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Subject: Solo Gaming Multiuniversum: A Meeple, Myself, and I Review rss

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JDM
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Multiuniversum is a bit of a strange beast at first glance: it’s a reimplementation of a game made by a designer with an increasingly impressive pedigree (Manuel Correia, who even gets a blurb from Vital Lacerda in the game), it is strikingly beautiful, and profoundly… weird. In the game, you are scientists trying to close portals that were accidentally created when the Swiss tried to create a time travel machine. You’ll find horrific(ally adorable…?) gummy bears and onions with spears, among other things, in this game.



Interesting theme, designer, etc.? Check.

So. What’s the game like?

Playing the Game

It’s a reasonably straightforward little game: there are five transformers (numbered 1-5) that have four portals each on them. Those portals require you to spend one, two, or three tools to close them. Each portal is worth a certain number of Discovery Points (i.e., Victory Points) and has a symbol that can be used for set collection at the end of the game; when you close a portal, you add it to your laboratory and get those benefits at the end of the game.

You start the game with three cards in your hand, and you can use those cards in one of three ways: you can either play the card as an action (which is dictated by what transformer you’re standing on), a tool (which can then be spent later to close portals), or a trash can (which lets you draw a replacement card). Here's a look at a card:



The action column on the left side of the cards is certainly the most involved part of the game: there are five different actions that you can take in the game, and all five of those actions appear once on every card you’ll ever draw. The trick here is that the action you can play each turn is entirely dictated by what transformer you’re standing on. You can pick up cards from the discard pile, move, activate the special ability of the transformer you’re on, close a portal, or draw two cards; but you can ONLY do whichever ONE of those actions is linked to the number of the portal you’re on.

You’ll also notice, then, that each transformer has its own special ability that you can trigger, if you’re standing on that location with the right card that allows you to use that location’s ability. There are ten discrete symbols that you’ll need to grok to play the game -- not terribly overwhelming, but it takes a little bit to get used to.

You can ignore all those actions entirely and instead choose to play a card as a tool -- like most other things in the game, there are five different kinds of tools. When you play a card as a tool, you tuck the card under your laboratory, so that the tool symbol is still showing. Those tucked tools can then be discarded later to close portals that display the matching symbols; but remember, you can only close that portal if you have the right tools AND a card in your hand that has the Close Portal action on the correctly numbered transformer.

Finally, you can trash a card to immediately draw a replacement card.

You get three actions per turn, and then you refill your hand up to three cards, if needed. The game ends when a certain number of transformers have been depleted of their portals, depending on the number of players in the current game.

You add up the Discovery Points on all the portals you’ve closed, and then you look at yet another set of symbols on the portals you’ve closed and score some set collection bonuses: if you collect a bunch of unique cards, you’ll get some points, or if you collect 2 or 3 of the same symbols you can also score points. The graphic design is done well here; it’s easy to tell how many of each symbol appears throughout the portals based on some simple iconography. You are penalized a point for each unspent tool you have tucked under your laboratory, ostensibly to deter the strategy of going hog-wild for tools early in the game and hoping to blaze through portals like a madman at the end of the game.

The Solo Game

The solo game is pretty close to playing against other people. You do all your stuff as normal, and then when you’re done, you move an AI Meeple around the board who, not surprisingly to connoisseurs of solo games, becomes unstoppably efficient at closing portals and gathering points as the game progresses.

During its turn, the AI first draws two cards and automatically adds those cards to its collection of tucked tools that are ready to close portals. It then checks to see if it can close the top portal of the transformer it’s currently standing on. If it can close it, it spends the appropriate tools, acquires the portal, and moves on to the next transformer. If it can’t close it, it just moves on to the next transformer. So the AI is always getting more and more tools, moving around the board very quickly and closing more and more portals as the game goes on. It scores points like a human player at the end of the game, except it’s not penalized for any leftover tools that it has. The game ends when three transformers have lost all their portals.

Some Thoughts

Maybe I should start here by saying I’m a sucker for multi-purpose cards. Glory to Rome, Mottainai, Oh My Goods!, Race for the Galaxy… I really, really enjoy games that let you take cards and use them in flexible, interesting ways. And I think that Multiuniversum has that flexibility in spades; each card has five different actions (although you are profoundly constrained in the ways you use those actions), and it has a tools symbol, and it can be trashed. There are just lots of things that you can do on your turn. You feel a push and pull of trying to figure out the best way to use your cards, and I, personally, find the inevitable small moments of agony in the game - where you realize you NEED to do two things with this ONE CARD – to be really fun. It’s a weird, quirky puzzle of a game, but I think that it’s one that’s pretty engaging and fun.

