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Subject: Creating Solar Systems is fun - The Board Game Family preview rss

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Trent Howell
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NOTE: This preview is from playing a prototype copy.

Many people daydream about what it would be like to rule the world.

But have you ever wondered what it would be like to rule your own solar system?

Or better yet – create your own solar system from scratch?

In the upcoming game, Planetarium by Game Salute, you’ll be able to do just that.

The only catch is that the other players are trying to ruin your plans. They want to shape the matter in this new planetary system according to their own plans.

And the end result will be a blend of everyone’s plans where the player with the most points claiming victory.

Planetarium is a fun game with a great balance of strategy and luck that families throughout the galaxy will enjoy playing together.

Because if your kids enjoy Planetarium as much as our Caleb does, you’ll be controlling matter and planets for a long time to come.


How to play Planetarium

The game play in Planetarium is very straightforward.

Players take turns moving matter and planetoids around the galaxy and playing cards that evolve planets and score points.

But it’s the way matter and planets move and how cards can be played that make the game so interesting.

Set Up

Setting up the game is very simple.

To begin, players place the 4 planets (A, B, C, D) on their starting spaces on the game board.

Players then randomly place all the matter tokens on the white dots on the game board.

Each planet in the corner of the board also has their related Hostile/Habitable token placed on them Hostile side up.

Each set of cards (Low, High, and Final Evolution) is separately shuffled to create 3 decks and placed nearby.

Each player is then given a player mat and eight markers of their chosen color.

Players also begin the game with 5 cards in hand – 2 Low Evolution cards, 2 High Evolution cards, and 1 Final Evolution card (draw 2, choose 1).



Player Turns

On a player’s turn, he/she will move one token on the board and then may play a card.

1. To move a token, a player simply chooses a planet token or a matter token and moves it one space in a clockwise direction. The tokens move along a designation line — either in the same orbit level or into an adjacent orbit along the crossover lines.

Matter tokens cannot move through or over other matter tokens.

Planets tokens can move through a space occupied by another planet token. Planet tokens can also move along its same orbit line (thick lines) as far as desired, or until it moves onto the space of a matter token.

When a matter token and a planet token collide on the same space, the player that moved the token collects the matter token. The player then places the collected matter token onto their player mat on the matching planet space.

For example, if a player moves a Gas token to a space where the planet “A” token is, the player then places the Gas token onto the “A” planet on their player mat.

2. To play a card, the player must first be able to meet the conditions listed on the left edge of the card (such as certain matter tokens). The player chooses which planet to play the card on and places it next to the board by that planet. The player also places one of their color markers on the card to indicate that they played that card.

However, to play an evolution card to a planet, not only must the player have the correct amount and type of matter tokens, but they must be from the corresponding planet on their player mat!

For example, to play an evolution card to Planet “A”, a player must already have the matter tokens stored on Planet “A” of their player mat.

The player removes the used matter tokens from their player mat and places them on the Evolution track.

The player then scores the number of points indicated in the top right corner of the card they played by moving their markers on the score track accordingly.

If the card played has a Gravity icon on it, that player can also claim a matter token from anywhere on the board.

Only the Low and High Evolution cards can be played during the majority of the game. Final Evolution cards can only be played on a player’s final turn.

Once a player has played a card, they draw a replacement card from any deck they desire. If they choose to draw from the Final Evolution deck, they’ll draw 2 cards, choose 1 to keep, and discard the other.

In addition, the player checks to see if that planet is now Hostile or Hospitable. Each number has a colored border — Green or Grey. The total value of Hostile cards played to that planet are compared to the total value of Hospitable cards played to that planet. If one total is higher, that side of the Hostile/Hospitable token is placed up.

That ends a player’s turn and play passes clockwise to the next player.



Final Stages

When a player spends matter tokens to play a card, the used tokens are placed on the Evolution track. Once a matter token is placed on the Acceleration spot on the track, players can now move matter tokens 1 or 2 spaces on the game board.

Once a matter token is placed on the final space of the Evolution track, the final turns are triggered.

The player that placed the token may now play Final Evolution cards from their hand. Then each other player in turn order takes their final turn.

A final turn is the same as a normal turn — moving a token and playing a Low or High Evolution card. But then they can also play as many Final Evolution cards as they can.

Final Evolution cards can be worth a lot of points, but they’re also trickier to play.

To play a Final Evolution card to a planet, the player must already have played a card to that planet (as indicated by their color markers on cards played).

After players have taken their final turns and played their Final Evolution cards, the player with the most points wins the game!


