Galactic’s 2020 online hunt arrived a year late, but better late than never. I had never participated in a Galactic Puzzle Hunt before, but I’ve heard it mentioned as the largest (and possibly most prestigious?) puzzle hunt. Team Galactic designed the most recent MIT Mystery Hunt so I was a little familiar with their puzzles, but I had no idea what to expect. I was glad I participated, but this contest is definitely not recommended if you either a) are new to puzzle hunts or b) don’t want to dedicate more than a few hours of time.
The puzzle that sums up Galactic Hunt for me is one called “Action Adventure.” The setup is easy enough. The puzzle hits you over the head with cue after cue that the puzzle is referencing the card game Dominion, and the obvious next step is to figure out the identities of twenty or so mystery cards which will help with the final extraction. You need to figure out which card is which based on how many coins, actions, or cards you get from playing each card when different conditions are fulfilled (e.g. playing the card when you have 7 cards in your hand nets +1 coin, while playing it with 1 card in your hand nets you +1 action).
So far, so good. Then the cruel twist- the puzzle includes cards all throughout the various Dominion sets, meaning that you’re scouring for a pool of about 600 cards. Mercifully, there exists a wiki page that contains all the cards in a helpful table that allows you to narrow it down (e.g. if the first time you play a card, you gain +1 action, you can easily narrow it down to the ~60 cards that have a possible result of +1 action), but it’s still a lot of work.
That’s ultimately the thing I take away from Galactic. If you’re willing to put in the work to dedicate hours per day, at a minimum, to work with a big team to shoot for a top spot, it can be quite thrilling. If you’re looking for a puzzle to think about in the back of your head while going about your business, it’s probably not for you.
There were still smaller puzzles mixed in, which was nice, but I would still say a small Galactic puzzle takes as long as a big Puzzle Boat puzzle. Not that there’s anything wrong with the extra work, but I would really have appreciated if the Dominion puzzle had been limited to one or two sets!
One teammate in particular on my team bore a heavy load and did 90%+ of the work our team accomplished. I jumped in on a few and cherry picked a late contribution to get a puzzle across the finish line here and there, but I still ended up feeling a little guilty for not spending more of my time getting my hands dirty with extensive research-related puzzles.
I still enjoyed my time with Galactic 20/20, but at the end of the day, this kind of hunt probably isn’t for me. The scale of the contest and amount of work involved is a feature, not a bug, and it’s likely a large part of why Galactic has such a grand reputation. I prefer smaller contests, though- ones that can be completed with short bursts of commitment. I love being involved and keeping a pulse on things, or brainstorming as we crack into an approach on a new puzzle, but I don’t have any aspirations to join up with a team competing for the top spot in this one.