Review: Solenia

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Length

Release Date

Designer: Sébastien Dujardin
Artist:  Vincent Dutrait
Publisher: Pearl Games
Category: Exploration, Resource Management
Player Count: 1-4
Price: $44.99

Solenia puts players into the roles of Airship Captains, tasked with the delivery of precious goods and cargo across the planet Solenia. With its axis locked, the planet’s Northern and Southern hemispheres have been locked in eternal daytime and nighttime for millennia, relying on Captains such as yourself for their food and resources. Become the most efficient Captain and earn the most victory points to win at Solenia!

Content Guide

Magic and Monsters:

The red team looks like they have zombified hands. You don’t see their faces or bodies. 

Review

In Solenia, players take turns playing cards and gaining resources. Once they have enough to complete a delivery job, players can play cards on a city and claim a delivery, getting stars and resources as their rewards. After 16 rounds (each player has 16 cards) the player with the most stars wins. 

Each card in a player’s deck has 0, 1, or 2 at the top. This number is how many resources they’ll get when played on a resource tile, or the number of stars they’ll get when played on a city tile. 0 numbered cards also move the airship, and thereby the day and night as well. Cards can only be played next to the airship, or next to one of your previously played cards, unless players want to pay one resources per tile they skip—the rulebook calls this “extending your voyage.” 

At the bottom of the card are various resources or symbols: these are what the player gets when the card goes off the bottom of the board. Players will need to plan their card placements strategically as you can only play one card per tile, and players start out with only room for eight resources. So if all five of the bottom tiles have your cards on them, you may end up wasting some of your cards. Also, you can only claim daytime deliveries at cities in daylight, and nighttime deliveries at cities on the dark side of the board. And since you get bonuses for having pairs of night and day deliveries, players will want to plan ahead accordingly. 

I really enjoyed the art in Solenia. The box has great shelf appeal, and I appreciate that each team had different artwork to go along with the different colors. Despite being a world half in darkness, the colors and art of the game really pop up on the table and is wonderful to look at. As you move tiles and advance the day and night cycle, you can see the board unfold in front of you as you plan your next move. Pearl Games also included optional cardboard dividers and a roll of plastic bags to help keep the game organized, which is wonderful. 

The bad news is I felt like there wasn’t much this game had to offer that I hadn’t seen before. The modular board moving from one side of the table to the other looked great, but also reminded me of the Portal board game. Solenia also left me wishing there was more flavor text and world building—why did the planet stop spinning? How do people survive? Wouldn’t the people in the darkness freeze to death? The small rule book and appendix didn’t fill in too many blanks. I realize it wasn’t billed specifically as a science fiction game, but when the premise is, “the planet doesn’t rotate,” I have questions. 

The cards with holes in them looked cool at first, but it wouldn’t take too many chunky shuffles or turns with younger players before the cards would end up bent or damaged. It might be hard to tell from the pictures but the cards aren’t full sized, which lets them fit in the box and on the board better, but makes them more flimsy as well. 

You get bonuses for making deliveries—the more you make, the better the bonuses are.

Ultimately, Solenia looks fantastic, but left me wanting more overall. The Winter game mode adds upgrades that can differentiate player’s abilities but doesn’t change the core game loop, which is just: play a card, get something or move the airship, make a delivery if you can. It doesn’t feel deep or strategic, and since you can only carry so many resources, it didn’t feel like saving up for a big delivery was a smart play. 

I enjoy games with unique mechanics and good art, which Solenia has both of. However, those by themselves aren’t enough to hang a game on, and in the end, Solenia feels like a pick-up and delivery game with a day and night cycle. Ironic, since the game’s premise is that the planet has no such cycle. Players could do worse for a hand management game with modular board, but there are also several that do it just as well or better. 

 

A review copy was provided by Asmodee.

The Bottom Line

 

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Author: Andrew Borck

Christian/Husband/Dad/Gamer/Writer/Master Builder. Jesus saves and Han shot first.