Review – Equinox

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Designer Reiner Knizia

Artist Chris Quilliams

Publisher Plan B Games

Category Betting

Length 40-60 minutes

Release Date 2021

Player Count 2-5

Equinox is a remake of Colossal Arena, a card game by renowned designer Reiner Knizia. In this game, players play cards into a central tableau, in which each column represents a mythical creature trying to write itself into a storybook. Every round, a character will be removed from contention, and players place bets on which characters will be left at the end. How does this game hold up today? Let’s find out.

Review

Reiner Knizia is among my favorite designers, so I was thrilled to check out Equinox, a remake of an earlier game of his that I had never played.

The goal of Equinox is to earn the most points, something players accomplish by placing bets on characters’ survival. The game lasts up to 5 rounds, and in each round, 1 of the 8 characters gets eliminated from the game. At the end, players earn points from bets they made on the remaining characters—the earlier they bet, the more points they receive.

The game is played on a grid of cards. Each row represents a round of the game and each column represents a character. The characters all have corresponding cards with strength values of 0 to 10, and these cards are shuffled together to form the game deck. Each player begins with a hand of 8 cards.

On a player’s turn, they can place a bet and play a card. To place a bet, they put 1 of their 5 stones onto a space in the current row that doesn’t already have a stone. By doing so, the player is wagering that the corresponding character will still be alive at the end of the game. Then, they can place any living character’s card onto its appropriate space. (Cards can be played on top of each other.)

As players make bets, they can take control of characters and use their special abilities. Whoever has the most wagered on a specific character becomes its controller, and any time they play a card of that character, they can use its ability. Character abilities allow their controllers to do things like:

  • Retrieve a previously-placed stone
  • Switch 2 cards in a character’s column
  • Play an additional card
  • Duplicate an eliminated character’s power

Players continue placing cards until all 8 slots in the current row are filled AND 1 character has a lower strength value than everyone else (strength values are shown in the upper-left corner). As soon as these conditions are met, the round ends and the weakest character is eliminated. Going forward, players can discard up to 3 cards of eliminated characters each turn and re-draw.

The game ends either at the completion of the 5th round, or when the deck is exhausted. At this point, players add up the values of their bets—1 to 5 points each—and the player with the most points wins!


Equinox is a strange game. I can genuinely say that I have never played anything else like it. Mechanically, it has an interesting push-and-pull in which players want to bid early to maximize their points but doing so puts a target on those characters’ backs. Also, since each round involves a decreasing pool of characters, the game arc has a steady acceleration; the final round might only last 1 or 2 turns!

The character powers help to bring out the strategy. There are 14 characters in total, and only 8 are used each game, so there are a great many combinations to try. With this in mind, the character powers are conveyed through iconography, and it can be tough to remember what all of the different abilities do. Thankfully, the back of the rulebook has a handy reference guide, but players may need to check it frequently, which can slow down gameplay.

The production of Equinox is lovely, with oversized cards and colorful bidding stones. The game art is whimsical and imaginative, and its earth-tone palette gives it a strong nature vibe. The box insert is thoughtfully designed for easy storage, and the rulebook is clear and organized. All in all, another great-looking product from Plan B Games.

Equinox exists in an odd space. It is not a difficult game—the rulebook is only 8 pages long—but it feels more complex than one might expect. This is probably because it is so unique that there is not much to compare it to when teaching/learning the game (i.e. it is difficult to use examples like “it’s like in Dominion…” when introducing the game to new players). However, folks should understand what’s going on after a few turns, and then things will start to make more sense.

Personally, I am middling on Equinox. If someone suggested playing it, I would certainly oblige, but it’s probably not a game that I would actively seek to play. However, if you are looking for a 40-60 minute game that just feels… different than most, this one might be worth a look.

A review copy was provided by Asmodee.

The Bottom Line

Equinox feels very unique, but it’s not a game that I would frequently seek to play.

 

6.0

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.