Quick Look: Nexum Galaxy
Designer: Enrique Prieto Catalán
Artists: Paco Arenas, Matias Cazorla
Publisher: Eclipse Editorial
Year Published: 2021
25 ‘for 2 players, 45’ for 3 players and 55 ‘for 4 players.
Extreme strategy (base game without chance, without events, just your mind against that of your rivals).
Strategic management of resources and positioning to achieve victories in Combat and Technological Relics.
Ability to surprise until the end. “Nothing is lost until it is lost.”
Simple rules, minimal elements for its genre.
From 8 years old
For gamers and the uninitiated.
Space theme with immersion in science fiction
Different levels going up to generations with particular abilities of each group of civilizations.
3×4 solar systems discs, 29×4 ships, 32 energy tokens, 4 victory discs, plus reminders …
Okay, so I must admit that I initially had mixed feelings when I opted in to review Nexum Galaxy.
On the one hand I love 4x games, especially space-themed ones (See my reviews of Eclipse : Second Dawn, Space Empires 4x, and Uprising for some recent examples).
4x games come second only to dungeon crawls for me in terms of theme. So they rank way up there.
On the other hand, when looking at pictures of the game, there were some things that didn’t quite sit well with me at a glance…
First of all, where are the hexes? Why are they using circular discs for the galactic layout? Such heresy clearly bucks the fine tradition of hex-based battles for the galaxy!
There are no dice? Almost unheard of…
15-minutes per player? Well, I mean that would be quite something if they can pull that off…I have tried all sorts of 4xs trying to manage to squeeze the 4x genre into a much smaller time commitment than Twilight Imperium, and while I have seen games like The Silver River pull off such a feat in 1.5 hours, I have a hard time imagining being able to accomplish this sort of thing in under an hour…
It also comes in the smallest box I have ever seen for anything claiming to be in the vein of the typical 4x experience…
And then there was the minor technicality that Nexum Galaxy isn’t quite a 4x game…
It is, in fact a 3X game.
That is right, while there is Extermination, Exploitation, and Expansion, there is no Exploration…
What sort of hole did I dig myself into? Did I get sucked into a Black Hole that would end up wasting my time?
Okay, enough of the theatrics.
The game is about as barebones as you can possibly imagine. Just two token sheets to punch out, some cards, and a bunch of circular tiles that will form the galactic battle map. No issues with quality, though, all is as sturdy as can be.
Two sets of rules encompass this game : One basic book, the other an advanced one.
También escritas en español, yes indeed, both sets of rule books also in Spanish for those more comfortable with it.
What I found when reading the rulebooks was overall simple in concept to understand for the basic set of rules, though there are some occasional needs for perhaps better wording or use of examples. But things were nevertheless relatively smooth sailing for the basic set of rules. More to be said on the advanced ones later…
And I must say, that I am actually quite impressed with the way the game plays.
The basic game itself is highly symmetrical. That is to say, every player starts with the exact same resources, and is equidistant from everything of importance in all respects when commencing the game, whether planets, stars or valuable relics that provide special powers to a single ship.
Coupled with the fact that there are no dice in this game or varying ship types and you can really be assured that your victory or loss in this game will not be dependent on luck at all, it will all be based on pure quality of decisions made throughout the course of the game.
There are two paths triggering the end of the game :
Gain 6 or 7 points winning Battles (dependent on player count)
Control all of the relics on the board.
Each planetary tile has a central star / sun and several planets of various size (small, medium and large).
Player actions are handled on a per turn basis with one of four cards each player has, with the stipulation that cards are flipped over once used. These 4 cards must be timed strategically to be used optimally and consist of :
Movement and then Management
Management and then Movement
Once all players have used each of their cards after a series of turns, they are flipped back and can be used again.
Management generally consists of generating energy (used to make more ships) based on the number of planets and stars you control and then building up to three ships on planets you control.
Movement phases let you spend energy to move ships to other planets, systems, and stars, position yourself to battle an enemy fleet, or plunder a planet or star if it is newly conquered for additional resources.
Combat is pretty straightforward. As a broad generalization , if you ever move to attack an enemy and have more ships than they do, you win. Their fleet is wiped out, and yours is reduced by half. There are a few things that can modify your attack or defensive strength (such as being in control of a star in a system, or having a military relic), but overall this is about the most efficient and uncomplicated take on combat I have seen in quite a while, as it does make for a very streamlined game. You get one point if you win a battle, but one thing I find unique is the way control of Stars is handled. If you take control of every planet in a system, you can then proceed to take over its star, granting you a bonus to your defense for each ship you have positioned in the star’s gravitational field. However, again due to the gravitational field, once positioned there, your ships cannot also leave the star…a nice little trade off. Additionally, adding another thing to consider before placing ships into a star, if you ever lose control of planets in a system where you control the star, you consequently automatically lose your ships within the star’s field. So you do need to be very careful about your defenses in this regard…
Play continues until one of the victory conditions (control of relics or battle points acquired) are met. Then a final score is tallied based on numbers of relics controlled and battles won. From there, you declare a winner.
