Dale Yu: First Impression of Scientia


  • Designer: Evan Song
  • Publisher: BoardM
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 2 with review copy provided by BoardM

Scientia was one of the games that we got a short teaser from W. Eric Martin on BGG, and then it later turned out that the game wasn’t going to be for sale.  I was interested enough in the theme to set up a meeting with the nice folks from BoardM, and they explained the game to me, and I was instantly interested. I knew that the BoardM people had plenty of other meetings set up to try to find a partner to distribute the game, and I was quite surprised to be offered one of their four prototype copies as I was leaving the show on Saturday.  It quickly hit the table, and I wanted to be able to report back on the game quickly.

The game revolves around four different fields of study: Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.  Each type has its own set of cards, and in setup, you will choose a combination of both base cards as well as 2 other cards of each field for play.  All cards have two copies, and you will need to have both copies of the card laid out on the card display to start the game.

Each player also gets a personal board.  There are four tech tracks on it, and you start a cube on Level 1 of each track.  You also place 2 card slot markers on the top of your board to show that you can hold 2 cards at the start of the game.  Extra tech cubes and card slot markers are made available in the supply. Also, a designated number of flask tokens are made available.   Then to start the game, in reverse turn order, each player chooses an available card from the table and places it in one of their two available card slot locations.

A player turn is quite simple – you take one of two options.  You can either Take a card from the board or Study Projects. If you take a card, you must have an open card slot to accept it, and you place it face up in front of you.   If you study, you get to make two 90-degree rotations of the cards in your area. If a card ever is fully rotated – that means it has undergone 4 rotations to return to the faceup state – then you can enact the Study Completion Bonus on the card.  If multiple cards complete on the same turn, the player can choose the order in which they are resolved.

The completed card is moved off to the side in the completed area and then if there are flask tokens shown on it, the player collects those and places them in his flask area of his player board.  You also advance on the technology track by moving the cube ahead on the corresponding track. If you have to move past 4, take another cube and place in on the 1 space in that row. Finally, apply the printed effect on the bottom of the card.  This could complete other cards; if so, finish the current card bonus phase before moving onto that of another.

It is possible to get more card slots for your board – if you either collect 5 flask tokens OR you get a 5th tech token (which means that you have maxed out one track).  When either happens, you take a new card slot marker and add it to your board.  You can gain each bonus slot once for a max of four slots.

The game continues until either the Flask tokens or the Technology tokens run out.  When this happens, play to the end of the current round so that all players have the same number of turns.  If further Flask tokens or Technology tokens are needed, use extras from the box. Now the game moves into endgame scoring.

1VP per flask token ON the player board.  NO VPs are scored for tokens on unfinished cards.

1VP per level in each of the four technologies

1VP per unfinished card on your board

?VP for each technology type (per marker in either the 3rd or 4th position)

  •             Physics – choose one science and take its Technology points
  •             Chemistry – 1VP per Tech token on the board
  •             Biology – 7VP per token in scoring position
  •             Astronomy – 1VP per 3 flask tokens

The player with the most VP wins. There is no tiebreaker.

My thoughts on the game

Well, to begin, I should make it clear that we’re playing with a pre-production copy – and while it appears finished, there is still a lot of tweaking that is being done to the game.  So, any comments that I might make of this game might not apply to the finished version… But, our first few plays have proven to be quite interesting.

Scientia is a streamlined engine building/deck building game which is a little different than others because here you use a couple of cogs at a time in your “engine” but then when you’re done, they get thrown back into the pool where others can also use them.

Individual turns can be lightning fast in this game.  First, with most of the cards that we’ve played with so far – the game is mostly a sandbox game.  Your opponents can’t interfere with what you’re doing in front of you, and the interaction between players is mostly limited to fighting over cards as they become available in the supply.  Thus, you can spend your downtime planning your turn, and when your turn comes up, you spout off what you’re doing, and then do it – often in 10 to 15 seconds.

I really like the strategy here – it reminds me of Dominion.  First, there is a significant Turn 0 phase. After the initial cards are chosen, all the players get a chance to peruse the board and figure out what synergistic combos they see.  Then, players get to draft starting cards which kicks off the game. As the game progresses, players have to figure out how/when to switch from their initial card strategy and move into the midgame.  Some cards work better early in the game while others have special abilities that really only make more sense to be played later on in the course of the game.

So far, it feels like the start of each game is a race to figure out how to get to your extra card slots.  This can be done in any number of ways, but I find that I lean towards getting a 5th yellow cube first.  This may not actually be as fast as getting 5 blue flask cubes, but I find that the technology increases end up helping me more in the end game.  Of course, the beauty of this game is that both paths seem equally viable (and in fact, I’m not even sure you HAVE to rush to get the third card slot – but our group has certainly group-thunk that strategy into being).

For me, once a third card is in play, then you have more luxury to work on cards which either take longer to succeed or perhaps need to wait for a particular situation to be best to finish the card.  Once you get the fourth card slot, then you definitely can do this. The game becomes a lot more interesting when you have more options as far as advancing cards, maybe drafting a card to deny an opponent the chance to have it, working on a long term strategy such as loading a card up with cubes to provide a big score at the end, etc.

Near the end of the game, you also need to start thinking about which technologies you are finishing – because the end game scoring bonuses for each of the four disciplines can be a big deal.  Honestly, you probably should have been thinking about this during the course of the game because your card choices along the way are likely to be shaped by which technology scorings you are shooting for.

The artwork that has been finished is beautiful.  I have generally been a big fan of the artwork of Vincent Dutrait, and this game only strengthens that belief.  The components that I have in my prototype look great – the inlaid double boards for player boards are nice and they hold in the cubes nicely to prevent them from moving around.  The double sided cards are also a good way to make the components a bit slimmer. The only issue for me is that this does reduce the possible number of combinations of cards – as you obviously can’t use both sides of the same card in a single game…

We’ve played the games a few times now, and though the rules are still being polished up, I feel like we’ve gotten a good glimpse of what the final game will be.  As it stands now, this is the sort of game that I’d love to have in my game collection – a nice strategic/tactical game that plays in 20-30 minutes with almost no downtime; in addition, the number of different card actions that you can choose from give you a different puzzle to solve in each game (just like my beloved Dominion).

I look forward to the final published version of the game, and I’ll keep playing this prototype copy until I can get a finished version!

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:

James Nathan (1 play): Scientia was interesting and I look forward to playing this when it comes out. As Dale said, it gives me a lot of the Dominion-style Turn 0 feel of looking at the field of available cards for this game and choosing what I think is the best strategy to take.  In contrast to Dominion, as the cards ebb and flow from being available, while they are in other players’ tableaus, the set of cards is different, and I have many mid-game Turn 0s. Scientia also keeps the turns ‘Splendor-short’ throughout as you’re taking microturns.

(No Ratings as this is not yet a finished game)

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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