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Cole Wehrle
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If you'd like to read this article with better formatting (and images). You can find it over here:
https://culturebytesback.com/2016/05/24/review-of-sol/

Disclaimers:
1. While at BGG CON 2015, I stumbled upon one of Sol’s designers, Ryan Spangler, in the exhibition hall. We talked for awhile about various games and eventually he invited me to try his game. That initial play so intrigued me that I later sent him an email asking if I could purchase a prototype copy for the purposes of a review. He kindly sent me prototype copy free of charge. Months later, his game is on Kickstarter. I have backed it.

2. Being an unreleased Kickstarter game, I end up talking about rules more than I probably should. Those rules, as with things like terminology, may also have changed between my prototype copy and the final game.



I.
The setup for Sol is equal parts compelling and obscure. The players take the role of post-human races of tremendous power. War, famine, and all the rest are products of a distant past. Fueled by the power of the sun, stable and productive utopias have developed. This is a world beyond want and beyond strife. But, cracks have begun to emerge. The sun is dying. Panic has spread, and the once cooperative relationships between the various peoples have disintegrated. Now, great arks wait on the edge of the solar system, poised to leave behind their native sun. But, first, these generation ships must hurl themselves into the unknown using the last of the sun’s energies. Escape may yet be possible.

Sol is a race game, and, like any good race game, it understands that the true heart of the challenge exists not in the course ahead, but in the space in-between players. It is a game of uncomfortable partnerships, shared incentives, and timing. It is a careful dance around a dwindling future. It is also one of the most inventive logistics games of the past few years—the strange science fiction offspring of Roads and Boats and Cosmic Encounter. It is not a difficult game to learn, and it rarely overstays its welcome, even when played at a full complement of five players. Yet, it has the feel of something much longer and more complicated.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

II.

We should start, perhaps, with the board. The board of Sol consists of a gigantic illustration of a star. There are five rings of movement, two outside of the star and three within. The various rings are subdivided into individual spaces. As you might suppose, it is far more efficient to move within the smaller, internal rings, than the outer ring. However, the rings within the star have a heavy black boarder, which prohibits movement deeper into the star until solar gates are constructed. We’ll get to them soon enough, but for now the board is empty.

Well, not exactly empty. At the start, each player places his or her mothership in orbit around the sun. A player’s mothership is the beating heart of their operation. It houses a player’s resources and deploys their ships. And here Sol departs from just about every game you have played before. A player’s mothership is not stationary. Instead, it drifts around the sun, sharing an orbit with all of the other players. In practice, this means that the things that you construct have a tendency to get left behind, and soon your mothership will likely find itself hovering above infrastructure built by the other players. If, on your turn, you drop off a collection of ships, those ships may not see your mothership again for a dozen turns.

That may sound like a long time—and it is—but turns in Sol are brisk. Each turn a player will take a single action, and then move their mothership one step further on the orbit path to signal that they have completed their turn. There are only three actions in the game (Move, Construct, and Activate), and each is remarkably straight forward.

The movement action allows you to use your ships, called sun divers. You begin the game with five sun divers, which are initially housed in your mothership. Your sun divers initially move in any space adjacent to your mothership and from there can buzz around the outside of the star and solar gates in order to get beneath the star’s surface. Sun divers are at core of your operation. They are used to activate stations, like workers in a worker-placement game. But, they are also used to build the stations themselves. Players who invest a lot in buildings will soon find themselves short of workers. Managing the flow of ships in and out of your mothership will prove to be one of the Sol’s most persistent logistical challenges.

The logical problem they present is two-fold. First, there is a question of distance and position. After sun divers use a building, they are returned to your mothership. This means that you need to time your building activations in accordance to the slow orbit of your mothership. A well-timed activation will bring your sun divers home just in time to be dropped off for the next mission. The second problem has to do with construction. Your stations are composed of sun divers. When a station is constructed, the sun divers that made it are placed back in your stock of unused pieces. Every station takes between two and three sun divers to construct, so a construction blitz can lock up the vast majority of your ships, leaving you without the ability to activate all of your fancy new buildings.

Sol handles construction in an interesting way. First, you must arrange your sun divers into a particular pattern on the board, then you to take a Construct action in order to turn those ships into some kind of building. There are four possible patterns which produce four different structures. The first is a solar gate, which allows you to progress more deeply into the sun. Players can also construct three different kinds of stations: foundries (which build sun divers), solar nodes (which collect energy), and transmit towers (which send that energy to your ark). Importantly, only one building may exist in each space.

