I have been a huge fan of Galaxy Trucker, the real time, tile laying, ship building, game from CGE, ever since it came out in 2007. I’ve played the game dozens of times and have always had a good time, so I jumped at the chance to check out the newest printing of the game.
The new 2021 printing of Galaxy Trucker promises improved gameplay, a more reasonably sized box, and a better price point, as well as a complete graphic update. All good things. Read on to find out exactly what has changed.
Disclosure: Thanks to CGE for sending us a copy of this new version of Galaxy Trucker to check out. Links in this post may be affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with the 2021 edition of Galaxy Trucker?
Galaxy Trucker was designed by Vlaada Chvátil and was originally published in 2007 by Czech Games Edition or CGE. This new edition, which was published in 2021. is still by Vlaada, and features work from one of the original artists, Tomáš Kučerovský. It also features a much lower MSRP of only $29.95.
Galaxy Trucker plays two to four players with games taking under half an hour for a standard game. The game also features an optional play mode which takes much longer as it basically involves playing the game three times in a row.
In Galaxy Trucker, you play space truckers working for Corporation Incorporated delivering much needed sanitary pipes across the stars. Corp Inc has determined that the cheapest way to do this is to have the truckers fly ships actually built out of the pipes that they are meant to deliver.
The game is played in three rounds. In the first round, players build ships from tiles in real time adding things like modular housing units, hot water heaters, plasma drills, power centres and more while following some strict but easy to learn placement rules. Next, everyone goes through the prelaunch phase where they collect crew, energy tokens, etc. to fill their ship.
Once everyone has their ships built and ready to launch, you head out on a supply run and encounter all kinds of interesting things, like meteor showers, pirates, abandoned stations, planets, the dreaded combat zone and more. Once at your destination players are awarded credits for things like having the most intact ship, delivery of cargo, and the order they arrived in.
For a look a what you get in the box, and the quality of the components, check out our Galaxy Trucker 2021 Unboxing video on YouTube.
The rulebook for this new edition of Galaxy Trucker does a fantastic job of onboarding you to the game. It first shows off the various components, then walks you through a short teaching game that only uses part of the card deck. The book then introduces more concepts bit by bit. It’s also written rather humorously which I found enjoyable to read.
The game comes with a ton of punch boards, containing all of the ship building tiles, credit tokens and the new title tiles. It also includes two double sided boards used for tracking ship position and organizing the cards and four three sided ship boards. They managed to fit three different ship patterns on each board by having them folded in half, with a ship on each side and then one larger ship on the inside folded out version.
There is also a deck of adventure cards, a timer, and a ton of high quality tokens. These tokens are a highlight of the game due to how well they are made. There are ship tokens in all four player colours, cargo cubes in four different colours, alien tokens in two colours, adorable crew tokens and very small energy tokens.
One of the new things that’s included in this edition of Galaxy Trucker is a four-page Quick Reference Guild that I think is a wonderful addition to the box. It includes a full rules summary as well as describing every tile type and how every adventure card works.
The overall component quality is fantastic here, though I will say I do wish they had created something a bit bigger and less prone to roll for the energy cubes. They are the most fiddly component in the game and I wish they were chunkier.
How do you play Galaxy Trucker 2021?
One of the biggest changes in this new edition of Galaxy Trucker is the default way to play the game. After finishing the tutorial first flight game, each time you sit down to play Galaxy Trucker you choose which level you want to play, one, two or three.
Players then collect the appropriate ship boards for that level and create a deck of adventure cards using the specific cards for that level. You then build your ships and play through one flight. At the end of the flight, the player with the most credits wins.
When playing through a flight, the players play through three phases.
Before starting a flight, players each take the appropriate level ship and a starting crew cabin matching their player colour and place it in the center of their new ship. A deck of adventure cards is made comprised of the cards indicated on the main board for the level you are playing. For example, a level two run has you make four stacks of cards containing two level two cards and one level one card. Three of these stacks get placed below the main board and one is placed above.
The sand timer is also placed on the main player board as is one plastic ship in each player colour.
During the building phase, players build their ships. This is done by mixing all of the ship part tiles and placing them in the centre of the table face down. Players, in real time, draw tiles and decide to add them to their ships or place them back in the pile face up (where they can be grabbed again by that same player later or be taken by another player).
