Galaxy Trucker is one of the most complete board game apps out there right now. Come along for the ride!
# of Players
1 - 4
Czech Games Edition
- Cross-Platform Multiplayer
- Local Pass and Play
- Online Multiplayer
Galaxy Trucker is the classic big box real-time tile placement game from renowned designer Vlaada Chvatil. The app plays one to four players in a race to quickly build the best ship possible to navigate a randomly drawn series of adventures. The player who makes it out with their ship in tact and the most credits, wins. One flight in the app takes about 5 minutes, games can be one, two, or three flights long. Galaxy Trucker is essentially two games in one. The first portion of the game is spent building your ship. This is done by grabbing face-down tiles and revealing their ship components. You can choose to add it to your ship via matching connectors, throw it back in the pile face-up for others to grab, or you can reserve two components at a time for later use.
Players build a ship to fit their tile space, which can be of three different sizes (“classes” in Galaxy Trucker lingo). If you place a tile, it is eligible to be removed until the moment you grab another tile from the pile, at which point the previously placed tile is locked into place. As an additional option, players can peek at 75% of the adventure cards that will be used during the flight. More on those later, but knowing the majority of what is coming during the flight can drastically change your building strategy. Building is a free-for-all, the first player to finish grabs the “1” token which allows them to start in front on the game track. At that point a timer is started and the other players have a limited duration to finish their ships and grab the remaining player order tokens.
Once players have completed their ships, they take off for their flight. A flight consists of a deck of adventure cards which are revealed and resolved one at a time until the deck is depleted or, if it is a disastrous flight, all ships have been forced to abandon the flight. The adventure cards can either provide benefits in the form of credits or goods, or they can provide potential punishment in the form of meteors or enemies. Your ship’s reaction to the cards is dependent on the components you were able to add during the build phase. You need cargo components to hold goods, which are traded for credits at the end of the flight, so you will want to build a ship with cargo holds. So will other players, so those tiles might not be easy to find. Or, maybe you won’t hit many adventure cards which provide goods, so you might be better off skipping cargo and focusing on other aspects. The obstacles provide the most fun in the game. Your ship will get torn apart, robbed, blown up, and slowed down by meteors, pirates, sabotages, epidemics, and stardust. Each of these potential attacks can be avoided if your ship is built to handle it, but rest assured that you will never be able to properly prepare for every potential disaster a flight may bring.
At the end of the flight the remains of the ships are tallied up for a credit total. You earn credits for goods and finishing order, you may have directly earned credits in the flight as well. Credits are deducted for components that were lost during flight.
I’m not even touching on many aspects of the ships and flights here. I could add a few hundred extra words on cannons, shield generators, exposed connectors, aliens, batteries, and engines, but I will leave it to the basics. The wealth of options that you have in building your ship ensure you can’t have all options covered on a single ship. The tradeoffs and seeing an adventure card get turned over that you didn’t account for are the crux of the game.
There is a lot packed into a game of Galaxy Trucker. The free-for-all ship building is a ton of fun, and then so is watching the ships get torn apart by meteors during the flight. This game is definitely more about the adventure than the result. The game essentially boils down to risk mitigation and tolerance. You can’t cover every possible scenario, so you choose how to build your ship based on what you know of the adventure cards and what components are available. Even a perfect ship can be torn apart from a blindside blaster attack, the exact location of which is determined by dice roll, or sabotage. Even a garbage ship can make it out unscathed if they do a good job of mitigating the number of times they get attacked and the dice are rolled in their favor when they do. What seems like a totally random mess at first begins to reveal itself as a highly strategic game as you gain familiarity. Even the best laid plans can get blown up by some bad luck, but hop online and play some experienced players to see how much experience can play a factor in this game.
The app takes the physical game and adds a pretty ridiculous amount of content to it, more on those below, but they include different card variations, a completely unique turn-based version of shipbuilding, a thorough campaign mode, and many others.
The board game is on the edge of being a classic. People who enjoy it, tend to LOVE it, but the base game sites just outside the top 100 on BoardGameGeek. Nothing bad about that, but it's a bit of surprise if you listen to a few of the game's fans discuss their love for it, you’d think the game was a universally loved classic. All of this is to say, Galaxy Trucker isn’t for everyone. That is the case for any game, of course, but the mix-match of mechanisms, randomness, and luck make it especially susceptible to being a “not for me” game. As you’ll read below, this app is flat out amazing and truly one of the most complete board game apps out there, but if you can’t get into the underlying game then it won’t be the right app for you.
Barrier to Entry
Galaxy Trucker is fairly simple on first explanation, but there are a lot of small moving parts that can add up. Thankfully, there is a pretty good tutorial here to help out. Players will step through the first few steps in a game while getting explanations as to what is going on. This continues for a while until the tutorial lets you loose to finish out the game on your own. This is a common tutorial pattern, and it works well here.
A well ported rule book is available via the main menus in Galaxy Trucker. This does a great job of explaining both the game rules and the app features. Finally, as you start playing various game modes, you will be greeted with any additional information you might need if it is your first time encountering something. Overall, the learning curve is made as easy as possible with this app. There are quite a few small rules in this game, but the app does a great job of making you comfortable with all of them quickly.
