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Subject: What’s It’s Like to Play Luna rss

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George Ramos
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So many games, so little time, how does one decide?

My name’s George. I play games and I love talking about games. There are lots and lots of great reviews and reviewers on BGG. I’ll add my voice to the chorus and talk about what it feels like to play a game. Why? I don’t need rules re-explained, nor do I want to know what a game’s like after 20 plays. Instead, I want to know which game to play next. That’s what I hope to do for YOU. I’ll try to be brief, and honest, and hopefully help you make that difficult decision: what’s next…...?


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We played our first game of Luna last week. It was a successful game session and we will most likely play Luna again in the future. Here are the details:

SETUP: There were 4 of us and setup took about 20 minutes, though I had all the pieces organized before we sat down to set up. It took another 30 minutes to explain the rules.

WHO I PLAYED WITH: My core gaming group of three 30-40 year old males: the shrewd Brit, the unassuming German, and the friendly Canadian who “just does what everyone else does”. I’m the talkative American, I guess.

THEME: Luna has a unique and unusual theme: we each head our own order of priests and priestesses devoted to a Wicca-like, earth loving cult. The head of the cult, the Moon Priestess, is retiring and we’re all vying to be nominated as the next Moon Priest (or Priestess). We each struggle to gain more influence than our peers, thus securing the nomination. The theme comes across perfectly during gameplay.

QUICK RULES: Place your novices (workers) on 1 of 7 islands to gain a benefit from the island, enabling you to take a Favor token from the island or get one of your novices promoted from the island to the central temple. A newly promoted novice can later enter the temple and occupy a spot in the hallowed hall of learning, possibly bumping someone out in the process (oh, the perils of academia). Players take one action at a time, in clockwise order, until the turn ends. After 6 turns, the game is over.

HOW TO WIN: You score Influence points (IP’s) during the game and at the game’s end. The main method of getting IP’s during the game is promoting your novice to the temple (they’ll go from an island to the temple track).Your novices score when you initially promote them. After they’re moved from the temple track to the inner temple (known as Sanctification), they’ll score again at the end of every round they’re still in the temple. In other words, the longer they stay in the temple, the more often they’ll score for you. At the end of the game they score again, plus 4 victory points for each Shrine you own. There are other ways to get points but Promotion and Sanctification are the big point generators.

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: Our friendly Canadian wrung his hands in frustration at one point, crying “I can’t do anything, my hands are TIED!” This is a game that requires you to plan ahead, usually 3 or 4 moves in advance. It’s very hard to do anything when you want to do it. To do one thing you have a short chain of actions you need to do first. Just when you’re finally able to do what you’re planning, someone ends the round and you get delayed. It becomes a slow-motion race to the finish line.

MOST UNIQUE PARTS OF THE GAME: The board is a ring of islands surrounding the central temple. The circular arrangement is actually slightly disorienting, since you have to think in terms of clockwise and counterclockwise circles. There is, in fact, nothing graphically linear about this game. It’s quite clever!

WHERE THE GAME SUCCEEDS: The deliberate, almost contemplative nature of the game fits the theme of the game perfectly. There are no brash moves, very few ways to directly hurt your fellow players, yet the game feels like a race regardless. The look of the game is also excellent, with subtle but effective artwork.

WHERE THE GAME STUMBLES: The tension and excitement started on turn 4 of 6. It’s a bit late in the game, but we were sufficiently engaged during the first 4 rounds to keep at it. I think knowing the theme, and how it relates to the actions, is critical. Some of my fellow players felt the game was arbitrarily making it difficult until I explained, for example, that you need one of the head priests of the islands to put in a good word for you before your novice can be promoted. This is why you can only promote your novice to a space that matches the icon of the island he started from.

WHO WON: The game lasted 2.5 hours. The shrewd Brit won with 72 points! The friendly Canadian ended with 69 points, I came up with 66 points, and our unassuming German ended with 65 points.

CONCLUSION: The theme, artwork, and implementation of the theme all come together perfectly. The gameplay is a mix of worker placement and area control. All together it makes for a unique game that is calm and cool, rewards careful planning, and pleasantly unique.

I hope that’s helpful. Thanks for reading this!
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Drew Gormley
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For us, now that we've played 5+ times (all two player), the tension starts around the set up. The game is no joke; once you know how to play, and if you're playing with competitive players, I promise it will reward multiple plays. Give it some more!
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Ken Thibodeau
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Funny, I just sold my copy yesterday. I played this game 4 times. I have yet to know what doesn't click between me and this game. Of the hundreds games I have played, this one ranks in my top 3 of the most "I have no clue what I should do". Somehow, I just cannot wrap my head around any hint of strategy or planning ahead. Surprisingly enough, it is from my favorite designer, Stefan Feld. Moreover, my gaming group really digs it. This game will remain a mystery for me for a long time, I'm afraid...
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Drew Gormley
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fardoche wrote:
Funny, I just sold my copy yesterday. I played this game 4 times. I have yet to know what doesn't click between me and this game. Of the hundreds games I have played, this one ranks in my top 3 of the most "I have no clue what I should do". Somehow, I just cannot wrap my head around any hint of strategy or planning ahead. Surprisingly enough, it is from my favorite designer, Stefan Feld. Moreover, my gaming group really digs it. This game will remain a mystery for me for a long time, I'm afraid...


Have you played Village? It reminde me a lot of Luna. Perfect information game can be tough to figure out sometimes.
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Ken Thibodeau
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I played it twice. I really enjoyed our first one, but it fell flat for our second try. I think what describes best these two games in my mind is "dry". You probably put the finger on the problem when you mentionned perfect info games are often hard to grasp.
 
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Colin Goldberg
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I agree.

One of my favorite aspects of this game is the candle that controls when the turn ends. On the second or third turn of my first game I spent my first two actions doing nothing but turning over the candle, bringing the end of the round closer. It was a gamble, if the other players had followed suit I wouldn't have had any actions that turn at all, but I needed the other players to perform certain actions before it made sense for me to do anything else. You have to watch everyone else very carefully in this game.
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Corin A. Friesen
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fardoche wrote:
Funny, I just sold my copy yesterday. I played this game 4 times. I have yet to know what doesn't click between me and this game. Of the hundreds games I have played, this one ranks in my top 3 of the most "I have no clue what I should do". Somehow, I just cannot wrap my head around any hint of strategy or planning ahead. Surprisingly enough, it is from my favorite designer, Stefan Feld. Moreover, my gaming group really digs it. This game will remain a mystery for me for a long time, I'm afraid...

The key to LUNA is that it is a "stractics" game... or is it "tactegy?"
That is, it is a game that is tactical, and yet it forces you to constantly look ahead to the next round, since where your novices are at the end of a round is crucial to the next. Also, the game has some interesting planning ahead with the fixed movement of the figures and the open-information order of the temple tiles, a planning that is useful for playing a strong game at the outset, and yet must be adjusted constantly to what the other players are doing... especially how quickly they are passing! (By the way, the player interaction is apparently weak; but if you look deeper, it's startlingly strong.)

Luna is my favorite eurogame. meeple
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