The first expansion to Tin Epic Galaxies is Beyond the Black, which tiptoes around familiar sci fi tropes without crossing the copyright infringement line (or so they hope?) Watch this video to see what’s new:

(click to view transcript)

Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Beyond the Black, an expansion for Tiny Epic Galaxies. If you don’t know much about the base game and want to get caught up, click the link up here or down here to watch my How to Play Tiny Epic Galaxies video. As for Beyond the Black, let me show you how to play!

In addition to some new secret mission cards and some hybrid planets that offer either Energy or Culture, Beyond the Black adds two main innovations to the base game: exploring the void of space, and hiring new pilots with special abilities. You also get a scoring mat and some new score tokens, which i threw directly into the base game box because i consider them must-have components. If you have the deluxe version of Beyond the Black, you also get an exclusive mini-expansion called Drones, because Droids is trademarked, and Disney’s got a lotta lawyers. Let me show you how each of these components works one by one, starting with exploration.

Beyond the Black introduces a new exploration mat to the game. These 30 exploration cards are stacked there, and they represent all the nutty stuff you can encounter in deep space. If you use a Move a Ship action, you can send a ship to unexplored space and explore it. This card can hold any number of ships, including multiple ships from the same player. Now there’s a bit of a push-your-luck element to exploring. You’re going to turn over these cards one by one, and they’ll either be green or red. If you turn over a green card, you can keep it and stop exploring. Or, you can keep turning over cards, to a maximum of 3. The moment you turn up a red card, you have to take it, and you’re finished exploring.

If you explore and there are already some cards in outer space that have been flipped over, you can either take one of the face up cards, or try your luck with the deck. If you chance it with the deck, and there are 3 cards turned up, then whatever you draw, you’re stuck with.

When you’re finished exploring, you should have one new card, and you have to do what it says. Green cards do good stuff, like giving you more culture and energy, and red cards do bad stuff, like making you pay resources to your opponents. Some green cards are dwarf planets that give you a point. Some red cards lock your ship up in a time-wasting orbit that you have to finish before you can escape, and you can’t use a Move a Ship action to beam yourself out of there.

But one of the main reasons you’re collecting these cards is that they have these new badge symbols on them, that come in four different shapes. This introduces a bit of a memory element to the game. Your exploration cards go face down in front of you, and at the end of the game, the players with the most badges in each of the four shapes earn 2 points, while the runners-up earn 1 point. Ties pay out at 1 point. So Mal has the most circle badges and gets 2 points. Zoe is in second place, and gets 1 point. Wash tied for first in triangle badges. That means they each get 1 point. Jayne and the ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal tie for second place in triangles, so they each get 1 point. And so on. In a 2-player game, only the highest-earning player is awarded points in each badge category – there are no runners up – but ties still pay out at 1 point apiece.

The exploration mat doles out culture to any ship sitting there when its controlling player activates or follows a culture die. If your ship is already on the exploration mat, you have to activate or follow another move-a-ship icon if you want to explore deep space again.

New to Beyond the Black, you can hire pilots. You deal them randomly to this common pool, and replace them from the pilots deck whenever they get hired. Each player has a hangar mat with four advanced ships on it, each one vaguely shaped like a famous ship from popular sci fi, but not so recognizable that those Disney lawyers are gonna come knocking. They look more like the marshmallows in a sci fi-themed breakfast cereal.

Each pilot card shows you which ships a particular pilot is trained to fly. To hire a pilot, you need to activate the two dice symbols depicted for an appropriate ship in your hangar. So the adult film star the Saboteur knows how to fly the Ambition and the Intrepid. If you want him to fly your Intrepid, you need to activate a pair of Move a Ship dice. If you want him in your Ambition, you need to activate either a pair of energy or a pair of culture dice, but not a mix of both. If you want him in your boudoir, just… tell him your pipes are clogged. (funk music)

When you hire a pilot, you put their card in the hangar quadrant for the ship they’re piloting. Then you take your Lucky Charms marshmallow and swap it with any one of your active standard ships. Now, whenever you use that particular ship, you get to use its pilot’s special power. So the Saboteur enables you to send an opponent’s ship on the same colony track back two spaces, instead of moving your marshmallow ahead by one. Ooh Saboteur – you’re so dirty. It’s an important point to note that a pilot’s special ability only affects the ship he or she is piloting – it doesn’t carry over to all your other ships.

