Released back in 2008 Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion was the first of many boxes that adds content to the incredible base game, unsurprisingly, called Galaxy Trucker. This expansion box truly is big, expanding the game in a variety of ways. A new lifeform has been added in, something else to survive the journey through space. A fifth player can now join in on the action rather than just laughing from the stands. New ship schematics for players to utilise, and new cards to kill off your space junk ships, are also included. So, let’s dive into the box and see if this expansion is out of this world!
The new ships added in are a great way of spicing up the first two rounds of the game, adding in IA and IIA. This means that during games including The Big Expansion enable players a choice of two ship schematics for each round of the game. IA isn’t too peculiar in design, though it is a lot more likely to get hit as each column has at least two numbers assigned to it No matter the number rolled it will cause a hit to a fully built ship. The IIA ship is a very different story, being two separate parts with the row of 7 completely free of components down the centre. For rules sake these segments are considered one ship despite no linking piece. It is certainly different to build on either of these new ships when compared to the base game ships.
Until the release of The Big Expansion only 4 players could hurtle their way around through space, dodging meteors, battling pirates and generally trying to get their pile of junk from A to B. Now a fifth friend, or spaced based nemesis, can join in the fun. While you wouldn’t expect adding a fifth player to affect things much the dynamic of building ships is slightly changed. All of a sudden when “GO!” is shouted, another hand is reaching in and grabbing the tiles you really, really needed… it even had the perfect connectors!
To counter this effect the pool of junk in the middle of the table now includes of a whole host of new tiles. These are far from just standard bits and bobs, the closest to the norm are combination tiles. These include the likes of bi-directional cannons, an engine cannon combination (that is bound to help produce an oddly shaped ship) and cargo compartments which come with some battery storage. On top of combinations of the original pieces, 8 completely new tile types are included.
On the whole each takes something which a regular tile does and puts a new spin on it. One of the most helpful new tiles is the Shield Booster, which must be connected to a shield. Using this tile players are able to spend a second energy token to block huge meteors or laser fire. Players will burn through their energy a lot quicker but they may survive longer too.
The next two battery dependent tiles are also potentially tricky for non-experienced players to fit into their ship. These are two more Booster options for Cannons and Engines. As with the Shield Booster they must be connected to their respective boosting tiles. This requires some planning ahead which new players won’t have got the hang of. Rather than just a basic improvement though like the Shield Booster both are an all or nothing proposition.
When utilizing the Gun Booster it increases a connected cannon’s value by 3 if facing forward or 1.5 if not. Once used though the boosted cannon is blasted from the ship, yet another way for your ship to fall apart. In a similar way the Engine Booster zooms the player forward into hyperspace. This allows you to skip the rest of the current adventure and the next one, though the boosted engine falls off the ship.
As you may have guessed by now a lot of the new ship items use up those precious energy tokens. Instead of flying a ship full to the brim of battery components, you could take along a Reactor Furnace. When picking up cargo from a planet you can choose to burn it in the reactor to fill up a connected battery storage component. These can be fought over when it comes to the longer third journey. Indestructible Plating is one of the new items that are fought over no matter what round it is. As the name suggests it cannot be destroyed by cannon fire or meteors, making it perfect for being in row or column 7 (the most commonly rolled number).
Stasis Chambers are the first new way to take more human astronauts on the space venture. The twist is that they cannot be utilized until astronauts are lost from other cabins in the ship. On top of this they don’t count towards the crew count for encounters. If you’re not interested in storing crew in stasis perhaps Luxury Cabins are the way to go. While you can only include one astronaut in these, getting them safely to the end of the journey will bag you credits equal to the round’s value. I’d stick to using these on round three as otherwise they don’t earn you much!
The final new tile is a Cyan Life Support Module that allows players to home a new alien type on board. These cyan beings aren’t quite as simple as the purple and brown aliens from the base game. Rather than supplying a single consistent benefit the upgrade they add is only selected once building is over. Going down the turn order, which is still determined by whom has finished their ship first, each player chooses one of the 5 cyan aliens to take with them.
