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Subject: Sun, Moon, & Stars Overview and Review rss

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Eric Sanders
United States
Greendale
Wisconsin
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Sun, Moon, & Stars is a micro-game like Love Letter or Coup – a quick filler game option for more serious gamers; and, a short, teachable game for family. I’ll discuss the game in its “full” 4 player configuration throughout, then briefly mention the changes in 2 and 3 player options at the end.

Components
Final game components haven’t been released as of this review – I’ve played on an earlier and near-final prototype set (with only art changes in between) – but publication will be by Minion Games, so if you have handled cards from other games by them (such as their printing of The Manhattan Project) you should have a good estimation of their quality.

Inventorying the game, we find 18 cards (read designer notes on BGG for why) and a two-sided rule sheet. I expect we will see the set distributed in a fairly standard tuckbox. A card summary is below.

4 “spirit animal” cards representing each player’s role/goal (blue),
3 “celestial object” cards that need proper placement to win (three distinct colors), and
11 “action” cards that form the play deck (tan).

Theme
I found the “spirit totems seeking celestial objects moving across the sky” theme appropriate. It flows well as a not-overused flavor to put on top of this fairly simple game mechanic with a small card set.

Setup
The dealer – selected randomly for the first game, then the previous round’s winner going forward – shuffles and deals the four role/goal cards face down to each player. Players may look at their own card at any time while keeping it secret from all other players.

After viewing the role cards, the dealer places the Sun, Moon, and Stars cards in any order desired in front of three of the players (one card per player), skipping the player clockwise from the dealer – who will go first and start with no “celestial object” card in front of them.

Finally, the dealer shuffles and deals out a single action card to each player. The game is now set for play.

Game Play
Game play can be summarized in the three steps below (with supporting details).
1. Each player starts by drawing a card, then plays one of the two cards they have in hand.
1a. If there is no card available to draw and the deck hasn’t been shuffled yet, the player needing a card shuffles the discard pile and draws one.
1b. If the deck has been shuffled once already, the game ends immediately when a player cannot draw a card.
2. Completely resolve all actions on the played card, top to bottom.
2a. If there are two actions on a card, the first line will contain the action text “____ moves to ____”, moving one of the celestial objects clockwise around the board until it stops at the second object – regardless of distance.
2b. Either the second or only action on other cards is the text “____ moves on”, referring to one of the celestial objects. This action requires the player to move the referenced object one or two player positions clockwise around the board.
2c. Two special action cards also exist – either exchanging all the celestial objects in front of one person with those in front of another (even if one player has zero); or, exchanging any two goal/role cards.
3. Check to see if any player has met their victory condition. If not, the next player takes their turn.

Winning the Round / Winning the Game
A player wins a round of play if, after complete resolution of any player’s card, they have met the win requirement on their role/goal card. Usually this will be having their target two celestial object cards in front of them – either Sun/Moon [Owl], Moon/Stars [Wolf], or Sun/Stars [Deer] as dictated by their card; but, it can also be any player having all three celestial objects or the game ending without a winner [Serpent].

A player wins the overall game by being the first to win three rounds of play. Longer “matches” could certainly be played if desired – either recording the winning of multiple games or increasing the rounds until victory.

Length of Play
Individual rounds will take 3-7 minutes each, meaning the game will usually be won in about 15 minutes. Theoretically, with 4 players all winning twice before someone finally wins a third time, I guess a full game could run longer – but expect something much closer to 15 for a full game play with 4 players.

2-3 Player options
When playing with 2 or 3 players, the 4 table positions and all other rules are kept the same, but some of the positions are vacant. With 2 players, the players sit opposite each other with the two non-player positions separating them on each side. With 3 players, the 3rd can sit in either to the left or right of the dealer – it doesn’t matter. The vacant table positions will have role cards at them but they cannot win the game and are not revealed during the round.

Tactics
You may be saying, “Ok, where’s the game?” Initial plays may feel excessively random, but once you put some thought into the goals and game mechanic you can see where some tactics can be applied to increase your odds of winning – or at least not giving away a win to another player. Two such tactics are below.

• Use what you know. You know your role/goal, and no one else has that goal, so you know at least one celestial object alignment that is safe to create on another player.
• Delay and Observe. Most players need two celestial objects to win, so if you can end your turn with the next player having zero objects (and ideally only 1 each for everyone), you can be certain the next player cannot play a card to win themselves. If you can keep the game playing deeper into the action deck, you will have more time to observe what other players appear to be trying to obtain and can use that information to your advantage.

Obviously, you do still have limited control over the action of the board with only two action cards each turn and limited turns per game, but there is enough to have enjoyable and thoughtful play – or lighter, “beer and pretzels” play if no one is in the mood to think too much just then.

Conclusion
Sun, Moon, & Stars is a highly playable micro-game for 2-4 players. Although it plays best with 4, it is playable at each player quantity. Used as a filler game between “meatier” fare or as a way to play something other than *another* round of Apples to Apples for a few minutes with a willing family, this card game can round out a collection in need of this variety of game – perhaps one tired of carrying the princess’ mail?

My BGG Rating: 8/10
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