Compounded is a game in which each player is a lab manager making sure their lab stays on task to ‘complete’ as many available compounds as then can and scoring atomic points (AP) in the process. This will involve striking deals with the other players, avoiding explosions, and a little luck.
The Board and Components
The main ‘board’ is called the research field and it consists of the available compounds that are available to all players. In three to five player games, 16 of these will be available each round. There are 63 compounds (plus five lab fire cards), nine of which are starting compounds which will always be available at the beginning of the game. Each card has a number of elements required for completion, an amount of AP, and possibly lab tool or fire icons.
Each player also has their work bench where they keep their elements and monitor progress on their experiment (discovery, study, research, and lab) tracks. Each player will also have a fire extinguisher, three claim tokens, and a wild element token at their disposal.
The elements also comprise a large part of this game. The elements are placed in a black bag until drawn by the players. There are 100 elements:
- 30 hydrogen/white
- 20 carbon/black
- 20 oxygen/red
- 15 nitrogen/blue
- 10 calcium/green
- 5 sulfur/yellow
There are also lab tool (graduated cylinder, journal, pipet, safety goggles, lab key, bunsen burner), storage, and flame tokens which will be used throughout the game.
And let’s not forget the first player marker, the lab key.
There is also a scoring track which is a periodic table. Each player will have a marker to track their progress.
As mentioned, each player starts the game with a fire extinguisher, a wild element token, and a marker on each upgrade track of their work bench. Players start with one claim token available and two in reserve and draw four random starting elements from the bag. The lab tools are placed on their respective spaces of the scoring track. There should be one less graduated cylinder, pipet, and journal than the number of players.
The compound deck is split into six equal stacks and a lab fire card is placed in five of the stacks. The five decks with lab fire cards are individually shuffled and then stacked. The stack without the lab fire is then placed on top, forming the compound deck. This setup ensures the players won’t face a lab fire in the first couple rounds.
Each game round is broken into four phases:
The player with the rarest elements becomes the lead scientist (start player). At the start of each subsequent round, the token is passed to the next player.
In this phase, staring with the lead scientist, the players will draw a number of elements from the bag indicated by their discovery track. They are placed on the player’s lab bench in the element storage area. Once all elements have been drawn, trading begins. Most things in this game are tradable, including elements, fire extinguishers, wild element tokens, lab tools, and favors. Atomic points and experiment levels may not be traded. At the end of the phase, each player with more elements than storage space must put elements back into the bag until they’re at capacity. This phase is skipped during the first game round.
In this phase, each player may place one claim token from the work bench onto an unclaimed compound, starting with the lead scientist and going clockwise. This continues until each player has placed as many tokens as were on their work bench or passed.
Then, in turn order, each player may move one of their claim markers placed in a previous round to an unclaimed compound. Each compound may only be claimed by one player.
In turn order, each player moves a number of elements indicated by their research track from their work bench to compounds in the research field. These elements may go on claimed (by any player) or unclaimed compounds.
Only scientists who claim a compound can benefit and score from completion of that compound, but deals may be struck to help other players complete compounds in return for lab tools, elements, etc.
If an unclaimed compound is completed, the completing player places a claim token from their reserve onto the card to indicate that they were the one to finish it. If they don’t have a token in reserve, they cannot complete the compound. Unclaimed compounds containing elements can be claimed by players in the next game round.
Players may also place elements on their fire extinguisher during this phase.
Players are also free to trade three of any one type of element for any other element in the bag. The player’s wild element token can also be spent as any resource other than sulfur.
During this phase, players score their completed compounds, move up the score track, gain appropriate lab tools, move up their experiment tracks, and trigger chemical reactions.
First, compounds are scored.
1. The compound is removed from the research field and placed next to the scoring player’s bench.
2. The scoring players token is moved up the appropriate number of AP (as indicated by the compound card).
3. The claim token is returned to the player or to their reserve, depending upon where it was placed from.
4. All elements on the completed compound are returned to the bag.
Lab tools indicated by the completed compound are gained and can be used (or traded) in future rounds. Blue and grey tools are one time use, while yellow tools contain persistent effects. If a player already has a tool of the indicated type, they cannot take another.
1. Safety goggles: discard at the start of the research phase to ‘discover’ a second time this round. These elements are kept separate and don’t have to adhere to the storage limit. Once finished placing elements, any unused elements gained by the safety goggles are returned to the bag.
2. Lab key: discard at the end of the lab phase to gain the first player marker.
3. Pipet: the scientist may now trade elements two for one (once per round) instead of three for one during the research phase.
4. Journal: this is gained when a player reaches the indicated space of their study experiment and once during each lab phase when scoring compounds, the player may place one element from the completed compound back into their element storage.
5. Graduated cylinder: the player may move one experiment down one level to move another up one level, once per round. This may result in the forfeiture of elements or claim tokens.
6. Bunsen burner: discard during the research phase to add a flame token to a compound without a flame token. A scientist may use a fire extinguisher to prevent this. If placed on a non-flammable compound, the compound becomes flammable with a flame token capacity of two.
