Planet is a brand new 3D puzzle like territory building board game from Blue Orange. Designed by Urtis Šulinskas, with art from Sabrina Miramon, the game sees 2 – 4 players developing a planet made up of 5 different terrain types – from blue oceans to yellow deserts. Taking around 30 minutes to play, the different terrains will make planets suitable for different animals. However, is Planet a suitable game to bring to the table? Let’s find out!
At the beginning of the game everyone receives a 3D 12 sided planet core, which features magnetic disks on each side. In an almost Solitaire like card set up the 10 piles of 5 tiles are lined up with animal objective cards placed below. In the first 2 rounds there are no cards so players will simply be taking a tile but after this point objectives start to be earnt. 1 is scored in rounds 3 – 5, 2 are scored in rounds 6 – 9 and 3 are scored for the final 3 rounds of the game. The final aspect of setup is to shuffle and deal out a personal planet objective card, or natural habitat, to each player.
A game of Planet is played out over 12 rounds, with each round seeing another side of the players’ dodecahedron shaped planets gaining a tile. Each round the next pile of face down tiles is revealed. The starting player for the round gets first pick, with each subsequent player getting one less to choose from. As the game is for up to 4 players and 5 are used each round even the final person to take a tile gets a choice.
Whenever you choose a tile you must add it onto your planet, onto a free space. This creates regions on the planets that build up over time. Being pentagons the tiles are made of 5 triangle areas, an important thing to note for scoring. Once all players have chosen the left over tiles form the 5 tiles drawn in the 11th round. When this pile of 5 is complete the final 12th pile is created, with any additional tiles discarded to the box. After this process, before the next round, all animal objective cards for the round are scored, then the starting player token is passed on clockwise.
Objectives are simple to understand coming in one of three types. Either the objetcive is whoever has the largest region of a terrain type adjacent to a particular terrain type, the largest region of a terrain type which is not adjacent to a particular terrain type or the most non-connected regions of a terrain type. For example, the raccoon objective is for the largest forest region which is connected to a mountain region.
At the end of the 12th round each planet should have every side filled, if not someone skipped a turn! After awarding the final three objective cards it is time to score points. Players reveal their personal objective cards, unveiling which terrain type was their natural habitat. By counting the number of triangles of that terrain type their planet has, using the table on the card, players can determine how many points they’ve earnt. On top of this for every animal objective card a player earnt that matches their terrain type they gain one point. More importantly, for every animal objective card that doesn’t match their personal type they gain two points! At this point the winner is whomever has the most points, with ties split by whomever has the most animal cards.
Having all of the animal objectives out on show form the beginning of the game helps strike a nice balance. Players are perfectly able to plan ahead for the long game but others can take each round as it comes. Intuitively gamers would expect those that plan ahead to get a significant advantage but it isn’t the case. The mixture of objective types means that it is often only possible to go for some of the objectives. On top of this, there is the constant trade off between securing more areas of your natural habitat terrain and scoring animal cards that gain 2 points instead of 1.
There is variation from one game to the next from the order the tiles come out but more so from the cards. There are five terrain types, with 5 matching natural habitat personal objective cards, but only ever a maximum of 4 players. This means no matter what one terrain type will be less fought over, unless it features heavily in the animal objective cards. The available animal objectives also massively change what is instantly snapped up tile wise, with only 20 of the total 45 cards used each game.
The worry when seeing the dodecahedron planet cores was this would been gimmicky and quickly lose impact. Thankfully, while the initial impact of being different ebbs away, the enjoyable gameplay the 3D shape creates does not. Firstly, when playing gamers constantly have something in their hands to fiddle with. Secondly, as the terrain regions grow around it players must rotate it to get as much information as possible almost making it a puzzle.
Production quality wise there are the obvious 3D planet cores staring up from the box at you, but these aside the game has generally strong components. The cards features family friendly artwork, each depicting a different real animal often seen in on that terrain type, with clear iconography of the objective. The tiles are of decent thickness, though one has been slightly bent on my copy – this is not enough of an issue to make it even close to unusable but it is still noteworthy. For good or bad additional magnetic disks are included, which makes me question the glue used on them and if the publisher thinks they will come unstuck – yet including extras by default makes solving this effortless.
Blue Orange has been releasing some amazing titles over the last few years and Planet is no exception. The dodecahedron planets certainly capture the attention of those playing and onlookers like. It might be a gimmick but it is a fun one that leads into the gameplay, adding to the puzzle and scoring elements, which seem to give the title enough of a game factor. Not outstaying its welcome, just as you finish players will be eager to add up their points, learn who won and setup to play again. As the player count drops each player will get more choice of what to pick, though there is always a choice to be made. There is an easy choice to make though if someone asks to play Planet, being a solid yes from me!
[Editor’s Note: Planet was provided to us for review by Blue Orange at Essen Spiel 2018.]