Publisher: Blue Orange and Coiledspring Games
Designer: Urtis Sulinskas
Artist: Sabrina Marimon
Release Date: 2018
Time: 30-45 mins
Favouritefoe score: 8.5/10
Have you ever opened a board game box and raised your eyebrows so high that they risked slipping down the back of your head? I hadn’t until, that is, I popped the lid on Planet by Blue Orange and Coiledspring Games. With eyes as wide as flying saucers, I spied something that I wanted to touch. A component I needed to hold. Can you guess what it was?
You have? Well, in that case, I had better reveal whether I thought it was earth shattering or simply space-junk!
First and foremost, Planet is a tile laying game. Pentagons spill out of the box across the table in a reassuring way. You instantly know there is going to be some form of familiar spatial development during the course of the game. Similarly, cards in complimentary colours offer a further cardboard affirmation that everything is going to be ok – you know where this experience is heading.
You then see them. 4 irregular shaped orbs covered in shiny, silver metal. And suddenly, you’re thrown off your axis.
This isn’t how tile layers go. This isn’t what tile layers have.
Your brain says wait, but your hands have already disregarded the command. And now you are all over them. Holding them, turning them, feeling their weight. Automatic smiles and squeaks follow, like reflexes. Human biology is obviously into board gaming!
Click below to watch my Planet Rapid Review Video!
Could it be? Will it be? Should it be? Yes, yes, and most definitely yes!
For Planet is a 3D tile laying game! Yep, I said it. 3D. And (spoiler alert!), a great one at that. Not that there are a lot of games to compare it to, I grant you. The concept and use of magnets to attach tiles to a dodecahedron is quite unique. But as tile layers go, this has now raised the bar and has shot my expectations into outer space!
Going for Globe!
However, a game has to be more than the sum of its parts if it is going to stay on my shelves. A novelty is fine, but it cannot be the only good thing inside the box. And we have all done it before; been hooked in by a gimmick that ultimately wasn’t able to support the remainder of the gameplay.
Here though, there is no risk of that. You are literally holding your world in your hands, and you are the architect of its design. Flush with the table, I think Planet would still be fine to puzzle out. But it would not have the same thematic impact or engagement that it does in multi-dimensional form.
On that basis, we are a go for the globe!
So, having recovered slightly from that instantaneous toddler-in-a-toy-shop level shot of excitement, what we are going to be doing and, perhaps, even more importantly, how are we going to do it?
In Planet, you are tasked with building a world in which different species of animals not only want to live, but are going to thrive.
And how do you do that? Simple; you develop out your globe in ways which best match the habitat requirements shown on the available cards. The more habitat spaces you can link (compared to your competing creators), the more cards you can claim each round, and the more points you can score at end-game. But of course intergalactic territory construction is never that straightforward. Omnipotence is not a special power bestowed upon players!
Therefore, you will be reliant upon your forward planning and pattern matching skills. And with space for only 12 tiles in total, each round is going to count.
And so, on each of those dozen turns, you will be picking just one tile from a randomly shuffled pile of 5, and placing it upon your planet.
In the first few goes around the table, this feels quite free. After all, there are no adjacency rules to build by, and potential is never greater than when a canvas is practically blank. Furthermore, the animals understand you’re new to this creation gig, and none of them are vying to move in…..yet.
However, after round 3, the wildlife starts house hunting. At that point, you are going to have to make sure your continents are clicking for at least some of them if you want to start earning points (which obviously you do!).
And, just like in the real world, the animals are as particular about what they don’t like as what they do. For example, red squirrels like to live close to the largest forest not connected to any glaciers.
If there is a tie at the end of a given round, the cards are added to the next column, giving everybody another chance to up the stakes and take them on the following turn.
If nobody has been able to house an animal that likes lots of only one type of region during a round, however, those cards are removed from the game and, by inference, those animals cannot inhabit your planets – no pressure!
Similarly, if animals who like or dislike specific territory combinations simply can’t choose between one planet and another based on net square area, they are no longer part of any eco-system either.
But, with an ever shrinking play space and others looking to populate their own planets, tactical decisions have to be made. And quickly.
