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Subject: Galaxy Trucker wasted potential? rss

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Liam
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Disclaimer: This is a somewhat critical, truthfully contradictory review that reserves the right to play with pathos through bescotat poetry. Do season to taste and feel free to totally disagree long and loud and free.


Introduction:


Galaxy trucker is a fairly unique game about building a spaceship and flying it through a shared course of events that could led to destruction and bankruptcy or celebrity and wealth. The game is played over a few rounds. Each round has two distinct parts; building your ship and flying it through the course. After the desired number of rounds are played, the player with the most income wins.

Gameplay:

The unique element of the gameplay is in the ability to build your own ship. This process is reminiscent of many computer games, where you have to connect pipes or constructing a maze.

In this first phase each player has a construction board which contains a grid of possible spaces that can be used in building the ship. Players draw, as fast as possible, overturned tiles from the centre of the table. Tiles have a number of connectors that must be used to construct the ship, with different tiles supplying a range of special abilities. This stage of the game is, to my mind, the most exciting and rewarding. It’s child’s play and while largely multi-player solitaire a sense of shared excitement is usually reached.

The second part of a round, in which players watch how their ships progresses through a number of events that make up the flight, is much more hit and miss. This part of the game is based on turning over a number of cards that correspondent to different events. These events can see components blown off ships, whole ships cut in two and many opportunities to gain wealth.

Components:

Galaxy Trucker has quite a bit of lots of things: plastic, glass, wood and paper/card of every kind.

Cash Tokens:

These are quite nice stackable tokens of different colours with a range of values. Included are lots of 50s which wont see too much wear,

Component tiles:

Weeee this is a core and joyful element of the game. There are eight key components with a range of connectors and some special varieties. The main eight components can be listed as: crew quarters, engines, guns, batteries, shields, cargo holds, alien life-support and multi-connectors.

Construction Boards:

There are two double sided boards, offering four different types of ships that can be built. These come in a range of sizes from wee to huge bullet magnet constructions. While always perfectly functional these seem to suffer from a little bit of warping. I spread my fingers to any player who can instantly spot the Starship Enterprise construction board.

Dice:

Two bog standard wooden six sided dice. Used to determine where lasers, meteors or saboteurs hit ships as according to the grid on the construction board.

Journey Board and Event Cards:

The journey board provides a demonstration of relative progress, a reminder of some key game rules and rewards. This provides an opportunity to discuss quantum physics and the laws of the universe.
The event cards come in three tiers of difficulty. They are of reasonable quality and include twelve different events that can occur during a space flight. Twelve sounds a little small doesn’t it...

Plastic crew members:

These come in two forms:
Grey spacefolk for normal human crew and special oddly shaped brown or purple models for alien crew members. Some people think that the alien models look strangely familiar

Glass fuel tokens:

These are transparent green glass tokens for batteries, fitting onto the corresponding component. What’s not to like; a fantastic and unique component!

Wooden Cargo Cubes:

These wooden cubes come in four colours of ascending value and fit in the cargo hold tile component.
Blue (1), Green (2), Yellow (3) and Red (4).

A Wee Story

My story of Galaxy Trucker is not, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, but ends “We think we are going forward but are actually in reverse.”

I was lucky enough to receive Galaxy Trucker for Christmas. It was heavily played and soon became a favourite. Soon after soon, however, problems, holes - familiarity were experienced and joy and fun were reduced. Galaxy Trucker suffers from an unusual but not uncommon gaming problem: the more you play it the less it becomes.

Reminiscent of a struggling avuncular postie, it delivers then leaves; before returning but failing to deliver again. Something has changed – joy is receding - progression reverses fun. Like a relationship where familiarity, born through love, leads to hopeful evaluation, that delivers the awful occasional painful revelation; where you get to know someone and like them less.

At Christmas Galaxy Trucker was a great treat offering giddy heights but less than two weeks later, at the bottom of the ocean I realised that it did not receive what I wanted. Galaxy Trucker is a postie in a freshly ironed uniform but with bleary eyes and from a house that is not in order.


