Galactic Emperor Board Game Review

Galactic Emperor first came to my attention as ‘Twilight Imperium-lite’. Now, having played Twilight Imperium, and realizing that my opportunities for 7 – 8 hour long games were few, this sparked my interest. And Galactic Emperor really does have many of the mechanics of Twilight Imperium, it just doesn’t have the same epic level of confrontation. It feels more like players are battling in a single solar system, a smaller, more intense and faster conflict than the galaxy-spanning battles of Twlight Imperium. On the other hand, it does what it does well.

Apperance: I have the second edition printing of Galactic Emperor, which means that all the components are pretty good looking. There’s nothing exceptional about the components, from large tokens representing the various roles and technologies, to simple chits for victory points and cash. The best components in the game are the ships, and while there have been complaints about the ships being too large; we just move ships off the board when combat starts. Frankly, small ships would be a minus point to the game, so overall Galactic Emperor receives a bare pass. There’s really nothing to complain about or laud – it’s average.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Okay, for any experienced gamer, many of the rules will feel very familiar – role choice, resource production and combat are the main rules used in Galactic Emperor, so teaching the rules to such gamers is quite fast. The biggest hurdle is remembering the new names and the technology cards.

For beginner players, there are quite a few rules in the game, though they are easy to learn and the vast majority make sense within the context of the game. The only confusion is the role-choice, which really has little thematic element to the game, but does of course provide strategic decisions.

In brief, each round players have six (6) roles to choose from, with each role only being able to be taken once per round. However, all players may take the action associated with the role during the turn it is taken –with the player who chooses the role receiving a special benefit.

Roles are that of the Regent (first player choice and political influence), Scientist (technology), Steward (production), Merchant (selling goods and food production), Explorer (galaxy / tile placement) and Warlord (movement and combat). The various functions of each are relatively self-explanatory. More details can be found in other reviews.

Gameplay: Each game of Galactic Emperor plays at about 30 minutes per player, with the first game with new players adding about another 30-60 minutes to the entire game. Games flow quite fast, with players always engaged because they have something to do with each role choice. In addition, with so few turns available in the game, each turn is very important for players and quite intense.

The game seems to break into two sections quite well – the initial exploratory and growth phase where players attempt to develop their empires as quickly and efficiently as possible and the second phase; normally after the appearance of the black hole, where players begin to aggress.

Currently, there seems to be two major methods of winning – diplomacy and combat. The first requires players to gain specific technological cards that provide an advantage in diplomacy, allowing them to purchase a large number of influence markers and ‘steal’ galaxies from other players during the Regent phase. This particular strategy is weaker towards the end game where a diplomatic player is limited by the low number of influence markers he has left.

The second method – combat is quite a viable strategy. Space fleets in our games have ranged from large, destroyer and fighter-backed armadas with increased movement to hard hitting swarms of fighter fleets. Unlike Twilight Imperium; combat in Galactic Emperor is a great strategy. Obvously, it has to be begun with care since starting too soon can leave a player vulnerable to retaliation from other players.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in gameplay is the fact that there seems to be only a few options in terms of winning – both because the board is so small and the options for gaining victory points so limited, you are forced into one of these two strategies to gain victory points.

In addition, the technology cards are rather limited. While it makes sense to keep the game short, I’d be really interested to see what an expansion could do with both the victory conditions as well as the technology options.

Conclusion: Overall, we’ve all had a ton of fun playing Galactic Emperor, and while it is not Twilight Imperium, it’s a fun, galactic spanning sci-fi game that most importantly plays quite fast. It’s definitely a game that will hit the table more often than Twilight Imperium – if nothing more than because of player schedules.

Bad day for work

Well, my attempt to get across the border and bring back games was scuppered today.  By a faulty car – something in the car was overheating (probably electrical – coolant was fine, oil was fine, fan was fine.  Anything else; go ask the mechanic).

So after 2 hours of attempted fixes, I finally made it to the mechanic and deposited said car.  No pick-ups for today.  The plan is tomorrow now, since attempting to cross the border at Noon (which is what time it’d be by the time I got a new car and across the border) is not fun.  I wouldn’t really be saving much time.

All things considered, it looks like I’m on a holiday today.  Apologies for those looking forward to getting their games shipped today – it’ll have to wait a day.   This mostly deals with the copies of Descent : Journeys into the Dark, Bang! the Bullet and Steam! that we were going to get.

