- Designers: Christian Martinez
- Publisher: Matagot
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 14+
- Time: 45-90 min
- Played with prototype provided by Matagot
- KS link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/matagot/galactic-renaissance
The pitch from the publisher: “Following Inis, Galactic Renaissance is the second installment of the “Political Trilogy” by designer Christian Martinez and publisher Matagot. Throughout Galactic Renaissance, you build your team, adding new specialists — each one unique — to the core in your deck of cards. With this team, you discover new planets and systems, reconnect with lost civilizations, expand your influence, build embassies, and sow disorder in opposing factions — all in an effort to score victory points faster than your opponents. Sending emissaries to new planets, for example, allows you to discover new civilizations or cement relationships on known planets. Opponents may try to convince a planet to join them instead with their own emissaries, causing disorder in the process.”
Each player takes all the bits in their color, placing their 5 institutes on their player board. Some starting bits are placed on the table, and there is a draft in reverse player order – with each player drafting a Planet tile, specialist card, Emissary card – taking a different type of thing each turn. The specialist card drawn by each player is added to their 7 Core Team cards to create the starting deck which is shuffled and then a hand of 3 cards is drawn to complete setup.
Players take their drafted planet and attach the stability tile of their color to create their Home Planet, placing the number of Emissaries stated on their drafted Emissary card on it. The token matching the home planet is placed around the player’s board. The unchosen Planet from the draft becomes the Hub; it has a Stability tile of at least 7 attached to it, and it gets one of each of the three colored Portal markers.
The game is played in a number of rounds until someone meets the victory condition (having at least 30 VP total and scoring at least 10VP in the final round). A player turn follows this format, going through all five steps before the next player goes:
1] Play Operation Cards – a player plays an Operation card from their hand and resolves the text in an Operation box. If there is a Play again symbol on the card, the player will get to play another Operation card after the current one is resolved. At any point in the turn, you can also play a Specialist card from your hand to draw the top card from their deck (and not use the Operation effect of the Speclalist card). All cards are kept in order in front of the player.
Examples of some possible Operation Actions
- Activate a Planet token – choose one of the planet tokens on your player board and do what it says
- Add / Move / Remove an Emissary – (between your reserve and the board as indicated). Place an Emissary on a empty space on a Stability tile if possible; if not, place directly on the planet
- Explore a new planet – Add a planet to the table, choosing which portal color it will start with
- Ally with a planet – choose any one planet where you have a majority of Emissaries and take the planet token and place it one the five slots on your player board.
- Change the stability limit of a planet by exchanging the Stability tile
2] Resolve Disorders – If any planet is in Disorder, they must be resolved. Disorder happens when a planet has more elements on it than there are spaces on its Stability area (i.e. something is placed on the planet itself). An entire round is taken where each player must choose one of 4 things: remove an Emissary, move 2 Emissaries to adjacent planets, remove an Institute or play a Disorder card from their hand and activate its Disorder effect. After all players have gone, if the Disorder is resolved; that planet is done for the phase (this planet can also not be used to resolve later Disorders in this turn). Otherwise, do another full round of disorder resolution. Do this for all Disordered planets.
3] Discard played cards – All played cards are placed facedown under the deck, in the order they were played.
4] May discard 1 card from hand – The active player may discard one card from their hand, placing it facedown underneath their deck
5] Refill hand – checking the highest value seen on their Home Planet board (based on how many Institutes they have built), the player draws cards until his hand size matches that number. If the player has more cards than his limit, he does not need to discard, but he does not draw.
Players generally score victory points when they play their Senator Core Team card – when this happens, they score the three objective cards seen on the Senate board going from left to right. As players pass certain spots on the track, the Objectives will change. The game continues until a player has 30+VP total and scored 10 VP on the final turn. If you have >20 VP at the end of your turn and did not win, your score resets to 20VP.
My thoughts on the game
So, I had a chance to look at an advance copy of this game – and it did take me a bit of time to get it to the table. The first couple of times that I suggested it, people shied away from it because they felt it was just another version of Inis. After playing it, I can say that it is most DEFINITELY NOT Inis. Sure, there are some similarities, including the designer and some drafting of cards – but past that, the games are quite different from each other, and there is a lot to explore in this second game of the planned trilogy.
