In Space Gate Odyssey players compete, attempting to build an efficient space station in order to populate planets with settlers. The aim of the game is to become the overall system governor, a goal only achieved by earning influence points throughout the game.
Space Gate Odyssey appears extremely complex when you first read through the rulebook. Then after you’ve played through your first few turns it becomes clear and very simple. Then as you play, the complexity and challenge of the tactics become very apparent, and that’s where the complexity stays.
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The components of Space Gate Odyssey are very colorful; wonderfully so. The game is very eye-catching and all the components are bright and clear. There’s a card 3D control room, known as the Odyssey Board, to build and a card-holder/shelving unit to put together for the rooms of the space station. There are also 4 different types of acrylic meeples, including an exo-suit to dress one of them in.
Once all the pieces have been fitted together, they all fit back in the box without needing to break any of the card units down. It might not travel without securing some of the room tiles, but for storage is perfect. It’s clearly well designed, exactly like the rules are.
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Each turn, players take turns to activate 1 room in the Odyssey Room. There are 5 rooms that can be activated, and depending on the type of meeple and how many you have working there, you get a certain amount of action points to spend on building your space station. For example, a Chief Engineer is worth 2 points and a robot is worth 1. So if you had both of them in one room and move another Chief Engineer in to activate, you would have 5 points to spend on that room's action. The 5 different rooms are Wildlife (green), Water (blue), Energy (pink), Airlock (orange) and New Module (white).
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Activating the New Module room lets you build rooms in your space station. You can build Airlocks, Space Gates or Odyssey rooms. We'll discuss these later.
Activating the Airlock room in the Odyssey Board lets you fill an Airlock room in your station with settlers.
Activating Wildlife, Water or Energy allows you to move Settlers in your space station into adjacent tiles of that color. It’s the only way you can move settlers around. Once you've finished spending action points, if you have settlers in a Space Gate tile of that color and it’s full (each tile has an individual maximum settler limit), at the end of the turn they can travel via a space gate to the connected planet.
If any other players have meeples in the room of the Odyssey Board you activate, they also get a number of action points to spend on that activation. To activate a room, you have to move a worker into it. So you need to plan in advance and have a good spread of workers around the board in order to maximize your actions. It creates a tactical challenge in trying to work out where your opponent will activate and making sure you have workers there to benefit from their activation. Of course, you can only move 1 worker a turn, so you need to be thinking several turns ahead.
While all that is going on you should be planning on building your space station. There are 3 types of rooms, which all come in the 3 different colors for Water, Wildlife, and Energy. The first room type is Space Gates. When a Space Gate is full of settlers and the matching color of the room in the Odyssey Board is activated, the Space Gate transports settlers to the planet matching the Space Gate on the planets. This is how you get points to win, by filling the planets with your settlers.
The second type of room is Airlocks. These rooms populate when you activate the Airlock room in the Odyssey Board. They activate by filling with settlers.
The third type of rooms are basic corridors, but when entered for the first time, they give you a one-time bonus of another worker to deploy into the Odyssey Board.
All rooms in your space station start closed and must be opened by moving a settler into it. That settler is then removed from play. This means that tile placement is very important as you can only move into the colors of tiles activated that turn. So if the path for settlers from an Air Lock is made of up tiles of different colors, it will require several different control room activations to get them to a Space Gate Portal. Because the settler is removed when entering a room for the first time, it means that you can’t send off a single worker to open all your new tiles up.
Ideally, you want airlocks beside space gates and a separate corridor heading off where you can get the one-time bonus of new workers for the operations room. But that’s a lot harder to do than it sounds.
When settlers travel through the Space Gates, they enter the planet with the matching Space Gate symbol. Games are played with 5 planets in total and 3 begin with active Space Gates. After one of the planets is full, its Space Gate moves to a new planet. Play continues until all planets are full and then the influence points are totaled up.
Each planet has its own rules for placing settlers and also its own influence points for settlers. And as the planets fill up, points are tracked and changes are made on the Hawking board.
There are also chances to move tokens on a Predominance Board, another part of the Hawking tile. These tokens are for Water, Wildlife and Energy as well as a Balance token. When the game ends points are awarded according to this track to players with the most of those tiles in their Space Station. Players also lose points for rooms on their space station with open exits. It's hard to predict the winner as the game is going on and there can be some surprising results at the end.
Space Gate Odyssey is very clever. It’s incredibly complex, but not because of complicated rules. The rulebook could benefit from some streamlining of the rules, but it does a good enough job of getting you into your first game. Once playing, it will become apparent how simple the concept is and how straight-forward the turns are. After that, it’s a game of reading your opponents and making an effective space station in order to maximize the settler production and shipping off to planets.
Space Gate Odyssey is not a game for everyone. While it looks very bright and appealing, players who enjoy a tactical management game will enjoy this a lot while players looking for something more light and random may not. There’s no dice or card randomness in Space Gate Odyssey, everything is achieved through your own planning and effective building. There are some mechanics that slow down anyone taking an early lead, but players who ‘get it’ will find they do much better against those who might not be able to visualize an effective space station.
The first couple of games will be fun for everyone while you learn, and if you’re playing with a group who enjoy this style of challenge then it will extremely competitive in games after that.
The Bottom Line:
Space Gate Odyssey is a complex game that makes playing very simple. Each player turn is very simple to carry out, but the tactical depth is impressive. Players able to plan several turns ahead will do incredibly well, as monopolizing your opponent's actions while simultaneously getting the most out of your Space Station is key. It's a very tactical game, which might not be for everyone. All the components are bright and well designed. Once the few card stands are built, they all still fit perfectly back into the box, which shows great design. If you enjoy tactical management games, then you'll love Space Gate Odyssey.
Get this game if:
You enjoy worker management games.
You love games that work on several levels simultaneously.
You want a game with no randomness and pure strategy.
Avoid this game if:
You want randomness in your game.
You don't enjoy management style games.
This copy of Space Gate Odyssey was provided by Asmodee UK.
What do you think of games that work on several levels at once? How important is a clever game storge design for you? Let us know in the comments below.
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