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Subject: My first review: Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion rss

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Jon Simantov
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Introduction

I'll start this (admittedly a bit long) review by saying that I really like the base Galaxy Trucker game. I've played the base game a bunch of times, with and without the downloadable Galaxy Trucker: Rough Road Ahead expansion, and while it remains fun on its own overall, I've played in some matches where absolutely no mayhem occurred to anyone during the flight, thus making the game just a little bit stale and uneventful. Unfortunately, unlike some games, Galaxy Trucker can become less fun as you get more skilled at it.

Enter the Big Expansion. This expansion (actually a collection of individual sub-expansions that can be used in different combinations) does a great job of making the gameplay more varied and eventful. But more on this later. First...

Components

As you probably know by now, Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion is a collection of different sub-expansions. They are:

New Technology - Adds some new tiles for building
Fifth Wheel - Adds a 5th player to the game
New Ship Classes - Class IA and IIA ships (with additional rules)
Evil Machinations - Cards that the players choose to add to the adventure
Rough Roads - "Meta adventure cards"; Rules modifications to make players' lives harder
Bonus Cards - A handful of additional Flight I, II, and III adventure cards

While you can mostly mix and match them, you shouldn't really play the Fifth Wheel expansion without New Technology, as there wouldn't be enough tiles to go around. Or, for a really cutthroat Round III, you actually could.

As far as the actual physical components go, these are all the same high-quality components that the original game (well, the second printing) has. The cards seem to stick together much less when you first open them, even.

Because the individual sub-expansions are all kind of separate, I'll review each one separately as well. Here we go...

The Sub-Expansions

New Technology

The New Technology expansion introduces new types of ship tiles to the game, giving you capabilities you never had in the base game.



Arguably the most game-changing of these are the boosters: Cannon Boosters, which add a significant amount to your cannon power (but then destroy the cannon they are attached to); Shield Boosters, which actually let you use shields to block large meteors and heavy cannon fire; and Engine Boosters, which let you skip adventure cards entirely by flying into hyperspace (at the cost of the attached engine).

Note: The shield boosters (and new Indestructible Plating component) are the only things in the game that can block heavy cannon fire, a major change from the base game in which it could not be blocked at all. Originally, I feared that this change would unbalance these items. But the shield boosters are balanced by the fact that they really, really chew through batteries. And they have to directly attached to the shield, which can be tougher to do than you'd think. The plating seems to be balanced by the fact that it's not a laser, so that sure, you can load up the front of your ship with indestrutible plating, but you won't have much laser power to speak of as a result.

While these new boosters are helpful, they do cause you to chew through battery power more than ever. Fortunately, you can now use a Reactor Furnace to recharge an attached battery compartment when you pick up cargo, or bring on one of the new Cyan Aliens as a Techie to reduce your battery needs. Speaking of which, the Cyan Alien, a new type of alien, is actually 5 types of aliens; but each player can only get one, and they choose in flight order when preparing for the flight. Other uses of Cyan Aliens are as a Diplomat (to appease enemies), a Merchant (to sell your cargo for extra space bucks), and more.



Rounding out the new technology are some new crew-based components: Luxury Cabins, carrying a human that pays you for completing the trip if they survive, and Stasis Chambers, which let surviving humans wake up more crew members to fill out the ship's cabins. Also, there are a handful of combination components (Bidirectional Cannons, Cannon Engines, Mixed Cargo Holds, and the cargo/battery combination Battery Hold). These are rare enough that finding one while you're building is a nice surprise.

If you play with fewer than 5 players, the New Technology expansion advises you remove 25 tiles per player fewer than 5 at random before you begin. This helps to make sure that the new components don't overwhelm you with too many tiles and make it easy to build what you want.

Overall, these new ship component tiles are my favorite part of the expansion. They make running out of batteries happen much more often, they help you survive heavier threats, and most importantly, they add much more player choice during the flight phase of the game. Before, your choices were usually just whether to power double cannons or engines, and whether to stop at a planet or loot an enemy you defeated. Now you have a lot more things you can choose to "activate" during the flight.

