Tiny Epic Galaxies
Tiny Epic Galaxies is a 1-4 player game where you play a galactic empire trying to become the most powerful space empire. One of Gamelyn's "Tiny Epic" series of games where they take popular board game genres and condense them into a very small package, Galaxies takes the sprawling space 4x genre and condenses it (losing the 4th X "eXtermination") into a compact 30 minute experience.
On a player's turn, they roll dice to take actions. The more advanced your civilization is, the more dice you get to roll. With rolls, you can move ships you control, gain energy or culture, gain progress towards colonizing planets or utilize special actions that your player board and colonized planets grant you. When you move a ship, you can either place it on a planet in order to take the special action of that planet or in orbit around the planet to start the colonization process. When you gain energy, you gain energy equal to the amount of ships you have on cards with the energy symbol; likewise for culture. To progress towards colonization, you choose a ship in orbit around a planet with the appropriate icon (Diplomacy or Economy), and advance that ship one space on the orbit track. When the ship reaches the end of the track, you place the planet under your player board to gain the points the planet is worth as well as make it available to use later. When you utilize a special action, you activate an ability of a planet you've colonized or the special ability of your player board which advances your civilization at the cost of energy or culture. Beyond their use for advancing your civilization, energy can also be used to reroll dice on your turn while culture can be used to follow up another person's action. Once a player reaches 21 points, you enter the endgame. You continue play until you get back to the first player's turn, giving each player an equal number of turns. Each player also has a secret objective that can earn some extra points for that at the end of the game if they've fulfilled the requirements.
Galaxies also has a solo mode that it comes with where you fight against enemies from a rogue galaxy. Each player board has a reverse side that features a different rogue galaxy that range in difficulty to defeat. The solo mode works very similarly, except that on its turn, the rogue galaxy rolls dice and takes actions one at a time, often getting better effects generically for their actions at the cost of not controlling what actions they want and being able to reroll or follow.
Galaxies is interesting to compare to my review from last month, Black Angel. They are similar in that both games are space-based exploration games with solo mode against an AI with more powerful options that it doesn't choose with gameplay of a good number of actions that you can choose from, but that ultimately boils down to a basic list of actions you can take. They are pretty different in that Black Angel has a ton of components and set-up from a large box while Galaxies has only 7 tokens and 1 board per player, 7 dice, a control board and ~50 cards in a small box. I do think that Black Angel has a better solo mode variant with more interesting actions taken throughout. While both solo modes feel difficult to defeat at first because of their more powerful generic effects, Black Angel gives you more control over when progress towards the end happens where Galaxies depends more on the rolls of the dice. In Galaxies, the game can be over incredibly quickly if the opponent rolls energy enough times, as when the rogue galaxy maxes out energy, it advances at end of turn. Since it earns energy for each ship it has on a card with an energy symbol, it can easily run away with the game before you get going.
I enjoy Galaxies because it takes large space games and condenses them down. Because it is condensing the genre though, it is not as "epic" as games like Eclipse, Twilight Imperium or Black Angel just by virtue of having fewer components and mechanics. In spite of that though, it still captures the feel of those space games, just on a more "tiny" scale. You're still exploring new planets and upgrading your civilization and obtaining resources and victory points, just in a streamlined fashion. I recommend it if you're looking to play a space exploration game, but don't want to invest as much money or time or brainpower as the games it is condensing.