Here many might begin to object to my earlier comparison of Sol to Roads & Boats. In the place of the myriad resources of the latter, Sol has a very simple supply chain. Energy is harvested and then used to build more Sun Divers or beamed up as Victory points. In this sense the game engages with the classic conversion curve that characterizes virtually every euro game from Puerto Rico to Dominion. Put simply: when do you move from investing in operations to trying to crank out victory points?

Sol knows that this is the core question of the Euro genre and doesn’t try to muck things up with a lot of fancy subsystems of alternate currencies. Nor does Sol rebuke the questions premise and present players with the dizzying subversion of a game like Christophe Boelinger’s Archipelago. Instead, Sol refocuses that question on the relationships that emerge between the players as play progresses.

This is accomplished in two ways. First, players can use each other’s buildings. Like Caylus, the owner of the building is granted a bonus. Your ships and production chains can and will comingle. Second, the pace of the game is wholly within the player’s control. Stations constructed closer to the heart of the sun are more effective. Whereas a foundry built in the highest orbit can produce only a single ship, a foundry in the heart of the sun can produce eight! But such increased production capacity does not come without consequences. Activating buildings in the inner layers of the sun calls more cards to be pulled from the deck. It is those cards which push the game towards its conclusion. For the first half of the game, hardly a single card will be taken from the deck, but, by the end, sometimes ten or more cards are drawn in a single turn. In this way building patterns of the players will inform the game’s pace. If the board is developed evenly and steadily approaches the core of the sun, the game will have a smooth progression in the end. But, sometimes the core is the first thing filled, which quickly kicks things into a very high gear. That placement of a building in one of the first few turns can determine both the shape of the game and its outcome speaks to the brilliance of this design.


III.
That said, like with other high-interaction/low-luck logistical games (Neuland, Roads and Boats, etc), we have seen patterns begin to emerge in play. Initially I was worried that these patterns would make the game feel predictable. But here, as with its forerunners, Sol uses a variable setup to provide a huge range of scenarios. These scenarios are provided through the random or semi random draw of Instability Effects at the start of each game. These cards, which are then coded to the games suites, describe the abilities of the cards in the deck. Here the game’s debt to Cosmic Encounter is most apparent. All of these effects are game-breaking in some respect and they work together to give each match a very different feel. Some games will be extremely conflict heavy; others might be energy-rich sprints.

In most games with randomized setups, reading the initial game state is critical. When I used to play Age of Steam regularly, we would puzzle through each individual setup for five or ten minutes before making our opening bids. The starting card selections in Dominion deserved similar scrutiny. Sol is different. Though the selection of instability effects will go a long way in determining the shape of the game, their effects are secondary to the patterns of construction and the interactions between players. This means that the barrier to entry—even when playing games with experienced players, can be quite low. A new player is likely to get beat, but they likely won’t suffer that new-player vertigo when they try to assess their options.

IV.
Though it’s a game that comes from a new company and a pair of new designers, Sol nonetheless feels like a major intervention both mechanically and thematically. Its rules are simple and stripped down—almost to the point of being an abstract game—and yet, it sports a robust decision matrix rife with interesting choices.

But that minimalize doesn’t detract from the game’s setting. Sol is a science fiction game like few others and, I think, it issues a challenge to both players and designers to think more deeply about our engagement with the genre. At some point science fiction games stopped being about the things that first drew me to science fiction. They started instead being about science fiction itself. That is, when you play a game of Space Alert, the design doesn’t ask you to be terrified of the special anomaly, or even to contemplate the complicated history of exploration as a human activity rife with imperialism and genocide. Instead, the encounter is simply presented as something that happens in science fiction. In this way, so many science fiction games simply revel in their tropes. Thus we have Dark Moon, which expertly boils down the essential characteristics of the saboteur-in-space motif, Space Cadets, which (also expertly) spoon feeds us our own memories of watching star trek as children and conducting our schoolyard away missions. And, of course, just about any 4x space game which trades in the pacific war design aesthetic of space empires that seems to have become the norm since Star Wars transformed our cultural imaginations back in the late 1970s.

