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Subject: A Brief Review of Compounded rss

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J. Chris Miller
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I was surprised by this game showing up in my LGS as it flew way under my radar. Upon looking at the rules of the store's open copy, I knew I had to have it. Even if the game wasn't amazing, the fact you get to do cool stuff was good enough for me. I will give a light overview of the gameplay and then my thoughts. Onto the review.

Gameplay Overview

The game is broken up into 4 phases that are played over and over until one of 3 game end conditions is met:
-Someone reaches 50 points
-Someone completes 3 experiments
-The compound deck runs out

Elements

There are 6 elements in the game with the following color code, and rarity (meaning there are more of some element gems than others)

Hydrogen (clear) - 30 count
Carbon (black) - 20 count
Oxygen (red) - 20 count
Nitrogen (blue) - 15 count
Calcium (green) - 10 count
Sulfur (yellow) - 5 count

As you can see, Hydrogen is the most common and Sulfur the most rare.




Phases

Phases are indicated by test tubes on your player board which is referred to as your workbench. They have 4 levels each, and are able to be leveled to increase your ability for each phase, by completing compounds.

Phase 1a - Discovery
Starting with the first player, players draw element gems from the bag the amount of gems dictated by their Discovery level. Each person starts at the lowest level which allows them to draw 2 from the bag, and place them on the element storage area of their workbench. The storage area has 4 slots for holding gems, but can be upgraded to hold more by taking an action we will talk about later. If you complete a compound of type Liquid (Indicated by the water symbol on the compound and on the Discovery test tube), you will move up a level in Discovery, and thus be able to draw 3 your next turn. This phase is skipped in the first round, and players start with 4 random gems in their element storage area.

Phase 1b - Trading
Starting with the first player, any player may trade elements, or special tokens or any other resource for any amount of resources from another player.

Phase 2 - Study
Starting with the first player, players may place one of their action tokens (referred to as claim tokens) onto any unclaimed compound. In a 3+ player game, there will always be 16 compounds to choose from. Players start at Study level 1, and if you complete a Solid compound, you will go up to level 2 on the Study track, and be able to place 2 claim tokens on the board.

Phase 3 - Research
Starting with the first player, players may now place a number of gems equal to their Research level out onto the field. You can place them on a claimed compound you control, or any unclaimed compound, and can divide them up amongst several if you like. The elements are shown as colored circles on the compound card, so you match the gems with the colored circles. When all the circles (atoms) are filled, you have completed a compound. As with other completed compounds, you can raise your Research level if you complete a Gas compound, allowing you to place more on the field. Players start with the ability to place 2. Also in this phase you may trade 3 gems of any color for 1 gem of your choice from the bag.

Phase 4 - Lab
Indicated by the furthest right test tube, this is simply the scoring phase. Players move up the scoring chart which is an actual periodic table of elements. You then move up in your corresponding compound type, and replace any blank spaces with more compounds. Elements from completed compounds go back in the bag. Completing 3 compounds of a particular type (solid, liquid, gas) during the course of the game will allow you to max out on a particular test tube, thus completing the experiment. As mentioned earlier, if someone reaches 3 completed experiments, the end game triggers. Also, if you wish you can opt not to raise a level of an experiment, and instead gain that extra space in the element storage area.



That is a light overview of the rules. There are more, such as lab fire cards which are seeded into the compound deck and cause volatile compound types to explode when drawn, and different chits that give you special abilities if a compound has that icon on it. Some examples are:

Pipette: If you complete a compound with the Pipette icon, you may keep it for the rest of the game, and use it to trade 2:1 instead of 3:1 during the Research phase.

Safety Goggles: Completing a compound with this icon and gaining the goggles will let you discard them to take an extra Discovery action during the Research phase.

Journal: Allows you to keep one of the gems you used to complete a compound.

Fire Extinguisher: Everyone starts with this at the beginning. You may place 2 oxygen and 1 carbon during Research phases to complete it. It can be used to cancel a fire token being placed on a compound, or if unused is worth 4 extra points at the end of the game.

Thoughts

This has to be one of the most thematic games I have ever played. You really feel like a scientist gathering elements and creating compounds to complete experiments.

The color of the gems is so thematic. Hydrogen is clear, carbon is black, nitrogen blue, sulfur yellow. Another cool thing is you're making actual compounds; gasses, liquids, and solids. This is purely for thematic purposes, but it really helps push the theme.

The victory point board is an actual periodic table. That's just cool. The components are all of excellent quality, and the workbench is very helpful in stating almost all of the rules, and is very colorful.

The gameplay is fun, and there are so many strategic options. You can actually use a bunsen burner to light your opponent's compound on fire, causing it to explode and scatter the elemental gems to other compounds nearby. VERY thematic.

One thing to note is I played this as a two player game, and their is essentially a trading AI player named Noble. You use him to trade with and it helps smooth out your Discovery phase draws. I think as a house rule I would use this in 3+ player games as well for the following reason:

Sometimes you get bad draws, and can not use your elements on the field. This is greatly mitigated by being able to trade with Noble, and gaining that precious oxygen or nitrogen you need to complete a compound. Otherwise, you're stuck trading 3 for 1 which is a rough deal. Though, I haven't played with 3 players, and the Research field is half the size with 2 players, so I don't know if this is even a factor, but I figured I'd mention it anyway.

Compounded looked amazing, and the gameplay did not disappoint. The price tag is VERY reasonable considering what you're getting out of the box. If you are at all intrigued by this game, hopefully this review will push you over the edge, allowing you to have fun creating and blowing up experiments of your own.
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Michael Tyree
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An excellent overview! Easily one of my favorites, played quite a bit.

One small thing, though. The 3 for 1 (or 2 for 1 via pipette) trades can be for sulfur if available. It is the wild element that cannot become sulfur.
 
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Megan Nelson
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Thanks for such a great review of Compounded. This is one of my favorite new games. The application of the theme (which you pointed out)and thoughtfulness that went into the components really makes the game, for me. Even the mechanic of Noble adds to the 2p variant, as opposed to detracting or bogging down the rhythm of the game. If you love science, pick up a copy!
 
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J. Chris Miller
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mtyree1972 wrote:
An excellent overview! Easily one of my favorites, played quite a bit.

One small thing, though. The 3 for 1 (or 2 for 1 via pipette) trades can be for sulfur if available. It is the wild element that cannot become sulfur.


Fixed, thanks!
 
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Michael Tyree
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You're welcome! I will say from experience this game really shines at 4 & 5 players, though I have played very enjoyable games with 2 & 3. Strategies vary depending on player count because the end conditions will probably be different depending on the number of players. One thing that is key regardless is trading & negotiation, hence the Nobel solution for 2 player games. He is an elegant fix to keep trades flowing, but I'm not sure if I would run him out for bigger games. Maybe a 3 player but probably not for the 4/5 games.

I've been pleasantly surprised with this game. I've not had anyone dislike this one when I introduce it and been quite a few ask about where to get it. The visual appeal is really high for this one.
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Darrell Louder
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Great review and I'm glad to read you enjoyed it! Thank you!!
(don't forget to rate it).
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John Coveyou
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I am also VERY excited about the Geiger Expansion! This should really bring the game to a whole new level :-)
 
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Darrell Louder
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JohnCoveyou wrote:
I am also VERY excited about the Geiger Expansion! This should really bring the game to a whole new level :-)

I know I am about as biased as you can be, but I can't play the game without the expansion. Seriously.
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