A Space Odyssey
The space faring race that we believed we'd be by 2001 is sadly not here. And it dose look like the Babylon 5 timeline may be the last hope for peace and space travel (yes, I am a B5 fan). But that doesn't matter. Just getting to Mars at this time in life, is a challenge and a dream of it's own. But in the gaming world, you just need the right team, at the right station to get from one planet to another.
Ganymede (from Sorry We Are French) is a card drafting game where you will be transporting mankind into the star, ship by ship, while building up your corporation as you go. Each player will have their own board, depicting Earth, Mars and Ganymede. With a reputation track that shows your corporation status, but unfortunately, no indication of where Weyland-Yutani is. As your reputation grows, so does your score, as well as the chance to preform extra actions. Max out your track and you have the chance to send a vessel into the stars, from Ganymede. And that is the object of the game. To get as many of your scientists, colonists, leaders and other types of useful human launched from Ganymede, into deep space.
On your board, you will select two scoring cards to place on the two spaceports situated on Ganymede. Each port has a prerequisite for types of humans needed, before it can blast off into the void, scoring you end game point. One port needs one human from each of the four sectors, (marketing/communications, leaders/managers, engineers and healthcare) while the other just requires three from the same sector. Each sector is represented by one of four coloured Meeple. Each scoring card has a fixed point value or a condition for scoring like, 1 point for each engineer you have transported or score the same amount of points as your reputation. Some even give you a bonus after your ship has departed, like a point of reputation or a free recruitment from any of the sectors. Plus the occasional card that will allow a ship to leave its port with one less crew member.
One giant step for mankind
How is this all possible? What technology will we need to take mankind beyond the starts? Well, anyone familiar to Splendor will latch on quickly. In the middle of the table, there is a pool of cards and tiles to pick from. Taking a tile will either recruit a human onto Earth or let you preform another special action. Special actions will permit you to transport a human to another planet/moon (Ganymede is not a planet) or gain a reputation point for example. The chosen tile goes into one of three spots on your board and each tile has a coloured symbol in the corner. If on a future turn, you take another tile and it has the same corresponding coloured symbol as a tile already in your tableau, it will multiply the effect of the new tile. Meaning you can recruit two or maybe three humans onto Earth, if you have all tiles with the same colour. Or mix and match the recruitment with a special action, as each tile has a choice of two options.
Maybe, you all ready have a team on the Earth spaceport and it is filled to it's capacity of six Meeples. You're going to need to transport them to the next relay point, Mars. To do so, you'll need to take a Earth card that has the same coloured Meeple as you have on Earth. Only if you meet the requirements on that card, will you be able to take it, sending the spaceship and the chosen crew members, to Mars. The same is possible for Mars, that has a smaller capacity of five Meeple. But this time, you'll take a Mars card, if you have the required Meeple there and transport them to either of the two spaceports on Ganymede. Be careful, as shipping Meeple to an overcrowded planet could mean some are lost in space...
In Space, no one can see you be special
These card, once taken, will go onto your tableau like the tiles. They also have the same coloured symbols on them and a dedicated space for them to be placed into. If you collect all five colour types of card, this will allow you, like when you max out your reputation, to launch a ship from Ganymede, whether it has it's full complement or not. Collecting multiple Earth and Mars of the same colour also has it's benefits, as some have special actions on them. These actions get multiplied for each card the same colour too. Adding a forth blue card to your board, with a move actions means you can transport any four of your Meeple to another space, or the same one, many times. Very powerful and useful.
Special actions can be had for ejecting tiles from you board, into space. On your turn, instead of taking a card or tile, you can discard any number of tiles you have to preform the same amount of special actions. Actions like recruitment, move, gain reputation, change the colour of a Meeple and choose a new scoring card. In fact there is a forth row in the middle of the table, and that is for these cards. They can be taken into your hand with a special action or whenever you launch a vessel from Ganymede, giving you the chance to replace it. Once a player has launched their fourth scoring card into the unknown sectors of space, the game comes to an end...
The Final Frontier
Space travel has never been so quick and smooth as it is in this game. After an initial play through, games become quicker, from an hour to almost half that time. It's light mechanisms give you plenty of choice on your turn and even thought some of your Meeples may be stuck on planets due to no ship wanting to take them to the next relay point, there is always something else you can do. It may slow you progress in this space race but can turn your game around. Especially if you are watching the other players.
There is a mild bit of interaction in the game, mainly from the pool that players are drafting from, in the middle of the table. But you can be nasty by watching what the other players are doing and take cards away before they have a chance to take them. But it is really a light family affair, that is easy to slip into, unlike Ripley's spacesuit. It has a low entry level and a concentration level that will not burn your brain out like a Martian heat-ray.
This is a small, compact game that shines like a beacon in space. It's theme comes through, unlike it's counterparts (Splendor or Century: Spice Road) as a space race to colonize the far flung reaches of the galaxy. With it's fluid drafting actions and rapidly increasing tension, as player multiply there actions, bringing their crews to Ganymede quicker and quicker. It's exciting up to the last round.
The game could even be called pocket sized, as all the components are smaller than what they should be. Small Meeple and cards, conceal the really cool retro artwork that looks like if came from a computer game in the late 80's. Which is a shame. Only the player boards and rule book, justify the size of the box that resemble a Monolith in space.
May it live long and prosper...