This is an unfortunate myopia. Science fiction was and continues to be a fertile place for artists to stretch their imagination. Yet, in the world of board games, publishers return to the same bankable tropes over and over again. Somehow the genre as become as safe as all the rest. Though we may shout and laugh as our red shirts die or gasp as a second war sun is brought online, these responses are as scripted as the events themselves. Science fiction games rarely deeply strange and few seem able to produce genuine wonder in their players.

Sol is an exception to the rule. Maybe it’s the steady rhythm of the orbiting motherships or the curious social environments that the game fosters. Maybe it's the games meditation on sustainability and action or, perhaps, the sense of hope as you beam your energy to your arcs or tense card draws or the pushing of your little sun divers closer towards the sun’s core. Perhaps its all of these various moments working in concert. In any case, the game brims with wonder. And, in this sense, the game taps directly into the best traditions of both science fiction and tabletop gaming.
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Jason Speicher
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awesome write up, really surprised this one hasn't caught on more, though there is a lot of projects running right now.
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Cole Wehrle
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jwspiker wrote:
awesome write up, really surprised this one hasn't caught on more, though there is a lot of projects running right now.


Thanks. Yeah it'll be interesting to see how the campaign does. Everything looks to be pretty healthy and on track at the moment. This is the type of game I could see getting published and then being a sleeper hit that just keeps gaining fans over the long term. While that's not a bad fate, the game certainly deserves an audience.

But that's kinda the point I was getting in the review. If this game were Zombie themed it would have funded in 10 minutes--likewise if it had a major science fiction brand or even if it traded in some of the star warsy space opera tropes. Instead its just weird and wonderful.
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Ryan Spangler
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Cole, thank you. This is a beautiful writeup. You have captured in words things I have known, but never been able to say. It is kind of surreal to see your own unexpressed thoughts articulated so clearly on a public forum : )

Thanks, and here's to being able to make the game for everyone to play!
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Backed.
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Rahn
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Does this game have a similar weight / meaty feeling to the other games you mentioned? Roads & Boats, Neuland, Age of Steam, etc...
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Cole Wehrle
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TumbleSteak wrote:
Does this game have a similar weight / meaty feeling to the other games you mentioned? Roads & Boats, Neuland, Age of Steam, etc...


That's a somewhat tricky question. I've given the game a lot of thought, and find the decisions to be pretty rich. However, there's also a little more room for error so it doesn't quite approach AoS/Neuland/Roads & Boats. In game length and in rules overhead the game is much lighter.

But I wouldn't say that the game feels watered down or less interesting for that.
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Sean Perry
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Thoughts on what how number of players affect the game?

Is this still fun for 2? 3? Best with all 5?
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Cole Wehrle
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shaleh wrote:
Thoughts on what how number of players affect the game?

Is this still fun for 2? 3? Best with all 5?


The player count changes the dynamic quite a bit. With two and three players the main question is whether or not there will be one entrance down into the sun or two. The parasitic plays are a little sharper. With experience the question of who gets to control the transmitters in the core becomes critical (I've seen other variations in terms of built, but in most games transmitters end up there).

With more players the game loosens up a bit. There's usually one or two "cities" on the map that are sometimes specialized and sometimes a collection of different capabilities. The game tends to be a little more chaotic at the high counts but with the 1 action per turn things move at a nice pace.

I think I've come to prefer it at the lower counts because I like a sparser map. With four or five about half of it will fill up--I should say that many players, including the designer, prefer it at the higher counts).

In general though, I'd say the game scales quite well, adding only a little bit of time with each player.
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First - thanks so much, Cole, for this beautiful review, and your reviews, in general. I haven't found a place to say it before, but some of your other reviews (like of Ortus Regni) and your personal comments on games have given me a lot of pleasure and insight.

I've never backed a new game on Kickstarter before, but this review tempts me, precisely because this is always what I thought KS should be for - for backing bold artistic experiments, and not blenderized regurgitations.

Anyway, I've got a question: does this feel pure logistics-y, like Neuland does, or is it more moody? I think you're hinting at the possibility of it having the particular weird moodiness that certain science fictions can have, and that I almost never find in games, but treasure when I do. (The last game that had it for me was Greenland, which was so potent in its weird, desolate, desperate arc.)

