Dale Yu: First Impressions of Space Gate Odyssey

Space Gate Odyssey

  • Designer: Cedric Lefebvre
  • Publisher: Ludonaute
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Times played, 2 with review copy provided by publisher

Space Gate Odyssey is a game set in the “not-so-distant future” where humans are working to colonize newly discovered exoplanets.  There is a new system of five planets surrounding a central one, named Hawking. Travelling to this system (Which apparently ignores usual space physics) is done through space gates, some sort of teleporter – which must be built in space.  The game centers around the activities on the Odyssey, an international space station. Each player controls an unnamed, but conveniently uniquely colored, confederation, trying to build the modules and control the settlement of the exoplanets – with the overall goal of being the most influential confederation, and thus being given control of the entire system when the colonization process is over.

The main board is made up of the 5 different rooms of the Odyssey, each with a color coded action stand placed on it.  The central planet, Hawking, is placed on the board – there are a number of informational tracks found on this. There is a predominance track which orders stuff for scoring – at the start of the game, water < wildlife < energy < balance < (none).  The game comes with eight different exoplanets. Three are chosen at random, placed on the table, and a space gate is placed on each. Two more exoplanets are then drawn and set aside to provide the remainder of the planets that will be settled in this game.  There is a three-level tray called the Worksite which holds all the different module pieces – there are nine combinations of color/type, and each gets its own slot. All the modules are placed face down with the “off” side showing. The module types are: Odyssey, Space Gate, and Airlock.

The five rooms of the Odyssey

Each player takes all the pieces in their color.  Players take a starting module, and places 5 settlers on it.  A few more start on the Odyssey board, and the rest of the pieces are placed nearby.  To complete the player setup, in turn order, players choose one each of two different module types and start building their space station; making sure that the corridors between the modules connect appropriately.  The newly placed modules are placed “off side” up.

At this point, the game is set up, and play begins.  The game will be played in a number of game rounds with each player taking turns in clockwise order in each turn.  The game continues until all five exoplanets have been closed, and at that point, the player with the most Influence wins the game.

On a player turn, a player must move one of their engineers on the Odyssey into a different room, and place it on the action stand in the new room.  This room is activated, and all players (in turn order) will take actions in that room corresponding to the number of meeples they have in that room – engineers and robots = 1 point, chief engineers = 2 points.  Once all actions are taken, then players check to see if any of their Space Gate modules are full (Again in clockwise order), and if so, that player’s Settlers travel to the exoplanets. Then, the meeple on the action stand is taken down and placed in the room like a regular worker, and the next player takes his turn.

The Energy (pink), Water (blue) and Wildlife (green) module rooms all work the same – the only different is the color associated with the action.  The action of these modules allow players to move settlers in THEIR OWN space station, as long as settlers move into a module which matches the color associated with the action.  If the module is off (and all modules come into the game with the off side showing), the first settler that comes into the room turns it on – the tile is flipped over to show the “on” side, making sure that the corridors remain in the same orientation – but that settler is lost.  (Not sure why space colonization is so dangerous that a settler dies each time a new room is activated in your space station!) If you have activated an Odyssey module; there is a bonus printed on the off side which you get as you activate it. If the module is on, you can move a Settler into the room as long as there is space for it (square outline on the floor).  For each action point you have in the Odyssey room, you can move one settler in your space station. The originating module color does not matter – only the color of the module you are moving INTO. The central module is wild in color and can always be entered. You can move settlers multiple modules in a row, so long as they are all of matching color to the action.  A settler cannot enter a room if there is no space for it to enter (all squares are filled).

If you have a fully occupied Space Gate module, you can then move settlers (again in turn order) from those fully filled modules to the colonies.  Each Space Gate module has an icon in the center which corresponds to one of the markers placed on an active Exoplanet. Most places on the planet are regular, though there are a few which require a prerequisite.  Also, a few of the spaces will allow you to switch the places of two adjacent markers on the predominance track.

If an exoplanet is completely filled, then you move the Space Gate onto a new planet which does not already have a gate, and if no new planets are available, move the Space Gate onto Hawking.  At this time, the closed exoplanet is scored. Each of the 8 exoplanets in the game has a unique scoring system which is listed in the bottom left corner of the planet card. Move your influence marker around the track.  Each time when you loop around, move a settler from your supply onto the lowest rung of the Government rank ladder. At the third and sixth levels, as the icons show, you will need to take an engineer from Odyssey instead to place on the score ladder.  (Each rung on the ladder is just a somewhat more complicated way of saying “+10 points”).

