Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Keep on Galaxy Trucking! More Tiles, not exactly Better Tiles

Galaxy Trucker is nuts right out of the gate. I hesitated to get any of the expansions because really, how much more do you need? The original's biggest obstacle, in my opinion, is the rules you have to get through before the actual playing can start.

What's this tile do?!! How about that one?!!! INTERROBANG!

Most new board games you just explain as you go. Galaxy Trucker's insane slap-dash real-time every-hand-for-itself spaceship building free-for-all leaves little to no amount of time to spell out the finer points.

I typically give out a brief "Galaxy Trucker Orientation" and then get to business, but invariably many things get left out.

Now I journey into the lawless wasteland to explore just a few grains of the expansion Galaxy Trucker experience. Like sand in the desert, or like stars in the sky.

I will not even cover an entire expansion.

There are a few more recent reviews of Galaxy Trucker online that start right out with the Anniversary Edition. This includes not only the BIG EXPANSION, but ANOTHER BIG EXPANSION. Each of these boxes weighs the same as the base game and includes giant piles of cards, piles of tiles, and piles of boards for new ships. This is a sick amount of crap to throw at people, certainly only for veterans (which I have a few of now) and possibly only for the HARDCORE veterans (which are suitably hard to come by).

So here is the meat: we are going to open up the big expansion and just look at the tiles today. That will be enough to fully consume a blog post from tail to snout.

Firstly, the good stuff

Well check out Mr. Fancypants

Luxury Cabin

If there is one thing I don't mind it's additional money making opportunities. A Luxury Cabin sneaks a little extra money into your trucking round, while still providing a single crew member in the event you really need the help. I would pick the Luxury Cabin any day over a regular Crew Cabin, unless the Crew Cabin is set up to house aliens. Alien bonuses are huge. Plus the Luxury Cabin puts you in the clear legally and morally to cackle like Jim Backus throughout the flight. That almost sells it right there.

Could a person load up on Luxury Cabins, sit in the back of the line and still come out ahead on credits? I have not seen it yet, but look forward to the experiment. I would also like to see a ship lost in space because of a lack of surviving Crew Cabins (apart from the Luxury ones). Has not happened yet.

Stasis Chamber

You go to sleep, confident you'll wake up at your destination, fully resting hundreds of years later and ready to start a new life. If you would have picked up that trade paperback scifi collection at the spaceport bookshop, you would have known Stasis Chambers typically deliver you directly into the Maw of Hell. The best you can hope for is to be covered in slime. The worst is arriving in a new reality  entirely, millions of years in the future, living in a zoo with slug beasts or something. Is it reality, or are you still dreaming in your stasis chamber? You will never know. I really hate that.

These blissful, ignorant sleepers are the dudes who are going to be first in line pounding ineffectually on the locked doors of the nearest vacated (but still sealed) Luxury Cabin. Sorry guys, that's economics for you!

That said, in actual game play this is the tile you want if you see a big abandoned ship ahead. Many times using just the base game tiles players run really short on crew members near the finish line and all the abandoned stations and space ships just get passed by. Stupid Slavers! Well after the Slavers chain up all your awake crew, you can now thaw out some more. Provided there is at least one awake human left to push the thaw out button.

Reactor Furnace

Certain tiles always get left on the table at the end. People always avoid the simple connector pieces if they can at all help it. But other oft-snubbed tiles are the battery-powered super lasers and engines.

The certified pro ship builder in my household usually doesn't go near them. Reason is they take battery power, requiring another support tile elsewhere in the ship. And after a couple of meteor fields and pirate attacks, battery power becomes dangerously depleted.

The Reactor Furnace adds value to those battery powered pieces of gear by letting you burn a cargo block for just a little more battery juice to keep them going. Hopefully its crap cargo, not an expensive piece (but you will have to decide based on the circumstances).

Turning up the Reactor Furnace during ship building makes you reevaluate the board in a good way, easily taking on tiles others have set aside and taking your ship in a new direction. I'm always happy to see it!

Indestructible Plating

So many times your ship feels indestructible. You build really well, with rows of lasers in the front, engines in the back, and all kinds of useful goodies in the middle. All the pieces gel together incredibly well. But then one stray meteor sneaks in on the first adventure card and clips off your forward most laser tile.

Of course, every other meteor from then onward is going to come sneaking in through the very same hole. Not if you have Indestructible Plating!

While the plating doesn't really balance anything else out, I do like having the option there. Plus the tile is incredibly easy to teach. Stuff just bounces off!

More good stuff: previous types of tiles mushed together or used in surprising ways

All of these tiles are brilliant. They don't require too much more explanation, giving you the same benefits as the base game only in different combinations. I am seldom let down turning up a cargo/battery combination tile.

Other favorites include the lasers shooting in multiple directions. Ideal for meteor protection on the corners of the ship.

Finally the icing on the component cake…the gun engine.

Somehow I did not take a picture of this awesome piece in action

Finally, we reach the tiles I am not so impressed with.

The Bottom of the Barrel

Shield Boosters, Cannon Boosters and Engine Boosters. All kinds of Boosters.

After a couple of plays, these 3 tiles are getting left in the box. Making sure they are attached to the right components, along with paragraphs of rules to explain, combined with the sacrificial nature of these do-hickeys makes them a no-go.

Consider the cannon booster. If I attach a cannon booster to an existing cannon, I can overload the cannon once to get a boost in my shooting rating. With the side-effect it blows up my cannon. There must be a lot of option-weighing before you make this decision. Maybe you should blow up your cannon if it will help you more in the long run. Like escaping those Slavers. But having to explain all this at the tail end of an already long Galaxy Trucker tile explanation sucks. And don't forget to tell them it has to actually be hooked up to the cannon in question!

And when you move to the engine booster, then you have to start all over. Because its true the engine booster also destroys an engine when used. But does it give you more engine strength? No, no it does not. Instead you "go plaid" like in Spaceballs and skip an adventure card entirely. What is the fun in skipping adventure cards? How about we just suffer through all the adventure cards like we are supposed to.

The opposition would argue these tiles are for the more experienced players, who would enjoy considering the different options on using their booster or not. So I will continue to create more experienced players and in about 5 years I will pull these booster tiles out again and give them another go. Who knows what may happen over strange eons. The slug beasts might really like them!

The Tile Collector

Having the expansion adds a bunch of tiles to the game. An almost unmanageable amount. The expansion offers up a new rule: to deal out 25 random face-down tiles per player, ensuring there's a very limited supply of components to choose from.

My family hates that rule, and it slows down setup (already kind of a drag) even more. I think you're even supposed to swap out the randomly drawn tiles between each stage of the game…which is crazy talk. Right now, leaving all the tiles in while taking out the booster tiles creates a nice selection everyone is going to be happy with.

If I play it 2 player it will be either with my son or my wife, neither of which situations creates a competitive atmosphere requiring random tiles.

If I change my mind…hey that's another blog post! Mind…get changing stat!

And of course at some point I'm going to dig out the Evil Machination/Rough Road cards. But until then the galaxy ahead is rough enough.

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