Outside of games, science fiction is occasionally capable of this extraordinary dense moodiness - I'm thinking of people like Philip K. Dick, M. John Harrison, Michael Swanwick, sometimes Greg Egan, and, most recently, Anne Leckie. Sci fi has this capacity for visions of apocalypse and despair, of stepping back and watching epochs of time unfurl, of showing characters in the dust and ruins of old civilizations. Now that you point it out, it's pretty striking that board games rarely pull this out of sci-fi settings. There are so many apocalypse-themed games that grab the "guns and spiky cars" part, but not the desolation and loneliness.
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Cole Wehrle
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rorschah wrote:
First - thanks so much, Cole, for this beautiful review, and your reviews, in general. I haven't found a place to say it before, but some of your other reviews (like of Ortus Regni) and your personal comments on games have given me a lot of pleasure and insight.


Thanks. Sometimes I spent a long time thinking about those comments, but I'm never sure who I'm writing to.

Quote:

I've never backed a new game on Kickstarter before, but this review tempts me, precisely because this is always what I thought KS should be for - for backing bold artistic experiments, and not blenderized regurgitations.


I agree. I try to only back weird start up games. And because I try not to have illusions about what I'm getting, I remain a big fan of kickstarter.

Quote:

Anyway, I've got a question: does this feel pure logistics-y, like Neuland does, or is it more moody? I think you're hinting at the possibility of it having the particular weird moodiness that certain science fictions can have, and that I almost never find in games, but treasure when I do. (The last game that had it for me was Greenland, which was so potent in its weird, desolate, desperate arc.)


What a interesting and insightful question...hmmm.

First, re: Greenland. I know exactly what you mean! It really makes sense to think of that game as a kinda environmental survivalist science fiction fable.

Sol certainly isn't that desperate. Really the only science fiction game I've played that captures the feeling of emptiness and desolation is High Frontier. But there are moments like that in Sol too. The fact that your mothership drifts in a slow orbit really unsettles the rest of the game.

In mood, I've certainly seen hopelessness and desolation. Especially when your sending power back to your ark and pulling cards from the deck. There's a feeling that you just might not be able to make it--sometimes you even can start breaking down your buildings and tossing them into the sun for just a little extra energy. The game will sometimes eat itself. It reminds me of those last chapters in some stories where certain parts of the ship get discarded or recycled for fuel.

Quote:

Outside of games, science fiction is occasionally capable of this extraordinary dense moodiness - I'm thinking of people like Philip K. Dick, M. John Harrison, Michael Swanwick, sometimes Greg Egan, and, most recently, Anne Leckie. Sci fi has this capacity for visions of apocalypse and despair, of stepping back and watching epochs of time unfurl, of showing characters in the dust and ruins of old civilizations. Now that you point it out, it's pretty striking that board games rarely pull this out of sci-fi settings. There are so many apocalypse-themed games that grab the "guns and spiky cars" part, but not the desolation and loneliness.


Ditto on Anne Leckie. If you liked that, I'd recommend Kim Stanley Robinson's recent novel Aurora, which was the best science fiction novel I've read since Ancillary Justice.

edit: typos etc
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Cole Wehrle wrote:

In mood, I've certainly seem hopelessness and desoluation. Espeically as your sending power back to your ark and pulling card from the deck. There's a feeling that you just might not be able to make it--sometimes you even can start breaking down your buildings and tossing them into the sun for just a little extra energy. The game will sometimes eat itself. It reminds me of those last chapters in some stories where certain parts of the ship get discarded or recycled for fuel.



The above paragraph pushed me just over the edge to back this thing. It also reminds me of long stretches of desperation from Neal Stephenson's Seveneves.

Yeah, that particular moodiness is maybe the rarest quality. I can think of a few early computer games that had it (Starflight 2, Fallout 2, and those two late-stage Infocom sad sci-fi jewel-boxes, A Mind Forever Voyaging and Suspended.) But those games always had these long, desperate, helpless stages. Starflight 2 and Fallout 2 had such long passages of wandering, alone and empty, through nothingness. And the early 80s X-Com games had such perfectly delicious paranoid, isolated, intense mood. I've rarely found it in modern computer games, with their insta-travel and hubs and everything.

It's even rarer in boardgames. Greenland has it. What other examples are there? The final moments of Dominant Species can have it, as the Earth is blanketed in glaciers and the last lonely mammoths wander the glaciers as a vast flock of birds scatters. Rommel in the Desert, with all its desperate lack of fuel and over-stretched supply lines and blank empty desert, has it. And am I crazy to think that, in certain weird desperate moments of market-emptiness, Brass has it?