Thoughts

Components revisited:

While I am still excited by the number and mixture of components I have found that they can have a significantly negative impact upon non-gamers. While always careful to cuddle new-gamers while explaining a game, “Don’t worry you’re doing great we are almost there. Shhhh remember to breathe. Hold my hand. I’m so proud of you!”

I have had non-gamers opt out of the game after the first round – not because they don’t understand the game but just because there is too much of it. A new form of AP that manifests itself just in paralysis.
From then on I prepare the table before non-gamers arrive, making it as simple as possible.

Galaxy Trucker has a dizzy and time consuming number of components that can make it fiddly. While a massive positive for gamer-gamers ironically this can distance the games obvious market of casual/non-gamers and light gamers in general.

Event Cards:

The event cards are at the core of the game. They are, arguably, the most significant element of the game; the game hinges on their success. Yet there are only twelve (12) types of event card. Granted some are slightly better or worse that others but all are based on twelve types of events. Yawn. What on earth were they thinking of?

Due to this small number it means that in most rounds double or even triples of events, depending on how many cards your using, are likely to turn up. Across a series of rounds this means that you will see the same cards over and over and over again. Games all merge into one...

This is a critical flaw in Galaxy Trucker re-playability and therefore longevity is significantly damaged. Given that re-playability is crucial to the worth of a light-game and that Galaxy Trucker costs almost double the average for a light-game this is a body-blow to its success.

Why... why... why only twelve types of events? It would have taken an hour to double that number without having to add any additional components. How can a game include wholly unnecessary green glass beads but include only twelve types of cards crucial to gameplay? What on earth were they thinking?!? It's style over substance – regrettable, unbelievable and unforgivable.

Time:

Having to roll the dice 7 times in a row, interspaced with checking for impact is really annoying and time consuming. Particularly in situations of small meteors, when most players have sealed ships.

When another small meteor shower card is drawn the collective groan demonstrates something is wrong. While using a grid and two dice is an elegant system in theory, the repetitive, high probability of insignificance and reality of having to roll two dice X number of times in a row is deeply inelegant, frustrating and annoying.

I don’t have a balanced solution to this problem but I do think it’s a significant flaw.

Price (Theory):

This may be a Europe/UK only section – skip if you’re not interested. This may also be my desire to link knowledge to construct order is an ever so conspiracy theorist way.

Galaxy Trucker may be a lesson in how not to make a game. Looking at the components of we have glass, card, cardboard, papercards, plastic and wood. Possible cause and effect; Galaxy Trucker costs at least an extra 25%< when compared to a midrange game.

While a few things could be cumulatively inflating the cost – I suspect using such a range of components is a factor. While I like components I fear that inflating the price higher than the market average for a light game means that Galaxy Trucker and its interesting design will not get the credit that it is due. I like style but not at a higher price unless it’s linked to substance.

The ethos of your group:

The ethos of your group has a significant impact upon how Galaxy Trucker plays. At first we found that no one really wanted to rush through building their ship to put pressure on one-another.

This meant that we all would playfully make perfect ships. Later we decided the change this and so we would rush through building to put pressure on one another. While this makes the game better we feel that it reduces the play and positivity of the experience that players receive.

Additionally we feel that smaller ships and expertly sealed ships make many of the event cards reductive as ships are harder to hit. Roll; miss, roll; miss, roll; sealed... Yawn.

Matured gamers:

The game becomes less the more you play. Players mature too early and when they do they realise optimum ways to play that reduce re-playability and the development of meaningful strategy.

Tactical play soon becomes obvious creating mechanical responses to game conditions carefully constructing uninspiring games. Additionally problematic is the ability that matured players have to dominate gameplay reducing the enjoyment factor of beginner players

Conclusion:

Overall Galaxy Trucker is an intriguing game that offers inconsistent highs at the price of more common uninspiring games. While engaging and quick to pick up, Galaxy Trucker is dogged by unfortunate contradictions that harm it.

