Exploring space! Claiming planets! Building structures! Utilizing dramatic powers!
All these things we love in our midweight space Euros that are vaguely trying to emulate 4X games. Master of the Galaxy features the relatively new bag-building mechanism, requiring you to draw cubes from your bag and placing them in various slots on the board and player cards to activate abilities.
The primary way of earning new cubes is by placing one on a planet in a system you control. You can reach other planets by drawing cubes from your bag and filling up the paths between two stars. Build structures by filling the slot on your race card. You can also gain new cards or score points by filling up your other slots. Some activations require you to permanently discard cubes; others keep the cubes in place for the rest of the game. It’s possible to steal cubes from other players.
Almost everything you do earns you points in one of six different categories, determined by which cards you have. The first player to reach 5 points in one category wins the game!
Unfortunately, I came out of this demo feeling pretty disappointed with the experience. I feel like I must have missed a rule, but it seemed like I was barely able to do anything before the game was over. It’s entirely possible the demo was shortened, which would be a reasonable thing to do, except that I was given no clue as to how it was shortened, or what it would take to play the full game. Maybe scoring 5 points in multiple categories?
In any case, the cube-building worked okay, but it took forever to get to any new planets. Most of the board was still empty, for that matter, and despite the number of turns it didn’t feel like we’d accomplished much. I guess that may be a flaw with the bag-building mechanism; sure, it’s a clever way to force players to make forward-thinking decisions, but if you don’t draw the right collection of cubes to activate the actions you want, it’s easy to feel stuck, or running on rails, or like you’re forced to make sub-par choices. That can happen even if you tried to manipulate the cube contents of your bag the right way.
Time will tell if this game is better than my first impression. I wish the demo runner had been more clear about changes for the full game, if there were any. As it stands right now, I’m not super eager to try this one out again.