Galac-Tac, a 4X Space Game
Galaxies currently waiting for players
The following Galac-Tac galaxies have some players signed up but are awaiting more players to join in to fill up the number of positions available so they can begin play. If none of these are to your liking, you may start up a new galaxy with the configuration you prefer. To sign up to play with us, visit our Home Page.
|#||Turn Interval||Star Density||Empire Count||Positions Filled||Start Date|
|149||4 weeks||Normal||8-15||A few||Filling|
What is Galac-Tac?
Galac-Tac began in 1982 as a traditional play-by-mail (PBM) game, and has been in play ever since. The original PBM style of play is simple: players write down and mail their chosen orders (or “actions”) to the Game Master (GM). At a predetermined interval, all the actions are processed at once, and then printed reports are mailed back to the players showing what happened. Anticipation of the turn arriving in the mail is just as exciting as it was in the 1980s! Turn-based games like Galac-Tac are fun not because of fast-paced virtual action, but because they challenge the mind. Complexity, diplomacy, long-range planning, and time to form your own strategic plans are the hallmarks of PBM games. You can develop your plans at any convenient time between processing dates, without having to coordinate with someone with a different daily schedule, living in a different time zone, or even playing from another part of the world. Your allies (and enemies) have the same freedom, as the interaction builds over months of careful planning and execution. PBM gaming is a unique hobby that offers excitement over time, rather than instant gratification.
In today’s world players may, and most often do, enter their actions and receive their reports via the web, but the same game rules apply. Turns-by-mail can still be accepted and processed (see below), but web-based PBM games can turn around faster and save the costs of printing and postage. Games can include both forms of play as long as the interval is set long enough for mail to be delivered in a timely manner. Thus the old meets new on an even playing field, with only the input method differing.
Each independent game of Galac-Tac is called a “galaxy”. Each galaxy is composed of a few hundred stars scattered around a 100×100 grid, upon which you begin by owning only one (your Home World). Among the remainder are hiding your opponents’ Home Worlds. Each player may only play one position (“empire”) in each galaxy, and usually 10-15 empires compete for galactic domination. Players agree on a fixed turn processing schedule before the game begins. Beginning with a simple “You Are Here” map and identical sets of “starter ships” for exploration, development, and defense, each player crafts their own strategy, designs custom ships, and sets out to conquer the galaxy. Players must claim stars, collect resources, build defenses, scout out enemy territory, and plan and build attack fleets for conquest. Of course, as you race to claim and develop as much territory as possible, the other empires are doing the same thing, and eventually you’ll run into each other. Will you agree to a border, or rattle your light sabers at each other? Co-exist (for now) in peace, or immediately attempt to destroy your new neighbor? It’s up to you! Use of occasional diplomacy will help keep from making enemies on all your frontiers at the same time, unless you decide to attack everyone else on sight. Beginning or updated star maps show all the star systems available for conquest, identifying those stars you have claimed and developed. You can print and mark up your own map as you expand your knowledge and control of the galaxy, or request new printed maps as the game progresses. Better yet, use an off-line tool (such as The GTac Assistant) to display maps on your own computer screen. Creativity with your empire gives the game a more personalized feeling! Inventing a cultural or star-species “theme” for your empire can add more fun and diplomatic flavor, especially in your communications with other players.
Galac-Tac is a “closed-ended” game with a specific goal: take over the galaxy! The game can continue for as much as a few years as players explore and stake their claims among hundreds of untrammeled star systems. Empires invest in colonization, harvest the raw materials, and develop “production centers” where fleets of custom-designed ships can be built to secure their holdings and expand their domains. Eventually, there can be only one… the game ends when a single empire emerges victorious, or a random time limit (at least 85 turns out) is reached, when the most successful empire takes the prize.
To help motivate players to complete the conquest of their galaxy, the winner, and runner-up if there is one, are awarded additional free play time based on the amount of competition they've defeated.
Before a new player begins playing in their first galaxy, usually while waiting for a regular galaxy to fill with players, the new player should sign up to play in a “solo” galaxy. This is for play against only computer opponents so a new player can get used to the game, make beginner mistakes without serious consequences, and practice strategies to be used later against human opponents in a regular galaxy. Solo games may be played at any speed desired by pressing a button whenever the player is ready for the next turn to be processed. The computer opponents are not particularly agressive militarily, so it's a perfect way to have fun while trying out anything that comes to mind. Some players play a number of solo games using different styles, to see what they like best. Simply drop the solo game when it has served its purpose and start up a new one if desired.
How do you play?
From your home page on the web, select the galaxy in which you are playing to see basic statistics of your empire and any diplomatic messages that have been sent to your empire. Here you will also find places to view your reports, enter new actions, send messages, view current game maps, calculate costs of new ship designs, and other options. Any of these things may be done at any time.
Your first important step is to display your current report. It is shown directly in your browser and may be printed if desired. This report can be shown at any time, as can any previous report from turns past. (See below for an example.) Review this report for all your current information, including:
- A list of the actions you submitted for this turn and any problems with them that were encountered.
