Space Themed Games always catch my attention. I love how different creators look to the fictional future and creatively imagine worlds, and technologies, and species that seem bizarre, but at the same time may not be that bizarre at all? Come join me as I fly into the far reaches of space in “Gaia Project”!
Gaia Project is a 1-4 player space exploration and resource management game by Z man games. In Gaia Project, players take on different races and explore the universe; terraforming planets, harvesting resources, and increasing their knowledge.
How its played
Gaia Project is an extremely in depth resource management game, and so all specifics may not be covered in this review.
Resource management is the main focus in Gaia Project. Players have three resources they are trying to gain and balance; Ore, Knowledge, and Currency.
At the beginning of each round there is a phase called the income phase, where players receive income based on buildings they have built, and special abilities they have gained. Basically, all actions you take are trying to make this phase more rewarding as the game progresses.
Ore is gained by building mines, the most basic structure in the game, and is used to terraform planets to make them habitable for your race. Each race has one planet type that is habitable for them, and if you want to build on a different type of planet, you must first terraform that planet to make it hospitable for you. The game includes a circular chart showing each planet type and how many steps it is away from your planet type. This determines how many terraforming steps it will take to make that planet into a planet usable by your race.
Knowledge is a resource used to increase your race’s stats on the knowledge track. The knowledge track makes your race more efficient as the game progresses. There are 6 different tracks to choose from depending on what you want the focus of your strategy to be. One track makes terraforming steps cost less ore, another allows your race to build mines on planets that are further away, while others give you resources during each income phase. It is important to develop a strategy for increasing your different knowledge tracks at the beginning of the game.
Currency is used to build buildings, and take other miscellaneous actions during your turn.
There are 6 rounds, and in each round players take turns taking one action each until all players can no longer take actions and need to drop out of the round.
At the start of each round, players choose from a variety of round boosts which give a specific bonus to only that player. Dropping out of a round early can be beneficial because whoever drops out first gets first pick at the round boosters for the next round. Each round is also assigned a specific tile allowing players to get more victory points for doing specific actions that round.
Throughout the game players can also create federations by building multiple structures within close proximity of each other. Another resource gained is Power, which is scarce and should be used wisely. Players also start Gaia Projects, allowing them to turn unusable planets into habitable planets. After 6 rounds, victory points are tallied and someone will be crowned the winner.
Space exploration games are a ton of fun. I love the idea of expanding your interstellar empire and reaching to the far corners of the universe. Gaia Project does this in a very in depth, unique way.
The game looks and feels great. The box is colorful, and the art looks really nice. The components are of high quality, and the game box is absolutely packed full of stuff. Seriously, the box is really heavy! There are tons of pieces, plastic miniatures, and a lot of variety in which races you can be. Also, each race plays very differently from the others, meaning strategy is completely different based on which race you choose. Replayability is high in this game.
I think the idea of terraforming planets isn’t necessarily unique, but the way you do it in this game is really interesting. I love that the different planet types are placed in a circular order, with some being easy to terraform to your planet type, and others being more difficult. I like that my specific race can only live on one type of planet. This really adds to the theme, and helps me feel different from the other players.
Another neat mechanic is how resources are gained only based on structures you currently have built on the map. For example, if you have 3 mines built, you will get 3 ore at the beginning of each round, but if you decide to upgrade one of those mines to a Trading Station (which gives you money instead of ore) you must place the mine you are replacing back on your character board, meaning you will get one less ore next round. Make sure you are careful how you upgrade your structures!
On the other hand, Gaia Project suffers from a lack of player interaction in a way that I just cant seem to ignore. The only ways that players can interact, or affect one another, is by building on a planet that someone else is looking to build on. Players can also increase their power if someone else is building close to them, and one building is cheaper to build if built close to other races. To me, these interactions are so trivial I hardly noticed them.
In a space exploration game where I am building on planets and trying to expand my empire, I really wish the different factions would fight each other, or at least perform some sort of sabotage! During each game play I am absolutely starving for conflict! Just one interstellar battle? I’d even settle for a small interspecies disagreement! Anything! Gaia Project has none of that. Each player is building their own machine, of sorts, and other players can not interfere or interact with it in any way.
Gaia Project is a very in depth strategy game that requires high amounts of thinking, planning, and resource managing. The developers have done a great job balancing the factions, and giving players tons of choices about how they want to play the game. I can see myself playing this game 100 times and never playing it the same way.
If you do not like high levels of strategy, and tons of rules, this game is not for you. This is not for causal gamers. If you want a game that allows you to interact with other players, interfere with their plans, and give you the opportunity to have conflict, this game will provide you none of that. This is a game for more involved gamers, who don’t mind minimal player interaction during gameplay. Although I would prefer more player interaction, I understand that large amounts of gamers actually prefer this style of less conflict.
Overall, I really enjoy Gaia Project as a game that stimulates my brain, and allows me an opportunity to build a machine that works for me as the game progresses. I have enjoyed each session I have played. Due to this, and the awesome theme, this game will definitely keep finding its way to my table as I continue to introduce it to some of my more strategy loving friends and family. If you enjoy a challenging game that makes you think, and lets you expand into the depths of space, this is definitely the game for you.
Play on boys and girls.