The advanced rules introduce a little randomness to the otherwise perfect game balance (since everyone starts on equal terms).
I will have to say that Nexum Galaxy hit its first stumbling block with its presentation of how to use Events in Player vs Player games (for this instance, learning to use these also requires learning how the AI works in solo game). I do feel that the manual does an insufficient job of explaining things on this level, and I was unable to find a thorough enough explanation online in English.
Thankfully, I was able to find a good video in Spanish and was able to subsequently figure out how to utilize these events in PVP modes, which will be essential if you want to learn to play its Asteroids expansion (to be covered in a later review). I would highly recommend for the future that Draco Ideas / Eclipse considers making a video explaining this in English or updates some clarifications onto BGG.
The random events usually do things such as ionize a planet’s atmosphere (making players with ships there pay energy or be destroyed), or make movement into certain areas impossible for a round or two, tracked with markers that are placed on each planet or zone that is affected.
Overall, Nexum Galaxy is quite a big surprise. Rather ironic, considering the small package the game is bundled in. I mean, really, this is easily the most travel-worthy 4x-ish game I have seen (yes, I know it is only 3X but it still feels quite evocative of the full experience). I thought that something like The Silver River (still a hefty size even when pitted against Eclipse and Twilight Imperium) would be about as small of a game box that could be permitted for this type of game, but I was wrong. This is probably the most portable territorial space expansion, exploitation and extermination game out there!
I do need to express that the folks at Eclipse were also kind enough to send me a miniatures set that also exists for Nexum Galaxy. While such a feature is commonly paired with most other 4x games out there, the base game of Nexum Galaxy comes with cardboard tokens to use for designating your ships.
The ships that come in the small expansion pack are indeed nice and give a nice tactile feel, but to tell the truth, both tokens and plastic ships are equally playable. The plastic ships are not meant to be as large and robust as those that belong to the competition, which actually adds to the value of Nexum Galaxy since it keeps the game profile small and portable. With that being said, I personally would still opt to get the plastic ships. Even though they are mostly less than the diameter of an American dime in length, and perhaps more easily lost than other minis out there due to their size, they do add a nice cosmetic touch.
Although some may be turned off by the lack of traditional hallmarks of the genre such as dice and diplomacy, I find that the focus on quality decision making versus pushing one’s luck puts the game’s strength purely in the domain and purview of strategy.
As a result of this focus, Nexum Galaxy sometimes rather feels like the paradigm and epitomization of what 4x’s should be at their heart, which is sometimes (ironically) what can be missing from the larger and supposedly more encompassing 4x games that are out there.
Which is again quite an accomplishment given that this is “only” a 3X game.
Thankfully, the team at Eclipse has left some room for growth and development.
While the base game of Nexum Galaxy has been billed as an “entry” level into the field of space strategy games (I agree on this level, it is indeed perfect in this design aspect), I can see where more serious and non-casual players would want something more in both depth and time commitment. This is where their official “Asteroids” expansion comes into play.
Now I have not had a chance to play this just yet, but will be doing so shortly. But I have read the rules and hope to have a review out in the next week or two. But the bottom line is that the game WILL be adding exploration phases (making it a full 4x game), asymmetrical player races and abilities, and tech trees. And from my reading of the rules, these not only look promising (I would wager that these additions may extend playing time significantly) but also equally portable, fitting all within the confines of the base game’s box.
We should all take a moment to step back and appreciate the significance of this accomplishment if they can pull of a Big Game feel in a teeny-tiny package.
So to summarize final thoughts :
The only big misgiving I had was with the written rules on solo play and event cards for Nexum Galaxy.
It would be my hope that in the future there can be an English written and video description as to how these elements are handled, as I suspect that as written they may end up being a turnoff for some people from an otherwise great game, and I would hate to see this game get less positive coverage as a result of this small oversight (I believe the rules were originally in Spanish, and therefore some of the gaps in understanding may be at least partially attributed to this).
The “regular” competitive rules as written are simple enough to understand, however, and give pretty much as streamlined of an experience as one can hope for in this type of game. It is highly strategic, contains a plethora of setups, and belies its own size in capabilities.
And I dare say it is a must-have for strategy and 4x fans simply because it is so bold to buck tradition, and as a result, creates something that feels different than the rest of the bunch.
And again, to my knowledge this is simply the most travel ready 4x-ish game out there! That alone should make it a huge selling point, because it is actually quite good, even in spite of its size!
Stay tuned for my thoughts on the Asteroids Expansion!
Find out more at BGG.
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Jazz Paladin- Reviewer
Jazz Paladin is an eccentric at heart — When he is not learning to make exotic new foods at home, such as Queso Fresco cheese and Oaxacan molé, he is busy collecting vintage saxophones, harps, and other music-related paraphernalia. An avid music enthusiast, when he is not pining over the latest board games that are yet-to-be-released, his is probably hard at work making jazzy renditions of classic/retro video game music tunes as Jazz Paladin on Spotify and other digital music services.