- A recitation of all the events that happened to you during this turn, including things you changed, things you discovered, contacts with other empires, etc.
- Your empire economic report, including all the star systems you own and their information, plus all the ships you own with their locations, current orders, and status.
- Any combat reports (from combats in which you weren't completely destroyed).
- Any maps or shipyard reports that you have requested.
Your next important step is to decide what you want to do for the next turn. Write up a list of actions you wish to perform, some of which are empire-management activities (such as designing new types of ships or researching new technology) and others are ship-specific (such as giving them exploration, development, or defensive orders). Once you've decided on your plan of action, go to the web site and type in your desired actions using a strictly-coded system of commands and arguments. (See below for an example.) The web site will store what you've entered and will warn you about any obvious problems it notices in advance. This will not detect all possible problems so you still must be vigilent about what you enter, but it will help, particularly with new players. Actions may be changed any time prior to the next game processing date.
The main rule book for Galac-Tac gives you all the details of play. Some players may feel overwhelmed by the amount of detail packed into 55 pages, but most of it is best used as reference when needing to look up a particular point. For the most part, your first reading through it should probably just concentrate on getting the “feel” of the game. Anything you need to know about in more detail you can always re-read more carefully at that time. Some players have reported that they feel like some sections contain too much math, but by and large you won't need to worry about that. For instance, the costs and related calcuations when designing new ships are much more easily handled by using the ship design screen on the web site. Combats are handled for you automatically and the calculations for that are only there for those who take a deep and abiding interest in such details. But before reading the rule book from cover to cover, you might get an easier introduction by first reading the introductory articles to the game (described below), which introduce you to the game basics more smoothly.
Additional sources of information
A number of magazine articles about Galac-Tac have been published in Suspense & Decision magazine and copies are available here for your convenience. The most important of these are the first two on the list:
- Introduction to Galac-Tac
- Quick-Start Guide to playing Galac-Tac
These are the two articles that should be read before starting play, possibly even before reading the rule book. They contain the most basic information that is needed to get through the first few turns of playing Galac-Tac for the first time. The rule book contains all this information, too, but requires much more reading in order to get started. The rule book itself will make sense more easily after becoming more familiar with the game from playing the first turns (using the introductory articles above).
In addition, other articles are also available there, some offering general information and others with specific details about various facets of game play. In addition, there is a fictional episodic story being published that is set in the Galac-Tac universe. It provides an entertaining counterpoint to the game itself.
The web site's Contact Us page contains email addresses as well as various forums and discussion groups. GM or community assistance is available upon request via any of these methods.
A commentary on Galac-Tac and its history is also available on our WikiPedia page for those that are interested.
In-game activities available during play
Once you're actively playing in a game, the following game options are available directly from the web site:
- Viewing Reports allows you to see your current turn's report, of course. But you may also show any of your previous reports from the game as well. This allows you to refer back to past events at any time without having to keep your own copy of each report. In addition, there is an option to remove all the web decorations from the report page so that you may print just your report itself. Since the report does contain color to highlight special situations, this may prove inconvenient for someone without a color printer, so another option is available to show the report in plain-text black and white as well if you wish to print it that way. And finally, the report may be examined or downloaded in raw XML data format. This is not conveniently readable for humans, but it is very helpful when the report needs to be data-processed by some sort of external program, even Excel if you're creative.
- Entering Actions is the other critical operation needed to play the game. This is the way that you provide your desired actions to the game system. If you just save (and redisplay) your input before exiting, it also provides a cursory review of your actions in case you've typed something significantly wrong. These actions can be changed any time before the turn is processed.
- Sending Messages may be used to send a message from one empire to another in-game. Only your respective empire names will be used, but you may include any personal information in the message content if you so desire. Incoming messages are shown on your Galac-Tac galaxy pages on the web. Players may also set their accounts to send them emails notifying them of incoming messages.
- Viewing Current Map shows a simple text map with the same information that you can request with a game action to be shown as part of your report. You may specify the size and centering that you would like to see.
- Viewing Current Shipyard shows a text report of all your current ship type definitions and statistics, just as it would be shown on your report if you requested it with a game action.
- The Ship Design Assistant is a screen that allows you to enter the specifications you desire for your own custom design for a ship. It will compute the cost and size that such a ship would be if it were built. This eliminates the need to do your own complicated calculations when inventing something new.
- Suggest Actions is a very useful tool for beginning players, particularly in the early game. It suggests what actions would seem to be efficient for the expansion and development of your empire. Its behavior is reasonably good for this purpose, and for taking basic defensive measures, but an experienced player can improve on these suggestions especially when it comes to military matters. So it is mostly recommended for use by beginning players, where it is quite helpful for learning the game. Suggested actions may be sent directly to the action input page.
- A Solo Game has an additional option available for processing a new turn on demand.
The GTac Assistant
While Galac-Tac can be played perfectly well with paper and pencil (or electronic equivalents of same), it's surely a lot easier and more fun with some software assistance. One such program is available for download from the web site, called The GTac Assistant. It was originally player-written and has evolved over many years, though improvements are still planned. It makes playing Galac-Tac much, much easier than the traditional PBM method. (See below for some screenshots.)