The elegant and exciting gameplay present while building your ship jars with the slow, repetitive turning over of cards and tedious-inelegant rolling of dice while flying the ship. Players turn from participants to subjects of the game. Likewise Galaxy Trucker offers a fantastic package of components, providing style where it is not essential while failing to deliver substance when it comes to variety of event cards.

Perhaps it’s a victim of its own successful theme and the excitement of its first part of gameplay. Soon the first part of the games creativity and the immediacy of decision making jars with the inelegant, slow, repetitive and reductive elements of the second part of the game. Galaxy Trucker ruins your meal by providing sweet before savory and failing to offer variety. Fast food – marketing style over substance, fine the first few times you indulge but it is bad for you longterm.

Is this a perfect game?

No absolutely not. I have been bloody hard on Galaxy Trucker in this review, but not out of hate of what it is but love about what it could have been.

Galaxy Trucker could have been close to perfect. It should have been a chapter in the big history book of boardgaming; it should have brought and returned people to our tables. Damn potential it always out lives and outgrows you.

This said Galaxy Trucker does deliver a unique game mechanism and can provide a memorable gaming experience. While it fails to be perfect it retains the more elusive quality of being unique. This game DOES deserve to be in your collection but you deserve better. Ashes to Ashes; Galaxy Trucker; just another junkie, strung out in heavens high, hitting an all-time low.


Ground control to Major Tom: somethings missing, something’s wrong.
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Christian Grundner
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When I read the first few lines of you review I just knew that I would find the following a little lower:


This meant that we all would playfully make perfect ships. Later we decided the change this and so we would rush through building to put pressure on one another. While this makes the game better we feel that it reduces the play and positivity of the experience that players receive.

I am a huge fan of GT, but only when I play it as a fun diversion! I find the game pretty boring if I start with a close to perfect ship but enjoy it tremendously if I get my ship blown up.

The more pressure you put onto your opponents to finish their ships the better the chances that meteor storms will have devastating effects. Especially with the first ship we had the problem that a trained player can easily build a great ship in 90 seconds which made my earlier point moot, but along came the expansion.

The expansion gives you more variance and can make the game ridiculously hard, but as I said before - that is the fun in the game.

Problem is... the expansion costs almost as much as the base game and sadly price seems to be a big problem for you. One part of the expansion is PnP! Try if you like the game better if it gets harder - that is what made the game a real winner for me.
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Well-written review. Thank you for posting this!

I agree with some of it and not so much with other parts:

1. I agree that they dropped the ball pretty badly with the lame number of events - the game does get predictable pretty quickly due to that.

2. I also agree that the rules about ship-building and running out of time make things a bit wonky from a competitive vs. friendly gaming atmosphere, though I think it worked fairly well, for the most part.

3. I don't agree that it's too hard for newcomers to learn though the initial play-session of any game is always fairly rough. You want to see the worst game for a new player to learn? Go try Dominant Species. Just awful in that regard.


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Steve
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gimli999 wrote:
When I read the first few lines of you review I just knew that I would find the following a little lower:


This meant that we all would playfully make perfect ships. Later we decided the change this and so we would rush through building to put pressure on one another. While this makes the game better we feel that it reduces the play and positivity of the experience that players receive.

I am a huge fan of GT, but only when I play it as a fun diversion! I find the game pretty boring if I start with a close to perfect ship but enjoy it tremendously if I get my ship blown up.

The more pressure you put onto your opponents to finish their ships the better the chances that meteor storms will have devastating effects. Especially with the first ship we had the problem that a trained player can easily build a great ship in 90 seconds which made my earlier point moot, but along came the expansion..