Why we enjoy playing Planetarium

There are a number of reasons why we enjoy playing Planetarium.

For starters, it’s a game with both simple mechanics and interesting choices.

There isn’t a lot to remember of what to do on a turn — move a token, collect a matter token if it collides with a planet, and play one card to a planet if possible. Yet, choosing which tokens to move to collect the tokens you need in order to play the cards you have is an intriguing proposition.

Thus, players have to think ahead to which cards they want to play. Because some cards have more requirement than just spending matter tokens. Some cards can only be played on Hostile or Hospitable planets. And some cards can only be played on Terrestrial or Gaseous.

So in addition to thinking through which matter tokens to collect, players have to collect those tokens by crashing them into a planet token on the board that matches the requirements of the cards they have.

And of course, some types of matter are more rare than others. So collecting those types of tokens may be key to victory. Yet, players will still have to determine which planet they’ll need to store those tokens on for later use.

It’s those interesting choices that keep us coming back for more.



The next big reason we like playing Planetarium is that every game plays out differently.

The random distribution of the matter tokens during set up is a big contributing factor to each game playing out differently. But so are the random card draws.

Which cards a player draws will greatly determine what they’re trying to achieve. Players will have to adjust along the way to maneuver the tokens just right to accomplish their goal. And they’ll also have to choose wisely which planet to play their cards to. Because the switch of a planet from Hostile to Hospitable can swing the outcome of the game.

Which leads to another element we love about Planetarium — the balance of strategy and luck.

Pure strategy games don’t go over very well in our family. Instead, games that require some strategy but also contain elements of luck usually go over much better.

That’s because the jolt of luck in a game not only gives everyone a chance to come out victorious, but it also means that the outcome isn’t predetermined. Playing wisely will give you the edge for sure. But it’s not set in stone that you’ll win.

And the tension that luck brings to a game creates a more engaging experience.

The last element we’ll mention that we love is that the game plays very quickly.

We’ve found that most turns are spent simply moving and collecting tokens rather than playing cards. As such, there isn’t much downtime before it’s your turn again.

As the game progresses turns do take a little bit longer. That’s because tokens are removed from the board and more cards are played to planets so there’s more to think about on a turn. However, turns still clip along nicely.

Each of the times we’ve played the game has lasted about 30 minutes.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the artwork is fantastic!

We know we’ve just been playing with prototype components, so there isn’t much to look at on the cards yet. But we’ve loved the artwork of the Planetarium rulebook. And we expect the final artwork on the cards to look absolutely stellar!



How does Planetarium score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

As we’ve already mentioned, if it were up to Caleb, we may never stop playing Planetarium. As soon as one game ends, he’s asking to play again and dives right into randomly setting out the matter tokens on the board.

So it’s easy to report that Planetarium scores very high on our “let’s play again” game meter.
We can’t wait to get a copy of the game when it’s published!

Yep, that’s right — Planetarium isn’t yet available in game stores. It’s currently raising funds on Kickstarter to be published by Game Salute.

We very rarely talk about games that aren’t yet available in game stores. But every once in a while we discover a game that hits the mark for a great family board game. And Planetarium is such a game.

And we’re not the only ones who think so. We were happy to see that Planetarium hit their funding goal almost right out of the gate!

We highly recommend you visit the Planetarium Kickstarter page and jump in a copy of the game.

You’ll be shaping the solar system before you know it.



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Steve Carey
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Thanks for the preview, Trent.

My concern with Planetarium is the same as with another recent space game Exoplanets - sure it played very quick and it looked great, but there weren't nearly enough meaningful decisions, and what few strategy elements it had were boring. The game was a flop with my group.

I'm just wondering what the main appeal group will be for Planetarium as it seems aimed more at family play, is that correct?
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Chris Morris
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Thanks for the review, it's much appreciated since there isn't much out there yet. Quick question for the OP though: how old is Caleb? I only ask to get a better idea of the complexity and how likely it will see table time with my group and family.
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Chris Berger
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Steve Carey wrote:
My concern with Planetarium is the same as with another recent space game Exoplanets - sure it played very quick and it looked great, but there weren't nearly enough meaningful decisions, and what few strategy elements it had were boring. The game was a flop with my group.


I had the same thought. It seems like it might be a good/fairly deep game with simple mechanics, and if so, that's great. Or, on the other hand, it might be a simple game with simple mechanics. It's hard to tell without playing it.

