The Galaxy event in 2017 had a very different feel than in the past for multiple reasons. Our long time GM, Mark Mitchell, was suddenly unable to make WBC and an alternate GM was needed. A volunteer was found, and the event was on. However, a number of past players were also not seen at the con or at the event, leading to the lowest turnout in the event's history, only 25 players. Additionally, for the first time in recent memory, no one had selected Galaxy as their team game. The two demos were reasonably well attended with 11 people coming to learn the game or refresh knowledge of the rules. About half played in the tourney, so it was good to get some new faces to the table.
As a late replacement GM, getting assistant GM's could be difficult, but I had a number of veteran players step up and help. I want to thank my assistant GM's Steve Shambeda who volunteered before the con and was helpful signing people in as well as helping at the demos. John Coussis, Craig Melton, and David Buchholz were assistant GM's in heats and were available if there were any rules questions or adjudications needed.
A revised and expanded player aid chart was well received and in one game with multiple new players it was consulted multiple times before asking the GM to confirm that the group had the rule correct, covering things like tiebreakers and the like.
Galaxy is often called "Advanced Titan the Arena" and for good reason. It is the third in a series of games designed by Reiner Knizia that have very similar mechanics but different themes. Titan: the Arena, also known as Colossal Arena, is also played at WBC which leads to some overlap between players of the two events as well as some of GMT's other card games. Some of those attending the demo were familiar with this game.
The first heat had 18 players spread over 4 tables, while heat 2 had 13 players at 3 tables, and the third heat had 8 players at 2 tables. The game is best with 4 or 5, so those numbers worked out well. The plan for the semifinal is to have tables all have the same number of players.
Heat 1 winners were Steve Shambeda, Jacob Wagner, Chris Gnech, and John Coussis. John and Steve served as assistant GM's for this heat and their expertise showed. Chris learned the game before the heat but is a Titan the Arena veteran.
Heat 2 winners were Steve Shambeda, Michael Shea, and Rebecca Roppolo. Steve was our only multiple heat winner this year. Michael was the event champion in 2015 and Rebecca is well known at Galaxy.
Heat 3 winners were David Buchholz and John Keating, two of the top 10 in laurels in the event, with John being a past champion.
Advancing to the semifinals without winning were Sam Shambeda and Karl Buchholz.
Given the low event turnout, it was clear there would be no more than 2 tables at the semifinals, capping the semifinals at 10 players. 9 of the top 12 seeds were present in the room before the semifinals. With three of our winners having conflicts that opened up spots for the first two alternates, Steve Cameron and Craig Melton. However, having an uneven number of players per table is not good.
Luckily, Joanna Melton was a high alternate. She was needed and came to the game immediately after working a shift in the junior’s room. Even though her husband previously said she wasn't planning on playing, she graciously agreed to be our 10th player when contacted. Going from that environment directly to a semifinal requires a quick change of mindset and everyone was very grateful for her giving us an even number. If there was no other player available, the GM Steve would've sat out to make two 4 player tables.
Before the semifinals started the GM made sure that all the players knew the top two players and the better third place between the two tables would be advancing to a 5 player final. Semifinal tables and seats were assigned randomly, family members were seated separately as were the GM and primary assistant.
At one semifinal table, Rebecca Roppolo, David Buchholz, Steve Cameron, Craig Melton, and Sam Shambeda sat down to play. This is a table of 5 who are all veteran players and the game didn't disappoint. Rebecca cruised to a win with her strategy of increasing her hand size while singing. She used the Felowi power to keep claiming cards from a prior row and using Raider cards to take cards from her opponents. She also benefitted from the Warp Drive technology card which also allows claiming of cards that have been previously played. With the Myrmidon dead as the second world eliminated, there was nothing that could be done to truly reduce her playable hand size. She was also the player who eliminated the last two worlds and wrapped up the victory to move on to the final with 14 total influence points. Craig and Sam tied with 10 influence points with Craig winning the tiebreaker to take second over Sam. David and Steve saw their secret bases eliminated in the mid-game and with everyone else's secret bases surviving, they were out of the running.
