Review: Space Gate Odyssey
Designer: Cédric Lefebvre
Artist: Vincent Dutrait
Category: Worker Placement, Tile Placement
Price: $59.95 Amazon.com
Space Gate Odyssey is a game about colonizing exoplanets. Using “Stargate”-style technology, settlers are transported onto new worlds. Players represent confederations, trying to get their settlers onto the planets, while efficiently managing their own space station modules.
Space Gate Odyssey looks like an ameri-trashy sci-fi game, but plays like a mid-heavy euro. In this game, players are teams of intrepid engineers and settlers, trying to build the perfect space station and spread their influence to undiscovered planets.
The game is played out on individual player tableaus, exoplanet tiles, and a central “control” board. When everything is set up, there is kind of a lot to look at.
Players have three different types of units: settlers, robots and engineers. The latter can be upgraded into a “chief engineer,” signified by the meeple wearing a “suit.”
Each turn, players move one of their engineers to a different room on the control board and activate it. Any players present in that room receive action points to spend.
Action points are allocated based on the number of figures in the active control room. Each robot and engineer grants one action, and each chief engineer grants two actions. (Robots never move, so they only service the room in which they appear.)
If the pink, green, or blue control room is activated, any players with engineers present there can move settler figures on their own tableaus. For one action point, a settler can enter an adjacent room of the matching color.
In the example above, the player activated the pink control room. All players present there can move their settlers into adjacent pink spaces in their stations. The yellow and white players can each move one settler, since they received one action point from having a single engineer. The active player (purple) can move three settlers, because he has a regular engineer and a chief engineer (1 action + 2 actions).
The first time a settler enters a new room, the tile gets “activated.” Some spaces show a particular gate icon, meaning that settlers can warp to the matching gate/planet when all the settler spots are full.
The white control room allows players to add new tiles to their stations. This operation gives Space Gate Odyssey something of a spatial puzzle, as players want to ensure that their settlers can get around easily and quickly.
The yellow control room allows players to place new settlers in their stations. For one action point, an airlock space can be filled to capacity with settler meeples.
As players activate new tiles and add settlers to their stations, they will eventually be able to land settlers on a planet. Each planet has unique placement rules and scoring systems; I won’t be detailing how they all work, but suffice it to say that they all require different strategies to colonize.
Every planet also has an individual “closure” condition—thematically, when a planet closes, it means it has been fully colonized. Players earn points according to the planet’s scoring criteria, and its gate moves to another planet, which can then be explored and settled.
The game ends when all planets have been closed. At that time, the player with the most points wins.
Before I jump into my overall impression of the game, let me say that I did not cover nearly every aspect of it above. Space Gate Odyssey has lots of moving parts, and discussing all of them would take way too long. (Honestly, what you’re reading now is a whittled-down version of my original write up.)
With that in mind, this game is an interesting mixture of euro mechanisms. It combines worker placement, dynamic action selection, and tableau building into a thinky, strategic experience. Because everyone in a control room receives action points when it is activated, players need to make sure they aren’t helping an opponent too much by activating a particular room. There is no direct player interaction or combat in this game, but everyone needs to be aware of what their opponents are trying to do and plan accordingly. The experience requires a good deal of forward-thinking and long-term strategy.
Space Gate Odyssey looks nice on the table, though it is mostly just cardboard components. The 3D control room and tile storage tray really accentuate the visual appeal. I like the look of the worker pieces, but the settler meeples are very, very small. I realize this was probably necessary to keep the game’s overall footprint minimal, but it would have been nice if they were slightly larger. To the game’s credit, it does a good job capturing its theme, which is particularly pronounced in the different settlement conditions on each planet.
Overall, though, I found Space Gate Odyssey unfulfilling to play. In order to really fathom what’s going on, players need to understand what all the control rooms do, how action points are allocated, how the three different types of station tiles operate, what the various workers do, planets’ unique settlement rules, endgame scoring bonuses, and more. It’s a lot to take in, and for me, the experience it provided did not justify the requisite amount of rules overhead. Seasoned euro gamers might catch on more quickly, but Space Gate Odyssey is definitely not a game for everyone. It seems like the kind of game that might get better with repeated plays, but I did not enjoy it enough to want to invest the time and energy to get to that point.
This one is not for me. If you are interested in it, I recommend trying before you buy.
A review copy was provided by Asmodee.
The Bottom Line
Space Gate Odyssey is a well-designed game with some interesting ideas, but it is not for everybody.