I guess economic snowball games won't have it - those games thrive on giving you more power, and more control. The games that have this moodiness requires a certain discipline on the part of the designer, and willingness on the part of the player - and possibly a hint of masochism - to have a game strip away what you have and make you cannibalize yourself.

I just wrote a thing on BGG about evocative theme (Deep theme, emergent theme) (there's a long thing in there about Greenland), and now I realize that this particular sort of moodiness is the rarest. Hyperactivity, intensity, wildness, knife-in-a-phonebooth are much more common in games. Desolation, sorrow, desperation, sullen moodiness are the rarest.

I've got to play High Frontier now.

I'll read Aurora. Oh, and given your taste, have you read Greg Egan's Diaspora? It hits that mood precisely, and it would probably suit your tastes precisely.
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Thank you for the response.
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rorschah wrote:

It's even rarer in boardgames. Greenland has it. What other examples are there?


I believe Antiquity has this as well with the increasing pollution and death in your cities.
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Great write-up; thanks. Can you give me an idea on play time per player?
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Cole Wehrle
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Because of the way the deck scales with new players, the range of gametime isn't huge. Say, 45 + 15x (with an extra 20 minutes tacked on if players are learning or if your group plays slowly).

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Cole Wehrle wrote:
Because of the way the deck scales with new players, the range of gametime isn't huge. Say, 45 + 15x (with an extra 20 minutes tacked on if players are learning or if your group plays slowly).


That sounds great as I need some medium length games and fewer 3-4 hour ones. I backed this largely due to your review. Thanks.
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Cole Wehrle
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enzo622 wrote:
Cole Wehrle wrote:
Because of the way the deck scales with new players, the range of gametime isn't huge. Say, 45 + 15x (with an extra 20 minutes tacked on if players are learning or if your group plays slowly).


That sounds great as I need some medium length games and fewer 3-4 hour ones. I backed this largely due to your review. Thanks.


I hope ya like it.

For me it definitely filled a place in my collection. My collection is pretty bipolar these days with games that are very difficult and weird (and often long) and then some stuff that I could play with anyone who happens to come over for dinner. Sol is definitely in the latter camp (it takes about 5-10 minutes to teach), but it is also strange and lovely and asks some of the same questions about supply and timing as those bigger games.
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Hmm. I stumbled across this and it looks interesting...

so many games to consider these days!
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Hi Cole.

Thank you for taking the time to conjure your write up. It was an utterly compelling read from an evidently talented quill.

I noticed "Sol" was mentioned on the Heavy Cardboard Facebook page and similarly remembered your name from a podcast.

The designers must be over-the-moon (as well as the sun?!) after discovering your support.

See you when we reach the Mother Ship!

Regards,

Stu
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For everything Sol does right thematically, it does one thing so incredibly wrong in my opinion.

It's a game of conflict and survival, the end which players see and know coming. And you could ponder over the theme of the game, the social aspects, the survival as much as you want, but the game does not escape the thematic conflict within that totally breaks the immersion and illusion for me. I tried to explain this to my girlfriend when she asked about it and was at a loss.

So here's the thing:

It's a game of races, factions, civilizations trying to escape. A desperate act of trying to break free, yet only one can escape. There is no way for others to escape. This is good, eery theme.

BUT!

It is also a game that has cooperative elements. What others do can be for your benefit and vice versa. Collaboration in a desperate situation, wonderful! Helping others in a time of need, great!

BUT!

That is not what survival is about. That is not what evolution is about and what drives the inner nature of survival. For a game where only one can escape, cooperation is a great thing, but at the same time should be destruction. You can say that maybe humanity is developed far enough that destruction is no longer means? Well, maybe?

BUT!

In that case collaboration and helping others to survive would take the center stage. With only one player surviving, this is just un-thematic. If you don't want to destroy and restrict your opponents, you'd want to help them survive too.

In a game where only one can survive, all of this is incredibly un-thematic.

And then you'd say that 'it is just a game' and I would say correct! In which case it really is just a game and not a thematic exploration to survival at the last moment of our Sun.
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Slashdoctor wrote:

In that case collaboration and helping others to survive would take the center stage. With only one player surviving, this is just un-thematic. If you don't want to destroy and restrict your opponents, you'd want to help them survive too.

In a game where only one can survive, all of this is incredibly un-thematic.



