A Review of Fine Sand. Sort of. Well, more so than it’s _not_ a review of Fine Sand, at least.

Fine Sand

Designed by Friedemann Friese and published by 2F Spiele and Stronghold Games

Disclaimer: Played twenty-two times on a review copy of the game.

Disclaimer to the disclaimer: While I understand entirely why everyone is expected to state up front when they’ve received a review copy – I’m not at all sure just what you, the reader, are supposed to take away from this fact. It feels like there’s an implication that one should partially discount the opinion. Now, one should partially discount my opinion, but that’s because it’s my opinion. As a practical matter, I was planning to buy a copy of Fine Sand, when a review copy was offered. If I hadn’t been planning to buy it – I wouldn’t have accepted the review copy. The opinions I include here have nothing to do with how I acquired the game.

Disclaimer to the disclaimer to the disclaimer: To me, the point of a review isn’t to let you know what the reviewer thought of the game – but to give the reader the information necessary to help determine if it’s a game they should seek out, or not. So, to try something different – I won’t. No data on what I thought about Fine Sand, no rating on the Opinionated Gamer scale – nothing. Not that one can’t find out what I thought, not that you won’t see what others thought. Just a fun exercise for me.

Addendum to the disclaimer to the disclaimer to the disclaimer: I’m not going to explain how the game is played in detail either…

The Game

I don’t particularly like Dominion.

(Hey, I never said I’d not give opinions on other games. Please don’t tell Dale, though.)

Some of the reason I don’t care for Dominion is related to a specific part of the game that bothers me. I don’t mind the positive cards, or even the universally negative ones. But the cards that have random effects – bother me. But – the bigger problem is that shuffling a small deck of cards all of the time doesn’t thrill me, and the lack of a theme just left me flat. Finally, I didn’t much care for the thinning-the-deck actions.

But I’ve tried other deck-building games – perhaps another one would be more to my taste – and most of them made me wish I was playing Dominion, until I realized that there were better games to wish I was playing. I did get some enjoyment out of Strajk! – the only deck building game I’m aware of where the players collectively control the actions of Lech Walesa – but even that wasn’t a keeper for me.

So – when Friedemann brought out the game that became Fine Sand as a prototype, I didn’t really expect to care for it. It isn’t a deck-building game – but a deck-thinning game; the objective is to reach a point where you have reduced your initial set of 30 cards by enough that there aren’t enough left to fill your hand. Each turn you draw cards, either build cards or draw more, optionally give a card away to the player on your left, and finally discard down to your hand limit. Every card you build changes one of these actions, making them better – except for sand castles, which are inexpensive but useless. One nice change from most deck-building games I’ve played is that play is simultaneous – all players take a turn, and when everyone’s finished it’s time for the next turn.

Why Might You Enjoy Fine Sand?

I strongly suspect that – regardless of the correlation for me – how one takes to Fine Sand will most directly correlate with how much one enjoys deck-building games. The direction may be different, but the mechanisms are familiar, but the specifics different; Fine Sand might not appeal to those for whom the theme of Thunderstone, for example, is a significant part of the draw. But those who enjoy the mechanisms of a deck-builder should certainly try the game.

For those who aren’t so fond of deck-building, probably the next best indicator is how one feels about Friedemann’s other games. If you enjoy the clever twists he introduces, Fine Sand is well worth checking out – unless you steer strongly towards his heavier games only. The game also includes a set of “Fabled” cards – cards that are added with subsequent plays. The order these cards enter play is fixed – but the cards which are replaced are randomly chosen, adding some welcome variety to the play. The exact makeup of the deck can significantly change the play of the game.

Why Might You Not Enjoy Fine Sand?

If you’ve played a number of Friedemann’s lighter games, and not found one that works for you – I doubt Fine Sand is going to be the game that changes that for you. It’s always possible, of course; I just think it’s going to be rare that this game is going to be the exception.

Fine Sand is also unlikely to be a big hit with fans of heavier games in general. Regardless of which type of heavier you prefer – you’re not going to find it here. There is also not a lot of player interaction – if you want to be directly impacting other player’s positions – or even just having an indirect impact upon anyone other than the player to your left – you won’t find it here.

Finally, if board play is important to you – you won’t find it here. This is a card game, pure and simple – the player boards are really just memory aids. There is correspondingly no great build-up in position – players do improve what they get to do each turn, so there is an engine-building aspect, but there’s not really anything more to it than that.

But What About Naomi?

Naomi doesn’t appear in Fine Sand.

So, What Do I Think Of Fine Sand?

You won’t catch me that easily. It’s a game. You might enjoy it; you might not. Hopefully I’ve provided enough information to give you a clue. But the odds that what you think of Fine Sand are in any way correlated to what I think of it seem sufficiently long as to not really make it worth stating my opinion. And, to be honest, it’s fun trying to write a review without stating what I think of the game…

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Patrick Brennan: I enjoy the fine sand of Forrester’s Beach, but the mid-beach reef generates a particularly violent rip that makes it too dangerous for swimming. Hmm …

Fraser: The sand at the beaches near where I live is quite coarse, not fine at all. I found some beaches in New Zealand had very fine sand, but it was grey sand which may colour your opinion. The sand at the beach at Brighton in the UK was so coarse that it could be more accurately described as pebbles as opposed to sand, very comfortable to lie down on, but not so nice to walk on. The prettiest beach I have seen was a beautiful white, presumably fine, sand beach on the North coast of Scotland, however it was October and wind was coming from the North so I did not sample the sand.

It is too cold to go the beach today and I don’t yet own a copy of Fine Sand. I have played the base game once, but not the Fabled aspect.

Jonathan F. I love the review, which is a meta-deconstruction of a game about deconstruction. Sadly, I have not pounded sand yet.

Eric Martin: I have an unopened copy of Fine Sand on my shelf right now, so the potential of this game is everything and everywhere.

Dale Y: What Joe said is pretty much true. I agree with Joe that I have no idea at all whether Joe likes the game or not. For me, this is archetypical Friedemann – take an idea, attack it for a weird obtuse angle, and then see if you can make a game work out of it. Sometimes they work (this, Friday), sometimes they don’t (504), sometimes they almost do but end up just short of the mark (Copycat). But, the fact that FF can even see these ideas and is brave enough to put them into a game is worth the ride. I will echo the most important clause from above: “…those who enjoy the mechanisms of a deck-builder should certainly try the game.”

You might also read a review here…

Dan Blum: My opinion of deck-building games is pretty similar to Joe’s, except that I like Dominion more than he does. What I like about Dominion – figuring out how to best handle a given setup – doesn’t apply to the Fine Sand basic game and only sort of applies to the Fable game (which I haven’t played yet). However, Fine Sand avoids the major sins of other deck-building games (not too hard since it isn’t one) and is certainly worth trying.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! Wei-Hwa H (who hasn’t reviewed any games in the last few years, so you have absolutely no basis of comparison to decide how much this “I love it!” comment is worth.), Eric M
I like it. Eric M, Dale Y, Craig M., John P, Dan Blum
Neutral. Eric M
Not for me… Eric M
Abstain. Joe H.

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1 Response to A Review of Fine Sand. Sort of. Well, more so than it’s _not_ a review of Fine Sand, at least.

  1. Pingback: A Review of Foppen | The Opinionated Gamers

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