The initial draft theoretically has a huge effect on the game because it gives each player their starting operating parameters. I do like the way that the choices seem to be balanced, as if you choose to take a high number of emissaries (which always looked like an obvious first choice to me), you’ll likely not get the planet of your choice nor the specialist card that looks best. Additionally, from what I’ve seen, each of the “best” choices in each category can be useful, and it didn’t feel like any player was at a competitive disadvantage after the draft – each player just had an advantage in a particular facet of the game.
After that draft though, this is more about area control and tactical management of the deck. You are constantly working on having presence and eventual majority on planets. Using the Ambassador action to get a Planet token (when you have the majority) is a strong play. You want to play Institutes to increase your hand size, and you want to play Foundations in order to increase the cards in your deck. As Foundations take up space on a planet, they also affect the majorities and can lead to Disorder. For me, having a higher hand size is of utmost importance as this gives you the best chance of having the cards you want in your hand, but that being said, I have also seen some players manage with a small hand size for most of the game and still do fine (i.e. better than me score-wise). Many of the cards have multiple possible options on them, so depending on which cards you add to your deck, you might still have enough flexibility even with a smaller hand size.
The whole Disorder concept is neat, and leads to plenty of opportunities for clever tactical play. I like the way that every player participates in a Disorder round and is forced to do something. It is a very interesting way to deal with conflict. As the game progresses and players add more Specialist cards with Disorder effects/actions, the whole process can be very interesting and at times quite unpredictable. There can be a bit of an advantage to being the aggressor as you only draw cards at the end of your turn, so if you cause players to play Specialist cards in a Disorder phase, you will reduce their flexibility on their next turn as they will have a smaller hand to start with.
The card management aspect is neat. In the long term, you slowly add Specialist cards to your deck, and obviously you’d like to add cards that work synergistically with each other. In the short term, the fact that there is no discard pile and that cards are placed back on the deck in the order that you play them adds a bit of strategy to even the order that you might play your cards in… as you may be trying to set up a combination for the next pass through the cards. Again, as many cards have multiple options, they can combine in interesting and unexpected ways – and learning how the cards can work together is a big part of the learning curve of this game.
Timing-wise, there are a bunch of things to watch. First, in the course of the game (and well, from setup), you should see what the different objectives are. Depending on which objectives show up at which stage of the game, you may need to shift your strategies accordingly. From my early plays, I’m pretty set on ignoring the first objective and working more towards the second and third ones. Given the way that game is won, what matters most is having a big turn at the end. An early deficit can be overcome easily; don’t put yourself in a bad position to finish the game just to score points easily on the first objective; as those rules won’t apply when it comes time to decide the winner.
The endgame was really tight in our game, as three of the four players were trying to cycle through their decks to set up a good turn with their Senator card as this tends to be the card that leads to the highest scores. If a player could not get the minimum 10 points needed to win, then there was always some thought on how to weaken the next player in turn order to make it harder for them to win – of course without weakening their own position for the next turn!
As the copy I played was a prototype, there is not a lot that can be said about the components – as who knows if they will change or not. I will say that we felt the current cards were easy to understand. That being said, the cards and combination of cards can be a bit overwhelming, and our first game did take quite a bit of time as we constantly read and re-read the cards. One good thing was that the hand size is pretty small at the start of the game, so you only have a few cards to examine; and while the hands will continue to get larger, you’ll have seen your cards multiple times by then, so you’ll also be more familiar with them as you try to figure out how to get them to work together.
Our initial 4p game took just around three hours – but we were all new to the game, had to learn from reading the rules, had to read all the cards ourselves, and of course, had plenty of interruptions from friends wandering by and chatting (after all, the convention is called the Gathering of Friends!). I’d see this easily coming in the 90 minute range once players are familiar with the game rules and the cards – but I think it’s fair to warn gamers how long our initial game took as it certainly does have the possibility to run long.
The rules are pretty easy to follow, though there really isn’t much in them. It’s just setup and the round sequence. For the most part, the rules are on the cards themselves, and like I said, we didn’t have too many problems understanding what the cards did or how they would combine with other cards. I had to give the prototype copy back to Matagot, so I probably won’t have another chance to play the game before it’s done, but I’m definitely interested in what I’ve seen so far, and I’m looking forward to another chance to play it again. The game is also available for play online, and if I were inclined to play a game online, I’d certainly have this on that list.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor