Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Galaxy Express - Review

On holiday I had a chance to try a number of the free games rules for the Piecepack. One of these was the nicely named "Galaxy Express", which is a name that exudes space theme, which is a quick and easy was of appealing to me.

The game uses just a standard piecepack so no extras required.

The theme of the game is that you take the part of an inter-planetary delivery boy. You have to pilot your spaceship to each of the planets.

To set up, you start by building "space" this is a rectangle of face down tiles arranged 4 by 3. Next you shuffle the Crown and Arms coins and place these 1 by 1 with 1 coin on each tile face down. Then you remove the crown coins. What this gives you is a nice random distribution of Arms ( planets ). The Crowns coins then get shuffled and placed in a stack face down, these will be used to indicate the planets you have to visit and the order in which you need to visit them.

The ace tiles of Sun and Moon are placed face up next to the board these will just be "bins" or holders for used coins. The Sun coins are shuffled and placed face down in a stack next to the Sun tile, then the top two coins are turned over, face up. You then do the same for the Moon coins. These coins are going to be used for movement. Sun coins increase your speed, moon coins will slow you down.

So you start by turning over the first Crown coin, the number shown is the first planet you must move to, but you don't know where it is because all of the Arms coins on the map start face down. So you need to move. You pick one of the face up Sun coins and place this on the Sun tile, this value gives you your starting speed. Then turn over the next Sun coin so you once again have two face up to choose from. You can now move your pawn from the planet on which you have started orthogonally at your ships current speed. On subsequent turns you can use up another Sun coin to increase your speed or use a Moon coin to slow down.

As your piece lands on or next to one of the Arms coins ( planets ) you can turn it over. If you manage to end a turn on a planet with a speed of zero then you can do two things. If the number on the planet matches top Crown coin you are making a delivery, which means you can turn over the next Crown coin to see where you have to go next. If you are running out of Sun or Moon coins you also have the opportunity to refuel, which means you reshuffle all of the Sun and Moon coins like you did when you set up.

If your wondering about the dice, they do get used. Two are used to record your current speed. The other two are used to record the number of times you refuel. You therefore have a maximum speed of 10 and maximum of 5 refuels for Suns and Moons.

I found the theme of the game interesting enough to keep me trying but I also found it extremely difficult. I found getting my ship to pass by planets and reveal them was easy enough but stopping your ship on planets in order to make deliveries was very difficult. I would often find myself running out of fuel before even reaching the first delivery. I was overjoyed when once I was able to make three deliveries before drifting into the void...

You will find that as you only have two thrust or braking coins to choose from on any turn, and you have to pick one, that often you overshoot or undershoot your target.

I think this game could be improved with just a few minor changes, such as allowing you to automatically stop when you land on a planet or perhaps letting you choose from all of the thrust and braking coins rather than just the two face up coins as stated in the normal rules.

Also this game is interesting enough that I would like to see bespoke components produced rather than using the Piecepack. That's not to denigrate the Piecepack, this is actually a benefit of the pack, as it's allowed me to try the game without needing specially made bespoke components. So now I know about the game I may well go ahead and produce a set of graphically bespoke components.

In summary, could do with a very minor bit of rules tweaking for my tastes and would be even better with a set of bespoke components, I will be playing this again.

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