Wed. Dec 7th, 2022
Jump Drive review: an addictive, fast paced sci-fi card game
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What is the best modern strategy card game?

If you said something other than “Race for the Galaxy“I have news for you – you are wrong. (We also accept) Magicbut that’s something completely different).

Race for the Galaxy, a game in which players compete to build the most powerful galactic empire in the shortest possible time, is the quintessential modern card game. Released in 2007, the game has solidified its status as a “classic” due to its complex strategy, clever interactivity, and infinite replayability. It’s a really great game.

But there is a problem: Race for the Galaxy is notoriously difficult to teach. The core mechanics can feel unintuitive to new players, and the generous use of initially unfathomable iconography makes learning such a chore that it’s almost not worth trying to get new players into the fold unless you’re sure they can. going to love it.

In 2014, race designer Tom Lehmann and co-designer Wei-Hwa Huang released Roles for the Galaxya dice game on the race formula. Roles for the Galaxy‘s tiles – analogous to Race’s cards – were still decorated with all sorts of mysterious iconography, but the symbols were also accompanied by textual explanations, allowing Roll a much easier game to learn. (It also happens to be an excellent game, and it’s where we’d recommend starting if you have your toes in the race universe.)

But just say the relatively short playing times of race and Roll takes too long for you. Let’s say you want to build and rule a galactic empire… in the time it takes to make a sandwich. Enter Lehmann’s latest title, Jump Drivea game billed as an “introduction to the” Race for the Galaxy universe.” You can think of it as a kind of ultra-fast, super-easy distillation of the core concepts found in its bigger siblings.

Go ahead and jump

The purpose of Jump Drive, as in any “___ for the galaxy” game, is to conquer the galaxy through smart card game. Here, players race to cross a threshold of 50 points, after which the game is over and the highest score wins. The game generally lasts a solid seven-or-so rounds.

Jump Drive retains the wildly addictive engine-building gameplay of the other games in the series, while ignoring any rules that cannot be explained in seconds. From a five-card starting hand, build a card-pulling, point-generating machine that will propel you to victory.

Each turn, players simultaneously and secretly choose to play one or two face-down cards in front of them. When everyone is ready, the players turn over their cards, which are left in front of them, forming a “tableau” for the rest of the game. Cards come in two types, “worlds” and “developments” – essentially planets you can take over and technologies you can develop to help you take over planets more efficiently. Each card has a cost, which you pay by discarding other cards from your hand. Each card thus represents one of two options: an addition to your empire or the currency to pay for those additions.

The cost of a card is in the diamond or circle in the top left corner.  If a circle is red, you pay for it by using military power (the small +1 circles) instead of cards.  Efficient!
enlarge / The cost of a card is in the diamond or circle in the top left corner. If a circle is red, you pay for it by using military power (the small +1 circles) instead of cards. Efficient!

If you play two cards, you must pay full price for each card. But if you only play one card, you get a bonus – a discount or a refund, depending on the type of card you play. Since the game is a race, you want to play as many cards as possible quickly, but that gets expensive. You’ll have to decide if you can afford to throw away that one perfect card to get it other perfect card in your realm this round. The decision is often unbearable, an essential design element inherited from race.

At the end of each round, everyone gets two types of income: cards and points. Each card tells you what it gives you, and these values ​​snowball as the game progresses. In round 1 you may draw 2 cards and score 1 point; a short six rounds later you should be able to score 20 points per round and draw a huge pile of cards (to balance everything, you have to discard up to 10 at the end of the round).

While the mechanics are completely different, this sense of absurd escalation from “I have nothing” to “I AM THE UNSTOPPABLE GOVERNMENT OF THE GALAXY” reminds me of star realms, another super fast sci-fi card game. It is immensely satisfying.

A development (left) and a world (right).  At the bottom of the cards you can see that Replicant Robots produces 2 points and no cards per round, while the (expensive) Deserted Alien Library produces 6 points and 2 cards per round.  The Robots' special ability makes later played worlds cheaper.
enlarge / A development (left) and a world (right). At the bottom of the cards you can see that Replicant Robots produces 2 points and no cards per round, while the (expensive) Deserted Alien Library produces 6 points and 2 cards per round. The Robots’ special ability makes later played worlds cheaper.

By akfire1

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