Gaia Project

1-4 players, Competitive Space Management

Designer: Jens Drogemuller, Helge Ostertag

Artwork: Dennis Lohausen

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Overview

A galactic game of building, upgrading and managing your economy the most efficient way possible. 

Length/Win Condition

The games length is actually kinda deceptive. The first time I played it, 2 player, it was super quick. Maybe an hour or so. Of course we were both just learning it and did not realize just how deep this game was so we were blazing through rounds like no bodies business. The game has 6 rounds that you must complete before it ends. Each round is made up of a series of actions that each player takes one at a time back and forth until both players pass. At which point that round ends and you tally up whatever end of round bonus you may or may not have acquired and then move on to the next round, complete with its own unique bonus. These bonuses always end up providing extra VP’s (victory points) which is the ultimate goal here. At the end of round 6 you tally up the VP’s and whoever has the most is the winner. With more players up to 4 max and experienced players, I could see the games lasting a couple hours minimum as the tiled board is much larger with more planets. For me the length was great but I’m not a fan of victory point win conditions, I just feel they are kind of boring. 

Components

The components are pretty average, and there are a lot! I say average as the quality isn’t off the charts like some games (Too Many Bones, Mechs vs. Minions) but completely workable. There are 7 different colored factions that can be played which translate to 7 double sided player boards and 7 fat batches of different colored minis and components for each. So each color will have 8 mini plastic mines, 4 trading stations, 3 research labs, 2 academies, 1 planetary institute and 3 gaiaformers. Also 7 player tokens and 25 little cubes that represent satellites. Also something to be aware of is that those 7 double sided faction boards have completely different factions on each side which basically brings your faction total to 14 totally different ways to play. There are also plastic pieces for tracking each player’s credits, ore, knowledge, power, Q.I.C. and a few other tokens for specific factions. Another thing that I think is cool is that no two games are the same as far as accruing points. When you set up the game rounds and tech tiles AND final scoring tiles, there are more than the required amount in the box. So you end up not using a bunch of them which can be used on later games mixed and matched. The game also comes with a full Automa (single player) deck of cards if you want to go solo, I’ll talk more on this later. 

Box/Storage

The box is really…..below average to be honest. It’s just an empty box. There is no insert to keep stuff in order and this is one of those games that desperately needs an insert. There are quite a few plastic baggies to store all your stuff and that’s what you will end up doing and everything does fit in the box nicely. If a company does end up creating a storage solution for this game AND it fits into this pretty thin box, I would be immensely impressed. One good thing to say about this though, you can easily store it on its side since everything is bagged up. 

Visual Appeal

Visually the game doesn’t really scream. The artwork isn’t terrible on the player boards for the different alien races. The board tiles just display the different colored planets and some stars with a black background. The tokens look really nice and are the color of the appropriate faction they belong to. Nothing really jumps out at you but it doesn’t look bad either. Take that as you will. 

Rulebook

You know this is actually one of the most well written and comprehensive rulebooks I have had the pleasure of learning. It doesn’t really do anything spectacular when trying to teach the game but man it covers ALL the bases. I went through it when learning the game step by step and then on my second play through I kept thinking I had done something wrong so I would reference the book and everything was right. I didn’t have a single question pop up that wasn’t addressed in this rulebook. The ONLY thing that was confusing to me was the Automa player rules. Took me a couple reads to fully “get” it but your mileage may vary on that. Now that’s not to say the game isn’t complex, cuz it is, just to say that the rulebook is very well written. 

Table Presence/Game Board

This beast takes up quite the space on your table. The game board is actually made up of tiles that connect to form the galaxy you will be exploring. The space for the tiles is about typical game board space but can vary based on number of players (more space tiles for 3 -4 players). There is a pretty big tech board that is placed next to the tiles that you track your technology progress and also a round marker board that is placed to the side as well. On top of that stuff you have your individual player boards as well as a spot for all the tokens that each player will use throughout the game. Not my biggest spread for a game *cough Gloomhaven cough* but pretty respectable nonetheless. The player mats have a bookoo of plastic minis adorned upon them so they look pretty cool when setup. The galaxy map starts out pretty bland but as the game progresses it starts to fill out and look really cool as well.

Table Talk/Fun Factor

The game is competitive but in a very point salad type of way. What I mean by point salad is that there are tons of ways to gain victory points. Also there is no conflict between players. There is no battle mechanic built in so you never have to worry about having to defend or fight your way around. You are basically managing your player board economy in the most efficient way possible. There is a TON of thinking involved which can lead to that dreaded player paralysis which can lead to long waits between turns. The game tries to mitigate this by making each player on take one turn at a time which actually does help quite a bit. Players being close together on the map can actually benefit from one another by getting a discount when upgraded mines however you also have to be aware that players can snatch up a planet before you which limits your choices as well. It’s deep. Now this deepness will intrigue those very serious gamers out there and in turn will increase the fun factor for those. However for those people wanting some action in a game that isn’t too mind buzzing, you may want to pass on this one. 

Optimal Player Count

Personally I thought the 2 player game went way too quickly. The first couple rounds went by super-fast and it seemed by the time we were just getting rolling, the game ended. I have yet to try a 4 player game so I cannot comment on the length but I highly suspect that higher player counts are the way to go. I did try the automa single player experience as well and it played out really well. The automa has its own included rulebook with specific instructions on how the AI plays and let me tell ya, it’s cool. There is a deck of cards it used that connect to form the AIs actions that turn whether it builds a mine or terraforms a planet etc. OR when it passes. I really liked it a lot. 

Final Thoughts

This game wasn’t the hardest game for me to learn out of the box but it is for sure the deepest. My first game I went wild spending my resources building mines and it was a grave mistake that cost me dearly. You really have to learn how to properly manage each characters abilities and economies if you want to hope to win. This game is all about strategy and stat keeping. There are a lot of ways to get victory points and this for me was a negative. There is just TOO much going on in the point aspect. I felt like I was always missing something or forgetting something somewhere. I have a feeling though with the deepness this game has, it won’t see my table nearly as often as I would like.

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