Back in 2011, the clever folks at Greater Than Games debuted an unassuming superhero game titled Sentinels of the Multiverse. We took a look at this game in one of our very early reviews here at Board Game Quest and, spoiler alert, we loved it. Since then, Greater Than Games has come out with a number of expansions for this superhero game, but until now, no completely new games.
The wait has ended as Greater Than Games has finally released their newest offering to the board game world in the form of Galactic Strike Force. Players must once again work together to save the universe, however this time they will be doing it in shiny new space ships. Is Galactic Strike Force just Sentinels of the Multiverse in space or does it have the legs to stand on its own? Let’s find out!
Galactic Strike Force is a cooperative, sci-fi deck builder for 2-6 players that plays in about 60 minutes. Galactic Strike Force plays best with 3-4 players.
In Galactic Strike Force, players must work together to defeat the opposition forces and their big, bad leader. Each player will start as the captain of a unique space ship with its own starter deck of cards. During the game, players will be buying upgrades for their ships in the form of new cards that they will use to take on the opposition ships. These cards come in the form of both upgrades and one time use boosts. At the same time, the opposition fleets will be amassing and trying to overrun the galaxy. If the players can somehow stop the opposition ships from overrunning all 3 of the sectors and take out the leader’s flagship, they will win this very hard game. If the players become grounded or if all 3 sectors are overrun, then the game over.
Galactic Strike Force comes with quite a number of custom cards to be used in the game. The game comes with 10 different strike force ships to choose from. Each ship has a unique deck of cards, ship token, and a well-illustrated playmat. I do love the illustrations of the ship, they all have their own unique character.
The game also comes with 10 different opposition’s forces to take on. Each opposition force will have a deck of mission cards, ship cards, playmat, and cardboard ship token. Finally there are a number of dual sided station cards that players will use to upgrade their ships or, if they are unlucky, help out the opposition forces.
As mentioned earlier, Greater Than Games’ continues their trend of stellar artwork with Galactic Strike Force. In fact, I like the artwork in Galactic Strike Force even better than in Sentinels of the Multiverse. It’s incredibly well done and highly thematic. I love checking out the style of each of the strike force ships, the illustrator got really creative with these. Even the graphic design on the cards is fantastic.
If there is one area that the components are lacking it’s with the rulebook. The game wasn’t the easiest to learn from the rules and it took a number of read throughs (and a trip or two online) to really get a feel for how to play the game. Overall the game isn’t complicated, it’s just that some things aren’t the most intuitive and the rulebook wasn’t as clear as it could have been.
How to Play:
When you are setting up the game, the first thing you do is choose the ship you want to pilot. These aren’t the fancy ships of the intergalactic navy. Nope, you are a ragtag bunch of smugglers and miscreants who have their own unique take on what a fighting ship should be.
After selecting a ship, players randomly choose 3 sector panels to stage the battle for the galaxy in. Finally, an opposition force must be chosen. The opposition’s panel will give any further setup instructions, including dealing out some starting enemy ships. Players then draw 4 cards and it’s time to begin.
Galactic Strike Force is played in a series of rounds with each player taking their turn simultaneously. Each round is broken up into 5 phases:
Travel Phase: Check for travel events. Then, each player may move their strike force ship to a new sector.
Requisition Phase: Check for requisition events. Then, each player may purchase cards from the 3 face up station decks in the sector they are currently in. Their current hand of cards will tell them how much money they have to spend this turn. Note you don’t actually have to discard the card to use the funds; you just have to have it in your hand at the start of the requisition phase. Any new cards are placed on the bottom of the players draw deck. Note, a player’s draw deck is face up, so you always know what’s coming next.
Install Phase: Check for any install events. Then, players may now install any tech cards onto their ship. There is no cost to upgrade your ship. Most will provide players with either more weapon damage or shields. Some will provide special abilities instead.
Battle Phase: Check for battle events. Then, each player may now choose an opposition ship in their sector to engage with. A player may also work with a second player and have one act as the primary attacker and the other act as the secondary. Each ship has a secondary power that will take effect if they choose the secondary role.
Each primary ship engaged with an opposition ship now simultaneously damages each other. Players add up their total weapon power and compare it to the other ships shield power. If the weapon power is greater than the shield power, shield tokens are removed equal to the difference. If it’s not greater, nothing happens. If the ship doesn’t have enough shield tokens, weapons tokens are removed instead. Once a ship has lost all tokens its weapon and shield tokens, it’s destroyed (or grounded if a strike force ship).
Aftermath Phase: Check for aftermath events. Then, any opposition ship that wasn’t engaged with a strike force ship will flip over the top card of a station deck in its sector. The other side of these cards will either be boosts (one time effects) or more opposition ships that get put into play. If all 3 station cards get flipped on the same turn, the sector is overrun.
At this point, players draw back up to 4 cards and a new round begins. There are 2 ways to win the game. If all sectors are clear of opposition ships or if the opposition flagship is destroyed, the players win. If, at any time, all 3 sectors are overrun or all the strike force ships are grounded, its game over, and the players lose.