The other semifinal pitted Steve Shambeda, Michael Shea, Karl Buchholz, Joanna Melton, and Jacob Wagner. Three of the five players had been to the finals within the past two years. The game opened with a pitched battle for control of the Imperials with everyone but Jacob having a base there in the first round. Clearly there was a lot of card play and combat to knock the bases down to open up opportunities for other players to place a base there. When the dust settled at the end of the first round, Michael killed off the Imperial by moving an ally that was protecting the Imperial using his Erithizonian governor power. This eliminated his own 3 point base, but also took out 3 point bases from Karl & Steve. This especially hurt Joanne, who had taken control of two visible bases worth 7 points. Amazingly this also took out Joanna & Steve's secret base on the Imperials but that was not known at the time. Karl was unable to get a secret base down with all the activity. Michael's secret base was eliminated later by Steve, leaving Jacob as the only one who had a secret base left at the end of the game and the winner with 11 points. Michael finished second with 9, also advancing to the final. Karl came in third, but his 9 points weren't enough to advance but he did come in 6th place overall, finishing in the laurels for the second straight year.
After a short break, the 5 finalists were seated around the table; in order Michael Shea, Sam Shambeda, Rebecca Roppolo, Craig Melton, and Jacob Wagner. The GM and assistant made sure everyone was settled in and let them know that we'd be documenting the play with pictures at the ends of world elimination rounds in order to track the game in addition to the notes being taken by the GM.
The rounds of play during which the first world is eliminated are often frantic, as players have only that amount of time to place a secret base, yet they want to gain enough information to make sure the world is not quickly eliminated. Since the round ends when there is a distinctly lowest value ship on a world and all worlds have ships; the round gets extended by ties, cards getting covered, and lots of combat. The first round of the final was a great example of this, as things were tense. Not only did all 5 players get secret bases down, 12 of the 20 remaining bases available to be played were played in this round, even though there are normally only 8 openings, one per world. Craig Melton opened the combat knocking down unprotected bases on Ecup Contract & Erithizonian. Shortly after, secret bets were played around the table in sequence with Craig the first to play one. Craig then shot Jacob's base on Erithizonian to open a spot to place a bet of his own; but Jacob fired right back, dropping Craig's just-played base down, opening another betting spot, filled by Sam. At this point, 4 players were backing the Erithizonian, and the first round wasn't over! The first round was ended by Sam killing the Kha' Farjimmn, which Mike had just placed a 4 value base on. Spoils of War went to Sam as the Governor of the Erithizonian.
When play moved to the second row many base spots in the row were already filled by bases dropped down a tier in the round prior. The Divergence, Ecup and Imperial already had a chip filling their spot and the Erith had 3 chips knocked down. With the Kha eliminated, that meant only the Cylor, Felowi, and Myrmidon had room for bases. No one had placed on the Felowi or Myrmidon yet, so their governorships were available. While it's unusual for two governorships to be unclaimed into the second row, it's perfectly normal for the Myrmidon's governorship to do so.
At the round's start there was much tempo play discarding Kha cards as the world was now dead. Some bases were knocked down via Assault Craft or improved in value via Transports to open slots for new bases. Craig promoted a base of Sam's on the divergence so he could place a base there and Jacob did the same with Rebecca's base on Imperial. There were no combats in this row but there was activity between governor powers and Raider cards to reduce opponents' hand size while increasing one's own hand size.
Sam once again ended the round by killing off the Myrmidon with no complaints as no one had bet there. Spoils of War were earned by the Felowi but they had no visible bases and hence no governor. Therefore there were no spoils awarded. It is very unusual for that to happen in a game, especially after the first row. Fifteen of the 20 non-secret bases had been played by this point and only one had been killed. Unless the Felowi died in the next row, it was certain that players would start to lose bases.
