Space Gate Odyssey (2019) tested
This is a first impressions of a game that a friend owns. Therefore, I have never read the rules and will not be using the correct terms of Space Gate Odyssey in this article. But this is the impression that I got from playing it. A game where you will be building a space station from a control center somewhere on another planet. And your goal is to populate other planets with your colonists, using a Stargate system. Beam em up, move em about and zap them out there. A worker placement, construction, puzzle, go forth and multiply game.
The games main mechanic is worker displacement. There will be a control room board depicting five rooms, each with a 3D table in it. Each room has its own action and each player has a number of scientists in each of these rooms. On the players turn they will take one of their scientists and move into another room to perform the action they wish to take. Each scientist in that room, of the same players color will be able to perform the action. Move a third scientist into the teleport room and you can teleport three groups of colonists onto your space station. Which can be great for you. It's a party in the teleport room. Woopie! But what the bummer will be is moving a scientist into a room where they are alone, meaning you perform the action only once.
And to add a downer to the bummer is if another player has three or four of their scientists in that room, they can perform the action on your turn as well. Three or four times, depending on their number of scientists. So you are basically allowing the other players a free pass to do what they want as well. This means you’ll have to plan your actions carefully and either space out to your scientists or group them together for powerful actions. At the same time you’ll need to think about if you want to help out the other players or not. This lends itself to a nice back-and-forth between the players and also lots of interaction in the game even when it’s not your turn.
Each player will have their own individual space station in front of them made up of a number of tiles. A teleport room will provide you with some colonists that will help build the station and colonize other planets. You’ll be expanding this space station with the help of your scientists in the control room, as one of the actions will allow you to draw tiles. Think of it as building an ant farm or creating a route for the lovable Lemmings (Oh No! pop). These tiles come in three different colors and have three different functions.
The functions include Teleporting rooms, where your colonists will arrive at your space station. Corridors, that when constructed will allow you to recruit more scientists in the control room, or robots (which are non-moving scientists) or upgraded scientists (which have the power of doing an action twice). And finally for lack of a better turn, the Stargate tiles, which when half full of colonists will zap them to one of the planets chosen at random at the beginning of the game. The color of the tiles is very important as you build your labyrinth of a space station. As three of the control rooms match those three colors. Moving a scientist into the green control room will allow one of your colonists to move from an adjacent tile into a green tile. Whether it be Corredor, Stargate or Teleport room. Again the more of your scientists in that room the more colonist can move about the space station.
The game seems to be about efficiently constructing a maze for your colonists to run around in and then finally get out of, to score you points on planets. And it does this, and I have found it interestingly enjoyable. But then you have the planets. Each of the planets are chosen at random at the beginning of the game and only a certain amount of planets are used per game. Each planet has its own way of being scored once they’ve been colonized. Some score you points just for the number of colonist you have on that planet. While others will score points for majorities on separate islands or sectors or if you were the first to reach a certain space on the planet.
There is an intriguing balancing system to the game, to stop runaway leaders. As your score goes up, the amount of colonists and scientists at your disposal goes down. You’ll be using these meeples to keep track of the tens of units of your score. This hurts a little when you have to use a colonist. But it hurts a great deal more if you have to remove a scientist from the control room.
There is also an added scoring section at the end of the game which can be adjusted by certain spaces on the planets. Placing a colonist on this special space will allow you to change two tiles on a track on the home planet. This track is the end of game scoring and you will score points on whether you have the most tiles on your space station of a certain color or if you have sets of colored tiles. And obviously each position on this track will have a different amount of points. Moving the green tile to the furthest right space will give the player with the most green tiles on their station, a large chunk of points. Building your entire station of green tiles might be great for those points, but will it be effective moving your colonists around?
Once a planet has its complement of colonists it is removed from the game and scored. And the Stargate moves on to another planet. If there are no more chosen planets left, the Stargate moves on to the home world and colonists which go through that Stargate will score points directly. When there are no more planets to explore and all the Stargates have been placed on the home world the game ends. You’ll do the final scoring which also includes a penalty for any open doors on your space station, a little like Galaxy Trucker (in space, everyone knows who left the door open). So constructing this in an adequate manner is important, not only to be efficient but also to be complete.
The game is small and cute but still takes up a lot of space. Control room, planets, piles of tiles, everybody's space stations sprawling everywhere. With mini meeple colonists which can be a little finicky and meeple sized scientists that have suits that they slip in and out of accidentally. It’s sad to say but it’s all a little bit too miniaturized. Yes the game takes up a lot of table space and fits nicely in a ticket to ride size box but it suffers with the finicky components. Plus there are very small icons on the space station tiles. This can sometimes lead to forgetting that you have a teleporter or a Stargate portal on the tile. And in a game where there is this much player into action, it would be useful to look across the table to see your opponents station and easily discover what they have built.
But apart from my slight component dislike, I really enjoyed puzzling this game out. As I have said the interaction between players keeps you fully engaged in the game. You are always constantly planning or doing something even when it is not your turn. There are different planets to use each time you play, and they work differently for the different number of players. You’ll hardly notice the art of Vincent Dutrait’s handy work, but you will notice the robots resemble Dr Who’s foes. It’s enjoyable to see your labyrinth space station, live and work how it’s supposed to work. A little bit like watching Simcity and seeing where the traffic jams are and where the freeways make traversal of the station fluid. This is a game that merits replaying, just to see the different types of planets and to try out different combinations of a space station.
tested - liked -want to play again