Galaxy Rise: Review

Fairway isn’t sure of his identity. In today’s review, Fairway takes a look at Galaxy Rise a trick-taking and hidden identity game with a sci-fi theme. See if he finds himself.

Galaxy Rise is a three- to five-player trick taking game by Make It So Studios. The game takes about thirty minutes to play enough hands for someone to score enough points.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. We were intrigued by the graphic design for the suits. Each of the suits had a very futuristic design and the faces of the cards repeated the suits in interesting layouts. Those layouts, though, didn’t really lend themselves to easy subitizing–no worries since the numbers are on the cards too.
  2. Game plays much like a standard trick taker making it pretty easy to learn with two differences: bidding and roles
  3. The roles control how player’s score. We really wanted more roles.

Game play ^

Galaxy Rise is a trick-taking game in which players are trying to get enough points (30) to win the game.  Each game is played over a series of hands in which players are dealt a hand of cards and a hidden identity.  The hidden identity determines how the player scores points.

There are three possible identities: solo agent, envoy and saboteur.  The solo agent will score points if they are able to correctly bid how many tricks they’ll win–they’ll get the bid plus the number of players. The envoy will score three points for each other player who correctly bids.  The saboteur will score four points for each other player who fails to bid correctly.

At the start of each hand, starting with the player to the left of the deal, each player bids on the number of tricks they think they’ll take. How a player bids is based on the dealt cards and their role cards.  The game provides two colored gems to help keep track under and over bids.

After bidding, the game is played in a series of “tricks.”  Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, the player picks on of the cards from their hand and plays it face up in the middle of the table.  The cards in the game have one of four different suits and a value from one to twelve–how many values in the game varies with player count, though. Three of the suits, “titan, bio, and rift,” are normal cards and the “solar” suit is a trump.

Once the first player plays a card, each other player must follow that suit, if they can.  The highest value on-suit card will win the trick. If at least one player plays a “solar” card, which is a trump card, the highest trump card will win the trick.  The winner takes the cards and places one of their bid tokens on the cards and will start the next trick.

Once a trick is complete, players reveal their identities and score according to their rules.  The game continues like this until someone scores at least 30 points and wins the game.

On the green ^

Galaxy Rise is a pretty traditional trick-taking game, but it has some interesting things going on.

Card Design.  Everyone who played liked the looks of the cards. They suits were much different looking than other trick taker cards and fit well with the theme. I think the appeal of the clean white cards with bright, sci-fi inspired suits overcomes any complaints about the utility of the faces.  I’ll mention, it’s basically impossible to know the count of a card by just looking at the art in the middle. The numbers at colors and “shape” of the suit suffice for that purpose.

Play, set up, and learning time. The game is very easy to learn. We struggled a bit to understand the purpose of the various bid tokens and how or why we were tracking them that way, but that was a minor hurdle. Everything was pretty intuitive beyond that. The individual hands went quickly enough and there was always someone moving around the score track after each hand. Our longest game was just shy of 45 minutes.

Where it comes up short ^

Roles. We really wanted this to be in the good category, but they felt wildly unbalanced and too few to meet our expectations. Let’s take a look at a few things.  The saboteur has a huge advantage: four points for each person that fails their bid.  You fail a bid if you’re anything but exactly correct. What’s more, the other two roles (envoy and agent) only score when people bid perfectly. And, as the saboteur, whether you bid correctly (or not) was irrelevant except that you don’t want the envoy to score points so you purposefully bid poorly.  The person who snagged this role almost always scores at least 4 points and largely could deprive everyone else of points.

Compare that to the solo agent, whose only opportunity to score is to get their bid exactly correct.  Even then, their point total is limited to that bid plus the player count. Solo agents, in our experience, rarely guessed exactly correctly. There’s a few reasons for this. Among them, and true to the role, the saboteur has every incentive to make sure no one gets the bids exactly right. One player essentially playing the last 3-ish tricks per hand to score all the points and prevent everyone else from scoring any.

Admittedly, everyone like the saboteur.  People even liked the “envoy” role insofar as it was sort of the opposite: trying to get everyone else a perfect bid.

Bidding. This game is on the right track with the bidding. We’re not sure it worked out as well as it could though. The requirements of perfect bids for two of three roles suggests that the game probably needs some more thought around this idea.  For example, it seems like a solo agent could score points like the number of players minus over- or under-bid or two times the number of players for a perfect bid.  The result of a failed bid meant no points.

In the hole ^

Galaxy Rise is an interesting combination of trick-taking game with hidden identity. Using the identities as the scoring mechanism makes for some intriguing game strategies. The lack of more variation and some rough edges left the players wanting. The card art and design alone bring a sense of futuristic fun to the game–the cards look like something you might see on an episode of Star Trek. If you enjoy trick taking games, and looking for something a bit different, you should give Galaxy Rise a look.

The game is currently available from The Game Crafter.

Galaxy Rise is in the hole for One over Par. ^

Fairway was provided a copy of Galaxy Rise in order to write a fair review but was not otherwise compensated for this review.

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