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First Take Fridays - Solenia: The 7th Illimat Estate header

On First Take Fridays a number of authors around Meeple Mountain give short first takes on games that are new to us. This week we have takes on Solenia, The 7th Continent, Illimat, and The Estates.

Solenia – Ashley Gariepy

Solenia was one of my most anticipated games of 2018. I love designs published by Pearl Games (Troyes, Ginkgopolis, and Otys) and Sébastien Dujardin so you can imagine how excited I was when I had a chance to play an early copy of this game.

Solenia is a game about a planet that has lost its day and night cycle: half the planet is plunged into darkness while the other half only has light. The people living in darkness seek the resources exclusive to the light side and vice versa. Players gain resources in order to help each side of the planet satisfy their needs.

Solenia is a hand and resource management game played on a modular board using some pretty cool cards. Each player will have a hand of 16 cards with a hole cut out of the centre. Why? Because on your turn you will play a card to the board and gain the resource visible in the card’s centre. The number on that card (0, 1, or 2) will indicate how many of that resource you receive. If you play a 0 card, you don’t receive any resources, but you do trigger a planetary (board) shift. Players with cards already played to the bottom tier of the board might get bonus resources. Then that tier is removed, flipped to its opposite side (night if it shows day, for example), and placed at the top of the board.

There were some interesting features in Solenia; I enjoyed the hand management, the unique card play, and the regularly changing board. I was, however, a little disappointed because I had such high gameplay expectations. I was never really excited while playing Solenia and the game felt like it just lasted a few turns too long.

★★★★☆☆ Ease of Entry
★★★★★★ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★☆☆☆ Excitement for Rematch
Read more from Ashley Gariepy.

7th Continent – Jesse Fletcher

7th Continent was a Kickstarter-only game that took the gaming world by storm in 2017. Having missed out on the first run, I eagerly backed it at a high level when the Kickstarter for the second printing went live. 7th Continent is a card-based exploration game. Throughout the game you’ll be laying down terrain tiles from adventure decks as directed, and drawing from an action deck for various purposes, all in pursuit of breaking the curse that has currently been afflicted upon your party.  Each curse represents a specific scenario that your group will play through, likely over multiple gaming sessions.

The card-based system is very impressive and it’s clear that the designers spent a lot of time with the design. As yet I haven’t encountered any typos, misprints, or other errors that can spring up with narrative-based games. The included insert and dividers make finding specific cards that are requested as easy as can be, given the sheer amount of card locating that you’ll be doing. While it can be played with up to four players, as yet I’ve only played the solo experience. Given its general lack of turn structure and open-ended quality, similar to Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective or Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger, I’d venture that solo play is the optimal experience.

To me, the game feels like TIME Stories but without specific direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; individual TIME Stories  cases tend to be somewhat scripted and almost seem to be on rails sometimes, as you’re clearly going from destination A to destination B as directed by the game.  In 7th Continent, you’re only given an overall objective–break the curse– with only a vague clue to start with. This is a mixed bag because while 7th Continent allows for freedom of exploration, its general lack of focused direction might prove frustrating for players who don’t like the “What am I supposed to be doing?” ambiguity that comes with such an open-ended experience. Most of the individual curse scenarios will take longer than one session, so the game employs a save system that works better than any that I’ve seen thus far.

Overall, I’m very pleased with my purchase. While it hasn’t totally blown me away, my love for narrative immersion in games will keep me coming back, at least until I finish all of the curses.

★★★★☆☆ Ease of Entry
★★★★★★ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★★★☆ Excitement for Rematch

Read more from Jesse Fletcher.

Illimat – Than Gibson

I am always on the lookout for two-player games that I can play with my wife. Often, that ends up with me picking something that’s in one of my preferred genres of fantasy or sci-fi. She enjoys those genres, but finding a game that suits her game tastes is not always easy. She grew up playing a lot of domino games, especially 42, and classic card games like Spades and Rummy. To this day, she would rather play a card game like Three-Dragon Ante, Fluxx, or Munchkin than wait for me to set up a complex board game.

