- Designer: Johannes Natterer
- Publisher: Hans im Gluck
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 14+
- Time: 30-45min/player
“At some point in the not-so-distant future, we humans had to look for a new place to live. Just when we thought we’d have to settle for Mars, we suddenly discovered a new planet, one we lovingly christened “Planet B”. It was a second chance for humanity, and of course we were determined to do everything right this time because as everyone knows, we humans learn very well from our mistakes… In Planet B, you slip into the role of corrupt governors. You make crooked deals with corporations to advance your own interests. You build your city, let the population work for you, rise in the favor of political factions, or control the news. Of course, all of this comes at a price — and by the time you’re vying for the presidency, you’ll want potential voters to be on your side. In the end, as always, only one thing counts: Who has managed to pocket the most government money?“
The main board is placed on the table, with room for 3 conglomerate tiles and markets underneath. The faction track is placed near this with its 3 rows. Each player will have a marker at the start of each row. The building cards and the news cards are arranged on the bottom side of the board. The two law decks are separated by color and shuffled and placed nearby. All the other bits are in the supply. The paper money is double sided, being money on one side and VPs on the other. Weirdly, if the paper is on the table, it’s money. When it’s stored in your pants pocket, it’s VPs.
Each player also gets their own board – they are distributed clockwise based on initial turn order (slightly different resource production tracks). Beneath the resource tracks are your inventory areas which will later be filled with barrels. Each player chooses a color and places the swindle tiles and production tiles of his color at the top of his board. The colored vote tokens are taken and 3 are placed in the bag. The marker is placed on the mood track in the neutral position. Each player starts with 10 billies, 2 crafties and 2 brainies – as well as a headquarter card placed to the left. Finally, there is a snake draft where each player chooses an A building, a B building and a C building to start in their hand.
Turns will be taken clockwise – in each turn, a suitcase is placed on a conglomerate tile and all the actions there are triggered; as well as anything else that happens along the way. When a conglomerate has all of its suitcase spaces full, it is removed from the game. Once all the conglomerate tiles are gone, the end game is triggered. The player with the most money (victory points) will win the game.
A player turn involves these things:
- Place a suitcase on a conglomerate tile and do all the actions on it in any order (if you placed on the last suitcase space, do an exchange after)
- Sell resources as you like
- Buy production tiles as you like
- Use your Office card
- If an election is triggered, do that.
- At the end, be sure to draw up to 3 building cards in hand and replenish the news display
Just as with the rules, I’ll now just explain things without anything holding them together: Actions, Elections, Exchanges
There are a lot of different actions that you can perform; you will soon become used to the icons. In general, if it is in red, it is a cost – you must spend those things. If it is in white, it is something you gain. If it says ALL, then all players do it…:
- Production – choose a production line on your board and make all the things in it; place a contained per good in the warehouse area on your board (max 4 of anything). If you make excess, you automatically sell them. The sales prices for resources can be found on the board; they will fluctuate. You can change your production by buying new tiles for 10 billies each.
- Build – this is how you build the building cards in your hand. Pay the cost in the upper left, and take the VPs immediately. When you take this action, you can also choose to not build a card, put it back in the supply and get 5 billies. At the end of your turn, draw building cards until you have 3 in hand
- Workie – let you take crafties or brainies from the supply and add them to your board OR you can take your workies on buildings to use them. Once a work area is completely filled in a building, you immediately choose to perform the actions in EITHER the upper or lower box. Per usual, pay the costs first and then reap the rewards. Workies remain on their building after the action is resolved.
- Faction – Move up on the corresponding track in the Faction board. If the faction icon is naked, you only move your marker. If the faction icon has a checkmark superimposed on it, you can choose to move OR you can choose to score it – which means you take the action in the box your disc is currently in (paying costs if necessary). You can also choose any of the action boxes to the left of your current location.
- News Card – Choose the top card of any of the 3 News piles. Perform all the actions on it. Once done, place it face up to the right of your player board, putting it on the top of the news stack if there is already a card there. Some of the news cards will brand you as “immoral” which will be important on page 15 of the rules. Replenish the news supply when you are done
- Add votes – add your votes to the bag. Unsurprisingly, this increases your chance of winning the election
- Buy a Swindle tile – buy a tile from above your board and put it on the first empty space of the swindle tile area; pay the costs, take the VPs. They can affect the election.
- Election track – move the marker the number of spaces to the left or right as directed. If the marker reaches the last space, an election occurs after your turn is over.
At the end of a turn where you need to do something, first exchange a conglomerate if needed, then have an election if needed.
Exchanges – (the steps for this are written right on the board) – take 5 bucks if immoral, else put 2 votes in the bag. Then remove all the suitcases. Next, if the tile was on the grey side, flip it to the red. If it was already red, remove it. Take the next tile from the pile and put it as the board tells you. Move the election marker 2 spaces forward and then move the resource sales price marker to the color slot that matches the color of the conglomerate above it.
Elections – First all workies in completed areas are returned to the owner’s personal supply – you can not have more than 8 of each type. Now, look at the standing on your mood track and either gain billies and votes in the bag OR pay workies to the general supply.