Top 10 Fantasy Themed Board Games

Following is a list of some of the best fantasy themed board games out there that have received rave reviews.  To note, I have excluded pop-culture based fantasy board games, alternate history board games and science-fiction based board games from this list.  Also, all board games suggested here have their themes quite integral to the actual game-play.

Descent : Journeys into the Dark1. Descent: Journeys into the Dark

Descent is a true dungeon crawling, fantasy board game.  Players take on the role of adventurers or the Overlord, making their way through numerous dungeons in an attempt to finish the quests laid out for them.  With multiple adventurers, a modular game board and a Dungeon Master (the Overlord), it’s one of the best dungeon crawl games out there. Multiple expansions are available including the Road to Legend that provides a true campaign environment.

2. Kingsburg

Kingsburg sets players up as the provincial governor’s of a fantasy Kingdom under siege by dragons, zombies and orcs.  In Kingsburg, you will need to influence the King’s advisors, build your army and plan your province’s development. Unfortunately, there are only limited resources the advisors can give, so you’ll need to plan who to influence each turn in competition with the other provincial governor’s.

3. Blue Moon

Blue Moon is a two-player fantasy non-collectible card game that pits the races of Blue Moon against one another to gain the favour of the ruling dragons.  The base Blue Moon Legends game set provides two, pre-built race decks while multiple expansions allows you to expand to other races and even custom build your deck.  Each card is a work of art by itself, with beautifully rendered characters and events in high fantasy style.

4. Prophecy

Prophecy is a fantasy adventure role-playing board game where players take on the roles of elves, dwarves, fighters and other adventurers to journey across the land, defeat monsters and collect 4 artifacts to become the next King of the land.  Where Descent in its base game places you in the dungeon fighting individual battles, Prophecy focuses on the overall campaign and the land that you move across.

5. Once Upon A Time

More fairy tale than fantasy, Once Upon A Time allows players to jointly create their own fairy tale using plot elements dictated by their cards.  One of the most innovative games, Once Upon A Time provides each player with plot elements they must weave into their story and a happy ending they must bring the story towards.  However, other players can jump into the story every time one of their elements is brought up, creating a truly hilarious kaleidoscope of characters, events and descriptions.

6. Tomb

Tomb pits players against one another to race to the end where players recruit a variety of adventurers, running through crypts and defeating monsters, traps, spells in search of treasures.  Tomb captures the dungeon crawl experience without hours of preparation. Just grab your party and go!

7. Elfenland

As a group of fledgling elves, ou’ll need to visit as many of the twenty Elfencities as possible in a short time period to prove your mettle.  To do so, you’ll have to decide between a series of fantastic transporation methods including Pigs, Elfbikes, Magic Clouds, Trollwagons and Dragons.

Every turn, players receive a number of cards and tokens that match the form of transportation available to them.  Each turn, they will be able to define the transportation methods available at each road and finally, play their cards to move through each city. A fun, immersive racing game that takes a new twist to fantasy board games.

8. Red Dragon Inn

Ever wondered why those adventurers were always risking life and limb? Red Dragon Inn answers that question in a hilarious manner as your four adventurers rest, drink and gamble their way to the next dungeon.  Just watch out for Pooky!

9. Citadels

In Citadels, you’ll need to build up your city in the by employing the use of various roles.  From the Assassin to the Warlord, you will need to carefully choose your role and build your city to get ahead of your opponents.  With the ability to play up to 7 players, Citadels is a multi-player, card driven, fantasy game.

10. Wizards’ Gambit

In Wizard’s Gambit, players take on the role of dueling Wizard’s, creating new spells to add to their spellbooks to destroy their opponents.  By placing components in a common Spell Pool, Wizard’s undertake the necessary research to create a spell.  The last player to finish the research gets to keep the spell, adding to their power for the duel.  Once a player builds up enough power in their Spell Book, they will win the duel and become Grand Siege Magus.

Honourable Mentions
1. Battlelore
Battlelore is a medieval fantasy miniature wargame that allows players to use goblins, dwarves, archers and knights to recreate famous medieval battles.  With a War Council that includes priests, rogues and mages, the fog of war gets a whole new meaning.  As Battlelore can be played without any fantasy elements, it was not included in the top 10.

