"Ma! They done killed Rando!"
[This review originally written in 2000 -- Brian]
I like Titan: The Arena, one of my favorite 'shorter' games (~45 minutes). So when GMT announced a sequel, I pre-ordered. It took about 8 months, but I finally got my copy.
If you've played Titan: The Arena, you know the basic idea. If not, go read the reviews. To sum up: there are 8 races, and you bet on which 3 races will survive. You play cards in columns, and when each race has a card (and one race has a card lower than all of the other races) then the weakest is eliminated.
There are quite a few differences in between Galaxy and Titan. In Galaxy, you only draw one card a turn, and don't get to automatically replace useless cards. (You can skip playing a card to discard a useless card instead). The powers of the races are different. Allies (wild cards) don't stop you from using the races power if you are the backer (called Governor in Galaxy). But the biggest rule change revolves around combat.
If you play a 6-10 card, you may get one or more chances for combat. The exact number depends on the race, the number of other active cards you match, and whether you cover a card or not. Each combat attempt can be used to shoot at a ship (a card) that has been played in this round or at an undefended base (a bet chip that doesn't have a ship yet). The attacker rolls two dice, if you are attacking a base and the dice roll is less than or equal to the ship card, the base is weakened. This moves it down a column, so that the bet is worth one less. If you are fighting a ship, both ships roll two dice and add the value. If the attacker wins, the defender is destroyed. If the defender wins, the defender can counter-attack, reversing the process.
Combat has a number of side effects. The rules let you play a card, then bet (or bet/play a card). So you can play a card, and weaken someone else's bet via combat. That lets you drop a bet into the (now open) space and possibly take the governorship! Or you can play a card to end the round, then use combat to destroy a mediocre ship and uncover a different card, changing the outcome of the round!
The 0-5 cards aren't left out. Each card has a special ability. The zeroes can't be destroyed in combat, the 1's and 5's both let you hurt the governor(!) of the race, the 3's and 4's let you move a base up or down, and the 2's let you look at your drawn card and either accept it or reject it.
There are more chrome rules, of course. A few special cards (called technology cards) give the player a bonus for a round, such as extra cards, or a combat bonus. At the end of each round, not only is the worst race eliminated, but the best race provides a bonus to it's governor!
Finally, one of the powers (and the 1s) let you pick a card (or cards) from another players hand and put them into that player's reserves. A player can look at, but not play cards from, their own reserve. A player can pick up their reserves by forgoing their card draw at the end of their turn.
Overall, the game feels similar to Titan, with more decisions available. This is interesting considering that Knizia's game ascribe to the 'less is more' philosophy, with simple rules leading to tough decisions. Now I've seen this basic idea go through three games, and in this case it appears that 'more is more'.
Titan isn't a simple or trivial game, but Galaxy contains more opportunity for decisions. In Titan, you choose if you want to bet, then play one of 8 cards. Some of these cards (the wilds) can be played anywhere, but if you have no wilds you have the following choices:
* Make one of 8 plays,
* Invoke a power (maybe).
Galaxy complicates this because you can reverse the order. Some of your 8 plays may give you a combat shot, which leads to other choices. You can always invoke a ship's power, and maybe the governor's power. And the 'draw one card a turn' rule has implications.
In my first game I found myself in the middle of the game looking at a hand with 4 useless cards, and one of my races in a grim spot. With only 4 playable cards, I would have had a fairly easy (of not particularly promising) choice. But I also had the option of effectively passing my turn, chucking a dead card for a replacement. This can be very important, as playing a card can hasten the end of a round. Hand size (and effective hand size) is very important in Galaxy, much more so than Titan.
To put it simply, the decisions were tough. Constantly. I am very encouraged by this game. This is not to say I recommend it to everyone. If haven't played Titan, you should play it first. I would probably teach new players Titan and let them get used to that. This game is longer, too. It's the slower decision making, but combat extends the length of each round.
I'm also worried because the Wild Cards violate one of my pet peeves -- They are just better than regular cards. (In Titan, the wild cards prevented you from using the governor's power if you played them on your race). But honestly, that wasn't as big of an issue as I had feared (on reading the rules). My initial feelings are that if you liked Titan, Galaxy is a must have.
Updated Aug 2002.
As usual, new games have surpassed old. I've played Galaxy a few more times, and it's still an OK game, but the combat system means that it will be longer (say, an extra 20 minutes) than Titan. Still a good game if you like Titan, but not necessarily superior.
After further play, I'm going to reverse my original review. I never wind up playing this game, because it's longer (and tougher to explain) than Titan: the Arena (or Colossal Arena).
It helps that the rules of the new edition are in English.