Fifth Wheel



This expansion adds a ship, a pair of new ship boards, and a fifth number tile. This allows you to play the game with 5 players. On the surface, it's pretty simple; but there are a number of new rules that make the game more complicated with 5 players, complicated enough that it's only worth it if you have 5 experienced players who really want to play.

The instructions generally tell you the rules changes: any time you can choose to get a reward--such as abandoned ship/station, planets, or in a junkyard (more on this later)--one player can choose a reward that has already been chosen, but gets one less unit of reward (credit or block of cargo).

In addition, any time someone is penalized for having the least of something--combat zone, sabotage--the player with the second least is also penalized (but by one less unit).

Enemies (slavers, pirates, smugglers) must be defeated twice; the first time they are defeated, the player gets the reward but the enemy keeps going to the following players in sequence. The second time the enemy is defeated, the player that defeated them can claim the reward, but--you guessed it--it is one unit less.

Finally, the first two finishers get bonuses for finishing 1st, and the two best looking ships get the post-flight bonus.

The rules also suggest a variant where you can use these rules for a 4-player game. I have not tried this, however. And here's why:

These rules are complicated! Admittedly I've only tried a 5-player game twice, but it's tough to keep track of who's getting one unit less of what, which cards change how, etc. We definitely made some mistakes during the flight for this reason, forgetting to apply things to a second player, or forgetting to make a reward available sometimes. It requires you to remember things, where before you could just refer to the cards. We had to refer to the rulebook several times, especially when a flight got down to 2 people remaining and we had to figure out which cards still stayed modified.

It would be nice to have an updated deck of flight cards for 4-5 player games, with more choices, additional rows of rewards, etc. to remind the player how the game changes with these rules.

However, I could see liking the 5-player game better after playing it a few more times and having a better grasp of how the rules change.

New Ship Classes

This part of the expansion contains a new shipboard for each of the five players. This shipboard contains new ship designs, one on each side. Each ship has some new rules that go along with it to spice up the game.



Ship Class IA: This ship can be oriented in any direction after you build it, but while it is compact, it's more likely to be hit by asteroids or cannon fire than any other ship. You get a small bonus if your ship is orientated at a unique angle at the end of the flight.

I actually really like this little ship. Its unluckiness makes it harder to defend without taking up all the useful space with guns, shields, and indestructable plating. I'd love to try a variant where you could keep engines pointed in any direction, and change your ship's orientation during the flight in response to adventure cards.

Ship Class IIA: Actually two ships that fly side-by-side; you don't use your starting component for this ship. This ship has a lot of additional little rules to keep in mind, such as which things affect one ship and which affect both ships, how to calculate engine power and use hyperspace boosters, who gets the post-flight rewards, etc.

Like the 5-player expansion, using Ship IIA require referencing the rulebook a little more than I'd like for a game like this. Additionally, like that expansion, I could see liking Ship IIA better after better committing the rules modifications to memory.

Evil Machinations

Player interaction? You want more player interaction? You got it. Sorta. These cards Agricola-ize the game a little bit; each player gets a small hand of them in the beginning of the game, and puts one card in each flight before building their ship. The cards randomly turn up in the middle of the flight (they cannot be prognosticated) and affect all players, and definitely keep things interesting.


A few of these so-called Evil Machinations aren't actually all that evil, giving players a chance to gain extra credits. Most of them, however, are pretty sick. You can cost your enemies batteries, credits, cargo, crew, etc. And because you (hopefully) remember what you put in, you can build your ship accordingly. So if you know that ships with exposed connectors are going to be hosed, you can make it a higher priority than normal to minimize them.

This sub-expansion is my second-favorite of the collection (though if I hadn't already played the downloadable version of Rough Roads, it would be a tough choice between them). I love the extra meta-game choice of which cards to use now and which to save for later rounds, and I like how the cards break up the normal flow of the flight for special (albeit horrifying) events.

Rough Roads

If you've seen the original downloadable version of this, you've seen the bulk of what Rough Roads has to offer. However, this updated version is definitely more refined and more varied. And you can't beat the production value of having actual cards.