You don’t want to face the Brutal 9000 bot
Look and Feel
The cartoon-ish feel of the physical game is carried over into the app and it works very well. The menus and campaign are littered with great custom art in the Galaxy Trucker style. Everything looks great. The game controls are excellent as well, almost everything is drag and drop and works exactly as you would hope. It feels great to drag and drop and fling tiles around, it is as good of a recreation of the real game experience as you could ask for. I’m reaching for a minor negative here, but it can be a bit of a pain to uncover tiles while building your ship if other, already flipped tiles are on top. Again, it’s a major reach as a complaint, but I needed something...
Flight track, ships on the move!
Multiplayer in Galaxy Trucker is loaded with features and extremely well executed. I was taking screenshots for this review and captured the online lobby, the number of active sessions? 2647. There were about 20 games I could join at that moment too, not an uncommon occurrence. The user base has clearly taken to this game and that is likely due in large part to how many options and how well implemented online play is in this app.
There are a laundry list of options available for online play; real-time versus turn-based, timeout speed, classic components or expansion components, original versus digital versus hardcore deck, number of flights, no giving up versus full control versus auto-pilot. Basically, you can choose exactly how you want to play in terms of speed of the game and how many flights, and also exactly what components you want to play with. You couldn’t ask for more.
On top of all of these options, the game also provides unique Missions which can be played. These rotate out every few days and provide some interesting twist on the typical gameplay. They vary wildly and can be a slight rule or point modification or a complete flip of the game, but they will always make you adjust your strategy. One that was available at the time of the writing was the Crazy Stories mission. In this mission you get rewarded for lost components at the end of the flight, rather than penalized. A fun, game-changing twist that CGE Digital added which was totally unnecessary given the depth of standard multiplayer, it shows the dedication to this app that should be commended.
The vast majority of games in the lobby are played in turn-based mode. Turn-based games have the same rules for the flights, the difference is in the building. In quite a clever solution, players are given an allotment of points to use each turn and every ship building action from turning over a tile to placing a component uses a certain amount of points. You spend your points, with the ability to carry over a few to your next turn, and then the next player goes. Recently viewed, but not used tiles get placed in a row on the screen for all to choose from on their turn. Turn-based is also a bit more forgiving as you can undo some actions that you can’t in a real-time game. This mode is a fantastic way to add asynchronous play for online. It is so good that the mode is fun to play offline as well, a true testament to the designers.
And, of course, the game offers a local pass-and-play option. This can only be played in turn-based mode for obvious logistical reasons, but luckily that mode is a lot of fun and adds its own unique strategy twists. The physical game is a beast so a pass-and-play option is a very welcome addition when you don’t have time to setup the board game.
A super robust multiplayer, so they must have phoned in the single player then, right? Not so fast. The single player is arguably even more impressive. You can play a Custom Game which is a single game mode, or in Campaign. For a custom game, the AI options are absolutely fantastic. You can pick Easy/Standard/Tough AI levels, pretty normal options. But wait, there’s more! Each AI level has four unique bots to choose from, each with their own strengths. The basic premise of the four bots are to be balanced, favor large cargo area, favor not losing components, or to favor heavy guns. You can have the game randomly select which of the four bots you use within the AI level if you want. Aside from the great AI options, you can choose the same rule options as you can for a multiplayer game.
A Completed Ship
The campaign mode is among the best we’ve seen in the board game app world. You start as a small time trucker with a small Class I ship. You work your way from planet to planet, working jobs as you find them or just doing standard trucking to earn credits. You can use those credits to buy access to larger ships which opens up more interesting jobs, and so on. The interactions you have on a planet are amusing, you will find yourself arguing with aliens on more than a few occasions. The jobs provide a unique challenge to the mode. One early mission has you trucking along with a second ship, the mission is a failure if that ship doesn’t make it through with at least ten goods. So your job is essentially to protect the ship and take the beating for it when possible. It’s one small example of the unique twists that have been added to the game.
Topping off the single player experience are a large list of achievements you can unlock. (Some achievements are tied to online play) This is a fun addition that will give completionists something to chase. Galaxy Trucker does single player as well as we’ve seen. It gives fantastic choices in AI bots and provides a super engaging campaign mode, it is much more immersive than just about any other board game app campaign mode we’ve played.
Galaxy Trucker offers the Alien Technologies expansion as an in-app purchase. Much of the content included in Alien Technologies is ported from the physical game’s Big Expansion. There are fifteen new ship component types which were pulled from the expansion along with new ship designed, aliens and adventure cards. Additionally, the expansion adds in 42 (!) new single player challenges. Taking its lead from the original app port, Alien Technologies uses the physical game as starting point and then adds great content on top. If you like the base game you will love what Alien Technologies offers.
There is a second major expansion for the physical game, Another Big Expansion, that content is not represented in the app at this point. Neither are the handful of smaller expansions which have been released over the years.
Aliens are demolishing my ship!
The Wrap Up
Deep, engaging campaign mode? Check. Abundance of AI options and difficulty levels? Check. Embarrassingly large amount of online play options? Check. Robust, dedicated online user base? Check. Expansion which adds a hefty amount of content to the base game? Check. Absurdly long review that doesn't even feel like it scratched the surface on some things? Check.
The only potential holdup for this app is that the game simply might not be for you. That’s of course the case for any game, but Galaxy Trucker is a particularly unique blend of styles that really seems to be hit-or-miss for many people.
This app is fantastic. It takes the base game, allows you to play it in a number of different ways and then adds a ton of modes and content on top of that. The level of effort here by CGE Digital is really commendable. We are certainly excited to see what CGE Digital comes up with for the next app releases. Galaxy Trucker stands among the very best examples of board game apps done right.