Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter's moons, is the staging ground for this space exploration. You play the role of a nameless corporation. You specialise in sending settlers to unexplored planets of the galaxy. The first stage in this journey is to transfer Settlers with different skills to Ganymede.
Ganymede is a two-to-four-player, card drafting, set collection game. It's designed by Hope S. Hwang and published by Sorry We Are French. It has a playtime of around 30-40 minutes. In Ganymede, players will be drafting tiles and cards to perform various actions and recruit settlers. These settlers are then moved from Earth to Mars, then from Mars to one of two ships, and then off to Ganymede.
On a player’s turn they can perform one of three actions:
- Choose a Settler tile. Place it in one of three available slots (discarding an already placed tile if needed). The player will then perform the action on the tile. This is typically recruiting new settlers and placing them on Earth. If the colour of the tile matches one already played, then you can repeat the action of the placed tile.
- Pick an Earth Shuttle card and move the required number and type of Settlers from Earth to Mars. Place the shuttle card at the bottom of a player’s board perform the bonus of the card. Like Settler tiles, if you have played multiple cards of the same colour you can perform the bonus again.
- Pick a Mars Shuttle card and move the required number and type of Settlers from Mars to one of their two ship cards. Place the shuttle card at the bottom of a player’s board and perform the bonus of the card. Like the Shuttle cards, cards of the same colour mean you can perform the bonus again.
Players can also discard a Settler card to perform an action. These include recruiting, adapting, moving, increasing reputation, or drawing a new ship card.
Once you have fulfilled the requirements for a ship, the ship launches. The Settlers return to the supply. Draw a new ship card and place one on the board.
The game ends when either the first player launches their fourth ship, or one of the two Shuttle decks is empty. Points are awarded for the ships launched, progress on the reputation track, and Settlers on uncompleted ships. The player with the most points is the winner.
Ganymede has an interesting arc to the gameplay. At first, you are mainly drafting the Settler tiles to add Settler meeples to Earth. The first few turns of the game are fairly straightforward. Draft a tile, gain a Settler or two. As you draft, choices start opening up. You gain bonus actions by drafting the same coloured tile, which can really propel your game plan.
As you populate Earth with Settlers, opportunities for moving them to Mars and then to the ships appear. Many of the Earth/Mars cards give you bonus actions and you can repeat these actions if you have multiples of the same coloured card. These combos and the ability to perform multiple actions in one turn are where the fun and puzzle of the game really shines. It is so satisfying when you draft a card and pull off some of these fun combos.
There are other opportunities to gain additional actions. Gaining one of each coloured card lets you launch a ship, even if it is not completed. There is a reputation track that you can advance along. This not only gives you victory points at the end of the game but provides you with bonus actions to perform at certain thresholds.
The game is very much an efficiency and optimisation race. The game is relatively straightforward and the rules are, for the most part, very easy to understand. The iconography is clear and easy to understand and the game can be quick, especially with two players. But even at the higher player count, you would not be looking over 45 minutes for a four-player game.
The game length vs the number of choices you can make is a perfect balance. There is just enough that you can do that the game doesn’t feel like it is on rails or in any way prescribed, yet there is not so much choice that you are overwhelmed. There is some luck to the way the tiles and cards come out and you may not have the exact combination or coloured card/tile that you need. But I found that there were usually ways around any restrictions that you may have.
Ganymede was a surprise hit for me. There are a few decks of cards and tiles and player boards and it appears very unassuming. However, there are some wonderful gameplay elements to the game that I really enjoy.
Overall, Ganymede is a fabulous balance of combos, simple actions, choices and an ideal game length. The game is satisfying when you pull off some good combos, has various ways to score and is a puzzle that I love solving.