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Who here still plays Risk? It’s a fun game, until it’s not. I’ve got a really really old copy that I think is from the seventies and it’s impossible to take North America if they’re turtling. Last year I got the chance to review a game called Leaders which was Risk but with an app. And various win conditions so certain people couldn’t turtle. And having an integrated app is a damn cool addition that Leaders‘ designer have latched onto. This year I got the chance to pick up Lost Galaxy, another cool tabletop + app.
What is it?
Lost Galaxy puts you in the shoes of one of four alien races just before the sun of their shared solar system explodes. Each round your goal is to evacuate as many of your coloured planets before the sun explodes. Oh, and there isn’t a turn or point limit. The sun will randomly explode at some point after roughly three minutes. It’s hard to keep track as the game gets hectic fast.
Players keep drawing new hands each round and using what cards they can use. The scoring mechanic is to evacuate planets but you need to have a 1, 2, 3, and 4 planet before you can evacuate. At the end, you score all the planets of your colour and an extra five points for each evacuation card you played. The rub is that you’ll often pick up other player’s cards and at the end, they get those cards for their score.
You aren’t trapped if another player drops one of their planet cards on a pile you’ve been working on though. With planet destroyers (discard a whole pile), fighter squadrons (discard the top card of a pile), and shields (prevent one of those cards being used) you can clear any problematic planets. Just try not to think of the genocide you’ve just committed…
As you play, the app keeps throwing curveballs at you. Solar flares might wipe out the top card of several planet piles. Eclipses stop the active player from evacuating on that turn. And even player coloured satellites that float across the screen that award extra cards if tapped.
Ups and Downs
The integrated app is a fantastic addition that forces a very unique thought process. In most other card games you either see the end coming and start changing your strategy to compensate or get blindsided. But with Lost Galaxy, as no-one knows when the end is coming, you’re forced to risk waiting for a better chance or just banking what you can. Even if that means banking points for your opponent.
At the end of each round the app asks you to put your score in and takes you to (what feels like) a more hazard filled solar system. Which really begs the question, why do these people live here?! Surely space faring aliens should be able to tell when a sun is going to die. We can and we’re still arguing whether or not the Earth is flat.
It’s also a nice touch in the app that the solar system is constantly moving, the sun is burning, and events have actual visual representation. Like when the solar flare event triggers, the sun actually sends flares out in the directions it targeted.
However, as nice as the app is, the lack of a physical rulebook is a bother. After going through the tutorial (mighty useful by the way), we couldn’t remember what the Mech race’s power was. After lucking onto the rules on the app, we found it to be a bit muddled and awkward to navigate. We’ll give them a point for environmental friendliness to compensate.
Oh, and after our most recent match, the game asked what new features we’d like to see. Which is the best part of mixing app and tabletop. Personally, I’m excited to see a co-op mode but a new race might be neat as well.
I’m a big fan of integrating technology into boardgames. Maybe its the spoiled videogame part of me that wants a well curated tutorial to teach me the game but it just feels good. I feel like it adds a lot to experience BUT I can fully see the appeal of keeping tech away from the table. So follow your gut on that aspect.
As a whole, Lost Galaxy works well and feels like a novel take on card games in general. Just y’know, try and ignore the Death Star-esque genociding of whole planets.
You can find Lost Galaxy on the designer website HERE and as of time of writing is discounted for Black Friday.
Let me know what you think about phones being integrated into games. Good or bad? Improving the potential of tabletop or insidious influence?