Placing tiles on your ship involves matching up three different varieties of connector pipes, including one wild type that works with either of the other two. In addition to pipes, players will also add lasers, thrusters, cargo holds, hazmat cargo holds, batteries, shields, crew cabins and alien life support systems to their ships.
Some of these components have special placement rules, like the space in front of a laser has to be empty and alien life support systems have to be attached to a crew cabin. Each of these components is going to, hopefully, give you an advantage when trying to complete your flight in the final phase of the game. Lasers are used to fight off pirates, crew cabins let you have more crew for salvage missions, shields require batteries but can protect your ships from meteors, and so on.
While building their ships, after placing their first component, players can peek at the adventure card decks that are below the main player board. This gives you a heads up on what you can expect to see on your run and can be very useful in guiding how you build your ship. Note players can only look at three of the four stacks, you cannot look at the stack above the board, which means you will never know everything that’s going to happen on the upcoming flight.
Another option open to players when building their ship is to save a tile for later. There’s a spot on each ship board to hold two components. At any point while building, you can place a tile there if there’s room. That tile can then be added to your ship later in the phase. Note you can’t return a saved tile to the draw pile and if you fail to use a saved tile it counts as a destroyed component when final scoring happens.
All of this is done in real time. At any point during this phase, any player can start the timer. They flip it and move it to the next slot on the main board. Once it runs out, anyone can flip it again. Each level gives players a different amount of time and the timer can only be flipped to the last spot on the board by a player who has finished building. When this final timer runs out everyone must stop building.
When a player finishes building, besides being able to flip the timer to its final side, they place their plastic ship on the position track on the board. The first player to finish places their ship on the 1 spot, the second on the 2 spot and so on. Being first on this track can be advantageous when having encounters and ships also get bonus points for what position they are in at the end of a flight.
Once all players have finished building their ships you go through a short prelaunch stage. Here every player checks the ship of the player on their left to make sure no building rules have been broken. If any rules have been violated, the player has to remove components until their ship is built legally, taking a penalty for every tile removed. Then players fill their ships with tokens.
Batteries get energy tokens and crew cabins get astronauts or potentially aliens if a life support system is attached to the crew cabin. Each crew cabin gets two astronauts or one alien. While aliens aren’t as plentiful, they count as extra lasers or engines during the upcoming flight depending on the alien type.
The final phase of a game of Galaxy Trucker is the flight. All four of the adventure card piles are gathered and shuffled and the deck is handed to the player in the lead on the track. That player flips over a card and everyone encounters that card.
Adventures you will face include planets you can land on to collect cargo, open space where you can crank up your engines and improve your position on the track, meteors which can badly damage your ship, pirates and slavers, abandoned ships and stations, the dreaded combat zone and more.
Without getting into too much detail, here’s how some of these encounters work.
When your ship is under attack from either meteors or enemy laser fire, the card will indicate which direction the attack is coming from. You then roll 2D6 to determine which section of your ship will be hit as indicated on the ship boards. You then get a chance to defend using shields. In addition to shields, the different attack types can be stopped different ways. Small meteors only damage a component that has open pipes, large meteors have to be shot by lasers, laser fire can only be blocked by shields and big lasers can be blocked by anything, even shields.
When a component is hit, it has to be removed from your ship and placed in the reserve spot on your player board. Losing one component can mean that other parts of your ship are also affected as every part has to stay connected to your central crew quarters. If a part is no longer connected it is destroyed as well.
Things like planets, abandoned ships and stations can be investigated. Doing so costs time and moves you back on the position track but often gives rewards like cargo or credits. Cargo cubes must be stored in cargo holds with only hazmat storage being able to hold hazmat goods.
Combat Zones have you compare your ship to the other players and present penalties to players who have the least crew, guns, or engines.
When you get to the end of the adventure deck for this flight, players are awarded bonus points for how well they’ve done.
First off you get points for what position you end in on the main board track with points awarded for first to fourth place. Next, the player’s ship who has the least open connectors gets some bonus points. Then players sell all of their cargo cubes, with each colour being worth different points (the red, hazmat goods being worth the most). Finally, players lose one point for each damaged component in the storage area of the board. Note unlike the original printing of the game, there’s no limit to how high this penalty can go.
