I am not an experienced reviewer, but here goes.
I got a chance to play Galactic Destiny last weekend at the Vancouver Boardgaming for Diabetes event and was pretty impressed. Full disclosure: two of the players in our session were from GLE and designed the game. I think any time you play a game with the designer(s), you will be less inclined to say mean things about it in a public review that they might read. Cause they know where I work (Drexoll Games, Vancouver) and could hunt me down!
That said, I think the game lived up to its billing. It was engaging, very political, and extremely open in terms of negotiations and threats. Everything is on the table in this game, no pun intended. For a new player playing with a couple seasoned veterans - the designers, no less - this was at first pretty overwhelming. Any time I tried to do something, I would be threatened or bribed into changing my plan. Not that the GLE guys were being particularly mean, but they were having fun doing some crazy stuff - Elegwen even sold me all his ships on turn 1 to help me with a military conquest, turning a tidy profit. He also constantly threatened to use his action cards against the other players and managed to extract some serious money and influence points out of us despite having almost no military presence during the entire game. Although we had to stop the game short (two of us had to go), he would possibly have won by sweeping the senate with his huge collection of powerful senators he had managed to buy with his blackmail money.
The different kinds of laws that can be proposed and voted on are endless and are only really limited by the players' creativity. Of course, the only repercussion to breaking these laws is getting corruption tokens on your senators. These can make your senators into monsterous demons that are good for military conquest but hurt you politically in the voting aspect of the game. Prosecutions seem like an important part of Galactic Destiny that we did not really utilize properly, and we ended up getting burned for that. One player was able to keep a corrupt senator as the Minister of Defense and used the Republic ships to get very very close to taking over the required 10 systems. At the time, the MoD's abilities seemed broken but we could have assasinated or prosecuted that senator. Anyway, my point is that with experience, we would know to use the myriad ways to prevent one player from getting too powerful.
I should also point out that military conquest is not the only way, or neccesarily even the best way, to take over systems. Electoral campaigns allow you to take over adjacent systems and are yet another way to utilize your political power. A player going for political influence can win either by peacefully spreading his party to ten systems OR by sweeping the senate elections. Getting ten systems seemed like the more straightforward victory condition for a new player so I dismissed the idea of sweeping the senate. Acquring those ten systems through conquest seemed like the best way but spending lots of money on ships left me with little to spend on senators that I could have used to win systems through peaceful, more inexpensive political campaigns.
The one part of the game I'm still unsure about is the Event cards which can cause all sorts of random chaos. I think the sheer variety of events that these cards bring to the game is a positive. Much like the Westeros deck cards in A Game of Thrones, they keep the game from being deterministic. But with the free-for-all that is this game's diplomacy, and the dice-rolling to resolve the combat and political takeovers of individual star systems, that certainly wouldn't be a danger anyway. Each faction has an event card in the deck which, if drawn, gives them a considerable benefit for that round. It's a big deck so it's possible that none of them show up during the game. In our game the Black Iron Party's supercard turned up in the endgame when they were already enjoying the benefits of the Minister of Defense (I know, I know, that was our fault!) and this event reduced the base defense value of systems by half against the B.I.P.'s invasions! Had we had the time for the final turn I don't think it would have been possible to stop him from crushing skulls. Also, a pretty consequential event card showed up on the first turn which allowed everybody to gain a free extra system - everybody but me, who gained one but unluckily lost my home system to another player. Harsh! Like I said, I'm "unsure" about the power of some Event cards, not neccesarily against them. On the whole I think they add to the game and can really throw your plans out the window - or put a target on your back.
Working in a board game store for the past year and a half, I've seen a lot of questionable prototypes (as I'm sure many people in this hobby have). I was unsure whether I would like Galactic Destiny when I saw it as a prototype, because of its daunting open-endedness and longer playing time compared to my beloved German style games. But now that I've actually PLAYED it, I will have no doubts suggesting it to customers who are in the market for an epic game that will never play the same twice. It was easier to learn that I expected and I was happily surprised that I managed to keep engaged late into the night, in spite of having played this back to back with an intense session of AGoT! Galactic Destiny is not a game that I can see myself playing every weekend but I look forward to playing it again. I'm pretty sure it will earn itself a strong following of avid players.
Best of luck to the guys from Golden Laurel with this ambitious and creative game.
I looking forward to getting a copy of this. Drug dealing demons and battle ships who could ask for more?