But, since this is a solo review, after all, let me finish with some thoughts on the solo version itself, and ask the question that I often find myself asking about variants like this: Is this an enjoyable solo experience on its own, divorced from the multiplayer gameplay experience? Should you get this game JUST for the solo experience?

Probably not. But I actually don’t really see that as a profound problem with the game. I think that the solo experience is really enjoyable for what it is; it’s really tense and tough to see the AI whizzing around the board, snatching up portal after portal while still somehow becoming more efficient. That puzzle is engaging, fun, and smart, but it’s probably not, by itself, worth the price of admission for the game.

But if, instead, we consider the solo variant for Multiuniversum to be a complement to, and extension of, the multiplayer game, it’s a really nice addition that I think many solo gamers will rightly enjoy. I found myself exploring new strategies and getting excited about noticing some nuances and intricacies to my gameplay as I upped my play count of the game, and I think that is the highest compliment that this variant can be paid. The game does a lot with its small box, but it never gets too big for its britches, either. It doesn't overstay its welcome, it doesn't melt your brain for no payoff, but it's not overly simplistic. I went with a "ALL TOOLS ALL THE TIME" strategy in my last playthrough, and I was keenly rewarded for that strategy; but I could see how it might backfire in the wrong circumstances, too. Although the solo gameplay (or maybe the entire game) might devolve into a few dominant strategies after enough plays, I think you can get some pretty decent traction out of a game this small before that happens.

One of the stronger negatives I would present about the solo game is that it can be really frustrating to feel like you have terrible cards and can't do anything about it. At least when you're playing with people, those people could likely be constrained by their own bum hands of cards; the AI is relentless and never lets up. Even if it doesn't have the tools to buy something right now, it will get more tools for other purchases. And that can be a bit helpless at times, especially when the cards just aren't falling your way and you can't get out of your current space to save your life.

But for solo gamers looking for a nice lagniappe to go along with what could be a pretty neat game, it's an interesting choice for a solo-filler-length-game. Multiuniversum's solo mode makes me excited to hopefully get my hands on SUPERHOT (a new game that's a video game retheme of another Correia title, the solid PnP Agent Decker) or the upcoming Cthulu expansion for Multiuniversum in the somewhat near future.

If you like this review, please check out my other reviews in the Meeple, Myself, and I series!
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Ireneusz Huszcza
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Re: Meeple, Myself, and I: A Solo Player's Review
Thanks for your review!
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Manuel Correia
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Re: Meeple, Myself, and I: A Solo Player's Review
Thank you for the review, and I hope you enjoy Superhot! The solo mode in that one is a lot more involved and has more replayability. You can play the solo demo on Tabletopia!
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Karen Goetz
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Re: Meeple, Myself, and I: A Solo Player's Review
I found that the AI runs away due to the non-penalty for the tools in the end. The Cthulhu expansion adds a lot of leverage to the problem due to the fact that insanity affects also the AI... In the expansion I found myself to be able to really punish the AI for its greediness for disturbing portals by intenitonally not-moving myself or using the transistor abilities that affect the portals sauron
So my thumbs for solo goes way uppy for the expansion.
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JDM
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Re: Meeple, Myself, and I: A Solo Player's Review
That really does make me excited for the expansion. I would love to try it out sometime!
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Karen Goetz
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Re: Meeple, Myself, and I: A Solo Player's Review
I was happy to grab the bundle with playmat etc....
Was also very quickly delivered (ok, Poland and Germany are somewhat next to each other)
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Re: Multiuniversum: A Meeple, Myself, and I Review
neotrunks2002 wrote:
That really does make me excited for the expansion. I would love to try it out sometime!


We have full set available in our web store https://shop.boardanddice.com
 
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Re: Multiuniversum: A Meeple, Myself, and I Review
Nyarly362 wrote:
I was happy to grab the bundle with playmat etc....
Was also very quickly delivered (ok, Poland and Germany are somewhat next to each other)


Verry happy that you liked our customer service - Bartek is doing a great job there.
 
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