For those who don't know what these are, the Rough Roads cards are special rules modifications that are randomly chosen before building a given round's ship. These rules exist for one purpose and one purpose only: make the players trips through space much harder (and more exciting; so I guess two purposes, actually).

Some examples of these cards include Piercing Projectiles, where projectiles that hit the ship can damage TWO components; Remorseless Fate, which causes anything that affects someone with the LOWEST of something (cannon strength, crew) to actually affect everyone without the HIGHEST of that category; and Explosive Goods/Batteries, two cards that usually scare the heck out of me when they come up and completely modify my ship designs.

Still hasn't happened, but looking forward to when it does: Somersault (ship flips 180 degrees after Open Space) with Ship Class IA.

Throw in a few of these new cards into a flight in conjunction with Evil Machinations, and you can bring experienced truckers to tears. Sometimes they combine in unexpected ways that make things even harder. I love them. I have no idea why my group never lets me throw 4 of them into the flight at once. Oh well.

Bonus Cards

This is just a few extra Flight Cards for Round I, Round II, and Round III. This includes a couple of junkyards (each player can choose a row, like planets, and then suffer a penalty and gain a reward) and a few interesting special cards, like Space Billiards. I've shuffled them into my deck and 2-3 of them tend to come out over the course of the game. They sort of blend together, and I think of them as part of the base game now. Nothing that sexy, but adds nice variation to the flights no matter what other parts of the expansion you are using.

Conclusion

So, after a ridiculously long review, here's my conclusion.

thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup

If you like the original Galaxy Trucker, get this expansion. It's got a ton of new elements and components and (to me) was totally worth the money I spent to import it.

Use and love the new ship-building components. Experiment with the Evil Machinations and the Rough Roads cards. Shuffle in the bonus flight cards, try out the occasional new ship design, and hope a 5th player doesn't want to join (but if they do, it's not the end of the world).

And if you're lucky, you'll actually get all the pieces of this to fit together with the base game in the original box (sans insert, of course). If you can do that, congratulations! You're a Galaxy Trucker master!
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Tristan Brightman
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I wholly agree with and endorse this review, except:

We found the flotilla rules intuitive - You have two ships, move at the speed of the slowest, combine firepower, they fly next to each other so stuff from one side hits the ship on that side, it's always better to finish with two ships than one.

The extra adventure card "Robosmokeys" seems too swingy to me. Destroying a location of your choice on all ships at once has been totally gamechanging everytime it's happened to us, I don't think it's a good card.

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Juanlu Bermudez
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Reviews like this are really usefull thumbsup
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Eric Chantigny
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I don't really like this review because it's gonna cost me money!

Awesome review. Thanks alot for explaining everything so thoroughly!
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Eric Walkingshaw
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Great review--exactly what I was looking for. It deserves a bigger tip than a humble GeekMod farmer like myself can afford.

Thanks!
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Fabio T.
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Very helpful review! Thanks!

Looks like I'm gonna have to buy this too, now...
 
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Chad Carlton
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Goofyboy wrote:
I don't really like this review because it's gonna cost me money!

Awesome review. Thanks alot for explaining everything so thoroughly!



Yep. This review sucks. Reading this review cost me $43.99+shipping!!!!


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Simon Lundström
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Now who are these five?
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I guess I can be content that I got the expansion for a "reduced price" ($40) when buying the base box ($90). Still in shrink, though. No need to break this until I've played the shit out of the base box, I think
 
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Petr Novak
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Yay! It's good to be Czech once in a while - when you're not getting invaded by Germans, Russians or Hungarians (in the case of the Slovak half of my ancestry): I pay some 30 euros, and no shipping.

I also get the original Czech version of the rules. One more yay!
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Martin Godolakis
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jsimantov wrote:

The rules also suggest a variant where you can use these rules for a 4-player game. I have not tried this, however. And here's why:
These rules are complicated! ....


I'm thinking of buying this expansion but dislike the complicated rules for the 5th wheel.
You haven't tried the opposite? Use the 4 player rules for 5 plyaers?

Before I saw your review I Posted this on the issue:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/780665/skipping-5th-whee...
 
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