Also, I have a rules question that maybe someone who has tried the game (or someone with better rules comprehension than me) could answer: I believe the rules say that you can move matter tokens and planets 1 space (at least in the first phase of the game). They say that matter tokens cannot move onto or through other matter tokens. This restriction is noticeably missing from planets. How does that work? Can a planet end its move on the same space as another planet? Or if it moves onto another planet, can it move a second space to move "through" it? Or can it only move through other planets when sweeping its orbit?
 
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Trent Howell
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lubomirvaic wrote:
Thanks for the review, it's much appreciated since there isn't much out there yet. Quick question for the OP though: how old is Caleb? I only ask to get a better idea of the complexity and how likely it will see table time with my group and family.


Caleb is now 13 (boy how time flies).
 
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Trent Howell
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Steve Carey wrote:
Thanks for the preview, Trent.

My concern with Planetarium is the same as with another recent space game Exoplanets - sure it played very quick and it looked great, but there weren't nearly enough meaningful decisions, and what few strategy elements it had were boring. The game was a flop with my group.

I'm just wondering what the main appeal group will be for Planetarium as it seems aimed more at family play, is that correct?


We're definitely looking at the game with family game time in mind.
With a score track showing over 130 points, we were anticipating the game would actually last longer. But the matter tokens on the Evolution track are the timer for the game and with 3 players we were just hitting the 40-50 point range when the game ended.

It also depends on what you're looking for in "meaningful" decisions. We found that we were very selfish in our movement of tokens - looking just to our own needs rather than moving something to block or make it tougher for the others.

Yet, the play of card to planets did seem more meaningful. Particularly because of the impact on being able to play Final Evolution cards. We would be blocked out of playing those cards on planets we needed because of moves the other players made - either by switching the Hostile/Hospitable token so we could no longer gain the points from a Final card - or by moving a planet token into another orbit that meant we were hosed on another Final card. But at the same time, the other player making such moves wasn't doing so because he knew it would block another person, but rather because such a move helped him.
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Trent Howell
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arkayn wrote:
Steve Carey wrote:
My concern with Planetarium is the same as with another recent space game Exoplanets - sure it played very quick and it looked great, but there weren't nearly enough meaningful decisions, and what few strategy elements it had were boring. The game was a flop with my group.


I had the same thought. It seems like it might be a good/fairly deep game with simple mechanics, and if so, that's great. Or, on the other hand, it might be a simple game with simple mechanics. It's hard to tell without playing it.

Also, I have a rules question that maybe someone who has tried the game (or someone with better rules comprehension than me) could answer: I believe the rules say that you can move matter tokens and planets 1 space (at least in the first phase of the game). They say that matter tokens cannot move onto or through other matter tokens. This restriction is noticeably missing from planets. How does that work? Can a planet end its move on the same space as another planet? Or if it moves onto another planet, can it move a second space to move "through" it? Or can it only move through other planets when sweeping its orbit?


We wouldn't call it a Deep game.
It's a simple game with simple mechanics that exercises our minds along the way in a race to collect matter in the best combinations to maximize points.

Planets can move onto other planets with their single move.
It's when they "sweep out its orbit" that they can move multiple spaces, thus passing over another planet.
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Tom Ragaert
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Thanks for the preview. Still on the cusp for this one...
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David Forby
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Looking through the rules:
A planet can move through other planets but not stop at the same space as a planet. A Matter Token can land on the planet, in which case you collect it. A Planet can move more than one space if there are blank spaces in it's orbit path and go until it gets a matter token intersection, in which you collect the matter token.

One variation that I thought already is you could get a couple of extra matter tokens and start play with out planets in a Phase 0 type of game. Then you can have Matter tokens come together with a set number forming a planet, type of matter can dictate gas or terrestrial planet. Then when you have 4 planets, you leave the planets where they are and redistribute the matter tokens for the start of the game normally.

Another risky variation could also be to ignore the player mats and stack up the matter tokens on the planet, anyone can spend the matter on the planet to play a card.

For a really advanced game: Make up new star types and new orbits, with the number of planets being variable. Matter tokens can be moons until they hit the planet. Not sure how that could work.

This game seems to be very simple and that could lead to some great modifications to it. You don't always need to play the game as is, if you are bored with the basics.
 
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David Forby
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Though the Evolution Timer is there, I wonder what a game would be like if you continued and used all the Matter Tokens up.
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Dann May
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Hi, I'm Dann, I'm working with Stephane the designer, to take the game to a published product. Thanks for the review Trent, glad you are having fun.

Steve Carey wrote:
I'm just wondering what the main appeal group will be for Planetarium as it seems aimed more at family play, is that correct?