I'm so with you. I don't enjoy this game unless you are pressing people for time and there is the possibility of getting a ship blown up due to time pressure. With leisurely time constraints, I find Galaxy Trucker to be fairly snoozy. WITH time pressure everything is much more fun, as the flight round really means something because everyone's ship will often be imperfect, sometimes significantly so.
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Liam
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High folks thanks for the posts and thinking points

These are some of my replies.

i) My batteries are glass **bites down breaks tooth** Definitely Glass.

ii) I have looked at the big expansion and no doubt will buy it as it will probably solves some of my problems with the game but I don't feel as if I should have too. Twelve remains a small number for me

iii) I don't mind cost provided that I feel I am getting value for money. With the base sets, in my mind, limited replayablity I don't feel like it provided value for money.

iv) After playing it both ways we often keep the event deck hidden in order to create additional excitement and penalise matured players.

v) To reiterate, in equal measure I'm both for and disappointed by Galaxy Trucker.

vi)
whistle
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Gabriel Kitterman
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I loved the idea of Galaxy Trucker but my experience was pretty similar to yours.

The second part of the game really wasn't compelling and the overall game was fiddly.

Thanks for the review.
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Dan Dolan
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You need to use the BIG EXPANSION.

It adds all sorts of uncertainty to the game and a lot of different events. Also be the guy who constantly turns the timer over ASAP. Make those comfortably chugging along feel time pressure. They usually start to freak out a bit when they can't construct the perfect ship.

The base game can get stale after awhile
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Dave Kudzma
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Perhaps there's too much of an expectation with Galaxy Trucker.

Galaxy Trucker is a push your luck game with a building element. Build stuff as fast as you can, watch stuff get blown apart...or not...then see how well you made out. Do that 3 times and the game ends.


Quote:
The ethos of your group has a significant impact upon how Galaxy Trucker plays.


Exactly. Your points here are well made. Our group plays fast and it often turns out ugly...

Quote:
When another small meteor shower card is drawn the collective groan demonstrates something is wrong.


This is where we truly diverge in our feelings. Is it because of the lack of variety that there's a groan? OR is it because of the dice rolling? I'm not entirely certain what is groan inducing here and want to understand, so more details please (perhaps I'm missing the point). We personally become excited when a shower or attack arises; there's chaos on the way and only those who built somewhat well and get lucky will survive.

The game is about gambling; pushing your luck. We build fast and give others little time to think things through. The rolls become points of tension for us.

I realize you say that your group changed to this style of play yet it impacted the game play negatively. I'm just of the thinking that Galaxy Trucker should be played not to see who did the best, but to see who did the least poorly. I think it's exhilarating to see someone's ship get cut in half by a meteor storm or attack.

As for variety, I'm not sure that I've ever thought that it needed more variety than it has. Indeed they did an expansion that adds an awful lot of content for players that feel they have "mastered" the base game.
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Liam
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Lee: an interesting idea we shall give it a go sometime.

Dave: Might rewrite the groan bit to make it make more sense. The groan is due to repetition, the time it takes to roll dice and due to the sealed nature of most ships made by matured players.
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Simon Lundström
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For what it's worth, I don't agree at all with the negatives in this review. Or well, depending on how you define "replay value". I played the game some 20–30 times and am currently not playing it frequently because of other games that have come to cross my path, but I can't see any lack of replayability or any sort of "getting old", unless the standard one that about every game in the universe except a select few suffers from. Yes, this game will probably become a bit "been there, done that" if you've played a certain amount of times. So will all (read: a large majority) of all games.

It seems you first chose to play the game under non-time stress, which effectively destroys the game, and later then included the needed time-stress and then didn't like the time-stress. Well, time pressure is part of the point with the game. Playing without that is a bit like… playing Pandemic and just lay out all cards on the table and then let one or two players just coordinate the whole thing. Sure, might be effective, but it defeats what the game's about.

Even as a GT enthusiast, I see no lack of variation on the event cards. Actually, I think they're perfect the way they are – they shouldn't vary too much. It would just cause "we don't know what'll happen anyway", and it's really chaotic as is – the whole building changes if there's a Epidemic in the pile or some Sabotaging going on. Or if there are tons of enemies. I play with the Expansion, but only when playing with experienced players; when playing with newcomers, I still use just the base box, and I still rarely get to build that perfect ship. The time pressure keeps everyone on their toes and most are laughing from stress when the time runs out, and every card we turn is a "I hope… I hope…". If the ship is perfectly built, you've nothing to fear and everything is boring.
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David desJardins
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monkeyhandz wrote:
Dave: Might rewrite the groan bit to make it make more sense. The groan is due to repetition, the time it takes to roll dice and due to the sealed nature of most ships made by matured players.


