WDYPTW: Planet Review
Designer: Urtis Šulinskas
Artist: Sabrina Miramon
Publisher: Blue Orange
I’m not sure what attracted me first to Planet. As a long time role player, it was probably the dodecahedron shaped ‘player boards’ that resemble oversized twelve-sided dice, which serve as the planets you attach pentagonal magnetic game tiles to. It also has bright art and cute animals. I was a little unsure of how it played, so I held off, but after hearing some good things I picked up a copy, and -- spoiler alert -- fell in love.
As I mentioned above, there are pentagonal tiles that fit on each side of the dodecahedron planet, with each player getting their own planet to terraform from a barren moon to a planet teaming with life. These tiles are each divided into five triangular areas, usually with two or three ecological regions on them, such as Arctic, Desert, Ocean, Mountains, and Jungle. During each of the twelve rounds, a pile of five tiles is flipped over and players take turns selecting one to add anywhere to their planet. This is probably the one con of the game - there is no scalability for player count. With two players you get to select from five tiles and with four players you get to select from five tiles - this changes the dynamic quite a bit.
There are two objectives in selecting and placing tiles. First, each player has a secret goal card representing one of the regions. For example, for an Arctic goal, they could earn eight points if they get 21 Arctic triangles on their globe by the end of the game. There are also additional face up goals cards later down below the stacks of tiles. After round three, there will be cards to review, such as a Whale who wants to live in the largest ocean that also touches the Arctic. Players compare their planets, maybe I have five connected ocean touching an Arctic and you have four, so I get the card. If the card is one in your secret region it is worth one point to you, all others are worth two. You can look ahead at the cards that will be coming up in the future rounds and plan to expand those areas instead, forgoing the current card to maximize points. Maybe there are several cards that need the largest Jungle, so you focus on that collecting those tiles now to get all of those point cards later.
So where is the fun? This boils down to area control, which has always been a favorite game-type of mine. Add in to that the toy factor of the spheres. Some may seem it as a gimmick, or feel it is tedious to have to spin the sphere around counting areas and seeing what connects. This is what I find interesting, the pentagonal tiles fit together in a different way than traditional square tiles in say Kingdomino, also as a sphere everything wraps around and eventually connects together. Also the mixture of area types is different than some games, sometimes you need areas that do not touch a different type, or multiple small quantities of a type. I enjoy the challenge of needing to 'see' all sides of a sphere at the same time, which of course you can't.
The secret goal cards give you a direction and count for a significant amount of of points, sometimes half of your final score, so you can't ignore them, but they can also become obvious at times what the other players are shooting for. Then again, do you let this impact your tile selection, taking one tile over another one because you think another player is collecting Oceans, so you should keep it from them?
With Planet, what looks like a family game with cute animals on a three-dimensional toy turned out to make me think a bit more than I expected and had me enjoying it a lot more than I ever hoped I could.