So, when I heard that one of my favorite bands, The Decemberists, had worked with Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons, to craft a modern card game in the style of a classic card game I was intrigued to say the least.

Illimat is everything it claims to be. It really does feel like a classic card game that was secreted away somewhere and forgotten. The rules are light but allow for deep strategy.

The game revolves around the idea of sowing and harvesting with the seasons. Using a deck of cards that closely resembles a standard deck of cards and Luminary cards that resemble those found in the tarot major arcana, players take turns “sowing” (playing) their cards into one of four fields looking for opportunities to “harvest” (collect) matches. The matches you collect are based around the values of the cards but, for the most part,   the values have no bearing on your score (much like Spades for example). If you harvest all of the cards from a field, the Luminary assigned to that field is revealed and may impact it or the entire game depending on the card. Sowing and harvesting of cards is complicated by the Illimat (literally the bottom of the box!) which sits in the center of the game and dictates what season is in each field. The seasons define what actions can be done in that field.

The strategy lies in stockpiling the right values in a field so that you can harvest on the next turn before someone else does. This allows you to clear the fields out enabling you to collect points. For example, clearing a field for the first time allows you to collect an okus token, which counts for one point at the end of the round. Okus tokens are brass game pieces that look like they belong to some long-lost Monopoly competitor. Their meanings are lost to time (I like taking the toy soldier, but the tooth creeps me out.)

This game is great as a casual two-player. You find yourself in that quiet, zone of “back and forth” until someone makes a clutch play or catches something the other player missed. My wife and I both are anxious to bring it to the holidays to play with her family and add more players.

Finally, I found that Illimat somehow scratched my resource management itch. When I noted this, my wife replied, “All good classic card games are resource management.” Mind blown.

If you like card games (or apparently resource management games!) I highly recommend you pick this up. Also, if you like games that evoke an atmosphere, this is a good one. The materials all feel like you could be setting up for a secret society ritual or séance.

Illimat is available directly from Twogether Studios at www.illimat.com.

★★★★★☆ Ease of Entry
★★★★★☆ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★★★★ Excitement for Rematch

Read more from Than Gibson.

The Estates – Andy Matthews

Ever since I watched Joel Eddy’s Neue Heimat review a few years back I knew I had to try this game. The problem is that it’s largely out of print, and never had large distribution to begin with. That meant unless someone I knew personally had it, I’d never get a chance to play it. Thankfully Clay Ross from Capstone Games decided that Neue Heimat would make an excellent second release for his Simply Complex imprint. I was backer #5 on the Kickstarter campaign for The Estates and the rest is history.

The Estates is an auction and building game, with several twists. The goal is to have the most points, which you’ll get by developing plots of land in one of three neighborhoods. Twist number one is that only two of the neighborhoods will score positive points at the end of the game, while the remaining neighborhood will result in negative points for the players controlling land there. Players start their turn by selecting one piece from a collection including cubes and rooftops (which are used for building), barriers (which can shorten or lengthen a neighborhood), and the Mayor (which doubles the value of any neighborhood; positive or negative).

The entire game exudes quality; from the graphic design and artwork, to the components. Thankfully The Estates isn’t just another pretty face…this game has teeth. The player who starts each auction has the option of undercutting the winning bid and taking it for themselves, players are encouraged and enabled to throw other players under the bus, and the barriers allow one player to snatch victory from the grasp of any other player…assuming they’ve got the cash for it. Run, don’t walk, to your local game store and pick up a copy for yourself.

★★★★★☆ Ease of Entry
★★★★★☆ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★★★☆ Excitement for Rematch

Read more from Andy Matthews.

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Andrew Plassard

Andrew Plassard

I like big games and I cannot lie, you other gamers can’t deny. That when a euro walks in with a shiny new case and a rule book in my face, I get pumped. Hi I’m Andrew and I like heavy euro games with a side of player interaction when necessary. I think board games are the best way to force me to think in different ways while having fun and hanging out with my friends.

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