I just think if you're all to the point of building highly optimized ships then you should introduce the expansion elements, that's what it's for.
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Simon Lundström
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ldsdbomber wrote:
the whole second part of the game is repetitive, lacking in variation or diversity and pointless.

I don't agree with you at all. It might be repetivite, yes, but I find the second part fun, it has enough variation – a bit more wouldn't hurt, but a lot more wouldn't help either – and it's certainly not pointless: It's the randomness that your ship should hold out against.

I can't imagine playing this with kids or non-gamers. It's much too much going on for people not enthusiastic about games.

With this, I just want to put some counterweight; I'm a GT enthusiast, I've liked the game from the start, played it lots, and it still holds very well. I have far from tired or found it repetitive. Some people whine about the second part being boring; I've never felt that way. Not once. I find the second part of the game as the raison d'être of the first. And your description of how ships are built "it becomes a stupid scrabble for the better tiles" doesn't fit at all with how I've seen it. Sure, some tiles are better than others in most cases, but not in all. And you don't know all cards.

But I don't think issue with this game isn't that it's "too mindless and repetitive". It's just that not all games are for all.
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Simon Lundström
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I think it's simply a matter of taste, only that some people percieve _some_thing they like a lot, and the other aspects cloud that.

I don't think my opinion counts heavier than the OP, who seems to have played is as much as I or more. I don't think my opinion counts heavier than yours either; if you dislike the fly part, it doesn't mean that you misunderstood it; it simply means you didn't like it, and that's perfectly fine. If you can adjust you like-factor by some houserule, that's awesome and that's just how board games should be treated. I just wanted to form some counterweight, as I find the second part is both fun and enough varied (with some nice spice from the expansion).

I don't think the expansion will fix much for those who think the game lacks "something". The expansion is mainly just more of the same, adding some new things but they'll be old before soon too.

My main gripe against this game is the exhorbitant price. I've seen it here for like 800SEK (more than 100$)... that's just too much.
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Magnus Berglund
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First few times I played this with my teenage kids, we got the rule about putting unwanted pieces back on the table wrong. Instead of putting them back face up we put them face down.
That made it a really hard challenge in memorizing what pieces you had looked at. Maybe not for perfect-memory kids, but definitely for me when turning up the same engine piece for the 5th time, when I needed a shield...

When we corrected the rule and put the pieces back face up it actually got less challenging timewise.
Try it as a house rule...


/Magnus
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David desJardins
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bergmagn wrote:
First few times I played this with my teenage kids, we got the rule about putting unwanted pieces back on the table wrong. Instead of putting them back face up we put them face down. That made it a really hard challenge in memorizing what pieces you had looked at. Maybe not for perfect-memory kids, but definitely for me when turning up the same engine piece for the 5th time, when I needed a shield...


How would you keep people from putting engines down in one area, shields in another, and so on, so that they would then know where to look?
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Liam
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David, i don't know about Bergmagn but I know which of my fiends would do that and they don't get invited to games night... unless we are playing diplomacy.

devil
 
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monkeyhandz wrote:
David, i don't know about Bergmagn but I know which of my fiends would do that and they don't get invited to games night... unless we are playing diplomacy.


Maybe I didn't pose the question well. Are you implying that there is something wrong with deciding where to put down the tile based on what's on it? I think you are suggesting that's somehow improper, but that's not in the rules.
 
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Liam
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huh? I'm jokingly saying that if you were playing Bergmagn variant of playing blind, it would be unsporting to carefully organise the pieces.
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David desJardins
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monkeyhandz wrote:
huh? I'm jokingly saying that if you were playing Bergmagn variant of playing blind, it would be unsporting to carefully organise the pieces.


