Dale Yu: Review of Planet

Planet

  • Designer: Urtis Sulinskas
  • Publisher: Blue Orange (EU)
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by Blue Orange (EU)

Planet is one of those games that is so eye-catching that it forced me to sit down and try it.  This desire was made even stronger by the fact that I had actually joked around with fellow OG writer Jeff Allers on making a game where players constructed a soccer ball like structure with hexagons and pentagons.  While the shape in Planet is a simple dodecahedron – the idea is the same; and I’m a bit steamed that someone beat me to the punch here!

In Planet, each player starts with an empty dodecahedron.  There are 50 pentagon shaped continent tiles, and they are shuffled into ten face down stacks of five tiles.  Then 20 Animal cards are drawn and placed in a specific pattern underneath these tile stacks. Just refer to the picture in the rules and follow along…  The first of these cards is laid underneath the 3rd stack of tiles.  Thus, starting with the third turn in the game, the cards in that column will be evaluated for scoring.

courtesy of Jorl from BGG – the empty dodecahedron
courtesy Jorl from BGG – here’s what it looks like when filled in

Finally, before the game starts, each player gets a Natural Habitat objective card which they keep secret for the game.  Each player can score an increasing number of points for an increasing number of matching territories on their planet at the end of the game.

In each (of the first 10 rounds) – the first thing that happens is that the five continent tiles for the round are exposed and then players take turns choosing one to add to their planet.  Any unselected tiles are placed face down in the spot for the 11th turn.  When this stack has 5 tiles, the next 5 unchosen tiles in the game go towards the 12th turn.  All other tiles, if any, are discarded.  Each player attaches their chosen continent tile onto their planet.  Each tile is pentagon shaped and is comprised of 5 different triangular areas.  Some of the areas may be of the same color, and all contiguous areas of a single color are referred to as a Region.

Then, in each round from the third onward, any Habitat cards which are in the column of the current turn are scored.  In general, there are three types: A) Having the biggest region of a type which touches another specified type; B) Having the biggest region of a type which does NOT touch another specified type; C) Having the most Regions of a specified type.  If there is a single leader for the stated criteria, that player collects the card. If there is a tie, no one gets the card, and it is instead placed in the column for the next turn.

If there are ties in the final turn, there are some tiebreaker procedures which are used to try to give the card away. Cards for having the most Regions of a type are simply discarded.  Players tied for the other two types of cards then look at their second largest region which meets the criteria, and the largest second largest area wins the card. Again, this tiebreaker is only applied after the twelfth turn.   All other ties have the card simply pended to the next round in the game.

courtesy Henk Rolleman

After the twelfth turn, the game is scored.  All players reveal their secret Natural Habitat card, and they score points according to the number of target areas of that type that they have.  Then, each player scores bonus points for their cards: 2 points per Animal card whose natural habitat is NOT on their objective card and 1 point per Animal card which matches their secret Habitat card.

The player with the most points wins.  Ties go to the player who won the most animal cards.

My thoughts on the game

Planet is a deceivingly quick game.  Early rounds can take less than a minute (For all players to play), and the final rounds still probably don’t take more than 3 or 4…  With only one tile to choose each round, oftentimes the decision is quickly made. Our games have definitely been coming in around the 20 minutes as advertised on the box.  The game is so fast that it usually leads to us playing two or three games in a row. At a recent games day, we had tried to set up dueling quick games (Planet and the River) and have the groups rotate through the tables, and we were getting pretty close to 2 Planet games in each time while the other table got one play of the River in – and the River is a fast game too!

The overall level of complexity in the game is low to medium, and I think this is exactly what Blue Orange is shooting for.  When I read the rules and saw the huge box/dodecahedrons, I thought that there would be deep strategy to the tile choice. In reality, the game is lighter than that (and I do not say lighter in a perjorative sense) – and it really falls in line with the general level of complexity that Blue Orange has been producing over the past few years (really everything except New York 1901 which was a bit meatier).

In the game, I would not say the decision over which tile to take is simple – there are a number of things to consider.  First, is that you always need to be considering whether to take tiles of your habitat. While the special habitat of each player is secret at the start of the game; it’s usually pretty evident by say turn 4 or 5 what each player has on their card.  While the actual scoring values for each type of terrain is a little different; there is a pretty good payoff for having triangles of your desired terrain.

Looking ahead to the objective cards, both short term and a few rounds away is also helpful.  If you think you can compete for a card this round; you can make a play for it. Otherwise, definitely look ahead to see what may help you in the future.

Even after you choose your tile, you should be looking ahead at the future cards to help you figure out what you want adjacent to each other or NOT adjacent to each other.  I have sadly lost out on a number of scoring cards because I stupidly placed a tile and put a forest next to my massive glacier…. Though I haven’t done the math specifically, I think there is definitely a good strategy in picking a second terrain to try to dominate (hopefully one which no other player was assigned).  The reason for this is that the cards which are not in your hidden terrain are worth 2VP at the end, and if you can get a good lead in a particular terrain, you can easily rack up a LOT of 2VP cards – perhaps to the point where you are outscoring the points you would have gotten from picking up your hidden territory.

The bits are wonderful.  The magnetic pieces stick well to the plastic dodecahedrons.  The tiles can be a bit cumbersome to shuffle, but in the end, it’s not really that big of a deal.  The artwork is bright and well done on the cards, and the pieces are clearly eyecatching. The rules are quite simple to teach and understand, and as there are really only three different types of scoring cards, it’s not too hard to remember what all the options are.

For my group, this is a great superfiller – something to use to open or close a game session, or something to pull out when you ask the other table where they are and they same something vague like “we’re in the last round” or “we’re almost done, just waiting on Craig to take his last turn”.  In that amount of time, you can bust out Planet, teach the rules, give a scoring example and then set up the table to play. It’s a light game, but like Kingdomino, there appears to be enough strategy in this quick game to make it interesting as you play, and keep it challenging enough to keep getting it to the table even after multiple plays.  Will this be a SdJ game like Kingdomino? I think it may not be quite elegant enough; but other than that, it seems to have a lot of the criteria that recent nominees have shared – great art, eye-catching pieces, easy rules, accessibility to all members of the family, shorter playing time, etc.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

James Nathan (1 play): I’m not sure I can put my finger on it, but this fell flat for me.  I think it’s in some sort of ratio: the setup, counting of landscapes, and evaluation of cards may be too long for the decisions that are present.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. James Nathan
  • Not for me…

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.
This entry was posted in Essen 2018, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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