2. Iron Dragon

Iron Dragon is Empire Builder in a fantasy world. With only a slight change to the basic rules of the ever popular crayon rail games, the theme seemed a touch too light to be included in this list.  On the other hand – it’s the crayon rail series, so how can we not mention it?

Lord of the Rings3. World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings

Lastly, neither title requires much introduction.  Both are popular franchises that have, in their own way, reshaped how fantasy is viewed.  Both have been translated into solidly playable board games and both have stayed true to the original material.

Small Publisher Contest : MaxVeld Games Ltd.

Well, the second small publisher contest has finished, and we’ll be announcing the winner in our next newsletter.  For this month, we’ve decided to promote MaxVeld Games, the publisher of God Dice.

A fantasy dice game, God Dice has had some great buzz for it’s interesting mechanics and fast gameplay system.  For the contest, we’d like you to suggest the best new hero to be added to the game and the reasons why.  The winner will be announced in the August newsletter.

I’m looking forward to reading these submissions – the one’s we’ve had so far for the other two contests have certainly impressed me.

Note: We’ve decided to add, that if you have purchased the game from us and win the contest, we will substitute a coupon code of the equivalent amount.

Site upgraded

So, we just upgraded the site again to the latest version of the software we are using, along with a few bug fixes.  We’ve tested the site and it should be mostly fixed, but if you come across any new bugs, do inform us!

Otherwise, a number of older bugs should now be sorted.

Anime Evolution Post Con Report

This was the 2nd year that we had a booth at Anime Evolution, and this year, we were much more careful about the product we brought along.  This meant that we reduced the amount of stock we purchased specifically for Anime Evolution as well as  reducing the amount of packing / unpacking that we did.

We also bought and used two; easy to construct, shelves for Anime Evolution and for all future cons.  With the 10′ * 10′ booth that we had, it made the entire space look and feel so much more professional and well laid out.

Anime Evolution was, as usual, a hectic convention with thousands of people milling around.  On the other hand, because the vendor’s room was open for all 3 days this year, it felt somewhat more relaxed.

As always with Anime Evolution, the highlight were the congoers and the cosplay we got to see.  I am constantly amazed at the dedication and creativity of the cosplayers at the con and it makes the con go so much faster because of them.

Business wise, sales were slower than last year.  The general impact of the economy is definitely more stark at the con itself, with congoers more focused and hesistant to spend.  It also did not help that there were more game stores (I counted 3 others!) this year, which would obviously impact our sales.

Overall, we can’t complain though –  while not stellar, it is always fun to get out of the office and meet customers, and we had a chance to introduce ourselves to customers who wouldn’t know of us otherwise.

We’re at Anime Evolution 2009

We’re at Anime Evolution 2009 this weekend (and on Friday) so we might be a tad slow answering e-mails/etc. over the weekend.  Do drop by and say hi if you’re in the neighborhood!  We’re in booth 422.

Neuroshima Hex Quick Review

Neuroshima Hex is a fun, tile based wargame that will scratch the itch for a quick, tactical wargame.  There is little overarching strategy in this game, as players cannot build new forces and control such production and the entire battle is fought on a small, hexagonal board.

However, if you’re looking for a pure tactical wargame, Neuroshima Hex will be hard to beat.  Able to manage up to 4 players, this is a great little tile-playing wargame that is quite quick, especially after players learn the various tiles.

Each of the 4 armies are unique, providing variety and replay value.  The small board and the random tile drawing will force players to rethink their tactics each turn, with some advantage given to experienced players.  However, in a multi-player game, this could quickly get rough for runaway leaders will be ganged up on.

Overall, if you are looking for a multi-player tactical wargame, this should be on your radar.  There just aren’t that many games that provide this kind of value and play style.

Small World update

Wow, Small World really has been the hit of the year so far.  It’s now out-of-stock on the publisher level.  Alliance just confirmed this.

I was able to get 7 additional copies from a Canadian distributor, of which 1 is already spoken for.   Unfortunately, I’ve also had to raise the prices marginally since the pricing from the CAD distributors are much higher.  Once these last copies are sold, the next set will be when DOW reprints, whenever that is.

If you have been planning to buy Small World, this would be the time to do it before it goes out of stock for a number of months.