These are a Lawyer, whom can reduce the cost of lost ship pieces; a Manager, who improves the effectiveness of other aliens and gets you credits depending on the aliens that survive; a Merchant that increases the value you get from Red and Yellow goods; a Techie that allows players with a minimum of 1 energy token to reduce energy costs by one and finally a Diplomat that can get you out of a single combat zone on a journey. Often Techie and Diplomat seem to get chosen first but their effectiveness completely relies on what comes up in the journey.
Evil Machination is the first half of the cards introduced in The Big Expansion, though adds two elements: cards and loans/debts. The latter means players can go into negative points that must be paid off before the end of the game. The cards can be used to screw over your opponents but can also backfire. Each player gets 4 random cards before the building stage. Everyone picks one, without showing the rest of the players, and they are shuffled into the middle of the adventure deck. Whenever one is turned over it acts like a regular adventure card and the card is followed by all players.
An example is System Test. When this card comes up all players count the number of components that require power to be used on their ship. If that number is odd they must spend an energy, otherwise they are fine. Naturally the player that put it into the adventure deck knows this card is there so can build accordingly, though a meteor that takes off a double engine for instance before the System Test card is revealed can scupper best made plans, seeing them backfire.
The rulebook warns players before attempting the Rough Road expansion cards and rightfully so. To whomever has managed to consistently survive the regular deck of cards this is the part of the expansion for you. For the rest of us this will just see your odds of survival plummet towards slim to none! To most watching how their carefully constructed ship (floating junk pile) gets ripped apart is all part of the fun and Rough Road pretty much guarantees this to some extent. For those whom like to just bobble along through space, almost comfortably dodging asteroids perhaps leave these cards in the box for a bit longer.
My favourite Rough Road card has to be Explosive Goods. Losing cargo can be painful enough but when this becomes a potential chain reaction bomb across your ship, ship gets real. The card means when any cargo hold with goods is destroyed instead of just floating off into space it explodes, taking out the surrounding 8 tiles, a 3×3 grid centred on the cargo hold. Time to say goodbye to half your ship at once.
All the new elements in the box add together to make a slightly weightier game. When all is thrown into the mix Galaxy Truckers can be even more of a rule overload than the base game. If you’re new to the game I would recommend getting a good few games under your belt before mixing these new tiles and mechanics into the game. It would just be a smoother learning process, with a lot of the new content building upon the original ruleset, one bit at a time. As soon as you are up to speed with the base game throwing all this content into the mix won’t be daunting and only aids the explosiveness of fun that Galaxy Truckers offers.
With the new tiles bumping up the total number or tiles piled in the centre of the table, the rulebook suggests removing 25 tiles per absent player. As the expansion allows up to 5 players this means with only 3 players 50 tiles must be removed. Randomly removing tiles is aimed to limit the choice available but it takes time to count even 25 tiles back into the box and with enough new elements trying to destroy your ship making the building phase harder isn’t overly necessary.
Whenever you get a new game you do have go through what is often a chore, reading the rulebook, before the game graces the table. Czech Games have done an incredible job once again at clearly conveying the rules, including helpful images to go alongside any placement rules. However, this isn’t why the rulebook is a brilliant read. As with the base game rulebook this one has plenty of little in lore laughs to be had. A cheeky glimpse into the awesomeness talking about Rough Roads: “Corp In. policy forbids the exposure of new Galaxy Trucker recruits to holographic, video, or even audio recordings (often filled with screams and expletives) from harsher regions of the Galaxy.” This is their way of saying this is not for noobs!
Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion picks up where the base game left off. It adds in a whole range of new surprises and difficulties for plucky space junk pilots to encounter. If you take a look at the separate elements of The Big Expansion the new cards stand out as they really spice things up. Yet, alone I would still not recommend the expansion if it is the only aspect you’re after. As soon as you look at two bits, for instance the ability to play with a 5th player and the new journey cards, the value in the box starts to become apparent. This is a large box with multiple aspects which add together to the extend the playability of the base game, adding longevity and more replayability in than there was before, and there was a fair bit in the base game. For new players stick to the base game for those with journeys under their belt, The Big Expansion elevates the game to new, deadlier heights.
[Editor’s Note: Galaxy Trucker The Big Expansion was provided to us by Esdevium Games for review purposes. The base game is currently available on 365 Games for £29.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]