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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to demo the upcoming card game GalaCollider from NeoCrux. After playing through a game and talking with the developers, and seeing first-hand how the game plays and how the mechanics interact with one another I was hooked. With the 4X card game launching on Kickstarter today, you can now support the development of this engaging, strategic title.

Billions of years in the future, the earth has been burnt away by the sun, and is now just a memory of the Sapiens. These Sapiens are in fact the evolutionary paths of humans, branched apart as they spread across the galaxy over ages. In essence, alien life forms to each other with a common, human, ancestor. Also, Andromeda and the Milky Way Galaxies are converging upon one another, bringing with it new planetary alignments and intergalactic lifeforms.

This is only the beginning for GalaCollider, as the developers would like to have its story based on player activity. Player and team activity within individual maps or locations throughout the gameplay experience can impact both the storyline developing - faction influences within a region, the political structures possibly - as well as the card designs down the line. The desire to keep the story in the hands of the players is commendable, and an ambitious undertaking, but there's a sense of accomplishment for the player when their efforts in the game itself have a substantial impact on the universe.

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The gameplay itself is an expandable, non-collectible card game combined with that of a 4X space strategy game. Before playing you will construct a deck containing your buildings, ships, and special operations, as well as a Tech Pool from which you can spend resources to unlock upgrades or counter-technologies to the strategies your opponent is using. In-game, players plan their course of action for the turns, and these play out simultaneously.

The 4X elements are clear when you begin the game. Set on interconnected paths between planets, each with their own resource productions and benefits, you begin spreading out and colonizing almost immediately. The more planets you control, the more resources you produce, and thus the more you can build. Managing your resources across turns is essential, as there is a way to exchange resources for different kinds, but this is permanent and costly.
There are two phases of play to a turn, one where you explore and manoeuvre, and a second for combat. Resources that are unused through an entire turn are lost, so you need to decide whether to use your resources best for development, or, if you expect combat to occur, keeping operations available for the combat phase.

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Cards you play from your hand become 3D models on the map, and from there is where you will begin scouting, launching attacks, and countering your opponent's movements. These cards, once deployed, will stay on the map until they are destroyed, which will help thin out your deck and keep you from drawing into cards you can't use again since you have a limited quantity of ships and building you can use.

GalaCollider will be a free to play game, though unlike other card games, it's not collectible. Rather, you can decide to purchase expandable packs of cards, which are not randomized. You'll know what you're purchasing, and as you play the game, you'll be able to generate currency to purchase these packs to expand upon the core decks. Each faction will have a core deck which will be available to all players for free when the faction launches, so you'll always be able to experience new content every time a new one comes out.

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Combat is quick and easy, but still allows for some strategic plays. Thanks to the maps having so many paths to take, you can easily conduct all the feints, scouting runs, and brute-force attacks that you want from a good strategy title. During the combat phase itself, you still have decisions to make, as there are a variety of operations cards for your deck you may wish to use, as well as choosing which of your opponent's ships to attack. Combat resolves in a relatively simple numbers comparison, so you need to know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as speculate your opponent's plans in order to succeed.

Victory is achieved through either taking over your opponent's home planet, colonizing enough planets and building enough structures to reach a target number of victory points, or by contesting all of your opponent's sectors by having an attacking ship at each of those sectors. This should enable different strategies for players to suit their playstyles, as well as the styles the factions themselves support best.

Currently with two factions, the Coalition use large, heavily-armoured ships in their fleets, while the alien Sylith are smaller and faster, with greater mobility options. The Sylith cards are focused on gaining information and striking harder with multiple ships, while the Coalition cards are about maximizing resources and durability.

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With deep, strategic gameplay that doesn't get too complex to be inaccessible, GalaCollider is a rich and refreshing take on the ever-expanding market of digital card games. The 4X elements don't suffer for the card game aspects, but the variance does mean you need to adapt your strategies on the fly. It's highly engaging and I look forward to sinking a lot of time into the game.