Galaxy Trucker – First Impressions

Over the weekend I received Galaxy Trucker as an early birthday gift from one of my friends and I wanted to take a few minutes to write about it (see side bar).

There are many games that I have played over the past several months that I have not gotten around to reviewing. There are different reasons depending on the game but one major reason I never get around to it is that reviewing is time-consuming and often not that much fun. Sure, I should still do it but there are a lot of things I should do that I never seem to get around to.

I’m not sure why I never thought of this before but it occurred to me this morning that a good idea would be to write a News & Views post after I first play a game and give my initial impressions of that game. This would allow me a more casual outlet to discuss the game and would also allow people to see how my opinion changes after a number of plays.

Let’s face it, sometimes games are amazing at first but after ten or twelve plays the fun diminishes. Or occasionally games start out good but get better when you know more about them. I have to admit Dominion started out amazing but lessened slightly after a good deal of play, while Race for the Galaxy started out strong but has actually increased in my estimation.

Another reason the First Impression posts will be valuable is that some games never get played enough for me to review. For example Tomb saw one rather unfortunate, disheartening play and was never picked up again. If I had written about that one game in a First Impressions post readers would at least have an idea of what I thought of the game.

So, as I have a number of games I hope to pick up soon, expect several more posts in this vein. Feel free to comment on what you think of this below, or any of the First Impressions posts.

Galaxy Trucker is a game I have been looking at and looking forward to for quite a while and before I go any further there are two things I need to say. First, I like it and second, I am horrible at it.

The game is essentially about constructing a space ship out of parts that are scattered on the table and then flying that ship through a series of events. What’s different than most games is that the construction part of the game is timed and does not involve turns. Players grab pieces and attempt to put their ships together simultaneously with advantages (essentially being further ahead when the convoy of “truckers” starts out) going to whomever finishes first.

I will admit that this was a bit of a concern for me. Besides knowing I would probably not be all that good at it (something I am willing to accept) I was also worried about the arguments that can come up when two people grab for the same piece or finish construction at the same time. We made one rules mistake at first that did cause this to be a slight issue (we thought players could not claim their numbered tokens until the timer was on its last flip but this does not seem to be the case – it caused a situation where three players were all done constructing and all waiting to take the first player token) but when playing with the actual rules players will rarely finish at the same exact time or reach for the same exact piece so it does not seem to be that much of an issue.

One thing that will be an issue is that some people are simply better at quickly processing information and thus will always have an advantage with building their ship. In a lot of ways this is fine but it could get frustrating for some when the same player or players win every game. In a way, Galaxy Trucker is almost more of a video game than a board game and some players will hit the table with a natural skill that can crush the competition.

The reason this seems different than most board games is that knowing more about the game will only help you in some ways as you will always be limited by how quickly your brain processes things. (Anyone with a learning disability will always have a disadvantage no matter how often they play, practice, or how hard they try.)

On the other hand the game is very fun. Sometimes watching your ship get destroyed is frustrating but it is also a bit amusing. Our group does not have the capacity to laugh off disasters like some groups (I have read that some people find Galaxy Trucker to be great fun because they are getting destroyed rather than in spite of it) but I think most people will be able to see that all you can do is prepare and then hope for the best.

I had been wanting a game with some crazy random stuff and I got it. I still am very willing to say there is a skill to this game and this is coming from the guy that managed a zero-point score in several games (the last game we played I lost by over 60 points but I was able to pay all my negatives exactly so even if I could go negative for score, I wouldn’t have).

My first impression is that this game is a bit crazy but interesting. Everyone is pretty much always playing (unless your ship gets blown up during the second phase, then you will have to sit out a bit) which is nice.

I also received the expansion for Galaxy Trucker, as it allows the game to be played with five players; this is almost essential for our group. The expansion seems to add a lot of optional rules to play with, almost like the modules for Alhambra in that they don’t intend or suggest you try to use them all at the same time.

Essentially I think Galaxy Trucker takes a certain mindset. You have to realize that some people are going to be really good at constructing their ships and that some people will not be. If you find this too frustrating this game might not be for you. To accompany this you also have to be willing to see other people get lucky with events or for you to get unlucky on occasion. You can only prepare so well for the events (you can look at what’s coming up while constructing your ship but personally I never have enough time to build so I have never done this), and even knowing what events are coming will not fully prepare you as many have you roll dice to determine exactly what happens.

I have really come to appreciate games where a skilled person will win more often than an unskilled person but where all players have a chance to win. Some gamers would likely prefer that the best player win every game but I don’t feel this way. I prefer games with some amount of luck (and/or risk taking) and games where the best player wins more often than his competition but where they do not win every game.

So, feel free to sound off about Galaxy Trucker, my new First Impressions posts, or my feelings on luck in games below!

  1.  

    Sounds like a game I’d have mixed feelings about. I imagine it would be great fun in my group if we can all enjoy the being destroyed part when it happens, otherwise I imagine it would be one of those games where the playing field never feels level and some people never want to play it.

    Still, Brawl and Fightball reward players for processing information quickly and my group seems to like them just fine. Especially Brawl, which can play with more than two players. Of course these might be a bit simpler than Galaxy Trucker.

  2.  

    I wouldn’t really call Galaxy Trucker complex though I seem to remember both of those games being very simple.

    For the most part I have found that playing the game does lead to being better at it and while some people may always have a bit of an advantage even the people that seem to be better over all still have times where things don’t really work out for them.