Tom LehmannUnited States
Jump Drive is a card game for 2-4 players that introduces players to the Race for the Galaxy universe.
Each round, players simultaneously place and then reveal cards to build their empires, discarding other cards to pay for them.
Cards placed score every round, producing victory points and card draws. For example, Deserted Alien Colony produces 4 VPs and two cards each round.
Players must balance building up their income versus gaining points. The game ends once any player has 50+ points. The player with the most points wins!
How Long To Warp Speed?
Cards are either developments or worlds.
Each round, a player may place either one development, one world, or one of each. If only a development is played, the player pays one fewer card. If only a world is played, the player draws an extra card. If both are played, the player pays the full amount and doesn't draw an extra card.
Early on, players must choose between building their empires either efficiently via these bonuses or quickly by placing two cards at once. Since cards score every round, VPs build up rapidly. Jump Drive is quite fast, typically lasting just six or seven rounds with experienced players. This increases the tension around how to build your empire.
Prepare The Drop Ships!
Non-military worlds and developments are placed by paying their listed cost in cards. Military worlds don't cost cards, but must be conquered by having as many or more +1 Military icons in your empire than the military world's listed defense.
A development's powers can affect a world placed with it (but not vice versa), so Drop Ships and the Imperium Blaster Factory could be played together for a total of six cards from hand (these two cards, plus four cards to pay for Drop Ships).
Consult The Archives
Players familiar with two previous games of mine, Race for the Galaxy and The City, will recognize Jump Drive as a cross between them. Jump Drive is not a "re-skin" of The City. While they share per turn scoring, paying for cards with other cards, and 50 VPs to win, that's it: Jump Drive has a different setting, a second card type, different placement rules, military conquest, and a totally different card mix. Many Jump Drive cards share art, titles, and game effects with Race for the Galaxy cards and have no corresponding cards in The City.
Compared to Race, Jump Drive is drastically simplified. I've eliminated goods entirely (along with Produce, Consume, and Trade) and combined Develop and Settle into a single build phase each round, while converting their bonuses into tempo considerations.
Aside from +1 Military, two other Race symbols — the chromosome and the Explore "eyeball" — can appear on the side of cards. These factor into various card powers.
A player who doesn't place any cards in a round explores instead, taking an Explore chip and drawing two cards, plus one card per "eyeball" symbol (including the three eyeballs on the top half of this chip). After mixing them with cards in hand, the player discards as many cards as their "eyeball" symbols for a net gain of two cards (before collecting VPs and income for that round).
One major different from Race is that players can place duplicates in their empires in Jump Drive. There are seven copies of Galactic Trendsetters in the 112 card deck; a player who has placed, say, three Galactic Trendsetters would score 18 points from them every round.
How Fast Are They Doing That Kessel Run?
One complaint about Race (and The City) is that they have "low" amounts of player interaction.
The amount of interaction present in a competitive strategy game isn't just about its form, but whether players can A) judge how well they are doing and B) if they are behind, adjust their play to have a real chance of passing the leader.
A game that provides direct player attacks which are often too little, too late doesn't have "high" player interaction; this interaction is just noise. By contrast, if attacks do often result in lead changes, then this interaction is real. It's not the form, it's the effect that matters.
The simplest interaction is "racing" interaction: judging whether an early leader will be able to maintain the pace and, if so, increasing your pace in response (accepting an increased risk that you get exhausted or stumble, etc.).
In Jump Drive, players have to balance efficiency versus speed. If another player gets off to a good start, then you may have to abandon your "perfect plan" and take some risks by spending more cards to accelerate your empire building and hoping that you draw useful cards.
This isn't the only player interaction in Jump Drive. Many high-cost developments enable players to score extra points based on one other player's empire (of your choice). If another player has two Alien worlds and you have just one Alien world, then placing Alien Technology Institute may still be worth it.
Trade Pact is a cheap way (unless you've already built some Military) to both get started and to implicitly make an offer to other players for mutual benefit. War Propaganda is risky: it's a 6-point net swing in VPs per turn if you lose it to another player, but it can gain you a lot of points if you can maintain the Military lead.
Scan That World
Since Jump Drive is intended to introduce players to the Race for the Galaxy universe, we kept Race's icons, but drastically reduced their number to just military, explore, chromosome, development, and the four world colors.
Most Jump Drive cards are straight-forward, with simple discounts or bonuses. Five cards have more complex powers, such as Contact Specialist, described in text on the card.
We've taken advantage of this simplicity. Mirko Suzuki designed a card template using sideways bleed to show off the artwork from Martin Hoffmann and Claus Stephan. We also added "moons" to the colored worlds as an aid for color-blind players.
Adding It Up
In addition to cards, Jump Drive comes with Explore markers and 84 victory point chips. I experimented with score boards, cribbage-style scoring, score pads, etc. as different ways to keep score. Chips worked best for most people.
If players put their chips below the cards they play each round, they can add the new VPs they earn each round to the number of chips under the previous round's card, and collect this total. This avoids having to count up VPs every round.
The cards were designed to support this, with card names at both top and bottom so they can be easily overlapped. In the rules, we walk new players through an empire's early growth, illustrating how the VP chips are used.
Finally, we provide preset hands (A-D) for players' very first game. After that, just shuffle and deal seven cards to all players, who then choose five to form their initial hands.
Computer, What Is Your Analysis?
An inevitable question is which do I think is better, The City (which is out of print with no English edition) or Jump Drive? I think both are worth owning if you enjoy quick, tableau-building games with hand management, card combos, engine building, and different strategies to explore.
Jump Drive is more "combo-rific" due to the interplay between devs and worlds within turns as well as across turns. Jump Drive's ability to place two cards in a turn and a smaller hand limit (10 vs 12) makes for tougher hand management.
Tempo is important in both games, but saving one turn to place a big card in the next is more effective in The City. This, along with sizing your engine appropriately, is where skillful play can really shine. I still enjoy playing The City and hope to see it printed in English one day.
(From a BGG point of view, does Jump Drive "reimplement" The City? I don't think so. They share per-turn scoring, paying for cards with other cards, and 50 VPs to win, but that's it: Jump Drive has a different setting, a second card type, different placement rules, military conquest, and a totally different card mix.)
While both games are about building a VP engine, Jump Drive places a greater emphasis on card engines. While one can win The City with anything from 1 to 15+ income, it's hard to win Jump Drive without an income of at least four cards per turn.
Even if you go the Military route, you still need income to build +Military devs, find military worlds to settle, and to place a "capstone" development for a final burst of VPs.
I'm excited to see Jump Drive released, and I hope it exposes more gamers to the universe of Race for the Galaxy. Enjoy!
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