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Subject: Conquest through negotiation. rss

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Jack Kelley
British Columbia
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Game Overview:
Galactic Destiny is a space-based game of political intrigue and empire building. Players build their empire by political campaigning and galactic warfare. Over the course of the game, players may have to fight off an invading force of demons who are also trying to take over the galaxy. The goal of the game is to build the largest empire or to gain complete control of the galactic senate. But be careful that invading demons do not take over too much of the galaxy, or they will control the galaxy!

Each player assumes control of one of six parties and seeks to maneuver their party to control the largest empire in the galaxy. The game is played by in turns divided into three rounds. Each round is a different phase of the turn that allow the players to gain action cards and resources, hold elections and prosecutions, and finally campaign both politically and militarily through the galaxy.

The first phase, or the Galactic Phase, sees changes to galaxy, including potential areas for demon infestation. This phase is also where players acquire their wealth and influence – both used to further the quest for galactic control. The second phase, or the Senate Phase, is where the elections are sometimes held to allows players to vote senators (sometimes not their own!) to the galactic senate. Elected senators offer special abilities and bonuses that aid the player in their conquest of the galaxy. During this phase senators (good and evil) can be nominated for prosecution. But the most intriguing portion of this phase is the proposition phase. Proposition (if agreed upon by all players) can alter the rules of the game! Don’t worry, there are limitations (the “Bill of Sentient Rights”) to make sure propositions do not break the game. The third and final phase is where the players really flex the military and political muscle. This is the phase where they send their senators or military fleet to obtain control of the different areas (sectors) of the galaxy. The senators sent have a direct impact on the ability to acquire the galaxy sectors. At the end of this phase, players can spend money to buy new ships (military conquest), or senators.

The gameplay falls a bit short for first time players with the mildly complex rule set. During the first play session (or two), the rules will need to be consulted a fair bit. If the game can be played with someone who has already played, it will make the first game experience much better.

The length of the game somewhat depends on the number of people playing and has the ability to briefly alter the length of the session. With three people playing, the game seems to average about three hours. By the time the last turn comes around, some (if any) of the players who seem to be out of the running may lose a little interest as they can tell they are not in the running for winning the game.

The theme was obviously focused on in this game, but not a required element. The theme could have been one of many others, but the choice of the galactic theme allows for the creation of interesting parties and races. The inclusion of these and their special abilities is what really gives legs to playing through the game multiple times.

Key Mechanics:
Nearly every phase of the game includes some sort of negotiation – whether for personal gain or cooperative gain. Some negotiations are bound by the voting abilities of the senators, and some are mutually agreeable propositions. The choice of how to negotiate varies from player to player, with some people choosing to lay it all on the line, and some trying to fly under the radar. Both are viable strategies, and yet, there are so many others.

Just about everything in the game is up for trade. Players can trade things such as their money, their political influence, military ships, and even their special powers. While this may seem like a trivial mechanic, some of the powers are very powerful, and near the end of the game, these powers seem to carry a little more weight. Trading is a key mechanic in attempts to create desirable results from negotiations, campaigns, and conquests.

Corruption in the game is the galaxy’s way of keeping a tenuous balance on the good versus evil struggle. Anytime a player does something that is considering evil (or illegal) in the game setting, that player takes corruption. Corruption decreases players’ abilities to add diplomacy modifiers, but increases their odds of successfully completing an action. It is a strange balance that sometimes lures people over to the evil side. The more corrupt senators become, the easier it is to let the invading demons into the galaxy. Overly corrupt senators face the dreadful prospect of being prosecuted for being evil!

Galactic Destiny is a self-published game, and as such cannot compete with large publishers’ coffers of production money. It shows a bit in the game tokens and box art, and the sheer amount of text on the cards and in the rules. However, the game is more about interaction with other players, so it does not distract from the game at all. The cards are well done, on nice card stock and easy to read, which is important considering the use of cards and their importance. The party cards with an overview of the game turn are nice touch.

The gameplay is designed to appeal to players who are interested in a game of negotiation and military conquest. Each of the mechanics plays well off of each other, and the corruption mechanic seems fairly well balanced and creates a fine line for players to walk. The overall mechanic in the games I played seemed to be negotiation – it was THE key mechanic to the game and was used in nearly every other event in the game.

The first time through is truly a learning experience. Once you play through the game and understand its subtleties, it become immensely easier and more fun. If at all possible, having at least one person play that has already played is strongly recommended. After the first time through the rules become really clear, and gameplay commences as the design intended. If you can make it over the first hump, the game is worthy of future sessions.

Review Slant
My first play through I had the distinct fortune of playing with one of the designers of the game. Two other where there as well, running other games in the pseudo-tournament at a local game store. With the designers there and everyone else playing new to the game, my first two play sessions were tremendously fun. Not to mention I won the tournament and the game… which I am already beginning to gather people to play with!

This game is ultimately about negotiating the best deals, senate positions, and taking control of sectors. The mechanics of the game allow each player to play their own style of game, with nearly equal ability to win. If you are a fan of a slightly more heavy game and length, the theme, or negotiating, this game is perfect for you!
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