Galaxy The Dark Ages

A card game by Reiner Knizia, developed by Don Greenwood, and published by GMT
These comments copyright 2000 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated January 22, 2001

Galaxy the Dark Ages is a card game based on the earlier Titan the Arena (TtA) by the same designer and developer. I haven't yet played it enough to be able to review it definitively, but so far I like a lot! It may be my favorite game of 2000 so far, in fact.

Eventually this will be a full review. But until I have a chance to play it more, this file is just a recounting of the differences between TtA and Galaxy for owners of the former game to consider. Personally, I think it's worth buying Galaxy, but this will help you make your own decision.

[Updated January 22, 2001: I've now played it enough to warrant some further comments.

I like Galaxy better than TtA in all regards except one:

My only problem with Galaxy is the reduced discard ability. I've seen it in too many games now: at least one player ends up with well over half his hand made up of ships from surrendered worlds, often for the last three rounds of play. This makes the game less fun for that person and frankly makes it too luck-dependent.

Proposed fix: Discard capability is as normal - that is, if you discard, you may not play a card, and you may discard only one card - but if you draw a card from a surrendered world, you may show it to the other players, place it face-up on the discard pile, and draw another card. This next card drawn, too, can be refused if it's from a surrendered world, but the third card drawn must be accepted no matter what it is. (Of course, if you like the first or second card you get, don't draw any more!)

End of updated remarks. The rest of this article is from September, 2000]

Differences between TtA and Galaxy

  • TtA is set in a fantasy arena. It is a supposed gladitorial contest between fantasy creatures.
  • Galaxy is set in a science fiction universe. It represents conflict between worlds of different races and civilizations.


    TtA                           Galaxy
    ---                           ------
    Creature                      World
    Strength Cards                Ship Cards
    Bet/Wager                     Base
    Secret Bet                    Secret Base
    Backer                        Governor
    Ducat                         Influence
    Spectator                     Ally
    Referee                       Technology Card (not exact parallel)
    "set-aside portion of hand"   Reserve

  • In TtA you place a bet (optional), play a card, resolve the action if you're the backer and played a card on that creature, discard up to three cards from dead creatures, and draw up to eight cards, in that order.
  • In Galaxy you can place a base before or after playing a ship card. You can discard one ship card of a surrendered world only if you don't play a ship card. You may then resolve the world's power if you're the Governor and played a ship card to that world, then draw one card, or pick up your Reserve.
  • In TtA you draw enough cards to fill your hand to eight cards each turn. If someone uses the Cyclops' power on you to force you to temporarily lose a "set-aside portion of your hand", you automatically pick those cards back up after your next turn.
  • In Galaxy you only draw one card per turn, and only if you decide not to pick up your Reserve.
Secret Bet/Base
  • In TtA, when a secret bet is revealed the card used to record the bet is placed above the creature card.
  • In Galaxy, when a secret base is revealed, the card used to record the base is shown to the other players then placed in your hand, and can be used immediately or in a future turn.
  • In TtA you lose the Backer status if another player ties you in ducat value.
  • In Galaxy you retain the Governorship until another player surpasses you in influence.
Creature/World Powers
  • Some of the powers in the two games are the same, some are similar, and some are completely different:
    • The Felowi, Myrmidons, and Divergence in Galaxy have the same powers as the Troll, Cyclops, and Hydra, respectively, in TtA.
    • The Ecup Contract power is similar, but not identical, to the Titan's power.
    • The power of the Cylor is simply the discard/draw capability every player has in TtA.
    • The other three Galaxy worlds have different powers from any creature in TtA: the Imperials get a free attack opportunity; the Erithizonian may move an Ally card in the current row; the Kha'Farjimmn can play their card concealed (face down), meaning it can't be attacked and no one else knows it's value until all worlds have a ship card.
Strength/Ship Cards
  • In TtA, strength cards carry no additional powers beyond their value, which is compared at the end of a round to other strength cards.
  • In Galaxy, ship cards have their own powers. The 0 ship cannot be attacked, for example, while the 3 ship increases the influence of one base on that world. The 5 ship is especially powerful, as it allows you to steal a card from the world's Governor and keep it (remember that the other player can only draw one card at the end of each turn). "Fleet ships" are cards valued 6 through 10, and they can attack other ships. So in Galaxy, playing a ship on a world in which you are Governor allows you to use both the ship's power and the world's power. Playing a card on a world where you're not Governor still allows you to use the ship's power.
Improving/Degrading Bets/Bases
  • In TtA, once a bet is placed it remains there until the creature is eliminated or the game ends.
  • In Galaxy, a base can move up or down (increase or decrease in value). This can happen through the actions of certain ship powers, through combat versus an undefended base, and through the Spoils of Victory.
Spoils of Victory
  • In TtA, once a round ends, only the lowest-value card is considered.
  • In Galaxy, once a round ends, the highest value card(s) receives "Spoils of Victory." The controlling player may increase the influence of one base on that world, or decrease the influence of one base on that world.
  • In TtA combat is abstracted and represented by playing the strength cards. "Combat" as such is only resolved at the end of the round, with the lowest strength creature being removed.
  • In Galaxy combat is another option beyond comparing ship card values at the end of the round. Fleet ships (cards with values of 6 through 10) may be used to fight other ship cards in the same row, or an undefended base (a base is undefended if its world has no ship card in the current row). You can only attack if you earn one or more "attack opportunities": that is, if you cover a card with your Fleet ship, or match the value of another Fleet ship, or control the Imperials world and play an Imperials Fleet ship. Attacks are resolved with dice, included in the game.
  • In TtA you may not use a backer's power if playing either a spectator card or a strength card on top of a spectator card.
  • In Galaxy you may use the Governor's power even if playing an Ally card or a card on top of an Ally card.
Referees/Technology Cards
  • In TtA, you can play a Referee instead of a strength card. There are three cards, two of one type and one of another type.
  • In Galaxy, you can play a Technology card in addition to a ship card. There are five cards, one of each type. Most have powers that last until the end of the round, though one is an instant power.
First Player
  • In TtA the rules don't say what to do if no one bids to play the first card!
  • In Galaxy the dealer must make a bid. Use dice to resolve who deals.
  • In TtA, the player who played last breaks ties.
  • If tied in Galaxy, check cards held. Each card for a world still in play counts double its face value. Other ship cards count their face value. Highest total wins ties. If still tied, player who played last wins.
Clarity of Rules
  • In TtA, the rules are very poorly written.
  • In Galaxy, the rules are pretty clearly written, with a lengthy portion of a sample game. (Unfortuntately, there are at least two typos in the sample game, but they meant well. On p. 17, the last paragraph, Yellow does not get an attack opportunity, despite what they say. And on p. 20, the last paragraph, Yellow does not remain the Governor of Cylor, despite what they say.)

Other games by this designer I've reviewed are:

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