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  • Writer's pictureJW

Play Dice with the Universe

A galaxy so small you can hold it in your hand. You can explore its wonders and build a federation – if you can survive the obstacles put in your way. How? By rolling dice and doing the math. Lots of math actually. Though you may get help from the Zibzab branch of the Department of Fun. As One Deck Galaxy has science and silliness in equal measures.


The preceding One Deck Dungeon has earned a prominent place in my personal Solo Games Hall of Fame, I’ve played it some 140 times - and when counting sessions on the excellent app, easily over 200. It turned out I did not care for small additions to its mechanics or difficulty (Forest of Shadows, Abyssal Depths) as it is perfect. But One Deck Galaxy plays really different even though it has familiar elements. And it is a keeper.


You can choose from five Homeworlds (characters) that already play a bit differently, but you combine them with one of five Societies that bring their own special actions and have their own way of working towards a Federation. Then you take on one of five Adversaries – that will put unique obstacles in your way during the game. So there’s a lot of variety here. And if you want more, there are even 24 campaigns included, each with unlockable abilities and bonuses while you work your way through the challenges.


Brainbox

The Adversaries are not bosses you confront in an endgame, they will mess with you every round and have a loss condition that can go off about every time you go through the deck. Ah yes, the deck. There is a whole galaxy to explore and colonize or fight off – and none of these actions will be doable in one round. So you’ll have to plan and strategize and make choices all the time. This is a much thinkier game than One Deck Dungeon.


And then there’s your Starbase. Dice you can’t use on any of the location or encounter cards, can be put to good use there – even if they are 1s or 2s. You can build fleets or invest in science for later use.


Sessions take an hour and you’ll be thinking and planning and counting and making the most of your dice rolls all of the time.


A Galaxy of Hurt

So, all good then, eh? Er… Well. There is just one teeny-weeny problem with this game. IT IS TOO HARD! It’s crushing, demotivating. I hated it so much. I don’t play games to make me feel stupid. I almost got rid of it. Then I visited the publisher’s website and behold. I may not have been the only one having problems. There are three easier settings to play this game. They are not in the manual so I feel like cheating a bit when I use them. But at least now I can survive long enough to enjoy the game.


And it is a really good game. Now that I’ve played it some twelve times with a Medium Boost, I think I can try a harder setting. This really should be included in the manual. Games like Friday and Ares Expedition ease you into the game with ascending difficulty settings and can be recommended to everyone. One Deck Galaxy as it is now, is for very experienced gamers only. And for masochists. And that’s a pity. As the fun illustrations and silliness that’s in the flavour text, names and some of the mechanics could make this suitable for a broader audience.


For me, the biggest change in how the game feels - when compared to One Deck Dungeon - is the way the Adversaries push things forward. You'll want to beat one level of them before the deck runs out and you reshuffle - then you want to unlock a Federation level on your Society, as that's required to beat the next level of the Adversaries - but in the meantime an Adversary Event will have triggered because of your reshuffle and this will make your rounds a little bit harder - and so on. The pressure is on all the time and an hour will pass before you know it.


The biggest change in the fun factor is the addition of lore in the Adversary Quickguide, and in how thematic the Societies work. One Deck Galaxy will put a smile on your face. Once you've visited the website, that is. Before that it will make you curl up crying in a corner.







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