I don't see the problem. From another thread:

Cole Wehrle wrote:
When I teach the game I just tell folks that those that got the most energy to their arks simply have the best chance at survival. They have extra power for course corrections, the possibility of reaching better (farther) stars, and maybe even dividing their arks en route to try their hand at several systems. The game's ending doesn't promise anything--it's just a fight over having the best chance at a future.



Quote:
And then you'd say that 'it is just a game'...


I would never say such a thing. Like other forms of cultural production, games are important.
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werekin wrote:
Hi Cole.

Thank you for taking the time to conjure your write up. It was an utterly compelling read from an evidently talented quill.

I noticed "Sol" was mentioned on the Heavy Cardboard Facebook page and similarly remembered your name from a podcast.

The designers must be over-the-moon (as well as the sun?!) after discovering your support.

See you when we reach the Mother Ship!

Regards,

Stu

Thanks for writing, Stu - we are beyond honored to have Cole's support and frankly, awed by his review. Given the subtle and complex artistry of Pax Pamir, I guess it's no surprise he is such a thoughtful and gifted writer. But as Ryan notes above, Cole has managed to capture and communicate an essence of our game much more eloquently than we ever have. To be honest, I come back to reread this review every couple of days

It has been perhaps the best part of our journey in creating Sol - the opportunity to meet and spend time with so many wonderful people. BGG Con was just one of our stops where we left reeling from all the new friends and good times had. Meeting Edward and Amanda of Heavy Cardboard (Amanda toughing it out in a cast at the time was just straight up fun - an amazing couple bringing nothing but passion and hard work to enhance and serve the community. We're thrilled they kindly continue to bring exposure to Sol as well.

I could go on and on but just wanted to say "heck yes we are over the moon, sun and all known celestial entities with the amazing support we've received!!!" And once we flee the solar system, we'll be over the whateverwemayfindoutthere too!
Cheers!
Jodi
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Slashdoctor wrote:
For everything Sol does right thematically, it does one thing so incredibly wrong in my opinion.

It's a game of conflict and survival, the end which players see and know coming. And you could ponder over the theme of the game, the social aspects, the survival as much as you want, but the game does not escape the thematic conflict within that totally breaks the immersion and illusion for me. I tried to explain this to my girlfriend when she asked about it and was at a loss.

So here's the thing:

It's a game of races, factions, civilizations trying to escape. A desperate act of trying to break free, yet only one can escape. There is no way for others to escape. This is good, eery theme.

BUT!

It is also a game that has cooperative elements. What others do can be for your benefit and vice versa. Collaboration in a desperate situation, wonderful! Helping others in a time of need, great!

BUT!

That is not what survival is about. That is not what evolution is about and what drives the inner nature of survival. For a game where only one can escape, cooperation is a great thing, but at the same time should be destruction. You can say that maybe humanity is developed far enough that destruction is no longer means? Well, maybe?

BUT!

In that case collaboration and helping others to survive would take the center stage. With only one player surviving, this is just un-thematic. If you don't want to destroy and restrict your opponents, you'd want to help them survive too.

In a game where only one can survive, all of this is incredibly un-thematic.

And then you'd say that 'it is just a game' and I would say correct! In which case it really is just a game and not a thematic exploration to survival at the last moment of our Sun.


As we picture the situation, news of the impending supernova came suddenly. The worlds are in a state of panic. Not only has the basis of all energy on their worlds been disrupted (a world-wide power outage), life itself has been threatened with extinction. This is not an environment for measured, rational response.

Against this backdrop, one last desperate hope has emerged as the last possibility of survival: an Ark, outfitted for the generations long journey through the stars, is hastily constructed. These plans and details of the construction are shared among the worlds, because sharing does not impede their own efforts, and pooling their resources and ingenuity can only help everyone achieve what it admittedly already a long shot.

Now on the Sun, each world is also hastily rebuilding their lost solar harvesting infrastructure in the hopes that they will be able to harvest and transmit just enough energy to propel their Ark safely away before the approaching cataclysm. Once again, this effort does not need to be isolated, and there is no need to spend energy to prevent other worlds from attaining their goal. On the contrary, there is a mutual benefit to activating each other's stations. The activator gains the benefit from being able to harvest and transmit from more stations than they are able to build themselves, and the original builders also gain from others triggering the activity of their own stations. Win-win. It is not cooperation per se (since they each have their own Ark), but a kind of mutualism and aligned efforts at work.