Any players with some knowledge of programming are also encouraged to write and publish their own versions of an assistant program as well, which may well do a better job and appeal to its own group of players. One interesting suggestion has been to write an assistant that caters to helping blind players to play!
Some of The GTac Assistant's major capabilities include:
- Runs off-the-web on your computer unless downloading or uploading (when commanded). It is a Windows-based program, but can run under most Windows-emulator platforms on other operating systems.
- Tracks multiple galaxies at once, if you're playing in several.
- Downloads each turn's report and accumulates a database of your game information, including all current information on all your stars, ships, and intelligence information. It does not display the report directly but invokes your web browser if you wish to see it displayed.
- A major feature is that it can display graphical color maps of various types on your screen. Several maps are pre-defined but you can customize any map to show any stored information you wish in almost any fashion. An entire scriptable mapping system is available for doing flexible map customization, and changes can be saved and re-used from turn to turn with the latest data from your empire. Maps are also interactive in that stars can be clicked on to provide many kinds of detailed information and history, including ships that are located there or nearby, and these ships can even be given simple orders directly from the map.
- Another major feature is that it allows you to enter your turn actions off-line and send them up to the website when they are completed. Actions can be checked for many problems (more than just the web site entry screen will do) before they are sent up. Other options are available, such as rearranging, sorting or printing your actions, and reviewing past turns' actions or pre-entering future turns' actions. Further, previously-entered actions for the current turn can be downloaded from the web site and merged into the set that is being edited locally. Similarly the web site's suggested actions can also be brought down for further review and editing.
- An Empire Status Report is available to help you summarize your empire. It tells you about all the stars you own or have charted, and how much PI (money) is available or incoming at each of your Production Centers. It contains an analysis of your Shuttle routes to look for organizational problems of various sorts. It also tells you about your Sentry and Scout routes that are currently in progress, along with various other kinds of empire statistics.
- A Cash Flow Report is available to show how much PI (money) is available for spending at each Production Center, how much is being spent by your current actions, and how much is left. This window can be left open while actions are being typed and it updates itself continually while new actions are entered.
- Lists your current ship type designs being used by your empire's shipyards.
- Provides a local version of the Ship Designer that makes it even easier than the web version to try out different ways of designing ships to see if any appeal to you.
- Gives you access to raw data about your empire is provided, for review or editing purposes, or data can be exported to Excel or text files for other programs to use. This includes both direct and implied data of many kinds.
- Many other capabilities are also available for the intrepid explorer.
Paper mail services
We offer additional paper mail services for those serving in our military overseas, in our prisons, or other restricted areas who wish to play Galac-Tac without the availability of a regular Internet connection. Actions may be submitted on paper or sent via email, as desired.
Examples From Playing the Game on the Web
A Portion of an Economic & Fleet Report
|09-65||Jabba||100 (10) PV, 187 PI||Home System|
|Empire Valuation: 100th percentile|
|Imports: 321 PV in-system; 15 PV expected next turn|
|2201||SK1||Skirmisher||2P//11-1||2S||Joined to #2001|
|Shuttle route: 05-72, 09-65 (PV in cargo: 15)|
|Shuttle route: 11-59, 09-65 (PV in cargo: 15)|
|Shuttle route: 22-63, 09-65 (PV in cargo: 15)|
|Shuttle route: 02-75, 09-65 (PV in cargo: 18)|
|Shuttle route: 20-55, 09-65 (PV in cargo: 18)|
|Shuttle route: 04-63, 09-65 (PV in cargo: 24)|
|Shuttle route: 20-66, 09-65 (PV in cargo: 27)|
|Cargo: 1 available, 9 PV|
|09-56||Unnamed Star System||6 (2) PV||Colony System|
|Shuttle route: 09-65, 09-56|
|11-50||Unnamed Star System||24 (8) PV||Colony System|
|11-59||Unnamed Star System||15 (5) PV||Colony System|
|17-60||Unnamed Star System||12 (4) PV||Colony System|
|20-66||Unnamed Star System||27 (9) PV||Colony System|
|20-84||Unnamed Star System||21 (7) PV||Colony System|
|21-58||Unnamed Star System||12 (4) PV||Colony System|
|22-63||Unnamed Star System||15 (5) PV||Colony System|
|22-72||Unnamed Star System||9 (3) PV||Colony System|
|Shuttle route: 09-65, 22-72|
|22-76||Unnamed Star System||18 (6) PV||Colony System|
|25-70||Unnamed Star System||24 (8) PV||Colony System|
|28-73||Unnamed Star System||24 (8) PV||Colony System|
|99-66||Unnamed Star System||18 (6) PV||Colony System|
|99-72||Unnamed Star System||12 (4) PV||Colony System|
|04-81||Unnamed Star System||3 PV||Colonizing|
|Cargo: 5 available, 5 PI|
|14-48||Unnamed Star System||6 PV||Colonizing|
|Cargo: 5 available, 5 PI|
A Sample Action Input Screen
|Action name||Argument #1||Argument #2||Argument #3||Argument #4||Argument #5|