Then we figure out the election. First, anyone with the right swindle tiles take votes and put them in front of themselves. Next, starting with the player who triggered the election, draw 3 votes from the bag and put them in front of you. If you have certain swindle tiles, you might draw up to 2 more. Then pass the bag, and they draw their allotment. Continue this until all the tiles are drawn. The player who now has the most votes of their own color in front of the wins (ties broken by player board number). The other offices are doled out based on the standings of players in the votes of their own color in front of them. Each player gets an office card based on their finish – President, Vice President, LAMA, DODO. Each card will tell you how many VPs you get now, and what to do with the votes in front of you. Under this is an action that should be done on each of your turns as long as you possess the card. Finally, take any votes still on the table and put them back in the bag for the next election. Reset the election marker and keep playing.
The possible office actions are:
- President – draw a blue law if you are immoral, a yellow law if you are not. Choose the left or right side of the card and then do the actions on the side you chose.
- Vice President – if immoral, take 6VP, otherwise take one step on a faction of your choice
- LAMA – if immoral, take 3VP, otherwise take one positive mood step
- DODO – if immoral, take 1 VP, otherwise add a vote to the bag
The game end is triggered when the last conglomerate tile is added to the board. Each player gets exactly one more turn, and the player who triggered the last exchange will get the final turn of the game. There is some final scoring:
- Sell all resources at current market prices
- For every 3 billies left over, take 1 VP
- 2 VP for each step on each faction track
- +/- 2 VP per step on the mood track
- The current president gets 20VP
- 15VP/8VP for most/second votes in the bag at the end
The player with the most VPs in their pocket wins. There is no tiebreaker.
My thoughts on the game
Planet B is a game that reminds me a lot of the German games that I grew up on. Well, not the election part – that mechanism was novel and I’d like to see more of that sort of thing. But, Planet B was a solid game with multiple interacting systems (resource acquisition and management, engine building, recipe filling, vote stacking, etc). It is the sort of game where you want to accomplish multiple things on your turn; and depending on the particular conglomerates in play and the News cards available; you have to weigh your options out – taking into account the possible penalties with each option.
The game has a nice balance here; the big one is taking actions that help you with votes versus doing well anything else. There is a huge payoff to be elected president – the 25VP reward is really nice, and most of the laws are set up to give the current president a nice pocket present as well. However, if you don’t win, the rewards are not as great – so you have to decide how much energy you’re going to invest in the system.
The whole voting process is neat though because the outcome can be swayed thru bribery as well as good old fashioned luck. This makes the process generally uncertain which in turn makes the elections pretty exciting. The fact that all of the winning President’s votes get removed from the bag also makes it very likely that the Presidency always changes hands with each election. Figuring out how to win the election at some point in the game without expending maximum resources is key to victory (IMHO).
The EN rules are well translated, and we didn’t have any issues with the actual words. My brain had a hard time with the organization. I would have liked the summary of my turn (on page 17) to be nearer to the front. I read a bunch of rules early on without really having a framework to remember what I was doing. It took two reads to get this one to stick – so try to remember that for when you read the rules. Once you’ve played a few rounds, the rules are pretty simple to remember; but I had a very difficult time figuring that out from the rules read.
I am not a fan of the diminutive names in the rules (Billies, workies, brainies, crafties). Sure, it’s just part of the lore of the game – but it really kept jeopardizing the seriousness of the game in my brain. The rules also have a really playful quirky tone with some off-the-cuff suggestions for what to do if you run out of certain game components. Cute, but maybe not what I was expecting with an otherwise serious/complex game.
The money/VP paper bills could be easily mistaken or, if you were that sort of person, intentionally switched. In the game, you are not allowed to convert between the two – but it can easily happen. Just saying. As we often have gamers without pockets (as they wear basketball shorts literally year round), we have considered using an alternate currency so that we don’t have face up (money) and face down (VP) stacks near each other on the table. In our most recent game, we used the coins from the Game On! Set as a great replacement for VPs – https://www.facebook.com/dercoinmeister/
The game moves along with players trying to set up a series of actions on buildings that complement each other – it is possible to get a “sort of” engine going here. You should have a good steady stream of VP producing actions by the midpoint of the game, though you should always be on the lookout for a building that could improve your scoring capacity.
You start the game with one building of each type; and throughout the game, you can choose which cards to build, and then afterwards, which decks to draw from. Essentially, all of the building cards are available to you at all times, and this does seem to cause the game arc to be flat. Sure, you’ll likely need to have more money and resources to build a C building; but there’s nothing in the game stopping you from doing it early on if the right things happen. I suppose that B conglomerate tiles have actions that are slightly better suited for the endgame than the A conglomerates; but overall, most turns in the game have a similar feeling. There doesn’t seem to be much of a ramping up in intensity. If anything, the game cycles around the elections as the payoffs for the elections are big and that’s when you recycle your workers.
Our games have been taking around 2 hours to play; some of that due to thinking time and some of that due to unfamiliarity with the cards and effects. The iconography in the game is very good, and that helps a lot to keep the game moving. I suppose that the game could be sped up a bit if the table continually chooses the actions on the middle conglomerate (the one that already starts out on the red side) – but overall, there will be plenty of turns in the game, and probably 3 to 4 elections.
After my first games of Planet B, it’s a solid Euro game from HiG that is nudged up the I Like It list due to the elections – I still haven’t figured out how to manipulate them in the way that I want, and it has been an interesting challenge to play and figure out.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Steph H, Joe H
- Neutral. Mark J
- Not for me…
Speeding up the game by just using the middle conglomerate won’t work. Although the conglomerates on this space start on the red tile they still get flipped before being removed from the board. The icons for the exchange are different than the other 2 exchanges.
So all conglomerates will be used twice before being removed. The ones in the middle just start on the red side.