The airlock module allows you to completely fill any activated airlock module to capacity with settlers from your supply.   (The Airlock module would have had to have been turned on in a previous action where a settler moved into it…)

In the New Modules room of the Odyssey, you get to take the top module pile from any of the nine areas of the Worksite.  You then can either attach it to your space station, making sure to connect it by a valid corridor, OR you can choose to not use it and place it face down under the pile.  In either situation, if you have action points remaining, you can look at another tile. However, you are restricted to placing one tile for each pile during a single turn, so if you have placed a tile this turn, you may not look at any more tiles from that pile.  When modules are placed, they must have at least one valid connection to the space station, but it is OK for other corridors to be blocked off or open to outer space.

The game continues until the end of the turn when all planets are closed.  Once the planets are filled, all the space gates will be on Hawking, and all settlers in filled Space Gate modules go there, score 1 point each, and then are returned to the supply.  The Predominance track is now scored – the tokens have likely moved during the course of the game, and each one will score VP based on its current position (0/1/2/4/7 VPs). The Water/Wildlife/Energy markers reward points to the player(s) who have the most number of modules of that color.  The Balance token rewards points to the player with most sets of each of the three module colors. Then, each player loses 1VP for each corridor in their space station which does not connect to another corridor. If you look backwards on the influence circle, remember to remove a meeple from the highest rung of the government ladder…

At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.  Simplistically, that is the player whose meeple occupies the highest rung on the Government ladder.  If tied, then the player further on the influence circle. If still tied, then the player with the most modules in their station on the “on” side wins.

My thoughts on the game

Space Gate Odyssey gives players an interesting challenge in how to best settle the planets.  At the start of the game, you should be sure to get familiar with the scoring system for each of the exoplanets in your game.  You may need to plan ahead from the very start to maximize your score on some of them. Of course, you’ll have to have Space Gate modules that match the icon of the planet that you want to go to.

But, this brings up the other big challenge in the game – managing the engineers you have in the weird Mancala like Odyssey.  Your actions are directed by how many workers you have in each room. You only get to control the choice of action on your turn, so it will help you to try to anticipate what other players are wanting to do in order to get your workers in the right places at the right time.  One of the big differentiators in this game is getting to take “extra” actions – that is, getting useful actions from your workers when it is not your turn.

Careful space station module planning is essential.  The layout and choice of module in your space station can be crucial to your success.  You will want to have the right rooms (and colors) in your station. You might be striving for a particular color in order to score predominance bonuses at the end.  You might be getting more Odyssey modules in order to give you more workers in the Odyssey – but note this comes at a movement cost; the “on” side of all Odyssey modules is simply an empty corridor; so it will take you longer to move between other sections.  You will definitely be rewarded for making shorter connections between rooms (or maybe creating paths of a single color or maybe putting in a new airlock in a good spot) so that you don’t have to spend so many action points moving your settlers about.

While I compared the Odyssey to a mancala, it really doesn’t work like one at all.  So maybe I should retract that. There is a similarity in that a particular room is used to determine an action and the strength of it, but the distribution of workers is much different.  Here, only one worker per turn is moved into a different room, so your overall distribution is fairly static. It takes awhile to move workers from one room to another. In fact, it is sometimes faster to simply add an Odyssey module to your space station and move someone into it to generate a new worker that you can just drop anywhere in the Odyssey…

The artwork is pleasing, and I do like the cartoony space exploration art.  At first glance, I thought that the art was taken straight out of Rising 5, which is another space-themed game illustrated by Vincent Dutrait.  It is definitely different art for each game, but the styling is quite similar. The components are well done, and while the workshop isn’t really necessary for gameplay, it is an eyecatching organizational system, and it does do a good job of keeping the modules from getting mixed together.

Space Gate Odyssey is a clever middle weight game that gives you multiple things to think about at once.  It is a challenge trying to get your workers in the right place while you build the correct modules in your space station, in a convenient arrangement, while figuring out how to move the settlers around the space station.  Then, once you are in a position to settle the planets, you need to get them to the planets at the right time, etc. Surprisingly, this one didn’t seem to trigger that much AP despite the multiple things to consider. Our games have moved along well – and it has given me a fun puzzle to solve with each game so far.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Craig V.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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