Designers: Nestore Mancone and Simone Luciani
Publisher: Cranio Creations/CMON
Time: 90 minutes
Played: 4 times with a copy I purchased
Seeing Isaac Newton only makes me think of physics class; this was not a class I enjoyed, but I did have a good teacher who always told us various horrible Isaac Newton jokes. This might explain why I don’t remember much about physics at all, but thankfully no scientific knowledge is needed to play this game.
There are two boards in the game; a map board and a track board. There are various bonus tiles, location tiles, development tiles and other items that go on or near the board.
There are three levels of action cards that are stacked next to the board and the top 3 are flipped over.
Each player is randomly assigned a Study board; the boards are identical save the starting action symbol that is pre-printed on the board.
Players also take player pieces and an identical starting hand of action cards in their preferred color as well as 12 books and 2 coins. There are also Master cards that give you a bonus; you can either deal 4 to every player and that’s what they get, or you can deal 4 and players keep 1 and pass the rest to the left, repeating until all players have 4 cards.
The game takes place over 6 rounds; the start player is randomly determined at the start of the game and then passes to the left. Each round starts with the action phase, during which players play card onto their desk to perform the related action. Every card has a basic action symbol on the bottom and may have a special effect on the top half. You play the card, you take the action and any special effect that may be at the topand play passes to the next player. This will happen 5 times each round.
Before I get to the actions I want to give you a little information that is common to all tracks:
- If you pass over a bonus token you take it and get the immediate benefit.
- If you land on a space with a scroll you can play one of the Master cards in your hand; the card will give you a bonus as well as the VPs printed on the card.
- If you land on a special space by exact count you can take that action or bonus immediately.
- The last space is an objective; if you meet the requirements for the objective you can move onto that space and claim those victory points at the end of the game.
So what are the actions?
The Work symbol lets you move your marker forward on the Work track by a number of spaces equal or fewer to the number of work symbols you have showing on your board; you get coins equal to the value of the level of action you too (1 coin for 1 symbol, 2 coins for 2 etc.)
The Technology symbol lets you move your marker forward on the Technology track by a number of spaces equal to or fewer than the number of technology spaces showing on your board. The track splits into 3 different paths; since you can never backtrack you will either follow only one path or you will add additional markers $5 each later in the game.
The Travel symbol lets you move around on the map board the number of spaces equal or fewer to the number of travel symbols you have showing, paying the printed costs along the routes. If you land on a city, ancient land, university, master or objective space you place one of your travel cubes from your board on that space; it is important to know what locations you have visited for your bookshelf (more on that in a minute).
The Lessons symbol lets you take one of the available face up action cards into your hand; the level of the card you take must be equal to or lower than the number of lessons symbols available to you.
The Study action lets you take one of your bookshelf tiles and place it on a bookshelf space in a space of your choice; the space must be at most equal to the number of Study symbols you have showing and you must meet the requirements for that space (number of books in a particular color on the special effect spaces of cards you have played and locations visited on the map). When all the book spaces in a row or column have been filled you will earn the preprinted VPs for that column or row at the end of each round. Every 3 books that you place gives you a bonus.
The Joker action lets you copy any other action that you have at least one symbol of already on your board. Once played the joker reverts back to an unassigned status.
Before, during and at the end of the turn you can always spend coins to perform an unlimited number of quick actions at a cost of 1 – 3 coins, depending on the action; these include:
- Turn 2 additional action cards over from a deck
- Increase the value of a basic action by one level (you can only do this one once per turn)
- Buy a potion token; these tokens can be used as wild resources for meeting objective and bookshelf requirements
- Enroll a new student and put your marker on the start space of the technology track
After all players have taken 5 turns you enter the End of Round phase. You have to take one of the cards you played and put it under your desk so that only the action symbol is showing; that symbol will increase the value of future cards with that symbol being played. You take the rest of your cards back into your hand and score VPs for any completed rows and columns on your player board. The revealed action cards are put back on the bottom of their respective decks, the start player passes to the right and play continues.
At the end of the 6th round the game ends. Each player receives VPs for the objective spaces that they occupy as well as the value of any Masters they have played. There are no tie breakers.
My Thoughts on the Game
The components of the game are well-made and the graphics are generally easy to read, even though you are looking at 3 separate tracks.
The theme doesn’t matter much here, at least not in my opinion. The Masters cards are all famous scientists, but that’s about it; I don’t get any sort of science feel to this. It does not affect my enjoyment of the game, however.
Player interaction is fairly minimal; another player could take the action card or bonus tile you wanted, but other than that it’s fairly solitaire.
There are many special tiles included but only a few are used each game, which keeps some of the victory point and special action options different each game.
The action mechanism is pretty cool; there is definite tension in what cards to play and what cards to tuck – you don’t want to tuck a card with a good special effect, but you can only tuck a card you actually played, so you are always thinking about that when you choose your actions.
The game definitely has the tension of too many things to do with not enough time to do them in, so you have to choose a path and stick with it without getting distracted by other shiny options; it’s just not possible to pursue everything.
