If you're not part of the soultion...
You're part of the precipitate!
Fine Sand is related to the deck-building genre of games, the most notable of which is Dominion (IMHO). However, in Fine Sand, you’re not building a deck. In fact, you are deconstructing your deck. I suppose that if this game takes off, it could be the first of the “Deck Demolition” genre. And, I’ll take credit here for coining the term.
I have played the game probably six or seven times now – the first four of which was with a prototype version with FF at the table. I have since played the “real” version which you can purchase on this page three times with others. The earlier plays did not have the Fable mechanism in place yet, but we have used it in our current games.
Each player starts with a deck of 30 cards. The end of the game will be the first player who cannot refill their hand to their current hand limit. When that trigger occurs, each player finishes the round, and then the player with the fewest cards remaining is the winner.
But, lets get back to how to play:
Each turn, you start the turn by drawing cards. There is a base draw value at the start of the game, but you can play cards along the way to cause you to draw more each turn. Again, if you cannot draw all the cards that you are supposed to, you have triggered the game end.
Then, you have a choice – you can either play a card from your hand to your tableau (to do this, you pay the cost of the card by discarding other cards from your hand of the right value) OR you can draw more cards into your hand. Of course, some of the cards that you play can also affect how many cards you are able to play in choice (A) or how many cards you are able to draw in choice (B).
This is probably the time that I should also mention that there are certain sand castle cards that do not have any function – that is, they do not affect how many cards you draw, how many cards you play or how many cards you can keep in your hand. These sand castles really don’t have any value, but if you play them to the table, they are out of your deck forever – so that’s still a good thing.
Finally, you discard down to your hand limit – this value can also be changed by playing certain cards. Also, at some point in your turn, you can also off-load a card. That is, you put in in a stack for your left hand neighbor to take into their deck. That’s generally a good thing too – because that’s one less card you have to deal with in your deck. Of course, your right-hand neighbor is probably off-loading cards into your deck at the same time.
Oh, and I guess now is the time I should mention that during each turn, all players are taking their actions simultaneously. It seems like it would be chaotic, but it’s not too bad. If it helps, each player has a wooden disc which they can put in front of their area to show that they are done with the current turn. When all players have finished this turn, pick up the disc and start all over again.
The game continues in rounds like this until someone is not able to draw all the cards that they need to. This can be in the draw at the start of the turn OR the one in the middle. If this occurs at the draw at the start of the turn, the current turn is the final one. If this occurs in the middle; the current turn is finished and players have one more turn. The player with the fewest cards in their deck at the end of the game is the winner.
Then, once you’ve finished the game, you can move into the Fabled part. Here, the winner shuffles their deck and takes out 3 random cards. So long as these cards do not have the warning triangle symbol in the corner, they are removed and the top 3 cards from the Fabled deck are put in their place. The other players find the same cards to discard and also add the top 3 cards from their Fable deck. Thus, with each play, 10% of the deck is new, and as you continue to play games, your set will diverge from all the others in the world.
I think that this is a really interesting devolution of the deck-building genre. You are still building an engine here, but instead of trying to gain victory points or kill monsters, you are trying to make your deck more and more efficient at playing and removing cards from itself.
The main ways to lose cards are by playing them to the table and off-loading them onto your left hand opponent. The cost of many of the cards is high, so in order to play some of those cards, you have to be able to draw enough cards to be able to pay the costs. It would also help to have a higher drawing capacity so that you can cycle through your deck faster to accumulate those cards with higher coin values which will then let you play more cards. The trick is figuring out how to get to the same endpoint that everyone else is trying to get to as well.
Also, don’t forget to off-load cards on your opponent. But, of course, don’t give up the cards that you want to play yourself. It would be a shame if you really needed a +1 draw card to make your own engine better – only to realize that you gave it away last turn. OF course, maybe your right hand opponent has given you that same card, so you’d rather not miss the opportunity to get rid of it on your turn! Aargh!
Just so you know, the game is set up right out of the box. The rules make it clear that you take out the four player decks, and you DO NOT shuffle them. They are pre-sorted and ready for your first (tutorial) game. That’s kinda cool. It makes it easy to learn the main concepts of the game. While you probably only want to play this way the first time; the rules do include a picture where you can re-create this original setup.
This is a fascinating game, and one that I surely like. For now, the novelty of the deck demolition has kept it coming back at game night this month, and we’re playing through the Fable cards now. We haven’t finished, so I can’t tell you for sure whether I like that part or not; but the constant change to the decks seems to be a positive. Each game is a little different, and it makes you have to change your strategies as you go in order to match the cards in your deck.
But I’m just a single Opinionated Gamer. You may want to check out what the rest of them think too at www.opinionatedgamers.com
Nice review. I had thought this would be the second deck-deconstruction game after Xenon Profiteer but there are even more: Deck Deconstruction.