The player with the most credits wins.
What I just described is the default way of playing Galaxy Trucker in this new edition. This method of play is fast, furious, and highly random. Build a ship, go on a run, get points, and you’re done.
The new rules also present another way to play, one that is closer to the rules from the original printing of the game, which they call the Transgalactic Trek. This method of play takes much longer and can involve a lot more strategy. It also adds a brand new element to the game, Titles.
When playing a Transgalactic Trek you start off by selecting a number of Title tiles based on the number of players. These tiles are placed out on the table silver side up. Each title lists a goal for players to try to accomplish during their runs. For example, the Freight Hauler title will be awarded to the player who has the most individual cargo hold tiles with at least one cargo cube in them at the end of the run, while the Master Engineer title is awarded to the player whose ship has the most components still left in it at the end of the run. There are a total of six different tiles and you will use at most four per game.
Once you know which titles are in play, players play through a level 1 game in full including all of the rules I’ve already described. There’s one change though, instead of awarding points for the ship with the least connectors during scoring, title tiles are handed out.
At the end of the first run, you will look at each title and give the tile to the player who earned it. It is possible for a player to earn more than one title here and each title gets the winning player 2 credits. Once points are handed out, players with more than one title must then donate a title to a player who didn’t earn a title. This way, at the end of the round every player will have one title which they place face up in front of them.
A level 2 run is then played, with the only difference from the core game being that each player should now be building in order to defend their title. At the end of the run, if a player qualifies for the title in front of them they earn four bonus credits, they then get to flip that title tile over to its gold side. Note that tiles are not redistributed here, players either defend their title, get the bonus and flip, or get nothing.
The gold sides of the titles include even more difficult challenges. For example, the Freight Hauler now has a rule that if they place two cargo holds next to each other neither can hold cargo, while the Master Engineer has to start the next round drafting two tiles into reserve and is only able to add those to their ship after everyone else is done building and suffers a penalty if they cannot.
The final round of the game is a level three run. At the end of this final run players again get to check to see if they’ve defended their titles. Defending a silver title is now worth 6 credits whereas defending a gold title is worth 12.
Credits (and thus points) for all three rounds carry over between rounds and the winner is the person with the most credits at the end of the third level run.
Is the new edition of Galaxy Trucker worth picking up?
I have been a fan of Galaxy Trucker pretty much since it was first printed by CGE and that fact hasn’t changed. The 2021 printing of Galaxy Trucker does nothing to take away from my joy in playing this game. That said, there are some changes that are worth noting including one that I’m not 100% on board with.
One of the most noticeable changes in the 2021 edition of Galaxy Trucker is the new box size and price point. I can’t help but be happy about these changes as they make the game more accessible to a wider range of gamers and provide me with a game that’s easier to fit on my game shelves. I hope this edition helps introduce Galaxy Trucker to a new range of gamers.
Another noticeable change, that doesn’t really affect the gameplay, is the new artwork and graphic design. Everything got a new coat of paint and I would say, overall, that this is for the best. Even the various tokens have been updated, with wooden cargo cubes being replaced with clear plastic ones, plus new higher quality astronauts and aliens, etc.
One of the most significant design changes is the addition of two different two sided main boards, instead of one board where you flip over a tile depending on what round you are in.
One reason for this is the new system for player position. Now instead of rushing to grab a tile when you finish building your ship, you instead just place your player piece on the correct spot on the map based on your position. This was a welcome change for me.
The ship boards themselves have been redesigned and are significantly smaller while still providing you with the same sized grid to build on. As for the ships themselves, the level one and three ships are identical to the original printing. The level two ship has a new shape and there is no level 3b ship included in this new edition. While I admit I did like having another option at the third level, I understand that removing this option is part of what keeps the price point down in this new edition. The nice part though is that with the grids being the same size I see no reason why you couldn’t use the original ships, or any of the expansion ship boards, with this edition.
Another change with the ships, that I already mentioned above, is that there is no longer a maximum penalty for destroyed parts. This is a significant gameplay change that encourages players to build better ships. This is a nice offset to some other difficulty changes in the game.
