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[EDIT] Yeah, this is too much of a solvable puzzle for my tastes. If you're a step or two ahead of the bootstrapping (which is pretty easy if you have more experience), the other players can't catch up. The variable instability effects, while nifty, don't address that core problem. I enjoyed it, but I am concerned that this might just be a bootstrapping puzzle with some interesting infrastructure "borrowing." The random special powers every game might mitigate that enough or not--so the rating might go up or down.
GAMEPLAY In Sol, players represent various worlds in a solar system whose sun is going supernova. These worlds have the technology to harness the sun’s power and do so in order to transfer the momentum from that power to their ark, the ship that will see their species survive and carried out into the stars. On a turn, a player can move sundivers (i.e., the workers of your species), convert sundivers into different structures, or activate structures with sundivers possibly paying a cost of energy. At the end of a turn, players move their mothership one space forward to denote the ships orbit around the sun. The closer a conversion or activation happens to the core of the sun, the more instability cards are drawn from the deck. Players can keep one instability card in their hold and use it later for a one-time, rule-breaking effect. Shuffled among the instability cards are solar flares, and the game ends after 13 solar flares are drawn with the sun, in effect, going super nova. Players score momentum (read VP) by activating transmit towers or by hurling their sundivers into the core of the sun. THOUGHTS With Sol’s simple ruleset and actions that have a weighty impact, Sol is the sort of game I am constantly on the lookout for. I adore the player-created infrastructure that encourages players to leech off each other but at the cost of giving bonuses to opponents. The game also requires a great deal of planning. You know that foundry you just built? It’s already in your rearview mirror and you’ll have a chance to activate it again… IF you remember to have enough sundivers when you pass by on next orbit. Even though you only use a handful of instability effects, Sol comes with 20+ of these cards, giving the game a lot of legs. Another way the game is kept interesting is the randomness of how the solar flares are shuffled into the deck: one game might see you marathon the whole deck while another might be a sprint to eke out a few VP before the last solar flare gets turned up. For a first time designer and publisher, Sol is the posterchild of a game that greatly benefited from being on Kickstarter; the production values and components are bonkers good. PROS -With the exception of the minor quibble listed in the cons, Sol has beautiful, beautiful production values all the way through. Even though I did not kickstart the game, I am extremely pleased the designers went through KS and that it got the traction it did. -The rules are reasonably simple to learn and teach. The depth of this game comes squarely in the planning, especially as your mothership makes another section of the sun’s orbit at the end of your turn whether you like it or not. -The plethora of instability effects provide for a lot of game-to-game variety. -The use of solar flares shuffled into the deck as a game clock is clever. -Solar flares can provide bumps to stations in outer orbit makes it worthwhile to build out there beyond just getting another movement point. Another great design decision. NEUTRAL -Planning is what gives Sol most of its weight. If you don’t like games that make you think ahead two or three turns, Sol can punish you. This is particularly true in intro games so you’d be wise to warn new players of the “no sundiver” pitfall. And then warn them again. CONS -In the few groups I’ve played with, it seems I am in the minority, but I really dislike the silver pieces. The pieces look spray painted and who thought a mothership that looks like a pair of scissors was a good idea? -I wish the player aid made it slightly clearer that nodes produce energy so they don’t have an energy cost while foundries and towers need energy to activate. This seems to be a hang-up for a lot of new players.
Fascinating geometric puzzle. Makes your brain work in ways no other board game i've seen does. I love the co-petative nature of the game. All around just a really cool, unique design. Lacks a little something, though. Just isn't quite as exciting as it should be. Gorgeous production. Worth owning for anyone who collects unique board game experiences.
Solo, two and three player mode. The game is really great and an interesting take on the "dudes on a map" genre (if the map was the Sun). I was drawn to the look of the game when I saw it and it's definitely one of the most eye-catching games in the collection.