Wed
Mar 2 2011 2:53pm

The Analog Gamer: Galaxy Trucker

Galaxy TruckerAs a child have you ever built a tower out of blocks or cards with the sole intention of knocking it over with a toy car or train? Maybe it’s just me but if the idea of building a spaceship and then watching it blasted apart piece by piece sounds like fun, Galaxy Trucker may be for you.

 Galaxy Trucker was published in 2007 by Czech Games Edition, designed by Vlaada Chivatil, and distributed by Rio Grande Games. In Galaxy Trucker sewer parts manufacturer Corporation Incorporated needs to deliver sewer pipes and fittings to the outer edge of the galaxy as safely cheaply and quickly as possible. Enter the galaxy truckers, brave men and women expendable independent contractors that assemble spaceships out of sewer components and pilot them on the dangerous journey to the outer edge where the ships, or what’s left of them, are disassembled and sold as parts. There’s a lot of money to be made as a galaxy trucker, assuming of course you survive the journey (and Corp. Inc.’s contract clauses).

Galaxy Trucker

Game Play:

Galaxy Trucker is a construction and race game for 2 to 4 players that can be completed in about one hour. The game is played in three rounds, each with two distinct phases. The player with the most cash (cosmic credits) at the end of three rounds wins.

Galaxy TruckerIn the first phase of each round players assemble spaceships from 140 component tiles as quickly as possible. The tiles begin turned face down in a messy pile called the warehouse, a sand timer counts down as players dig through the components looking for useful parts that will fit on their ship. Components include items such as engines, canons, shield generators, batteries, crew quarters, alien life support systems, cargo holds, etc… Constructing a ship is a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle; each tile possesses one or more types of connectors; single pipe connectors, double pipe connectors, or universal connectors. To attach a tile the connectors must match on all four sides, you must also have the engines pointing toward the rear of the ship, cannons point out the front or sides, and you’ll need to include enough batteries to charge powerful double engines, double cannons, or raise the shields.

Galaxy Trucker

As players complete their ships they take start position tokens. Players that finish construction quickly are rewarded with a head start in the race to the galaxy’s outer edge. The race is a series of adventure cards that are revealed and resolved one at a time with a variety of hazards and opportunities. Some cards are empty space where ships bristling with engines can race ahead of others. Some cards are planets where a trucker can invest a little time to land and fill up the cargo holds hoping to make extra profit. Truckers in the lead get first choice of the available cargo, often loading the profitable hazardous material and leaving trash for the slower players (assuming of course they remembered to build HazMat containers into their ship).

Galaxy Trucker The journey to the galaxy’s edge isn’t all clear sailing and business opportunities. Meteor showers will strike, pirates will shoot lasers, slavers will steal crew, smugglers will steal cargo; the road to the galaxy’s edge is a very unfriendly place and being at the front of the convoy has its risks as well as rewards. Shields and canons can protect your ship from some of these assaults but not all. If a large asteroid strikes your ship it destroys one tile and anything no longer connected to your ship goes spinning off into space. Remember, you signed a contract to deliver those parts; anything lost along the way is coming out of your pay.

Once the adventure deck is exhausted the round is over and truckers collect their pay. Truckers in the lead get paid more than those that lagged behind. Any cargo that survived the trip is sold, there’s even a bonus for the prettiest ship (the ship with the fewest exposed connectors). Of course, if you lost any sewer components along the way, those parts will have to be paid for.

The second and third rounds feature bigger ships, longer journeys, additional hazards, and if you survive… more pay.

Opinion:

Galaxy Trucker is a great game. The puzzle aspect of ship construction is engaging and the race induces tons of laughter. Winning or losing is often secondary compared to the pride of delivering a ship with one lone surviving crew member and a fortune in cargo hanging on by one thin connection. (Disclaimer: winning is only secondary to those not actually winning.)

Galaxy Trucker moves along quickly. Even with four players there’s little or no down time; ship construction and most aspects of the race are conducted simultaneously so there’s no waiting around while others ponder their next move.

At $50 online Galaxy Trucker is a little pricey but there’s plenty of value in the box; 140 cardboard tiles, lots of cardboard money, plastic spaceships and crew, wooden cargo cubes, glass energy beads and more. If you appreciate games with lots of high quality bits, Galaxy Trucker won’t disappoint.

Galaxy Trucker has been a huge success for almost everyone I’ve introduced it to with a few players buying it on the spot after a demonstration. So, if almost everyone loves it, what’s the problem with those remaining few? If there are complaints at all, they center on the timed aspect of ship construction. The timer gives Galaxy Trucker a rushed feeling that rewards players that are comfortable making quick, gut level, place and hope for the best types of decisions. Your ship designs may not be works of art but who cares? The universe is going to throw rocks at it anyway.