Galactic Strike Force is a really hard game to win. There is not really any other way to sugar coat that. I’ve played a lot of hard coop games (Ghost Stories, Robinson Crusoe, Freedom: The Underground Railroad), but Galactic Strike Force has been a meat grinder for our group. And that’s not really a negative point. I like my cooperative games to be hard. I got bored of Forbidden Island pretty quickly because there wasn’t much of a challenge. I’ve been on the edge of beating Galactic Strike Force a few times, but those pesky opposition ships always seem to hand me a defeat. So if you love a good challenge, you’ll feel right at home here. If not, you might want to steer clear because Galactic Strike Force can be punishing.
That being said, there are some things I really love about Galactic Strike Force. My favorite of which is building out my strike force ship. Each round, I’m like a kid in a candy store as I greedily count my space credits and look at what I can buy. I salivate over how a new laser or bomb will turn my ship into an even bigger offensive juggernaut. When I see cards that I’m not that interested in, I secretly hope that my fellow players will buy that card so I can see what’s under it and take it for myself. It’s the part of Galactic Strike Force that is so much fun. I’ve yet to meet a single player that doesn’t just relish over customizing his ship.
As much fun customizing our ship is, eventually you’ll have to try that bad boy out in some combat. Battles, for the most part, are fairly straight forward. Once you wrap your head around the mechanics for adding and removing tokens, they go fairly quickly. I have noticed that some players have a hard time undertaking the iconography in the game: red for weapons, blue for shields, or green for either. It’s the green icon that usually trips up new players.
Securing sectors actually requires a good amount of teamwork. Players will be playing boost cards to help each other out and be running calculations to see who should take on which ship. It’s a nice bit of player interaction that keeps the game engaging. I really enjoy that aspect of Galactic Strike Force. If you want to go lone wolf style and do your own thing, Galactic Strike Force will probably chew you up and spit you out. Teamwork is a must.
As much as I enjoy those parts of Galactic Strike Force, I also have to talk about the giant weight that drags the game down from being amazing to simple a good game. The events really make this game fiddly, I mean really, really fiddly. If you’ll notice from our How to Play section, each phase beings with an event phase. This isn’t as simple as flipping a card from an appropriate deck. No, players have to hunt around on all the cards in play for any matching icon for the current phase. And with 5 different phases, the game grinds to a crushing halt at the start of each phase. More than once we accidentally skipped over an event because we just missed the little icon. Combine this with the fact that next to each event icon is some really small card text on what to do, players will be leaning over the table and squinting constantly.
In fact, the event phases got so bad for our group, I ended up buying a cheap bag of plastic pawns off Amazon. This actually helped speed up the event phases a lot. We color coded them to each phase (just placed a pawn next to each event phase listing on the back of the rule book), so when the travel phase comes up, we can just quickly scan for any green pawns (for example). It helps immensely in finding the events at the start of each phase. I’d highly recommend a solution similar to this if you are going to play Galactic Strike Force. While it doesn’t help having to read the tiny print or handle the moving of cards, it is something.
I won’t go as far as to say the fiddlyness ruins Galactic Strike Force, but it definitely makes it harder to bring to the table. This is a shame because there are some things that I love about Galactic Strike Force. The deck building, the customization, the artwork, the theme, and the teamwork are all very satisfying. Because of that, I really want to love Galactic Strike Force. I want to bring it to the table and build out my ship, take on the different opposition groups, and then start all over with a new ship. But scattered among all that joy is some painful and cumbersome bookkeeping. And that’s a shame because buried under all this accounting work is a really fun and engaging card game with a great core.
This also makes me think that Galactic Strike Force would make an absolutely fantastic tablet game. If you are listening Greater Than Games, I would buy an iPad version of Galactic Strike Force in a second. You take all that book keeping and micromanagement out of this game and have it handled for me, and it would be something I’d play over and over again with glee.
There is a lot to love about Galactic Strike Force, but at the same time, there are some things holding it back. Galactic Strike Force isn’t a bad game by any stretch. But I will say that it’s not for everyone. If you don’t like games that punch you in the face and snatch your victory out from under you, then this probably isn’t the game for you. And if you hate a lot of fiddlyness and bookkeeping in a game, then you also might want to move on.
But for those of us that can get past those elements in a game, Galactic Strike Force has some unique mechanics and a solid core of fun. The game also has a metric ton of replay value. You’ll want to try each and every one of the strike force ships (and probably with each other one to see how they work together). Plus, I didn’t even touch on the unique missions that come with each opposition force. There are enough cards in this box to keep you busy for a very long time, not to mention when the eventual expansions com along.
If you can handle its quirks, Galactic Strike Force can make for a fun and challenging cooperative experience. As much as I lament the event phases from slowing the game down, I do find myself thinking about getting it to the table again soon. You can have a good amount of fun in Galactic Strike Force, if you can handle its baggage.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $32
If you want to get the set of pawns we used to make the game flow smoother, you can buy them here for $8
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A very challenging coop game with some fantastic art and design. Although it’s held back by its cumbersome rules and bookkeeping.
• Lots of fiddliness and book keeping
• Game can be a little too challenging