Each compound also has a chemical state, indicating which experiment track is increased upon completion. Instead of upgrading the indicated track, the player always has the choice to instead upgrade their lab experiment. The experiments are:
1. Discovery: for each increase, the player is able to draw additional elements from the bag each turn.
2. Study: each increase will allow the player to have additional claim tokens (or gain a journal token).
3. Research: each level gained will allow the player to place additional elements onto compounds each round.
4. Lab: for each level, the scientist may remove a storage marker from their storage area, increasing the number of elements they can store.
In the below example, the red player would score four points, return the claim token to their stock, move up either their research or lab experiment one space, and return the elements to the bag.
Some compounds also contain a chemical reaction symbol (flame). When they are completed, a chemical reaction is triggered. The chemical reactions are:
1. Grant: the completing player chooses another player and increases one of their experiment tracks one level.
2. Volatile: this acts as if a lab fire card was revealed from the deck, following the same rules. This may cause some compounds to immediately explode.
3. Hazardous hauling: when completed, each player moves one element from this compound onto any other compound in the research field (starting with the completing player).
4. Corrosive compound: the two scoring scientists each move down one level on their study experiment.
5. Explosive elements: Any compound with at least one flame token present immediately explode. This does not add additional flame tokens.
After all compounds have been completed and scored, the lead scientist refills the research field from left to right, top to bottom. When a lab fire card is revealed during the refill, the card is set aside and refilling is finished. Then discard the lab fire card and add a flame token to all flammable compounds (with spaces for flame tokens). Any compounds that reach their flame token limit explode and are taken out of the research field and discarded. Any elements on the exploding compounds will scatter to adjacent compounds. If the exploding compound was claimed, the claiming player chooses to which compounds they scatter. If it is unclaimed, the lead scientist chooses. A completed fire extinguisher may be discarded to prevent the placing of any one flame token. Two lab fires cannot occur in the same round. Any voids in the research field are filled. The first player token is then passed.
The game end
The game is played until either:
A. One scientist reaches 50 atomic points or,
B. One scientist reaches the top of 3 experiment tracks of their work bench or,
C. The Research field cannot be filled to capacity
If condition A or B is triggered, there is one additional round of gameplay. If condition C occurs, the game is immediately over. Each player gains points from their:
- Base score on the periodic table track
- Completed and unused fire extinguisher (4 AP)
- Elements on incomplete compounds they’ve claimed (1 AP each)
- Unused elements on their work bench (1 AP per 2 elements
- Unused wild element token (2 AP)
The player with the most atomic points is the most successful lab manager and winner of the game!
Theme: Even though the science in this game might not be 100% accurate, it’s certainly a novel and refreshing idea for a game. As a real life research chemist, I certainly appreciate it.
Experiment track decisions: I would argue that all tracks are very necessary, but of course you must choose an order to attack the experiments. This might be dictated by what compounds are available and how they match your drawn elements, but usually you’ve got some choice of how to approach this.
Pace: The game moves pretty quickly, as players often know what they’ll be doing with their elements by the time it’s their turn.
Runaway leader: This game doesn’t have a catchup mechanism. On top of that, players who gain a good start are able to advance their experiment tracks earlier in the game, allowing them to often become further ahead. There are some things that can be done to combat this, such as Bunsen burner tokens, but they are very situational.
Play time: The aforementioned problem can make this game feel a bit long. In addition, each round plays exactly the same, so it can get a bit tedious around the 75-90 minute mark.
Luck of the draw: Everybody likes randomly pulling elements out of the bag, but you’ll have rounds where you won’t pull what you need and oftentimes players won’t want to trade. Trading three to one (or two to one) is a possibility, but it’s not a winning strategy if done too frequently. As mentioned, getting off to a good start in this game is critical, and if your starting element draw isn’t very good it can really cripple you.
How easy is the game to learn?
This game can’t be taught in 5 minutes, but there aren’t too many layers. Most gamers will pick it up quickly.
Will it be easy to find players?
I think the theme and novelty will make it easy to find new players. However, it’s sometimes a struggle to get people to play again. The fun factor isn’t quite where it needs to be to make players excited about getting it off the shelf.
Is the reward worth the time spent?
Not really. The play time is listed as 30 to 90 minutes, but it usually plays closer to the 90 (especially if at least one player is new to the game). For a 75-90 minute game, there aren’t too many interesting decisions to be made and it can tedious beyond its play time.
How much fun is defeat?*
It’s usually easy to pinpoint the leader(s) and straggler(s) fairly early in this game. If you’re one of the latter, it’s difficult to have much fun for the remainder of the game, because you know there’s almost no way you can be competitive.
*I think one of the best ways to evaluate a game is to consider how much fun it is to lose. The goal is to have fun whether I've won or lost!
If you enjoyed reading this review, feel free to check out my other game reviews HERE
- Last edited Tue Aug 30, 2016 4:39 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Aug 30, 2016 3:24 am
Everything is relative to perception, and your perception is limited.
The Ginger Ninja
Thanks for the review. I really like the idea of evaluating a game on how fun it is to lose. Personally, even though I am a decent strategist, I haven't finished higher than second-to-last in this game. It keeps hitting the table, though, because my family is obsessed with it. Maybe they just like beating me soundly and repeatedly!
Well done review!
My daughter received this game for Christmas and we played it several times. After the first game where there was a runaway winner the following games saw the trading of elements become most active part of the game - every turn elements were traded - this greatly reduced playtime with none of the subsequent games going over 60 mins.