This does not change however that it is a long shot for everyone, and most likely the efforts are doomed to fail. This is the drive to survival at work: in the face of sure destruction, the human spirit will expend every effort towards any chance at survival anyway.

They are not necessarily working together, but they are also not actively hindering each other. It is a mad scramble to survive, and they don't have time to worry about anything else.

To me, the fact that one person "wins" is really that whoever is furthest ahead has the best chance of getting away. They still might not even make it! They still have a long way to go, and may still perish among the stars. Maybe some others escape the supernova, but are too damaged by the impact of the solar wake to travel further. We simplify this and say "whoever has the most momentum escapes, and the rest perish", which to us is the most likely scenario. If anyone escapes at all, it will be the one with the most momentum. This is the scenario where humanity is able to continue on and tell the story. In those alternate realities where all failed and all were consumed despite our best efforts, no one is around to tell the story, so we don't hear about those endings : )
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prismofeverything wrote:
Slashdoctor wrote:
For everything Sol does right thematically, it does one thing so incredibly wrong in my opinion.

It's a game of conflict and survival, the end which players see and know coming. And you could ponder over the theme of the game, the social aspects, the survival as much as you want, but the game does not escape the thematic conflict within that totally breaks the immersion and illusion for me. I tried to explain this to my girlfriend when she asked about it and was at a loss.

So here's the thing:

It's a game of races, factions, civilizations trying to escape. A desperate act of trying to break free, yet only one can escape. There is no way for others to escape. This is good, eery theme.

BUT!

It is also a game that has cooperative elements. What others do can be for your benefit and vice versa. Collaboration in a desperate situation, wonderful! Helping others in a time of need, great!

BUT!

That is not what survival is about. That is not what evolution is about and what drives the inner nature of survival. For a game where only one can escape, cooperation is a great thing, but at the same time should be destruction. You can say that maybe humanity is developed far enough that destruction is no longer means? Well, maybe?

BUT!

In that case collaboration and helping others to survive would take the center stage. With only one player surviving, this is just un-thematic. If you don't want to destroy and restrict your opponents, you'd want to help them survive too.

In a game where only one can survive, all of this is incredibly un-thematic.

And then you'd say that 'it is just a game' and I would say correct! In which case it really is just a game and not a thematic exploration to survival at the last moment of our Sun.


As we picture the situation, news of the impending supernova came suddenly. The worlds are in a state of panic. Not only has the basis of all energy on their worlds been disrupted (a world-wide power outage), life itself has been threatened with extinction. This is not an environment for measured, rational response.

Against this backdrop, one last desperate hope has emerged as the last possibility of survival: an Ark, outfitted for the generations long journey through the stars, is hastily constructed. These plans and details of the construction are shared among the worlds, because sharing does not impede their own efforts, and pooling their resources and ingenuity can only help everyone achieve what it admittedly already a long shot.

Now on the Sun, each world is also hastily rebuilding their lost solar harvesting infrastructure in the hopes that they will be able to harvest and transmit just enough energy to propel their Ark safely away before the approaching cataclysm. Once again, this effort does not need to be isolated, and there is no need to spend energy to prevent other worlds from attaining their goal. On the contrary, there is a mutual benefit to activating each other's stations. The activator gains the benefit from being able to harvest and transmit from more stations than they are able to build themselves, and the original builders also gain from others triggering the activity of their own stations. Win-win. It is not cooperation per se (since they each have their own Ark), but a kind of mutualism and aligned efforts at work.

This does not change however that it is a long shot for everyone, and most likely the efforts are doomed to fail. This is the drive to survival at work: in the face of sure destruction, the human spirit will expend every effort towards any chance at survival anyway.

They are not necessarily working together, but they are also not actively hindering each other. It is a mad scramble to survive, and they don't have time to worry about anything else.

To me, the fact that one person "wins" is really that whoever is furthest ahead has the best chance of getting away. They still might not even make it! They still have a long way to go, and may still perish among the stars. Maybe some others escape the supernova, but are too damaged by the impact of the solar wake to travel further. We simplify this and say "whoever has the most momentum escapes, and the rest perish", which to us is the most likely scenario. If anyone escapes at all, it will be the one with the most momentum. This is the scenario where humanity is able to continue on and tell the story. In those alternate realities where all failed and all were consumed despite our best efforts, no one is around to tell the story, so we don't hear about those endings : )


Well played. A smart reply. You deserve some of my money.
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