Galaxy Trucker

galaxy trucker building a ship
Players:
2-4
Multiplayer:Yes, pass n play or online via private Internet server (account required)
AI:Yes, 3 levels, each with several specific strategies
Universal App:No
Purchase for iPhone:None available. Buy an iPad now!
Purchase for iPad:
Galaxy Trucker
Price: $2.99
User rating:
GD Star Rating
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Galaxy Trucker, 8.5 out of 10 based on 26 ratings

Rumored for months, deliriously awaited, and finally delivered from on high, Galaxy Trucker manages to inject a bit of chaos into the usually-orderly tile laying genre. The digital version of this long-awaited neo-classic captures the essence of the offline original, while making a few changes with the digital platform firmly in mind. Are you in for the long haul?

Gameplay

GT charges you with building a space ship essentially from spare parts, and then flying it across various bits of the known and unknown galaxy, all in the name of exploration, science, and profit (okay, maybe just in the name of profit). The gameplay is split into two distinct phases: ship construction, and the actual trucking run itself.

galaxy trucker game start

The ship construction phase will start with a large collection of face-down tiles, each of which represents the engines, cargo holds, lasers, and so on that you’ll need to be a successful interstellar cargo hauler. Each component confers different capabilities, and you’ll need to carefully balance offense, defense, speed, and cargo capacity. Complicating this is the fact that all players, in real time, start digging through the pile, looking for the choicest bits to add to their own ship. You’ve got 10 minutes to build the best ship you can from the pieces you can find, until someone declares their ship done and triggers the Final Countdown – forcing other players to race against quickly-decreasing time before they’re stuck with their creation!

galaxy trucker building a ship

The interface is remarkably intuitive – dragging a face-down tile to your ship turns it face up, and dropping it into one of the available spaces sets it in place. You can tap a given tile before or after it’s placed to rotate it 90 degrees. Dragging another tile to your ship “welds” the one you just placed to the structure. Connections must match, thrusters must point towards the rear, and open pipes on the exterior of the super structure are A Bad Thing™. You can also get a preview of what your opponents are building in the upper right corner of the interface, where each ship is represented by a miniature grid, color-coded to represent the tiles they’ve added.

galaxy trucker line-up

Once everyone has crafted the star-liner of their dreams, it’s time to take to the space lanes. Ships are initially positioned in order based on their engine rating, which in turn is based, logically enough, on how many engines they’ve bolted to the super structure; this can also be enhanced with a Brown Alien, though he requires his own special life support. Distance in space is relative, and in the lineup it’s measured not in discrete units but by the distance between each ship in the line up, displayed by purple triangles for each unit of measure.

galaxy trucker adventure card

Each space flight will consist of the Adventure deck, a pile of cards that determines the fate of the sturdy truckers. It contains opportunities for commerce – abandoned space stations to loot, planets with cargo to collect, derelict craft to nab and sell. It also contains hazards – asteroid fields, malicious pirates and slavers, and saboteurs hellbent on ripping your ship apart from the inside, and that isn’t even all of it.

galaxy trucker asteroid

If your engines or weapons ratings are high enough, you’ll be able to avoid many of the hazards outright. If not, you’ll occasionally take a hit somewhere on your ship. The roll of a pair of standard six-sided dice will determine where on the grid your ship is hit. A hit on a component will not only take out that component, but also any other components with no other attachment point to your ship.

galaxy trucker achievements

Once the Adventure deck is exhausted, the game ends, and final score is tallied. This is based on how much cargo you collected, what position you finished in the lineup, how much of your ship is intact, and how few open connectors you had drifting out in deep space. And then, if you want to play again, you just tap the screen a couple of times instead of having to sort and shuffle dozens of little tiles!

Implementation

Many digital tabletop implementations manage to only excel in single or multi player action. GT manages to pull off exceptional presentation in both modes.

galaxy trucker campaign humor

There is an excellent, fully interactive tutorial, which strikes an excellent balance between informative slides and interactive instruction. The writing is sharp, managing to convey an awareness of the various tropes of computer gaming without coming right out and admitting that you’re playing one. This level of wit and self-awareness continues into the campaign mode, as well.

galaxy trucker campaign map

The campaign mode starts you off at Fort Newbie, and lets you select runs of increasing difficulty that slowly unlock various kinds of tiles to increase your ship’s capabilities. There are also several kinds of tiles unique to the campaign mode – they represent little more in most gameplay situations than special spaces that it’s paramount not be damaged, but it demonstrates an unusually high level of consideration for the differences between digital and physical formats and how best to capitalize on the strengths of the medium.

galaxy trucker multiplay

Online gameplay is handled via a private server, so you’ll need to register an account. There are numerous options here. The Quickplay mode, in theory, will simply drop you into the next available game; we never had much success with this, but we were looking for games mostly during off-peak hours. There’s also a lobby from which you can join open games or create your own.

galaxy trucker bob gets shot

In another concession to the differences of the digital format, online games can either be synchronous affairs with real time ship building, or turn based. In turn based mode, each player is given a certain number of action points each turn. These can be used to reveal tiles, add components to your ship, and preview the cards in the Adventure deck – only instead of happening in real time, each player does a bit and then a bit more, making it an excellent fit for the asynchronous reality of playing most games online. Turn-based mode can also be played offline, allowing a single device to be used for pass n play gaming. Additionally, you can also specify number of opponents, which Adventure decks to use, and whether to us the original or “digital” versions of the decks – the latter having the same cards but with a different distribution, increasing randomness and, we suppose, replayability. Also on tap is the ability to fully automate the adventure portion using AI, and the ability to allow or disallow a given player to drop out – something which can, in some circumstances, be a strategic move.

Verdict

The only thing missing from the iPad version of GT is the beer-n-pretzels madness of raucously trash talking your opponents while fighting over ship components in the first phase of the game. This is, in all other respects, one of the rare games that not only lives up to the hype but in fact exceeds it. The presentation is rock-solid, the interface extremely intuitive, the gameplay engaging without being overwhelming, and the options for both single and multi player complete and well-executed. Hammer down, hard ankle – this is one trucking run you don’t want to miss.

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  1. PeterCHayward

    “Ships are initially positioned in order based on their engine rating, which in turn is based, logically enough, on how many engines they’ve bolted to the super structure” – not sure where you got that idea! Your initial order is based on who finishes their ship first.


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