As play began in the third row, Rebecca joined the group by placing a base on Erithizonian and using a transports card to move it up, meaning that all 5 players had bases there which is often a very good sign for a power's survival. Jacob bet on the Imperial to become the Imperial Governor, and then used his Divergence Governorship to also play on the Imperial, covering both with cards to protect his bases. Michael played the Sensors technology card, with a 9 value Divergence card, and revealed that no one had a secret base on the Divergence which was some information for the table but not anything that would prove immediately useful. He then used the multiple combat opportunities he had to degrade two of Rebecca's bases. This made Rebecca want to end the round before the Sensors could be used again, and she played a 0 value Nova on the Felowi to get Craig to cooperate in killing them off. The Felowi still had no bases so he followed through. This also allowed Craig to control spoils of War as the Divergence's Governor as the 9 that Michael had played held up as the highest card showing at the end of the round. He had two bases on this world and moved a 2 value base up to be worth 3. Amazingly, only one visible base had been eliminated to this point, with 3 surrendered worlds. Only Sam had a base remaining to be played and no one had lost a secret base yet, although no one could know that for sure.
Row 4 begins with 4 straight discards of surrendered worlds and Rebecca also playing the Phasers technology card so that her combat opportunities have a bit of an edge over everyone else. Craig played the Warp Drive technology which Rebecca had used so well in her semifinal and then played the Divergence Dreadnought, a value 10 card, and grabbed the 9 value Divergence card from the prior row. Since he was the Divergence governor, he then played a 7 value card on the Erithizonian and took the 3 value Transports card Rebecca played there early last round. This was a strong play, increasing his hand size by two, and giving him two powerful cards, one that could be used to improve a base of his and the other for its high face value.
Michael then played a 0 value Nova on the Erithizonian. The card's special power is that it may not be shot at so it has to be covered somehow or that world will be eliminated. However, everyone had bases there, so it would be interesting to see what people would do. Sam's 5 value base was an obvious advantage as it gave him the Governorship over everyone else with a base in the 3 value row and it was the only 5 value base in the game to that point.
Sam found himself unable to cover the Nova but muddied the waters by playing a 0 value Nova on the Cylor. This was notable because it was the Ally card. Allies can be played on any world but the cards are otherwise identical to the cards each specific world has. It also fits right in with his Erithizonian governor power which allows him to move ally cards after playing on the Erith. If the round got back to him and he drew a card that he could play on the Erith, he could then move the Ally anywhere, and kill anything he wanted. Rebecca played a 1 value card on the Imperial, putting yet another low value card out there. Craig's mind was made up and he played the Ally Transports card on the Cylor. This allowed him to improve his 4 value base to 5, protecting his governorship, and eliminating the Erithizonian. All 5 players lost exactly one base there and Sam still had a base left to play. Sam had killed off the first two worlds and Craig the next two.
As we moved into the 5th round, it was still anyone's game, or so it seemed. The scores from visible bases at that moment were: Craig with 12, Jacob with 9, Rebecca with 8, Sam with 7, and Michael with 6. No player had bases on all four of remaining worlds, and only Craig was truly concentrated with 7 points of bases on the Divergence.
Jacob was first to play, as Craig ended the last row. After Jacob and Michael discarded, Sam revealed that his secret base was on the Erithizonian, and discarded both the card and the base. This clearly made him a longshot to win and the other four players could plan accordingly. Rebecca and Craig also discarded in turn, meaning the first 5 plays were discards. It then went fully around the table 2 more times for a total of 15 discards and there was exactly one card left in the draw pile. After Jacob played, nobody would be getting any new cards, unless they could get them from the hands of other players. With the stalling to improve options in hands as best they could over, the action came fast and furious. The game would only go a bit more than once more around the table.
Jacob played a 6 value Imperial Frigates card and used the Imperial Governor's power to shoot at Rebecca's 3 value base on Cylor failing to damage it. He chose to draw his reserve, knowing that there are good cards in it that he can play, as opposed to the final card in the deck, which was rejected on a much earlier turn, and placed at the bottom of the deck.
