Shawn Sparks
United States
Dayton
Ohio
flag msg tools
Check out my reviews!
badge
All Hail the Burger King!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
OVERVIEW
While at GenCon 2013 I played a couple 4 player demos of Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension which is a sci-fi themed abstract strategy board game. Since that time I have played several 2 and 3 player games at home getting a good feel for how it plays. Designed for 1 to 4 players the game allows you to navigate your spaceship using various fuel elements through a strange dimension with a unique gravity pull. The goal is to reach the Warp Gate at the end of the spiraling course, but gravity is always pulling you towards the nearest spaceship. The game is played over 6 rounds with 2 phases in each round, each of which I will describe below.

The first phase of each round requires players to draft Fuel cards which are used to determine movement and turn order. Cards are placed on the table in piles of two, one face up and one face down. The number of piles is determined by the number of players x3. This assures that each player will have exactly 6 cards in their hand for each round of play. The draft order in the first round is determined by the youngest to oldest until all cards have been drafted. Draft order in subsequent rounds is determined by a last place to first place position on the game board (the player in last drafts 1st, next to last drafts 2nd, etc.). Players draft only knowing one of the two cards they will receive, that being the face up card. The face down card goes into your hand as well but will only be known by the player drafting it.

Each card is labeled with an element that ranges from the letter A to Z (no duplicate letters). These letters represent the turn order with “A” being the best if you want to go first. The letter “Z” would be the best if you want to go last. Each Fuel card also has a numerical value that will allow players to move their spaceship or other spaceships a number of spaces equal to that value. Most cards simply allow players to move their spaceship toward the nearest spaceship. Cards with the Repulsor icon move your spaceship away from the nearest spaceship. Lastly, cards with the Tractor Beam icon move other spaceships toward you.

The second phase of each round is where players will strategically play their Fuel cards to move their spaceship or other spaceships. Each player will place one Fuel card from their hand face down in front of them. Players then simultaneously flip over their Fuel card revealing its value and proceeding to take turns in alphabetical order determined by the element listed on each card. Players will do this 6 times each round. At the end of each round all the Fuel cards (including any previously unused cards) are reshuffled and drafted again. Every round each player can use an Emergency Stop! card that can be played to stop movement from any Fuel card except those done by a Tractor Beam. Depending upon the number of players there is also 1 or 2 derelict (or neutral) spaceships that float around on the board helping or hurting you with their gravitational pull.

Players have 6 rounds to win the game by being the first to enter the Warp Gate some 54 spaces away from the start (aka the Singularity). If nobody has entered the Warp Gate after 6 rounds, the player nearest to it wins the game. I should note that outside of the Singularity players cannot occupy a single space on the board at the same time.

THINGS I APPRECIATE ABOUT THIS GAME
• The rules are clear and easy to understand.
• The game board, cards, and spaceship figures are visually appealing.
• Although I haven’t played this game solo, I appreciate that it offers this option.
• The game is quick and easy to play. The longest game I have had was a 4 player game that took 45 minutes.
• Easy to teach and remember. I feel like I could shelf this game for over a year and still have a good understanding of how to play it. It sort of has that checkers or chess feel to it.

THINGS THAT CONCERN ME ABOUT THIS GAME
• It seems to me that after playing your 3rd or 4th card of each round the strategy begins to fly out the window and it comes down to some luck and your position on the board. Sometimes towards the end of a round I felt like I was just playing a card and hoping for the best. There are 26 total Fuel cards; in a four player game you use 24 of those cards, 18 in a three player game, and 12 in a two player game. In a 4 player game I can see where a card counter might benefit from deducing which cards will be played. However, when you begin to eliminate cards from the draft it feels a little chaotic especially in a 2 or 3 player game. I haven’t tried this, but I wonder if it would be better to briefly reveal the unused Fuel cards so players can build a strategy around knowing what can’t be played that particular round. It would still take somebody with a photographic memory to benefit fully, but I’m capable of remembering a few cards that could factor in to how I play my hand that round.
• Although the little spaceships look really cool on their clear plastic stands, one of them was broken when I opened my box for the first time. I simply used some super glue to put it back together, but as a board game I think it might have been a better idea to go with a full plastic mold. That’s a tough knock on this game because the spaceships really do look cool.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I see this game as a quick and fun abstract strategy game with a light space theme that I can pull off my shelf at a moment’s notice. For that very reason alone it earns a spot on my game shelf. There are many games on my shelf that I enjoy playing more, but I hesitate to play them because I know it will take at least an hour just to read the rules again. I don’t know how often I will play this game from this point forward, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s easy to play and I won’t hesitate to play it again should I desire to do so. I give Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension a grade of 6.5 out of 10.

Just for the record, I know 6.5 out of 10 is a little under the average BGG rating as of this posting, but that is actually fairly high for me when it comes to abstract games. Matter of fact Gravwell is tied for the highest rating I have given an abstract strategy game on my list of 125 games (Abacan, Eternas, Pathagon, Quadefy, Trappex all got 6.5 as well). This game is fun and unlike most abstract games I know it has an element of chaos which is both frustrating and hilarious. I think this is the kind of game that everybody will find something they like about it. Abstract strategy is just not among my favorite categories when it comes to games.

This picture is of a 3 player game where I finished 1st playing the blue spaceship. Oddly enough I made it to the Warp Gate by the end of round 3 making it our fastest game as well.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Corey Young
United States
Dayton
OH
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Much appreciated Shawn. I'm sure many gamers unfamiliar with the game will find this very helpful. I appreciate your balanced review.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Shawn Sparks
United States
Dayton
Ohio
flag msg tools
Check out my reviews!
badge
All Hail the Burger King!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
CoreyYoung wrote:
Much appreciated Shawn. I'm sure many gamers unfamiliar with the game will find this very helpful. I appreciate your balanced review.
You're welcome. Thank you for designing an enjoyable and fun game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Craig.
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
flag msg tools
...
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
stsparks72 wrote:
Although the little spaceships look really cool on their clear plastic stands, one of them was broken when I opened my box for the first time. I simply used some super glue to put it back together, but as a board game I think it might have been a better idea to go with a full plastic mold.

Same here - the yellow ship. This is probably due to the deck of cards and bag of ships bouncing around in the insert well during shipping.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Lyerly
United States
New York
New York
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I also had the same problem with the yellow ship. Just wrote their customer service about it. Enjoying the game otherwise.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.