If you want to hire a pilot, but there’s already someone in that ship, you can plaster the new pilot card over the old one, but you only get to use the top pilot’s ability. Both cards are still worth points and badge counts at the end of the game.

The pair of dice you use to hire a pilot don’t do their usual thing, so if you activate two energy dice to hire a pilot, …you don’t also receive all of the energy from your ships on various planets. An opponent can still spend a culture to follow the second energy symbol as if it was an energy action, but nobody can spend culture to follow a “hire pilot” action. It’s also worth noting that you can activate three of a kind to hire any pilot to fly any ship – even if they’re not trained to fly it – (what could possibly go wrong with THAT plan?) – but the follow rules still stand: followers can only copy one die action, and the action they’re copying ain’t hiring a pilot. And finally, you can only hire a pilot to fly a ship if you’ve got a ship for that pilot to fly. So at the beginning of the game, since you only have two ships, your hangar can only be occupied by two pilots.

The Drones mini-expansion introduces little robot buddies to the game. You can activate two dice of any type to acquire a drone … which will accompany your pilot in their ship. But to be clear, this is NOTHING like in the 1977 blockbuster sci fi film Star Wars episode IV: A New Hope, where lovable droid R2-D2 accompanies farmboy-turned fighter pilot Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing Fighter during their assault on the Death Star to defeat the evil galactic space wizard Darth Vader. This is… not a thing like that.

Each rebel – i mean PILOT – can only have one droid – i mean DRONE – in their X-Wing Fighter – i mean GENERIC MARSHMALLOW SHIP – at a time. If you don’t have an available pilot, you can’t buy a drone. Just like hiring a pilot, your opponents can only follow the second of the two dice you activate, and they can’t follow the hire-a-drone action. If you hire a new pilot to replace one that had a drone, the drone buddies up with that new pilot. Each drone you hire is worth 1 point apiece, and drones double the badges on a pilot’s card. So the Megahauler now has TWO diamond badges. The Agent now has two circle, two diamond, and two pentagon badges. Great scott! I mean MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU! i mean WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT! GAH! I dunno! Please don’t sue me either!

On the back of each hangar card, there’s a new robot villain to face off against in solo mode. But in space, no one can hear you… lose pathetically to the AI.

To set up the game, give everyone a player mat and a hangar. Each player gets two ships, 2 energy, 1 culture, and starts at empire level 1. Put the four Advanced ships on each corner of your hangar. Deal out player count plus 2 planet cards, or 6 planets in a 5 player game, and the same number of pilot cards. Everyone gets 2 secret mission cards – remember to shuffle the new Beyond the Black missions into the deck. Keep one mission, and toss the other. The Control Mat and the dice go in the centre of the table, and the Exploration mat goes nearby, with enough room to deal out 3 round cards. Shuffle the exploration cards and put them on the mat. If you’re playing with Satellites and Super Weapons, everyone places 3 satellites here, here, and here on their player mats. Flip over a Super Weapon from the deck. If you’re playing with Drones, add the Factory Card to the table, and put 4 drones per player on the card. Put the scoring mat wherever you can fit it, and put one scoring token for each player at zero. If anyone cracks 30 points, you can flip the token to its plus side.

The youngest player goes first, and play continues clockwise.

Two conditions trigger the end of the game: either someone hits 21 points, as usual, or the exploration deck runs out. Keep going until everyone has had the same number of turns, and then reveal the secret missions, and score points for the pilots, the drones, and the dwarf planets, along with the points for collecting badges. The player with the most points wins Star Wars. i mean Ghostbusters. *bleep*

Get Your Own Copy of Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black

The deluxe edition of Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black is not available in stores, but you can still pick up a copy for your own board game collection using the Amazon link below, and i’ll receive a small commission! To turn your base game copy into a Deluxe Edition, pick up a Drones mini-expansion from the Gamelyn website or the Board Game Geek store.