A shorter, faster, simpler and more explosive version of Race for the Galaxy? Could proficient designer Tom Lehmann have managed to refine a masterpiece with Jump Drive? Let’s find out!
Play cards to your tableau to claim as many galactic points as early and as quickly as possible, and the galaxy will be yours! First player to cross the 50-points mark with the biggest leap wins the game.
Wait – isn’t that Race for the Galaxy? Not quite.
On each turn in Jump Drive, every player chooses to settle a world, develop a technology, or do both (or, instead, explore – we’ll discuss that later). Players choose their actions independently from each other and, once everyone is done, the income takes place.
Taking both actions at once is much more costly, but more powerful. Also, most cards synergise in one way or another with the rest of your tableau. Optimising your choices is crucial for success and, quite often, making those choices will border on agonising!
Income or Engine-Building?
A lot of people will call Jump Drive an engine-building game, and they would be only partially right.
At its core, Jump Drive is an income-driven game. Points on cards are cumulative: a 1-VP card in the 1st round will score – by itself – 7 victory points by the 7th round. Since your empire will expand every round, your score will surge exponentially, hence the explosive nature of Jump Drive. (hey, it’s right there in the name!)
There is some engine-building in the game: many cards provide discounts or score based on other cards in your tableau. Most cards in Jump Drive work in a very similar way to their Race for the Galaxy counterparts: Replicant Robots, Contact Specialist, Rosetta Stone World … . It’s an absolute delight for lovers of the parent game like myself.
Money, Points … Can I Just Have it All?
Now, playing cards – i.e. settling worlds and developing technologies – requires [drum roll] … you guessed it, money!
Money is spent by discarding cards from your hand. For example, to settle Tourist World you need to spend 3 cards from your hand as indicated in the world symbol. That’s 3 cards you may well forget about as there's no guarantee you will draw another one of those.
Money is generated just like those juicy galactic points – income! And, you see, money isn’t only good for paying for cards. Drawing more cards gives you higher chances of getting the best cards to complement your strategy. Or, admit it, those Galactic Trendsetters to attract the trendiest crowd to your galactic empire.
You Don’t Need Money if you Have Military Power
Some cards increase your empire’s military power, which allows you to settle worlds without having to worry about the money. That’s right, they are free! Deploy your Space Marines and those worlds will surely come to their senses.
If you have played Race for the Galaxy, you already know how military works. It greatly expands the strategic depth of Jump Drive, since it provides a very different way to expand your empire, but be careful. Military strategies tend towards lower money income, making it more difficult to come across the right cards. Always keep your options open!
Tactics and Strategy
Jump Drive is packed with strategic choices and distinct synergies, but tactics prevail due to the randomness of card draw.
The “Explore” action allows you to draw a ton of cards and mix them with your hand before discarding down, which is sometimes critical to find the right cards, but you spend a turn exploring instead of adding cards to your tableau (you still get the income, mind you).
There are multiple paths to victory in Jump Drive and it is quite possible to win with a lower money income. But, because the game is only 6 or 7 rounds, your strategy will most often be dictated by your starting hand and the cards you draw throughout the game.
From the Overview you would be right to think that, in Jump Drive, you are essentially playing solo and comparing your result with your opponent. Yet, this is quite far from the truth.
There is not a ton of interaction in Jump Drive, but you definitely want to look at what other players are doing and keep an eye on the cards you are discarding. Some cards score based on what one other player (of your choice) has played. For example: Galactic Survey SETI scores for each explore symbol not only in your tableau but in one other player’s as well. So – and I say this from personal experience – always be very careful if you’re playing lots of cards with “eyes” on them!
Jump Drive: Final Thoughts
Jump Drive is a quick and sharp game that rewards planning and knowledge of cards' synergies, yet requires pivoting when essential cards do not come your way.
The satisfaction of building a strong synergetic galactic empire can be great, but so is the frustration when luck is simply not on your side. And Jump Drive does have a relatively high degree of luck.
Loving Race for the Galaxy does not guarantee loving Jump Drive. But Jump Drive has its own place in a collection and its universe is definitely worthy of exploration.