Galaxy Trucker is designed by Vlaada Chvatil and published by Czech Games Edition. It was one of the first games I picked up when I started down this road of getting into modern designer boardgames. I owned Catan, I owned Carcassonne. It was time to get something a little more out there. I had just watched the excellent playthrough by Shut Up and Sit Down and it had me hooked. I went out and bought it as soon as I could. Fun aside, I bought it with the gift money I got from my last Saturday job. So thank you people of Clarks Shoes! I’ll think of you every time my crew die in the cold blackness of space.
The base game of Galaxy Trucker is brilliant but it also has many expansions. This is the first in a series of blogs I am going to do about all of the different expansions and what they each add to the game.
Eastbound and Down
For those not in the know, Galaxy Trucker is a fun game of two halves. Some people have disparagingly called it just half a game but those people have no sense of joy. During the first half of each round, the players will be trying to cobble together a ship out of discarded sewer pipes and other junk. This junk takes the form of a big stack of face down tiles. These can be attached to your ship to give you engines, guns, crew quarters, shields and various other bits and bobs. Oh, and you’re doing this against the clock at the same time as the other players. And one handed too for some reason.
Either way, it’s a lot of fun as people are franticly trying to build up a ship and make sure that everything connects correctly. Then you hear one of your opponents yelp in frustration as they realise that they have forgot to include any extra engines, or storage. And it’s funny, but at the back of your mind you know that the next time somebody messes up, it could be you. And that is also funny.
A Game of Two Halves
The second half of the game has players resolving a stack of event cards that allow them to get goods to sell at the end of the round. But there are also horrible things in there like pirates, slavers and asteroid fields. These will either damage your ship or maybe just kidnap your crew. The fantastic thing about these cards is that anything that shoots you or collides with you will hit you on a random row or column of your ship board. Depending on how well you have constructed and planned your ship you may just laugh as that projectile bounces off into deep space. More often though, that projectile is going to do some damage. It could destroy one of your tiles making any other tiles that are no longer connected to your ship drift off for good measure as well.
This is also very funny. You nervously know that maybe if that asteroid had come in one column to the left things would have been different. All of your engines and a good proportion of your crew would have been set adrift in space. You laugh at your opponents but the chances are in one or two dice rolls time they will be laughing at you.
During the ship construction phase you can look at these event cards. This can help you get a feel for the sort of hazards you will be going up against and you can sort of try and prepare a bit. But you will always be slightly at the whim of the dice. Some people don’t like this much and feel that it makes the game too random. I’d disagree as it is very possible to be consistently good at Galaxy Trucker if you know how to prepare and build a sensible ship. That’s a brief overview of Galaxy Trucker, there is a full review here at Zatu found here.
On The Road Again
So, we come to the first expansion. The Big Expansion. This expansion contains a load of different modules that can be added in as and when you like. First off the bat the Big Expansion adds all the components needed to add a 5th player to the game. The nice thing about this is that as most of the game is played simultaneously it doesn’t really affect the play time that much.
Next on the list is a whole bunch of new component tiles. These really are the core of Galaxy Trucker so new additions are very much welcome! The most notable new bits are luxury cabins, blue life support, stasis chambers, boosters and furnaces.
Luxury cabins allow you to take some unwitting space celeb on a cruise through the darker recesses of the galaxy. The downside is that they only pay if they make it back alive. Blue life support is very interesting. You see, in the base game of Galaxy Trucker you could forgo adding astronauts to your crew compartments and put an alien in instead. That is if it had the right life support adjacent to it. Brown aliens boosted engines and purple aliens boosted your guns. The Big Expansion adds blue aliens which all have a unique power which can be chosen after everybody has finished building their ships. The player who finished fastest gets the first choice of the abilities, so you best not hang about!
Everybody is Dead Dave
Stasis chambers allow you to replenish your crew should they meet some kind of less than wholesome end. The caveat is that there has to be at least one awake crew member to wake them up. Boosters potentially give a great little tactical choice for the second half of the game. They come in three flavours; Engine, blaster and shield. Providing that the booster is correctly attached to the right component, you can burn out the component for a single use boost to its output.
This could mean that the asteroid that was about to split your ship in two will now bounce harmlessly off of your super powerful shield! But now you have no shields for the rest of the round. Lastly there are the furnaces. Furnaces allow you to destroy and burn up goods as you receive them in order to recharge the batteries on your ship. Depending on how many battery packs you slapped on when you were building, this could be a lifeline.
There are also 2 new ship layouts that add some options when choosing which ships to build. They both add new ways to play with the level one ship giving players the option to choose its orientation as they are building it. The level two ship is actually two smaller ships flying in a convoy, each of the ships needs to be built correctly. But it now means that the number seven column, the most likely to be rolled on two dice, is now empty. So maybe that makes it a little easier? Probably not.
The rest of the expansion is new cards. There are a few basic bonus cards for each of the three game rounds. They are pretty good but these are probably the least interesting of the new cards that have been added. The other two types of cards are completely new decks of cards that shake up the, let’s face it, already pretty shaky space roads that we’re trucking on. The Evil Machinations deck is full of some of the meanest cards found in Galaxy Trucker.
Each card is a unique event that can put a spanner in your plan if you fall afoul of it. Every player gets to secretly choose one and then add it to one round of their choosing during the course of the game. It’s got to be said that these are not my favourite cards to play with. In general, they punish everyone equally but there are occasions when it feels like they are just sticking the boot into whoever is in last place. As a rule, I only play with these when I’m playing with experienced and hardened truckers. Truckers who don’t mind very unpredictable stuff being thrown at them out of the blue.
Come on join our Convoy
Lastly you have the rough road cards. These are the ones the manual warns you about. These are the ones your parents probably warned you about. The rough roads cards are a deck of modifiers that change up how the game plays each round. You can play with as many, or as few, cards as you like. I find that two or three is about the sweet spot. These cards can change up the rules for building your ship or make the trip through space a little more perilous.
Some highlights are that you can make it so your ship does a somersault after each open space card is revealed. So now you need to have engines on the front and back of your ship. But my absolute favourite cards are the explosive batteries and explosive goods cards. When these are in play, when a battery or hazardous cargo hold gets destroyed, it also blows up the eight surrounding components. And these cards chain up.
I’ve seen a friend’s ship reduced to a tiny fraction of its former glory when a meteor managed to slip through his shields. It hit a battery and start a chain reaction which blew up most of his ship. These cards aren’t for everyone. But if you can laugh at your own misfortune, I think these cards offer the core of Galaxy Trucker but concentrated into hilarious cards of hubris.
So, that is the first expansion. It is absolutely fantastic. The only module that feels a bit ropey is the Evil Machinations cards, the rest of the box is brilliant. But if you are only going to buy one of the big expansions I would probably choose the other one which I will be looking at soon. Spoilers, I know. That said if what draws you to Galaxy Trucker is the components side of things, this expansion has more to give in this area. The blue aliens are fantastic, and the boosters give you some new options on how to survive out there on the space-road. If you are happy with Galaxy Trucker and just want more of it, this is the expansion for you.
The second expansion appeals to me for a similar reason the rough road cards do. It makes the game meaner and more unpredictable. The components in The Big Expansion give you more of what makes Galaxy Trucker great without messing with the formula too much. Then should you fancy something a little different you can always mix in the modifier cards as well. Also, this expansion gives you the fifth player which is well worth it for that alone. Another trucker to honk at while your ship crumbles in the cold, harsh darkness of space.