- Designer: Steffen Benndorf
- Publisher: NSV
- Players: 1+
- Age: 8+
- Time: 15 minutes
- Times played: 4 so far with review copy provided by NSV
Snowhere is admittedly unlike any other “game” that I own. I put the term in quotes, because I wonder if this is really more of a puzzle than a game. The story from the box: “In a world consumed by fire, only you can turn the tide. Transform the cards into heavenly snow and extinguish the flames. Will you be able to maintain an overview and choose the right cards?”
The game is comprised of 111 fire cards, 6 of which have special snowflake reverse sides, the rest with just white snow. These cards are shuffled, fire side up, and then splayed on the table in an “erratic carpet of cards”. The cards must form one cohesive/contiguous blob – this represents the fire that you’re trying to put out. None of the cards should be lying on their own.
Players take turns to pick up a card from the fire. The card must be essentially free – it must either not have any other card on top of it OR be covered by no more than one other card and by no more than 1 millimeter. Try not to disturb the other cards when you are picking up your chosen card (this is harder than you would think if you have ham hands and a tremor like I do!).
Now, flip over the card that you took from the fire and see if it has a snowflake on it. If it does, set it aside to use at the end of the game. If it does not have a snowflake, now you immediately place the snow card on top of part of the fire. You can place it mostly anywhere you like. It needs to be touching at least one other snow card (well, except the first one of course), and it cannot cover a fire card exactly. Also, a snow card must always cover some portion of a fire card – though it can be placed so that it hangs off the edge of the fire mostly.
Then the next player takes their turn following the same procedure. It is advisable to have the group discuss which cards they’d like to take, and to help other players see which cards are free and which fire cards should be covered (or not covered).
The game continues until it is impossible to legally pick up a fire card. Now, you take any snowflake cards discovered during play and then place them to cover exposed fire cards. If you are able to completely cover all the fire cards, you win the game! Otherwise, gauge your success on what percentage of the fire you were able to cover with snow.
My thoughts on the puzzle
Well, I should probably start the review by saying that I have enjoyed my plays, but I definitely consider this more of a puzzle than a game. No matter, it’s in the BGG database, so therefore someone thinks it’s a game – and thus you get a game review!
I have played it twice as a group activity and twice as a solo activity, and from my standpoint, I think it works great as a solo puzzle and OK as a group puzzle. Essentially, the experience doesn’t change with the number of players, only how much you get to do on your own. While extra players can help you discuss what you might want to do on your turn, this isn’t the sort of cooperative game where there is a lot of debate. Generally, (well at least in my experience), you know which cards are free and which aren’t. There is definitely some strategy is figuring out a path of cards which will continue to free up other cards beneath them – but I think one person can usually see that on their own.
It is interesting how the jumble of cards can still surprise you. Sometimes I think that I have a nice little route of cards which will each expose the card beneath it – thus giving me a nice path of cards to draw – and then you pick up a card and suddenly realize that there was an unexpected card in the stack coming in at an angle, and definitely covering your next card by more than a millimeter!
There is about 5% chance of drawing a snowflake card, and this is super helpful if you are lucky enough to draw one. In my first three games, we did not see one, and I’d guesstimate that we barely got 50% of the fire covered. In my most recent game, I did draw two cards, and I ended up at about 90% coverage as I was able to cover huge swaths of fire at the end – because I was no longer concerned about leaving myself cards to draw on future turns! In fact, as far as I can tell, that’s pretty much the key to success – be really good at drawing the snowflake cards.
It should also be mentioned that this game is part of their Nature Line – so there is no plastic anywhere in the box. Instead of shrinkwrap, there is a cardboard sleeve that holds things together. It’s a nice effort, and something that is good for the environment.
So this game may not be for everyone, but it makes a really nice solitaire puzzle for me, and one that I will enjoy a few more times. And, I know others are interested in it as I have already fielded a few requests for it when I’m done with it.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Mark Jackson: It’s an activity. If Dale’s description sounds interesting to you, then by all means give it a try. After two plays, I don’t need to play it again.
Luke Hedgren: I disagree with Dale and Mark. This is a game. It is a game as much as any other multiplayer co-op is, dexterity-based, or otherwise. It is just super weird, and kinda not good. But I don’t care. I am a huge Steffen Benndorf fan, and I really appreciate how he has recently seemingly tried to push the boundaries of what can be a game. The Game walked, so The Mind could run, and it seems as though Steffen then turned his designer’s eye toward co-ops, with Verflucht (2018) being a rather standard “cards with numbers” based co-op. Then in 2020 he really took a tangent with his Contact: Signals from Outer Space, a timing/noise based co-op. And now, with Snowhere, really, we are just seeing what can be done with cards. What’s next? I can’t wait to find out.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor