Reviewed by Herb Levy
PLANET (Blue Orange Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; $34.99)
One of the effects of many of the games we play is that, whatever you do, be it leading an army, solving a crime, constructing a city or building a financial empire, players feel powerful. To shape and control so much is a heady feeling. But in this Urtis Sulinskas design, that feeling of power is heightened. Players do not command armies or cities or anything so mundane. They are, instead, building an entire Planet!
Each player starts with an actual 3 dimensional planet “core” , a circular ball comprised of 12 empty hexagons (with magnets in each center). The 50 Continent tiles are shuffled and placed in 10 five tile stacks. Animal cards are shuffled and placed, face up, starting with the 3rd stack with one placed under stacks 3, 4 and 5, two placed under 6 through 9 and 3 placed beneath the 10th stack as well as the empty spaces where an 11th and 12th stack will be formed. A “hidden objective” card is dealt to each player and the game begins.
The first player (the youngest according to the rules) turns over the first stack to reveal the five Continent tiles. Continent tiles are hexagons which will show some of the five types of regions in the game: glacier (white), desert (yellow), grasslands (green), water (blue) and land (brown). These are displayed in triangles (which may or may not touch each other). In turn order, each player chooses ONE of the exposed tiles, placing it on his planet core. (This is easy because the tiles are magnetic and stick to the planet!) Unchosen tiles are then placed at the end of the line to form the 11th stack. When five tiles are in the 11th stack, a 12th stack is started. When the 12th stack has five tiles, any further unchosen tiles are removed from play. (After a stack has been drafted, the first turn marker rotates so all players get a chance to go first.) Chosen tiles may be put onto the planet in any way desired. Areas do NOT have to match or be connected. Animal cards come into play once tiles from the third track are chosen.
Animal cards comes in the five different colors of the game. They also display a requirement based on regions and areas on planets in order to claim them. (By game definition, a region is any CONNECTED series of triangles of the same color. An area is ANY single triangle of a color, connected or unconnected to others of the same type.) Cards may, for example, be claimed by the player who has the most regions of a certain type (color) or the person having the largest region of a specific type that does or does NOT touch a particular type of terrain.
Tiles are added to planets and animal cards gathered until the final, 12th, stack tiles are chosen and the animal cards beneath it claimed. Then we score.
Each player now reveals their Objective card. There is one Objective card for each of the five types of terrain. For each area that matches the Objective card, points are scored. For example, if you have the white Glacier Objective card, then having 21 glacier areas on your planet will reward you with 8 points. Now animal cards are counted. Each animal matching your Objective card scores 2 points, all other animals are worth 1 point each. High score wins! Tie? Then the player with the most animal cards earn victory. Still tied, then the tied players congratulate themselves on having the most habitable planets and share the victory!
Although it may be easy to categorize the Planet Core as a mere gimmick, it is a gimmick that enhances the game play as players come to visualize their emerging world. Another plus is that the magnetic tiles work very well; they are thick and they stick! Scoring Objective cards can be a little confusing when counting areas. Be smart and REMOVE each tile as you count so you don’t double-count some and miss others entirely! Rules come in three languages (Spanish, French and English) and offer variations to make the game “easier”. The first suggests leaving out Objective cards. But Objective cards give players long range goals that add another layer to the game without increasing difficulty. The second variation involves placing some animal cards face down so that they are unknown until you get to their particular stack of tiles. Preparing to claim upcoming animal cards is a key factor in this claim. This variations ups the luck factor to the game and undermines that planning so we do not implement it.
Planet is a tile drafting game with an strong element of set collection. Since tiles always show multiple terrain types and players have different secret Objectives, you may find yourself competing over certain tiles. You only make 12 tile picks for the entire game so you have to carefully consider each choice to maximize points from your objective as well as plan to capture as many animal cards, particularly those that match your objective, to gain the most points. With its fast pace of play, nice graphic design and straightforward basic rules, Planet, particularly for family play, makes a pleasing package! – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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