Last month I picked up Battleship Galaxies on impulse while window-shopping at Merlyn's. I was vaguely aware that it was in development, but I had no idea it was already on the shelves. It was a nice heavy box, implying plenty of goodies inside.
It didn't disappoint. The game comes with a fair number of plastic ships, flight stands, pegs, dice, cards, space-terrain tiles, and two heavy-duty hex-mapped boards. The minis themselves are of better quality than many of the Star Wars CMG's ships; while they are only base-coated and washed, the detail is decent and the ships suffer from little of the warping and bent protrusions that made the Star Wars ships such a disappointment.
Grade for Components: 4 out of 5.
The mechanics themselves are pretty straightforward. A player has to allocate energy each turn to activate ships or special weapons, which is a wee bit odd; most people wouldn't consider it logical that all ships are sharing one vast pool of energy. In any event, it seems to work okay, so far as it requires you to pick and choose which ships to activate each turn, adding another element of strategic thinking to the game. Ships move, shoot, use a special weapon, or explore an unexplored terrain tile (which are randomly drawn and put on the board face-down. Exploring one lets you flip it over, resulting in either a good outcome -- like an alien technology market -- or a bad outcome -- such as running into a debris field, which can damage your ship).
The basic gameplay is fun but not exceptional in and of itself, which is okay, because the basic gameplay is the backdrop for all the special cards you can draw and use. Each side has its own deck, and you might find yourself gaining the services of a legendary captain or having a ship receive an experimental weapon from Fleet HQ. It's fun to toss nukes back and forth at each other. The card decks add terrific variety and flavor to the game, and your success or failure may well depend on when you bring a particular item into play.
Grade for Mechanics: 4 out of 5 (with the cards in play; without them, I'd give it a 2.5 or 3 out of 5)
So... with the time-honored name of "Battleship" on the box, how exactly does this game relate to its vaunted ancestor? There are a few signature items that hint at the game's heritage. For example, the use of colored pegs. In the original Battleship, you had white pegs to track misses and red ones to track hits. In this game, you have blue pegs to represent shields and red ones to represent hull. You remove blue pegs from the base of the flight stand as the ship's shields are knocked down, then start adding red pegs as your ship takes hull damage. Once your hull is gone, you're sucking vacuum.
A second example is the targeting grid for each ship. Whereas the original Battleship has your ships laid out on an alphanumeric grid, Battleship Galaxies has a reference card for each ship, on which is an alphanumeric grid overlaid on a top-down silhouette of that ship. Rolling a pair of dice -- one 8-sided with letters on it and one 10-sided with numerals -- gives you the grid coordinate where your shot went. If that coordinate is on the ship silhouette, the shot hits. Even better, each ship has one or two squares with a red star in it; if the shot hits that star... well, "kaboom" would be one way to describe it.
Grade for Style/Flavor: 4 out of 5
My bottom line: this game is straightforward enough that my 10-year-old and I were able to play a complete game on the same afternoon we bought it. The game is made of quality components and has a reasonable amount of depth and flavor to it that it won't become boring anytime soon. I would certainly recommend this to anyone looking for a beer-and-pretzels game (or soda-and-cookies game, if you intend to play it with your kids!).
Chaos, panic, and disorder. My work here is done.