Space Truckin’ Through the Stars: Galaxy Trucker Review

It’s a strange time to be posting much of anything, but it’s been a while and I’ve played some great games in 2020, even if they were from years past.

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I’ve been meaning to write a review ever since playing the highly esteemed Galaxy Trucker a little while ago.  I instantly understood why it has become a classic, and it’s well-earned.  This is as much fun as a group has had playing a game in a while, and even though I’ve got some other reviews to get to, this is the one I’m most excited to post.  It’s actually been over a year since my last game review and I’m experimenting with the format, with an eye to paying more attention to game design elements.

Galaxy Trucker was published in 2007 by Czech Games Edition.  It was designed by Vlaada Chvátil with art by Tomáš Kučerovský and Radim Pech.  It is for 2-4 players and states a play time of 60 minutes.  We played with 4 players and it was probably closer to 90 minutes.

Overall Feeling

There is a feeling of flying a piece of junk spaceship through hostile space, just hoping to keep it together well enough to get paid at the end.  So it really does pull off both the space feel, but also a trucker feel.  You know you’re not being outfitted with the best equipment but you just have to work with what you’ve got and try to get the job done.  It’s a good feeling when you do.

It’s not the most serious game.  The strategy is light and there’s a lot of luck involved.  It’s more a fun romp than anything.  I need more games like this in my life.

We got music in our solar system,
We’re space truckin’ round the stars,
Come on come on come on!
Let’s go Space Truckin’!
— Deep Purple

Do you do something in this game?

Big time

You build and then fly your own ship, fight some fights, store some cargo and hopefully, deliver it for money.  You’ll race your buddies as you build your ship and again when you guide it to its destination.  You’ll also see your ship get big chunks of it blown off, at least third time around.  With any luck, you’ll even reach the end of your journey and make a few bucks.

What does this game do that others don’t?

The part of the game where you build your ship is not like anything else I’ve seen in another game, and I’ve been challenged just to classify it.  It’s real time.  You and your opponents grab pieces from the same common pile, and build your ships with them.  You see your ship coming to life with lasers, shields and thrusters, but you’re also nervous as you’re trying to find the connector piece that will let you bring that wing, or whatever, together.  And, then you realize that you don’t have any shields or crew quarters, but you still want those, so you try to squeeze them in– but wait!  The other guy is almost finished and you wanted to go first.  It’s so much to balance, yet the beauty is that you don’t get time to balance it.  It’s go go go, and it’s fun, and it’s not like anything else.

This is one of the most exhilarating games I’ve played in a long time, and one of the most action-packed games I’ve ever played.

Was there anything I didn’t like about this game?

For one play-through, not really.  There is a luck element to it, for sure, but so what?  One guy saw his ship almost completely destroyed in Round 3, and was forced to basically sit and watch everyone else complete their turn and end his chances of placing in the game.  That’s a bit of NPE but there has to be incentive to build your ship up to a point where it won’t get destroyed, and each round doesn’t last that long, so you’re not sitting around forever.

Grab the good parts from the center before your opponents do! But what’s a “good” part anyways?

How were the theme and components?

The art and components are nothing special, but they’re good enough to immerse you in the space theme.  You’re cobbling together a spacecraft of small tiles, so you can’t expect those tiles or your spaceship to look great in the end.

The cards you flip to indicate your journey are the same — nothing special but good enough to get you into the feeling of making a space journey.

Anything interesting about the mechanics and game play?

There are really just a few basic mechanics:

  • Build your ship, real time, which we’ve covered.  Each laser, thruster and crew quarters helps you deal with threats or capture opportunities.  Shields can help stave off attacks.  Batteries are needed for extra laser power or thruster power.  You get the idea.
  • Once your ships are built, flip over cards and deal with them.  Some offer opportunities like picking up cargo for delivery.  Others offer threats, some of which you have an opportunity to resolve, others of which are just damage flying at you, that you hope to avoid.  There’s a luck element to how incoming attacks strike your ship but those are fun, tense moments.
  • There’s also a race element, as you and your opponents jockey for position.  The player in the first position gets first crack at any opportunities but will also be the first to face any threats.  It’s generally an advantage that you want to work for.
  • Finally, you and your opponents complete the journey and make your deliveries.  Bonuses are offered for first place, second place, etc.  You deliver your cargo and get paid, but subtract damage to your ship and hope to make a profit, which you usually do.
This is all that’s left of my stage 3 ship, which originally covered nearly every square on the board. But, the cargo is safe and the ship has enough left to finish the job.

How is the Replay Ability?

I wouldn’t know, but I think this would be fun in any/all beer-and-pretzel game sessions.  It’s not the kind of game you play again and again where you try out different strategies.  You build your ship as best you can, pop open a beer, and enjoy the ride.  I could do that many times.

Any other game design notes?

It’s just so original.  I wouldn’t think a real time board game could work at all, but it does.  To the credit of the designers, the ship building process has important, clear rules that make that part of the game work well.  So, don’t say “that can’t work!”  You might be right, but you just mind find that you can design something nobody else has designed.

With that part out of the way, there’s nothing especially interesting or innovative about flipping cards to complete your journey, but you’ve already invested so much in your ship that it doesn’t really matter.  You simply need to take your ship through some hoops and any hoops will do, more or less.

Is this a good game for COVID-19-related stays at home?

If you have healthy people in your home to play it with, then yes.  It is not a game you can play over Zoom or anything like that.

Do you need to add this game to your collection?

Probably.  You don’t have anything else like this.  I think it would be fun even for non-gamers.  If you exclusively prefer strategy board games or war games, you can skip this one because it doesn’t qualify.  If you play board games for fun, this one is really, really fun.

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