These difficulty changes come from the composition of the adventure cards. While the cards are almost a one to one match from the original printing with exactly the same distribution of cards, there are some very small tweaks. In particular, one planet now gives more and better quality resources and almost all of the meteor cards have been modified in the number of meteors, the direction they come from and the type (large or small). Overall there are fewer meteors in this new edition of Galaxy Trucker, which has the effect of making this new edition feel slightly easier, with ships finishing runs more intact than I’m used to.
What I didn’t do is compare tile by tile as far as building components go but I did notice the press release said “more ship tiles.” I didn’t personally notice a difference while playing, but more tiles is a good thing.
The most significant change gameplay wise is in the standard way to play the game. Having the basic way to play to be to pick a level, build ships at that level, and fly through one run with those ships, is a significant change from the original game. To me, this turns Galaxy Trucker into less of a medium weight real time Euro and more of a quick tile based ship building game that could actually work as a filler. The new tutorial rules fit this as well, making the game more approachable and easier to learn than the original. While I think this is great for new players and makes Galaxy Trucker more of a family weight gateway game, this could be a disappointment for long time fans. Thankfully they also gave us the Transgalactic Trek mode of play.
This new mode of play better matches the original full game where players will be building three different levels of ships and going on three runs with everything carrying over between runs. The new title rules add a new level of depth and strategy to the game that I really enjoy. Having the titles face up at the start of the game has the added bonus of giving players direction, something that I’ve always found was somewhat lacking in Galaxy Trucker. Now instead of starting from scratch and building based on what tiles you pull, you can start building towards a specific goal of claiming or defending a title. This also adds a new level of player interaction because all of the titles are based on having the most of something, so how you build your ship will potentially impact the score of the other players.
Overall, all of the changes present in the 2021 edition of Galaxy Trucker combine to do a couple of things. The first is that the game is now more accessible to a wider range of gamers due to its lower price point, easier learning curve and shorter game time. Second, this edition of Galaxy Trucker was also designed with long time fans in mind and the new Transgalactic Trek mode of play adds depth, direction and more player interaction to the game. So we are looking at a more accessible game that also features more depth with optional rules. How can I complain about that?
If building a spaceship out of tiles in real time, then watching as that ship traverses dangerous space, hopefully arriving at its destination somewhat intact, sounds fun to you, and you don’t already own Galaxy Trucker, go pick up this new edition. This version of the game is just as much fun as the original, while also being easier to learn and playable in a shorter time frame.
Now if you are like my wife and can’t stand real time games and hate playing games where there’s a timer looming over your head, Galaxy Trucker is probably not going to be for you. While you could remove the timer from play, that tends to lead to people making almost perfect ships that don’t take any damage, and watching your ship get destroyed is half the fun. This leads me to my next warning, if you don’t like games where you build something only to watch it blow up, you will want to stay away from his one. Galaxy Trucker is all about watching to see what happens and taking joy in both success and failure.
For those of you who already own the first edition of Galaxy Trucker, I leave the final decision on whether this version is worth picking up to you. Due to the low price point and the fact that technically everything in this box can be combined with everything else already published, it could totally be worth it. While personally, I dig the new rule changes, you could also pick this up and continue to play the game as you have for years. Though I recommend at least trying out the new title rules as we found having that little bit of direction at the start of each build really did add to the game.
What I plan on doing is keeping both copies and breaking out this new edition for public play events or for introducing the game to new players. When sitting down with experienced Galaxy Trucker players I will probably bring out the original game, along with the Big Box expansions I’ve collected over the years. Though I think we will be mixing in the new player boards and the title rules from this new 2021 printing of Galaxy Trucker.
You never know what to expect when a company decides to release a new version of a game you already own and love. Sometimes you just get a reprint with very few changes (check out my World’s Fair 1893 Second Edition review for an example of this).
Other times, as we have here with Galaxy Trucker, the new printing actually improves on the original. It offers welcome tweaks and changes as well as nice to have things like graphical updates. Where I think this new printing goes above and beyond is in the way it caters to both new players and old with a more accessible cheaper game but also a new gameplay mode old fans should love.
What are some games you own that have gotten new printings that you thought were worth picking up, even for people who own the original? Let us know in the comments below!