Michael plays a 5 value Divergence Raiders card and draws a card from Craig, the Divergence Governor. He gets the Divergence Drones card, value 1, which is fairly useful for killing off a world. Craig would much prefer to not have that card in anyone else's hand. This, however, protected Craig's bases from being attacked by ships from other players unless the Raiders were first destroyed. Michael gets to draw the final card from the deck, a value 7 card from a surrendered world, which is only useful for a tiebreak.
Sam plays value 9 Ally Battle Cruisers on the Divergence covering the 5 Michael played. This gives him a combat opportunity which he uses to successfully attack Michael's base on the Cylor, costing him a point.
Rebecca continues the theme of shooting at undefended Cylor bases, by playing Allied Dreadnoughts on the Imperial and shooting Craig's base on the Cylor, knocking it down.
Craig plays the Ally Shuttles value 2, on the Ecup Contract. He has no bases there and while the ship power of rejecting the first card drawn from the deck is useless with an empty deck, he is hoping that the Ecup will die, keeping all his bases alive, and possibly killing off the secret base of others.
Jacob played the Divergence 0 value Nova to end the game. He lost a 4 point base but took a calculated risk knowing that Craig's lead in points showing on the board would evaporate after 7 points of Craig's bases were eliminated. Sam also lost a 3 point base there, dooming him to last place. If anyone had a Divergence secret base, that would be more points lost by others, and it could give him the game. Jacob's Imperial Governorship controlled Spoils of War and he improved on of his own bases.
At game end, secret bases were revealed and the final scores were tallied. Craig, Michael, and Jacob all had secret bases on the Imperial while Rebecca's Cylor secret base also survived. Jacob's play had insured him of second place but he couldn't quite take first.
Rebecca won with 13 points, for her first title in Galaxy. Jacob, Michael, Craig, and Sam followed with scores of 11, 10, 9, and 4.
Some statistics regarding world and secret base survival from the tourney.
In the 12 games played the world survival statistics were:
- Cylor - Survived 5, Eliminated 7
- Divergence - Survived 2, Eliminated 10
- Ecup Contract - Survived 9, Eliminated 3
- Erithizonian - Survived 8, Eliminated
- Felowi - Survived 2, Eliminated 10
- Imperial – Survived 7, Eliminated 5
- Kha Farjimmn – Survived 2, Eliminated 10
- Myrmidon – Survived 1, Eliminated 11
In almost all games, there will be exactly 3 surviving worlds. It's possible to have more, but it is very rare. None of the games had more than 3 worlds survive. The Myrmidon is seen as a very dangerous power to let survive and it often gets no bases on it but is still killed off just in case. The Felowi and Kha also fared poorly but both did well last year.
For the 12 games, the secret base survival statistics were:
- Cylor – Secret Bases 5, Survived 3, Eliminated 2
- Divergence - Secret Bases 5, Survived 2, Eliminated 3
- Ecup Contract - Secret Bases 8, Survived 8, Eliminated 0
- Erithizonian - Secret Bases 11, Survived 7, Eliminated 4
- Felowi - Secret Bases 1, Survived 1, Eliminated 0
- Imperial – Secret Bases 11, Survived 7, Eliminated 4
- Kha Farjimmn – Secret Bases 5, Survived 2, Eliminated 3
- Myrmidon – Secret Bases 0, Survived 0, Eliminated 0
- Total – Secret Bases 46, Survived 30, Eliminated 16
- No Secret Base 8
Eight players failed to get a secret base down before the first world was eliminated, at least once by choice due to having very poor cards to pick from. Once again there is no love for the Myrmidon. The Felowi was only a secret base once and it was in a semifinal. The Ecup Contract was also never eliminated but was selected 8 times. In the first heat, there were 3 games where all secret bases survived but not everyone had a secret base in those games. It is still very unusual for that to happen often.