Do you target a species in this round, or build up to one or more cards coming along in later turns? If you wait, could you be trumped by another player’s tally of terrain tiles? Or do you abandon the idea of satisfying multiple species, instead building up multiple distinct regions of one type? Pandas, for example, seem to be partial to a bit of forest hopping! And that might sound appealing, until, you check your personal objective card, that is. If your own Natural Habitat goal is in direct contrast with the pool cards seeking specific region types, then you are going to have another developmental dilemma in your hands!
I would say that being able to pick up another player’s globe and analyse it during your turn isn’t just exciting (although it absolutely is!). It also offers a preview of their own plans (unless they later change them of course), which can definitely help with your own designs.
And, like the sea meeting the shore, this is the point where simplicity and strategy meld perfectly together in Planet. The game can be learnt in seconds, set up in a few minutes, and played by even the freshest faced creators around your table. The concept is clear, the rules are straightforward, and the versatility and accessibility of the gameplay are undeniable.
You see, that tougher layer of strategic play lying beneath the surface is something that players and groups can reveal as and when they are ready (and in fact there are variations built in to make the gameplay both a little easier and more challenging).
For example, our Mini-meeple is a few weeks’ shy of 6 (although he is already far wiser, smarter, and without doubt funnier than me!) and he loves this game. And we love playing it with him.
He “gets it”. He looks at his globe, looks at our efforts, studies the tiles, stares at the cards, and makes his move. Yes, he may make a beeline for his favourite animal with little regard as to how easy or difficult it will be to satisfy their landscape requirements. Likewise, he may not be looking down every available column of cards to plan his next 3,4 or more turns ahead, bearing in mind his opponents’ goals and motives.
But that doesn’t matter. He is going to try, and he is enjoying Planet on his level. In fact, he is enjoying it in a way that we can share with him whilst still allow ourselves slightly more strategic selections during the same game. He is making sense of his world and forging logical links between what he wants, what he has, and what he needs to succeed.
And not only that but, with life imitating art, he is engaging in the bigger concepts in a fun way and without even realising he is learning, let alone communicating complex ideas back to us. Wildlife conservation, habitat destruction, environmentally conscious lifestyle choices – these are all examples of conversations he has instigated during (and even more importantly) after playing Planet. So much so that, justifying humanity’s actions has now become my extra turn action (with brainstorming solutions being his specialist subject!) as we pick up and analyse each other’s globes – the power of Planet is indeed out of this world!
One step for mummy and daddy, one giant leap for Mini-meeple.
Thematically, Planet is spot on. A tile laying game about building a globe using a globe. Bravo!
Similarly, the component quality is good - solid frame, chunky tiles, powerful magnets, and decent cards. The various terrains are also identified using unique patters, making it a less colour dependent game than first sight would suggest.
My only niggles are that, with as much play as we are giving this game, the stickers printed on the magnetic tiles are at risk of lifting off as they are repeatedly clicked on and off. As I write this, however, I understand that being a victim of its own success is probably the best-worst problem to have!
Given its ecological links, I was also little surprised by the predominance of plastic in Planet. However, I also appreciate that it is probably impractical to use wood or more sustainable materials in a game of this nature without seriously compromising the quality of the components and the gameplay.
Now, you will need lots of available fingers and thumbs to score this game – trying to tally up triangles on a 3D globe at the end of every round is an exercise in digit dexterity. As a gamer with a physical disability this was even more challenging. As such, we found it easier if we all got stuck in to help each other. Double counting your own territories certainly isn’t in your opponents’ favour, after all! Thankfully, this process is simplified at end-game as you are able to remove tiles once they have been scored for the purpose of your secret personal objective.
Replayability is also high in Planet, achieved by the sheer number of unique tile and card combinations that each game will generate. And, yes, whilst that means a little luck of the draw is in play, I think that the multiple terrain types shown on each tile mitigate the risks that matching habitat cards could never come up.
Overall I think Planet is brilliant. It won’t give you third degree brain burn, but it will offer an opportunity for you to bring your group together for a fun, thematic, unique tile laying experience. And, although it is often labelled as a “family game”, that should not be read as anything but positive. You obviously don’t have to be a family to enjoy this game. You can just be safe in the knowledge that it is a game which is fun to play regardless of experience. A game whose impact is guaranteed to extend beyond its box.
[please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review but any opinions expressed are my own]