A few words about the Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion:

Galaxy TruckerI categorize expansions into three types. There are expansions that repair games that were released flawed or incomplete; these are must-buys if you want to enjoy the game as a whole (and not all games are worth the added cost). There are expansions that add unnecessary complexity and ruin an otherwise good game, these should be avoided. Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion falls neatly into the middle category, expansions that add variety for experienced players but won’t be missed by others.

There is a ton of play value in the base game of Galaxy Trucker. No one needs the expansion, but if you’ve been enjoying the base game for a while there are some neat things in the expansion worth check out.

Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion is actually a collection of expansions that can be mixed and matched as desired. In my opinion, the coolest addition (and worth the cost of the box) are 42 new ship tiles including a reactor furnace that allows truckers to burn cargo to recharge batteries, stasis chambers for spare crew, and super chargers for cannons and engines that double their power but then burn them out, and more. The expansion also includes new adventure cards, new ship classes, and pieces for a fifth player. The addition of a fifth player should be a wonderful thing but it requires some awkward rule changes to the race phase, the jury is still out but for now I’m still calling Galaxy Trucker a great 2 to 4 player game.


When not delivering pipe fittings to the outer edge of the galaxy, Bob Gallo is a computer programmer specializing in Flash and interactive application design living in the Charlotte, NC area. Bob got his gaming start in the mid 1970s with traditional hex-and-counter war games and has played nearly all types of games including role playing games, miniatures, collectible card games, video/PC games as well as traditional board and card games.

6 comments
John Hattan
1. John Hattan
Looks great, but it seems to be sold out everywhere that sells it. Will have to keep an eye out at my local store.
Chris Long
2. radynski
Yeah, the big drawback is that it is generally difficult to find at this point, and highly coveted by those who have it. Hopefully they will reprint it, but at the moment it is a little scarce.

As for the game itself, I love it. To be fair though, you really do need to embrace the chaos. My biggest complaint with the game is that it can be a little too random for its own good. Clearly the chaos is an important aspect of the fun, but a player can have one lucky round and jump out to an insurmoutable lead. And if that doesn't happen in round 2, than whoever wins round 3 is almost always the winner, making the other two phases feel more like practice.

I agree that the expansion is not necessary, but I like completely different things. My favorite part of the expansions are the new ship boards, and the blue alien. The versatility that alien gives you leaves a lot of cool options open. I also like having the fifth player, since my group often has 5, and I don't find the extra rules awkward at all. In fact, I'd have to say that all the extra tiles are probably my least favorite part of the expansion. Go figure.
Bob Gallo
3. StormbringerGrey
@John: My Bad, I started writing this post two months ago and was able to pick up a copy at my local game store at a reasonable price. There is an unconfirmed report that Rio Grande Games had trouble with a reprint in December and was forced to short ship most retailers. Fear not, this is a very popular game and a reprint is announced on RGG’s site due in April. This is a straight up reprint, not a new edition so any copies still on store shelves are just as good. I’ll look around and post links if I can find any online. Many of the larger online retailers offer automatic eMail notification when an item is back in stock. Galaxy Trucker turns up on eBay from time to time as well.

@radynski: Yeah, you absolutely have to embrace the chaos. I do find however that for most players the cash total at the end is almost an afterthought. There’s lots of table talk about the ship that almost made it, getting screwed by the epidemic, etc… Only after that talk dies down does someone think to ask “who won?” In the base game round 1 is very much practice, which for me is usually a good thing because there’s almost always a noob at the table. When I teach the game I often don’t go into the details of the race phase, I just explain the basics of construction and teach the race on the fly. With the expansion round 1 is more important because it’s now possible to go into debt and start round 2 behind other players.
Amy G. Dala
4. amygdala11
In my first game of Galaxy Trucker my ship was a mess & my engines fell off and then I was LAPPED by everyone else. Joy. (My plays have since improved.)

I would caution that the expansion only makes things harder and more complicated - play with the base game for a while before considering the expansion.
Lisa Schensted
5. girltalk
i still don't love Galaxy Trucker (i much prefer Space Alert for my intergalactic board gaming adventures), but the expansion does seem to add some flexibility that i'd be interested in giving a go.
Bob Gallo
6. StormbringerGrey
For the record, Galaxy Trucker is now back in stock and available. Big Expansion 2 is due out this year.

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