for this to be printed again.
 
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Sam DiRocco
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Great review. I am anxiously awaiting the reprint.
 
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The Seal of Approval
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How and in what form does this massive randomness come into the game (4 out of 5 sounds worse than Risk)?
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Bruno Valerio
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For example you roll the dice to get the coordinates where the asteroids will hit your ship. It can rip your ship in two or you can pass by quite comfortably.

I admit it's random and i hate random, in any form, but Galaxy Trucker it's tremendous fun to play. That much fun almost makes you forget about all the randomness.

If you're not that sure play a game before buying but it is really cool.
 
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Eric Flood
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Asperamanca wrote:
How and in what form does this massive randomness come into the game (4 out of 5 sounds worse than Risk)?


Actually, that's a little subjective. It's probably 3.5/5 - Risk would be something on the order of 4.5/5. It's something I've only thought about for two games, so the scale might not be perfectly right yet.
 
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The Seal of Approval
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But it does not sound like "I win, you lose" kind of randomness...more like it all depends on how you've built your ship, and a certain roll might affect all players in the same way.
 
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Eric Flood
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There are the following aspects of randomness:

-When you are trying to add components to your ship, you bring a random tile to your ship before looking at it. If you want to add it, you may do so. If not, you throw it away face-up.

-You can observe 6/9/12 of the 8/12/16 cards you will go through in each round. This means you can only possibly know what to expect from 3/4 of the cards.

-The cards "affect" everyone, so you roll dice for everyone at the same time - everyone is subject to the same roll (at least, the way we choose to play it for the sake of less die rolling).
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David desJardins
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blueatheart wrote:
The cards "affect" everyone, so you roll dice for everyone at the same time - everyone is subject to the same roll (at least, the way we choose to play it for the sake of less die rolling).


But the biggest random element is if your ship happens to get hit in a column or row where you are more vulnerable than others. Everyone gets the same roll, but that roll might be fine for some people and terrible for others.
 
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Matt Smith
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With experience, you learn to build your ship to minimize the effect of the dice rolls. The only events you can't always mitigate are:
- Large meteors. These can only be shot with a cannon. If they come at you where you don't have a cannon, you're going to get hit. Mitigate with lots of forward-facing cannons, some side-facing cannons, and redundant connectors where you don't have cannon protection.
- Large cannon fire. There is no protection from this. However, most of it comes from enemies and combat zones, so by looking at the cards, you can design you ship to be immune from these cards. Also, knowing how many times you'll need to fire up double cannons/engines to avoid these cards will help you better manage your batteries.

Small meteors aren't usually a problem, unless you've already lost part of your ship and now have exposed connectors. However, this can still be mitigated by building shields into your ship. Some players poo poo shields for not being very useful, but they are a good insurance policy.

Another strategy that eludes beginners is building your ship to take advantage of Abandoned Ships. These cards can suck a large part of your crew, but give a nice, often game changing reward of credits. If you know the card(s) are coming and can build extra crews cabins, then you can really get a leg up on your competition.

Yes, there is a lot of individual random events in this game. But, experienced ship builders will look at the cards and build their ships to mitigate the randomness, and be in a better position to take advantage of the opportunity cards. That has been my experience so far over about 10 games of GT.
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But you got to remember there are a difference in the randomness in Risk and Galaxy Trucker,
In Risk the random of a die roll, can work against your view on how you feel this event should happen, if you attack 5 to 1 and still looses, because of the dice's.

In Galaxy Trucker, you prepare to face an unknown. And you get the unknown, in a form of random cards and die rolls.

Hmm, my point with this is that how we view random events, as humans.

If it works against how we think the world should work, we get irritated, but if it enforces the way we view the world we accept it, and this is the difference, as I see it, between the random events in Risk and in Galaxy Trucker.
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