Designer: Shi Chen
Artist: 費子軒, 陳可靚
Publisher: Play With Us Design (玩聚設計)
Playing Time: 15-30 minutes
Times Played: 7 with a review copy
Soulaween is a 2-player abstract game that premiered earlier this year at a few conventions in Japan and Taiwan, but is seeing a wider release at Spiel in Germany next month.
In the game, the players alternate turns placing a wooden disc on an available location on the board, and may place either side face up. The player then flips over any orthogonally adjacent discs, but not diagonal. Finally, the player checks to see what patterns have been made from a single color of discs: straight lines, diagonal lines, squares, etc.
In the standard game, both players are looking for straight (column or row) or diagonal lines. In the advanced game, which we’ll come back to, player powers are dealt out that have the players searching for more exotic patterns. If a player has created one of the patterns they’re searching for, they remove those discs from the board.
The other player then performs this sequence of place, flip, and “reap”, and the players alternate as such until one player has “reaped” three times.
There are three advanced characters that each alter a different part of the flow above. One has the player looking once each for a 2×2 square of discs, a line of discs (just as before), and a sort of cockeyed “L” shape. Another is looking for straight lines as before, but depending upon the color that player reaps, their opponent is now limited in what color they can reap. The last gives players the ability to flip diagonally adjacent pieces instead of orthogonal.
I’m struck by the components in this one. The game comes in one of those Oink! size boxes that are the precise size of an ideal slice of banana bread. It only just fits back in the box as you’d expect. But what gets me, is how thin the board is (it’s cloth), and how thin the tokens are (cardboard). So what happened with the room saved by making those components so thin? The discs are chonky! There’s a delightful heft and pleasant tactileness to the main components you’re actually using. I don’t know how much of that was a conscious decision –thinning the other components in order to magnify these and still fit in the box– but I like the result.
I’m a sucker for being lured into short-playing time creative two-player abstracts, and this time is no exception. It’s an interesting game to explore as the players, in essence, alternate crafting puzzles for each other: I present you this board state, what is the optimal move for you not to lose and present this same puzzle prompt back to me?
On some hypothetical spectrum that gauges where a game falls between tactics and strategy, this one is ultimately closer to the tactical end than is my sweet spot, so I don’t love it. The standard game was fine. I enjoyed the games with the color-restricting power the most, as it seems to be slow to get its power into play, but once it does, it is very good: do you have enough time left to leverage that? The rules don’t specify that you should, but I’ve found that I enjoy playing with powers that aren’t necessarily trying to reap the same shapes the most, so I like to use the one that is looking for three different patterns, once each, in every game.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Lorna: The short this game is based on is really cute and worthwhile watching even if you are not interested in the game. The game is like an updated Othello, shorter with more interesting choices. The player powers are interesting and it was fun to see how to use them. It’s extremely portable and a nice change up to add to my repertoire of 2 player card games I throw in my travel bag.
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