Huh. I guess we just disagree. Why is that unsporting? It just seems logical. It's fair because everyone can do it.
 
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Liam
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yea I suppose but it some what defeats the memory game element Bergmagn was talking about...

Different horses different courses
 
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David desJardins
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I thought he described the memory aspect of replacing tiles face down as a disadvantage, not an advantage, of that method.
 
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Magnus Berglund
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DaviddesJ wrote:
How would you keep people from putting engines down in one area, shields in another, and so on, so that they would then know where to look?


Well, it never occurred to us.
I guess your opponents will move the pieces around, making them a little more difficult to track.

I think you have to try it if you want a definitive answer.

EDIT: The memory aspect is just an added element. Disadvantage to some and therefore an advantage to others.
As I said, we played that way by mistake. I won't defend it to death.

/Magnus
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Robert Neff
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You do a great job of describing the game but your conclusions are wrong. I will admit the game is not for everyone but it is a fantastic design.

The game is about building a sand castle and watching the waves knock it down. If either of those tasks conflict with your tastes then you will not like the game.

The building first half of each trip is ruined if you do not use the pressure of the timer. The issue of the time running out along with the fact that the other players are taking all the cool parts to build their ships makes for a rush in judgment and many ships result in non-ideal looks. If you hate this pressure or the poor look of your creation you will not like the game ... but this is what the game is about.

I think that those who play with less than four then the pressure is reduced so the game is not as good.

The caravan in the second half of each trip is a "push your luck" type travel with the greatest joy coming with the threat of damage. In a way this is a "road test" for the ship you just built and the threats create the excitement. If you have problems with your sand castle being knocked over you will not like this game ... but it is at least funny when it happens to the other guy.

I find I do not look at the cards during the building as I am trying to snap up the best tiles as others look. I have played with gamers who are much fast that I am who can do both. Maybe I am more entertained by the cards as a result. The cards run faster if there is someone walking the whole group through their actions ... that might be a suggestion to those of you who are critical of it.

I enjoy the game enough to be a "fifth player" (moderator) to let others play. I have had the "Big Expansion" since it came out but have yet to open it as the regular game has not lost its charm for me. Of course the hard core players give no quarter (use the timer to burn others ... and even found ways to do the same with some cards) making it a very competitive game ... where surviving is a badge of honor.

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Tarra Scott
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I just played another game of this with my Taiwanese 5th graders (on Wednesdays we have just four students so I can play too). We actually had been playing the game with five players using the Big Expansion boards, but using only the basic components which added a whole lot of pressure (plus I love flipping the timer on them to their exasperation) to help them get familiarized with the gaming mechanics and especially with shipbuilding. We only get about 20-30 minutes to play so we usually do just one or two rounds.

All of them get it now and often even with the timer being flipped, they can come up with 1st level ships with only 1-2 exposed pieces. So I brought out the level 2 ships (still being short those 42 extra components). When they mastered that we played level 3 alone. I finally added the extra components and we just played level 1 again for the first time. When they get familiar with that, we'll repeat with progressing levels, and then add the Rough Roads Ahead cards and then finally the Evil Machinations. :devil:

The repeating events aren't that game-breaking and with the expansion adding more events, it makes it pretty easy to have variety. For a more difficult game, you can throw in some higher level cards into an earlier stage.

Maybe it's just because my students only get small doses of it, but they love it much more than any of the other board games I've taught them (7 Wonders, Dixit, Puerto Rico, Nuns on the Run, Who's the Traitor, Marco Polo Expedition, Coloretto, Mamma Mia, Landlord, Citadels, 7 Days in Asia/Africa/Europe/USA, Wizard, and Agricola in the 7 months I've taught them so far).

They are even begging to play a full game of Galaxy Trucker for their end-of-the-year party instead of doing the school's traditional pizza and a video.
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Get'em while they're young!!

To hell with pizza! One full game of Galaxy Trucker it is!!
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