It will indeed be interesting to see what the final mix is of people that like the game. We definitely kept families and casual gamers in mind, but we did try to layer in depth and make it interesting to play as experienced gamers ourselves. There are choices around the distribution of matter on the board, the cycle of turns, the knowledge of final cards and when to take them, the way Low and High cards work differently to affect planets and set up your endgame, when to mess with others, that for us provoked some interesting decisions, but it is hard to tell where it fits into the tastes and expectations of today's experienced gamers, or even how deep players will feel like digging into a game if it already plays cool in a casual way. I do think the sense of depth is balanced somewhat by the fact the game clicks along, you don't get to revel in your brilliant plans, as you'll often want to re-prioritize because of that race and interactive element, so just the pure speed of the game might encourage a certain mindset. I guess if I was forced to categorize it I'd be happy to say it was a family game, something like the complexity/depth of a game like Ticket to Ride perhaps.

Matrix4b wrote:
Looking through the rules:
One variation that I thought already is you could get a couple of extra matter tokens and start play with out planets in a Phase 0 type of game. Then you can have Matter tokens come together with a set number forming a planet, type of matter can dictate gas or terrestrial planet. Then when you have 4 planets, you leave the planets where they are and redistribute the matter tokens for the start of the game normally.

Another risky variation could also be to ignore the player mats and stack up the matter tokens on the planet, anyone can spend the matter on the planet to play a card.

Though the Evolution Timer is there, I wonder what a game would be like if you continued and used all the Matter Tokens up.


Hi David, that's cool, we played with variations of those three ideas in development and more. What brought us around to where we ended up was that it felt close to the most essential version. Because the core is pretty simple, we had so many ideas for variations that we started to think, okay, let's just keep it essential and if any of these are any good, we can consider them as expansions/variants. The ideas you listed all had some draw backs to our mind, but they all had some cool things to them as well, that with some tweaks could be great I think. Playing out the tokens without the Evolution track is fun, but it is a totally different endgame experience and it lasts a deal longer (we considered speeding up the tokens even more, which could be fun too). We also had ideas for making the planets become gas or rocky based on the cards played to them, rules for collisions, stacking matter, different orbital speeds, all which had different mechanical and game play elements to them. It's kinda cool that the system has a bit of that sandbox feeling to it, it's a part of what we liked about the game when it was submitted. I'm going to try and remember some of the ideas we've heard during the Kickstarter campaign and bring them back out when we start wondering about expansions. Also, it would be great to see and play variations by fans.
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Yes, I can see a few drawbacks to the variations. I appreciate that you are going to keep it to the essential game. I have a bit of the designer mind myself so I like thinking of variations and additions to games. It's fun. From what I have seen the game looks beautiful and is simple and quick with some great elements. It's concept charges the imagination, When I was younger and in High School I loved the Science of the universe and loved learning about it.

I am looking forward to this game and playing it and some variations with my friends. With the essentials presented, I see lots of ways this can be tweaked to an altogether different experience. I can't wait until March of next year to play it with my friends.
 
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René Boe
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TheBoardGameFamily wrote:
We're definitely looking at the game with family game time in mind.

With a score track showing over 130 points, we were anticipating the game would actually last longer. But the matter tokens on the Evolution track are the timer for the game and with 3 players we were just hitting the 40-50 point range when the game ended.

It also depends on what you're looking for in "meaningful" decisions. We found that we were very selfish in our movement of tokens - looking just to our own needs rather than moving something to block or make it tougher for the others.

Yet, the play of card to planets did seem more meaningful. Particularly because of the impact on being able to play Final Evolution cards. We would be blocked out of playing those cards on planets we needed because of moves the other players made - either by switching the Hostile/Hospitable token so we could no longer gain the points from a Final card - or by moving a planet token into another orbit that meant we were hosed on another Final card. But at the same time, the other player making such moves wasn't doing so because he knew it would block another person, but rather because such a move helped him.

Now that the kickstarter copies are being delivered (I just picked up my copy yesterday from the group pledge in Denmark) I was wondering how the game has held up in your family.

Is it still a hit with Caleb and is the decisions still meaningful after hopefully many more plays?

/René
 
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Trent Howell
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ProsperoDK wrote:
I was wondering how the game has held up in your family.

Is it still a hit with Caleb and is the decisions still meaningful after hopefully many more plays?

/René


That's great news that you've got your final copy!

Since we reviewed the game we've been waiting to the final version to come out.

We haven't played a lot since mainly because we've been busy with other game reviews - we've done 50 reviews between this one and today (3/16/17).
 
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