My wife and I first played Node at this year's GenCon, and we enjoyed it for what it was: a light, slightly thinky but by no means brain-burner-y filler game. My first impression was that it was pleasant enough-- nothing I absolutely needed to buy, but I certainly wouldn't mind playing it again sometime.
But the more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to play it again-- "I wouldn't mind" had turned into an itch that needed scratching-- and so I recently purchased a copy.
Mechanically, the game is very simple, intuitive, and easy to teach. Each card is made up of six "nodes", which come in five pixelated flavors. When a card is played onto the table, it must overlap at least one of the nodes and be of the same color/type as the node it overlaps. Players claim groups of nodes when a color/type is introduced, or when a group becomes the largest group of that type as a result of their play. The game continues until either the cards run out, or until one player manages to claim all five colors/types.
It's very simple and elegant, but I think that simplicity is deceptive. If players aren't careful, they can trap themselves-- make it impossible to grow or reclaim a certain area. Of course, players can try to trap the other player, and might do so or trap themselves.
It's very much a back-and-forth, I-stole-your-area sort of game: it's very competitive and well-suited to two-players with ten minutes to spare. It's not, however, an acrimonious sort of game; it never gets nasty or cutthroat, at least not in my experience. This, for me, is a very good niche.
The ninety cards are decent. They would likely benefit from sleeving, but I've played with much worse cards (cough, Munchkin, cough). One of the cards in my set came scuffed with some sort of marking on the back, but as the game is only played with half of the deck, that card can easily be isolated. (Rather than cutting the deck, I suggest that players count out an even number of cards-- 44 or 46 for two-players-- to ensure that no player has an advantage over the other.)
The player markers ("avatars") come on additional cards and must be cut-out and folded to act as stands. They are perfectly functional.
The rules are clear and very concise; no room is spared for designer credits or a component list (we had to count the cards to know we had ninety).
The only issue I really had with the game, production-wise or otherwise, is the packaging. Seeing its small box at GenCon, I figured that'd it'd be a very nice portable game-- one I could put in my pocket and bring over to a friend's house. The box is flimsy-- not necessarily a problem in and of itself-- and is meant to hold the cards in two separate side-by-side stacks. The cards, however, swish around together in the box, refusing to stay in distinct stacks, which might damage the cards. I tried to use a rubberband around one or both stacks but found it warped the box unattractively. The player markers will not fit back into the box unless unfolded, which is understandable. I ended up storing the game in a more spacious, still-portable but decidedly un-pocket-sized plastic case.
But this is really a very minor quibble that doesn't effect the playability of the game and I feel churlish to devote so much time to it.
Node is a very worthwhile effort from a new publisher. I look forward to their future releases.
Glad to hear you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by the booth, and for picking up a copy!
And +5 for using "churlish" in a sentence. That's badass.