The first two times I played this game I was completely enamored with the game. I thought all of the things I mentioned above would keep the game interesting for a long time. However, the more I have played it the more it seems that the only path to victory is to fill in your bookshelves quickly ; trying to score points by hitting the special tiles on one or more of the tracks is more work and doesn’t generate as many points. The Master cards can help make the tracks easier, but the points you get just don’t seem to be enough. I still like the game, but this makes me wonder whether I am getting close to wearing this one out. EDIT: After writing this and opening it up to comments I played it again. The other player pretty much ignored the bookshelf strategy and went full bore on work and technology and while the scores were close, that player won. So, I am changing my thoughts on that – it does seem there is more than one path to victory,
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers
Joe Huber (1 play): Newton was not a game I strongly anticipated – while I believe the subject could make for an excellent game, what I heard about the game suggested that this was unlikely to have occurred in this instance, at least for me. At the same time, the game was highly anticipated, so I did want to give it a try, in case there was something that I missed. However, for me the mechanisms just don’t mesh with the subject, and that’s rarely something that works for me – and this wasn’t an exception.
Nathan Beeler: Granted, I have only played once, and when I did I was in that beyond-tired brain space that always seems to hit at some point in a long game convention, no matter how much sleep I get. I did enjoy my one play enough to want to try again, but not so much that I’ve actually sought it out in the months since. Tery’s experience with a dominant strategy smacked me in the face during the game. I tried to zig and more or less ignore the bookshelf in favor of technology. (I think — it was a while ago. But I’m a sucker for tech tracks, so it probably was where I focused.) I was out of contention before the halfway point. Still, even with my addled brain I could tell there was something to Newton: a real game. There was even a hint that it could be a real fun game with interesting decisions, planning you could do turns out, and hidden depths to explore over multiple plays. In other words, I left with the possibility that it might be a great game, that too rare gem in my recent convention experiences. Still, Newton is quite long. And none of my groups have much clamoured for it when I’m around. My guess is the market will ultimately dictate if it really has legs, if it really is all that, and if I will ever be in a situation where I get try it again. For now it goes in my “not a disappointment, would play again” mental pile, which is still no small feat.
Patrick Brennan: Apparently we’re playing one of Newton’s splinter psyches each. Rich in theme is this one. Ok, park that. The action card implementation is nice in what’s otherwise a generic Euro. Apart from taking action cards (and different people will want different things from there anyway), and claiming first-there bonus chits on some tracks, the game is multi-player solitaire. I played out my round 6 while others were finishing round 5, as nothing I was doing was going to impact anyone else. I found myself engaged though, liking the puzzley challenge of optimising the points out of my action specialisation decisions, and I’d like to try other approaches. But I have a feeling that ultimately if you don’t invest heavily in books (and I formed this view prior to reading the above) you may be off the pace, and this one-dimensional suspicion may ultimately limit its replay. If others wanted to play I’d happily explore it to find out further, but I’m not otherwise jumping to over-invest in what’s otherwise a (let’s unpark it now) themeless Euro that doesn’t have an apple moment.
Dan Blum (2 plays): I keep hearing that books are the dominant strategy, but while I have seen books win (and have won with them myself) I have seen other strategies come very close and even win. (I’ve seen the ends of games I was not in so my sample set is more than two games.) So I am not entirely convinced.
Aside from possible dominant strategy issues I think the game is fine but not one that particularly stands out from the pack. The action card mechanism is good, everything else is average and somewhat fiddly. I’d be willing to play again but it’s not one I’d likely suggest.
Ted C (1 Play): I ditto Patrick B’s comments. I like the card action idea. The game was very busy. I was given the cog board and as a newbie, assumed I should work more heavily on that board. In the end, I only had two columns of books built for 5 victory points. My points came from reaching the end game scoring tiles. I finished second at 95 points. The winner had 100.
Larry (3 plays): One of my favorites from Essen; in fact, you might say it’s the apple of my eye (sorry for reusing your joke, Patrick). Yes, the theme is thin and there’s practically no player interaction. But the different layout with each game (including the random way the new action cards come out) gives you a wonderful puzzle to solve as you try to figure out how to best play your cards to maximize your score. I find it to be a very enjoyable process, quite challenging, without being overwhelming. Books are indeed strong, since they can provide the majority of your in-game scoring, but the requirements for placing each one are reasonably stiff, so you have to accomplish a good deal of other stuff in the game to do well with them. Despite what many of the others are reporting, I have seen people win who didn’t focus on books, so I feel that the game is well balanced. I particularly like the way that your capabilities slowly ramp up, until by game’s end, you’re achieving a lot each turn, with cascading effects helping you along the way. It’s another terrific title from one of my favorite designers of the decade, Simone Luciani.
I Love it!: Larry
I Like It.: Tery, Nathan Beeler, Patrick Brennan, Lorna
Neutral: Dan Blum, Ted C
Not For Me: Joe H.
I’ve played this 3 or 4 times and think I’ve kinda seen everything the game has to offer. I just don’t find there to be enough variability in just the randomness of the cards in the market. I felt like whoever looked at their scientist cards and could chart a course to maximize them given the setup of the board would kinda have the game in hand. Playing this game has made me appericiate those games that don’t reveal most the secrets of what could transpire, but slowly doles them out for players to grapple with. That’s as succinctly as I can put it anyways.
I played this for the first time on the weekend and liked it. I went book light, got five points completed and then fundamentally left it and concentrated on other things. If you go for books and start earning points early I can see it could be very powerful, but I concentrated on completing some end game objectives and had some good Master cards.
That aspect felt a little like Mombasa, where I usually completely ignore the books.