In Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension, each player pilots a space vessel, have somehow become trapped within the Singularity. You’ll be making a last ditch attempt to escape through the Warp Gate before time runs out and you’re set forever adrift, yet another derelict spacecraft. Gravwell features a distinctive card selection mechanism, unique turn order selection, and is a hell of a lot of fun.
How to Setup Gravwell
Gravwell is easy to set up as it has very few components. Lay the board out on the table and place the white token on the round marker track. Give each player a spaceship, and a matching Emergency Stop card. Shuffle the fuel cards, then deal them out as follows. For each player lay face down 3 cards (4 players equals 9 face down cards). Then lay out 1 card face up on each of the face down cards.
Select a starting player, then have that player select 1 pile of cards. In clockwise order all remaining players pick 1 pile of cards. Then the final player will pick an additional pile of cards and card selection goes in reverse. So card selection for a 3 player game would resolve as follows:
P1 -> P2 -> P3 -> P3 -> P2 -> P1 -> P1 -> P2 -> P3
After each player has 6 cards, the round can begin.
How to Play Gravwell
Each player will select a single card and lay it face down on the table. Once all players have selected their cards all players will flip over their cards and turn order will be determined in alphabetical order of the element on the face of the card. So a player who selected Jo (Jodium) will take their turn before the player who selected Kr (Krypton), and the player who chose Si (Silicon).
Movement in Gravwell is based on gravity which means that you will be affected by the ships of other players as well as the 2 existing derelict ships already on the board. Your ship will always base it’s movement on the nearest gravity source (other ships).
There are 3 types of fuel cards (an expansion is in the works which will add additional card types):
- Standard movement (green cards): moves your ship towards the nearest source of gravity
- Repulsor movement: (purple cards): moves your ship away from the nearest source of gravity
- Tractor beam (blue cards): pulls all ships towards you
In the example above (Jodium, Krypton, and Silicon), the first player would pull all other players towards them 2 spaces (tractor movement). The second player would move away from the nearest source of gravity 2 spaces (repulsor movement), while the last player would advance 9 spaces towards nearest source of gravity. If at any time a player would move in an undesired direction they can choose to play their emergency stop card. This will cancel their movement and play will proceed clockwise.
The game will continue until all players have played all 6 of their fuel cards. Then, the round marker is moved up, the fuel cards will all be shuffled and dealt out again as before, but this time, the player in last place will select first. The game ends immediately when the first player exits the Warp Gate, or if no player has exited the Warp Gate by the end of the 6th round. In the latter case, all players lose.
What I Like About Gravwell
The art is Gravwell is top notch, with vivid eye-popping colors, and fantastic illustrations. This is certainly a game that will stand out on your shelf. The box is sturdy and well put together and should stand up to significant shelf movement. The ship models are really sweet looking with an upward tilt on their stands that looks quite jaunty. The cards are durable and well made and should stand up to quite a lot of play. The card text is easy to read, even across the table, which will make determining turn order easy for everyone.
The game has quite a bit of randomness because of the cards, but also because you can never be quite certain of the turn order. Choosing a card which moves you forward 10 only to find out you’re moving backwards because of another player’s choice. Fair warning, if you don’t like games with randomness, this one might not be for you. But because the game is so short it’s easy to get through.
What I Dislike About Gravwell
I’ve purchased 3 separate copies of Gravwell and each of them has a quality issue. The ships are comprised of a solid color vessel on top of a clear stem. While this looks striking, it means that the ships are made of 2 pieces. In each of the 3 copies I’ve bought one of the ships has separated. While it’s annoying, it’s fixed with a single drop of super glue. Once reattached I’ve never had additional problems.
The only other issue I have is with box size. This is a standard 10″ square box, but it’s rather tall for the contents. Especially since the insert takes up about 75% of the space. It’s a small issue, and I’m sure it’s because of retail issues, but it does affect storage.
Final Thoughts on Gravwell
I love the strategy in this game. If you know the people you’re playing against, the game takes on an additional layer of outguessing your friends or loved ones. I play this with my daughter and she makes choices almost just like I do. This means that she and I will often make the same decision which means we can never be sure of who will go first. For some people this might be frustrating, but we always laugh hysterically when the other person “steals” your turn order causing you to go backwards.
Gravwell is a unique and distinctive game that’s fun to play. The pending expansion will be likely be adding 2 additional card types and special asynchronous ship abilities. But even without them this game is a blast. Make sure you check out Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension!