Lockdown Game Review: Galilean Moons

The first game of Galilean Moons my partner and I played left a sour taste in both of our mouths. For her it’s not unreasonable to say part of it was that she lost by a significant margin, following a string of losses in other games we’d played during lockdown. But for both of us it also just felt confusing and unbalanced. I managed to obtain a combo of Technology cards early on that made it feel like I was completely uncatchable for the rest of the game, and sure enough I wound up winning 75 to 57. We almost never invaded each others’ spaces, which was okay because it meant there wasn’t a lot of back-and-forth animosity, but then at the game’s end we were both just segregated to two moons apiece; me with Callisto and Europa, and she with Ganymede and Io.

There was no challenging each other for the greatest claim to any moon, and things were very cut and dry. The rounds also seemed to pass with the snap of a finger, and all of a sudden the game was over. My win felt hollow and anti-climactic, and neither of us felt satisfied. There were a few neat mechanics, but overall I was highly disappointed by that first game. I wondered if maybe this was one of those games that’s technically playable with two, but just not worth it unless you’ve got three or four folks together. It was easy for us to stick to our separate moons without bothering the other because there were just the two of us. We both had access to what we needed, and there really wasn’t any need to encroach on the others’ space except to be a dick, which isn’t really the ideal way to trial a new game.

Y’all, it cannot be overstated how glad I am we gave Galilean Moons a second chance.

After simmering on our thoughts for a few days we both felt ready to try again, having properly wrapped our heads around the rules and gameplay. We understood more about the Technology cards and how to combo them from turn to turn to maximise our actions, which points we wanted to shoot for, and why spreading yourself across the board and invading opponents’ bases can be vital for your operations and not just a way to piss off your opponent(s).

Game 2 lasted at least twice as long as Game 1, and the scores were much higher and closer. My partner won with a narrow margin of 6 points; 112 to 118. Since most of the points aren’t counted in Galilean Moons until the end of the game, neither of us was completely sure what the outcome would be. I suspected she was going to take it since she had amassed more gems than I had (they can be the most valuable points in the game), but thanks to my high-scoring Technology Cards and greater number of invaded bases, I was able to close the gap substantially and nearly overtake her. The slower pace (around 75 minutes compared to Game 1’s 30-40 minutes) made it feel more thrilling and interesting, and at the end we both had units spread across every moon. Both of us secured some solid base combos throughout and collected Technology cards that complemented our personal strategies nicely. Neither of us felt like we were being demolished by the other, and the overall experience was night and day to that of Game 1.

Contrary to how my victory in Game 1 was disappointing and underwhelming, my loss in Game 2 of Galilean Moons felt like nothing of the sort. It felt like the game we hoped for the first time around, full of clever moves and thought-out tactics. I’m now excited to be able to recommend and teach it to folks when Cakes n Ladders opens back up, instead of relegating it to the never-play-or-think-about-again pile.

In a nutshell, Galilean Moons is the perfect example of why you should always give a new game a second chance at a first impression.