Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
Storyception Games is trying something new with their company. Before they started creating games, they first created a universe, Apocalypse Universe, for all of their games to live in. Their plan is to make 5 games all tied together by being set in this universe they imagined. Will they succeed? Only time will tell.
To begin this ambitious endeavor, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign for the first game in the Apocalypse Universe. Galactic Arena is a tactical combat game for 2-6 players that puts players into the role of an area champion in a fight to the death. This quick playing game can be completed in about 15 minutes and offers a world of customization each game.
Galactic Arena can be played in a few different formats (1v1, 2v2 or 3v3). Whether you are playing with teams or just flying solo, the game play remains the same. Each player starts by drafting a champion to represent them in the arena. After this, players spend some time customizing their champions skills set. With over a dozen options to choose from, there are a lot of possible combinations for creating your warrior of death. Once players are ready, the game begins and players duel to the end via an easy action point system. Move, attack and avoid the obstacles, easy enough. Kill your opponent and you’ll emerge the victor.
How to Play:
As you might expect for a game that can be played in 15 minutes, the rules in Galactic Arena are fairly easy to pick-up. The game comes with a variety of different champions, each with their own weapons and possible skill sets. Once each player chooses a champion, they must customize which skills they will use for the game. Each player has a specific amount of points they can spend buying offensive and defensive skills. After your champion is outfitted, players can optionally add traps, crates and barriers to the game board to make for a more dynamic game.
Once the game begins, the player with the highest initiative goes first. Each player has a specific amount of actions points they can spend each round. Once a player is out of action points, they must pass on any future turns. Once both players are out of actions points, the round is over.
Possible things you can spend your action points on:
- Move: Your champion can move up to his move speed. You can also combine this action with an attack.
- Make an attack against your opponent: This will be one of your most used actions. Attacks can be either melee or ranged. To attack, you roll a 10-sided die and add the result to your attack value. Your opponent must defend by rolling the same die and adding his defense value. Note: Defending costs your opponent an Action Point and is mandatory. If the attacker’s attack score beats his opponent’s defensive score, he does a point of damage (and possibly an additional effect based on the weapon he used.)
- Push: after a successful melee attack, you can push your opponent 1 hex and move into the vacated hex.
- Charge: A move action that lets a champion move and attack. This gives him +1 to his attack roll and damage.
- Use a special ability: Some of the champion’s special abilities require the use of an action point to activate.
After you’ve taken your combat turn, your opponent takes theirs. Turns alternate back and for until both players are out of action points. Once this happens, players refresh all their used special abilities and actions points and a new round begins. Once you’ve reduced your opponent’s life points to zero, the game is over and you’ve won!
Galactic Arena isn’t a hard game by any stretch. Most of our early games ended up being me and my opponent wailing on each other in the center of the arena. It wasn’t until we got a good feel for the game that we figured out that the key to being successful (and having fun) in Galactic Arena is through the use of the special abilities.
In my opinion, that’s the area that really lets you have fun with Galactic Arena. I think we had one match where we spent more time customizing our characters then actually fighting (mostly due to my really crappy rolls). But that’s OK. Since the matches go by so quickly, even if you have a match where you can’t hit anything, it’s fairly easy to setup for a quick rematch.
Storyception Games did a great job in creating the champions in Galactic Arena. Each one feels different; both in the way they have to approach the game and through the various special abilities they have access too. Even the weapons they use are different, each has a keyword that will do things like bleed your opponent or make them easier to hit. It’s this kind of variety that will help this quick playing game feel fresh after numerous bouts in the arena.
I do have to say though; Galactic Arena is a game that’s just begging to be a miniatures game. Our prototype copy had card stock hexes cut out to represent our champions and I know the Kickstarter version is currently looking at cardboard standees. But if Storyception games can swing it, I think Galactic Arena would make a great minis game. There is just something so fun about moving a 3D figure around the arena that would really help players keep rooted to the theme of the game. While the game will absolutely play fine with cardboard tokens, I think minis would be much more fun to play with.
If I had something to complain about with Galactic Arena, I think it would be that the game almost feels too quick sometimes. A few bad rolls here and there and they game is over. When you lose in the second round the game does lose a little bit of its epic feel. But for people who enjoy tricking out another character and giving it another go, this shouldn’t be an issue.
While the game is easy to learn, if you want the most fun, you’ll have to bust out the optional crates, barriers and traps. This makes the arena much more dynamic and enjoyable. Without them, the game loses a little of its excitement and flexibility. After your first game where you are just learning how to play, I can’t imagine playing without them in the future.
Finally, the introduction of team play was a nice idea by Storyception Games. Even if you only have 2 players, each player can easily run 2 champions really changing the dynamic of the game. When it’s not just 2 champions out there slugging it out, it can really make for some interesting tactical decisions that add to the variety in the game. So, a job well- done Storyception Games on the player scaling.
If the idea of being an arena champion sounds appealing to you, then Galactic Arena is absolutely worth checking out. The game’s quick playing time will make it easy to get to the table and its deep variety will have you wanting to try out the different combinations. I also really enjoyed the sci-fi theme and thought it worked really well in the concept of the game. I’m really looking forward to the other games from the Apocalypse Universe.
If you’d like to become a backer, a $47 pledge will get you a copy of the game and all stretch goals. Galactic Arena is scheduled to be in backers hands in February of 2015 and you have until Thursday, October 9th to become a backer. So head over today and check it out.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review