28 April 2020
This sci-fi standout is Splendor in space, on steroids

Space has provided fertile ground to game designers over the decades. From the diplomacy of Cosmic Encounter to the empire-building of Twilight Imperium and the far-future horror of Warhammer 40,000, the stars are packed with civilisations to discover and alien monstrosities to confront.


Ganymede is the latest release offering the chance to explore the cosmos. But where most space games set their sights on grandiose themes of exploration and conquest, this one’s all about running a public transport service.


Named after one of the moons of Jupiter, it puts you and your opponents in the shoes of rival spacefaring corporations, all using Ganymede as a base to launch missions to the stars. As you play, you’ll aim to recruit a variety of colonists on Earth – engineers, scientists, administrators and medics, all represented by different coloured wooden meeples – and ferry them to your far-off launch facilities.


Getting them to their destination isn’t straightforward, though. From Earth, you’ll first need to get them to Mars using shuttle craft represented by a row of randomly drawn cards. From there, you’ll need to charter a second shuttle to Ganymede itself. It means your meeples move gradually along a sort of interplanetary conveyor belt, and getting them from A to B as quickly as possible takes some careful planning.


Different shuttles will only accept certain combinations of meeples, meaning you’ll need to recruit the right ones and get them to the right place at the right time to get them aboard. It feels similar to the jewel trading game Splendor, with you and your rivals all racing to assemble the collections of colonists you need to claim the various spaceship cards. But while the two games might share a similar mechanical core, Ganymede adds a handful of other elements to consider.


Different shuttles grant a variety of bonus actions to the players who manage to charter them, letting you recruit extra meeples, transport extra travellers or enhance your company’s reputation. It means that as well as thinking about the types of settlers you want to send to the stars, you’ll need to work out which of the available add-on abilities are most advantageous to you at any given time.

Shuttles also come in various classes, and whenever you use one, you’ll also set off the abilities of any of the same type you’ve already played. It adds what feels like a very subtle engine-building element to proceedings as you create chains of bonus actions – never powerful enough to skew or unbalance the game, but still helpful and undeniably satisfying when you pull it off.


Then there are your Ganymede-based starships themselves. They take off whenever you fill them with meeples, and each one you successfully launch boosts your score at the end of the game in different ways. It means your strategy is likely to diverge from everyone else’s, and with everyone chasing their own goals, there’s plenty of room in the solar system for a bit of tactical brilliance.






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Ganymede may be a little thin on thematic immersion, but it presents a constantly evolving puzzle of the best kind. While the available options on your turn are simple, your decisions gel together over time to allow for real strategic flexibility. It’s fast-playing and thoughtful, and its distinctive geometric art gives it impressive presence on your table.



Designer: Hope S. Hwang

Artist: Oliver Mootoo

Time: 40minutes

Players: 2-4

Age: 12+

Price: £34


- 52 Wooden Settler Meeples

- 4 Wooden Cubes

- 90 Shuttles and Settlers Ship Cards

- 4 Player Boards

- 1 Rulebook


This review originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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