Designer: Uwe Rosenberg and Corné Van Morsel
Publisher: Edition Spielwiese, Pegasus Spiele, SD Games
Time: 30 – 60 minutes
Age: 8 and up
TImes played: 4, with a copy I purchased
Overall, I am a big Uwe Rosenberg fan. I can’t get enough of A Feast for Odin, Caverna, Fields of Arle, Ora y Labora, Le Havre and well, you get the idea. However, with the exception of Spring Meadow, I have never been a fan of his more abstract strategy games; I don’t mind playing them if others want to, but I don’t seek them out and don’t buy them. I always check the Essen previews for Rosenberg games, though, since they are often a must-buy for me. Nova Luna was not an automatic buy, but after reading a bit about it and seeing it had a tie to Habitats, I decided to give it a try, and I am glad I did. Here’s why.
Nova Luna is a tile laying game for 1 to 4 players. It is inspired by the game Habitats (if you haven’t played it check out our review here), but is not the same game; it takes a similar tile-placement mechanism, but has different scoring and game play.
The brightly-colored box contains a round board – the moon wheel – with notches where the sixty-eight tiles in four different colors will be placed. There are 21 player discs per color (4 colors total) and a moon marker.
To setup the game you place the marker above the new moon on the moon wheel. You shuffle all of the tiles and create some face-down draw piles (or put them in a bag; the game doesn’t come with one but we added our own) and place one randomly-drawn tile on each of the empty spaces on the moon wheel. Each player puts one disc in the middle; the player who slept the latest randomly draws them and puts them in a stack on the new moon spot.
The player on the top of the stack goes first. They can take any of the next 3 tiles from the spot the moon marker is on, ignoring any empty spaces. They move the moon marker to the spot they took the tile from and move their player disc forward as many spaces as indicated by the number on the tile.
You then place the tile in your display. Tiles can be placed anywhere you like, adjacent to a tile you already have in play. Most tiles have a goal on the tile that indicates the number of other color(s) of tiles that must be adjacent in order to score that tile. It does not matter where the colored tiles are placed, and colors can be chained – a blue tile that is next to another blue tile would count as 2 blues tiles, even if only one is adjacent.
Once you place your tile you determine if any of the goals on your tiles have been met. If one or more has, you place discs on the spaces that have been completed..
The next player is the player who is farthest back on the track; they can take any of the next three tiles from the moon. However, if there are only one or two tiles for them to choose from at the start of their turn they may choose to refill the board, starting with the space closest to the marker. If the board is empty they must refill the board. That player then takes their turn as usual.
If at the end of a player’s turn they have placed all 20 of their discs the game ends and that player is the winner. The game could also end if there are no more tiles to be drawn; in that case the player with the fewest discs left is the winner, with tiles broken by the player whose turn would be soonest.
The game also includes a 1 player variant and a variant setup rules to make the game shorter for less experienced players.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
I enjoy the game quite a bit as a two player game. It was only okay with three players, as it was a bit more random; it was difficult to have an idea as to what tiles would be available to you. I have not yet had the opportunity to try it with four, but I imagine there will be even less of an ability to plan. That might be okay, but it would change the feel of the game. Based on the feedback I have heard from others, I am hesitant to play it with four, and am probably happiest keeping it as a two player.
I really enjoy the puzzle aspect of trying to maximize your scoring opportunities while trying to increase the number of turns you may get in a row, while not blocking yourself from being able to complete a goal. I don’t always feel like I “get” abstract strategy games, but this one clicks with me.
I am a fan of Habitats due to the puzzle of maximizing adjacency, and that is present here, with different rules/restrictions about placement and scoring. It doesn’t replace Habitats for me; the game play feels different enough and there are elements in Habitats that I enjoy that aren’t present here.
The components are of good quality, and the graphics are clear and easy to read. I find it much easier to draw the tiles than to stack them as the game suggests, but that’s a personal preference. The graphics are clear and easy to read, and the colors seem to be different enough (although no one I have played with is color blind).
My two player games have taken close to 15 minutes when both players have played before; I don’t see how it would ever take more than 30 minutes, unless you play with someone who develops analysis paralysis.
My final view is that I love this as a two player game and like it with more players.
THOUGHTS OF OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS
James Nathan (1 play, 4 players): I did not enjoy this, well, at all. Whereas the tile selection of Habitats and the turn track of Patchwork are things I love, in combination, I didn’t feel that I had enough ability to plan on what tiles would be available on the next turn, or enough cost differentiation in the tiles to allow for turn order shenanigans. It is strongly possible that some of this would be alleviated at a lower player count, but my play left me cold enough that I have no interest in finding out. I’m happy to own and play Patchwork and Habitats and leave it at that.
Dan Blum (2 plays, 4 players): I liked it slightly better than James in that I’d be willing to play again, but in general I agree – with four players there is no ability to plan and it just doesn’t work well. I expect that it makes a fine two-player game.
Mitchell T (1 play, 4 players): I had an opportunity to try this at Lobster Trap. I love Patchwork and Habitats so this was a must try. I found the 4 player game mediocre as there was a lack of control. However, I enjoyed the concept of the game, and imagine I will enjoy it quite a bit at the two player count, so I anticipate picking up a copy for that purpose.
Patrick Brennan (1 play, 3 players): The trick, like Habitats, is to arrange it so that every tile not only scores itself, but also helps each tile that its adjacent to score as well. Easier said than done, but a nice challenge. I prefer Habitats as you have more control over the tiles you pick up, it’s easier to plan ahead, the different scoring rules are more interesting (Nova Luna’s is one-dimensional with adjacency the only requirement) and there’s a decent theme. This is abstracted out and simpler, but it has the benefit of playing faster. I’d happily play either.
Brandon K: I really enjoyed Nova Luna the first couple times we played it at two and three players. It was especially good timing for me as I had just received Habitats 3rd ed a couple weeks prior and had played it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Nova Luna is Habitats with a healthy dose of Patchwork and it works pretty well, at two players. Like most have said here before me it kind of falls apart as you add players, to the point that I won’t play it with four anymore. Things become too hectic and you can’t plan anything out, and the downtime can kind of be unbearable if you decide you have to jump forward to get a particularly useful tile. At two players the control is there and it’s a wonderful experience and one I want to play more often.
Dale Y: I have played this a few times, with varying player counts, and I have enjoyed the experience in all settings. I do not need the theme behind Habitats, and I find the challenge of choosing tiles from the rondel, and I love the speed of this game as compared to Habitats which had its own little bit of mini-AP moments. Sure, you have more control over your tiles in a 2p game, but the issues in a 4p game are shared by all players, and the vagaries of tile luck are just fine for me in a game of 15-20 minutes. A number of games have come down to gambles or probability plays near the end, and that works just fine for me. If I had Habitats, it would be a tough decision which to keep as they are similar; but as I never owned a copy of Habitats, I’m thrilled to have Nova Luna in my collection.
Mark Jackson: I have only played once… but that was enough for me. I love Uwe’s Patchwork… and I adore Corne’s Habitats – in theory, combining those two games should be a winner. The problem? They’ve shucked all the theme and character out of Habitats, leaving just the placement mechanic. If you like abstracted placement games, this is excellent… but it left me cold.
I love it: Tery (2 player only), Brandon K (2p), Dale Y
I like it: Tery (with 3p), Eric M., Lorna, Patrick Brennan, Brandon K(3p)
Neutral: Mitchell T (with 4, but excited to try with 2), Dan Blum
Not for me: James Nathan, Brandon K(4p), Mark Jackson