Full disclosure: A review copy of Planet was provided by Blue Orange Games.
Alright, usually I set a publishing schedule and I try to adhere to it, but honestly, sometimes you wanna write what you wanna write and I wanted to write Planet so, we’re doing that. Back with another Blue Orange title! Last one I covered was Kingdomino Duel, I think, and I still need to get to Slide Quest, but in the meantime, let’s check out Planet!
In Planet, well, you’re going to build a planet. But not any planet, the best planet. The one with the most life. The best life. Life that teems from, um, deserts! That’s what you want. Deserts. So many deserts. And maybe some forests? You haven’t decided yet; you’ll see what happens. Either way, you’re not alone in the universe, but will you be able to make a planet that puts all theirs to shame?
Planet’s not too bad to set up. Give every player, well, a planet:
Shuffle up the Planet Tiles; make 10 stacks of 5 tiles in a row, with the tiles face-down:
Shuffle the Animal Cards. If you’re playing the standard game, flip 0 below the first and second stack of tiles, 1 Animal Card below the third through fifth stacks of tiles, 2 Animal Cards below the sixth through ninth stacks of tiles, and 3 Animal Cards below the tenth stack and two stacks to the right. They all kinda look like this:
More on those later. Finally, give each player a Natural Habitat card:
Keep those hidden. Once you’ve done all that you should be ready to start!
Planet is pretty straightforward, gameplay-wise. Your goal is, over 12 turns, to build up a planet satisfying conditions on your Natural Habitat cards and Animal Cards. Earn enough to win the game!
To start a round, the start player reveals all five face-down tiles. They choose one, and the next player chooses one, and so on. When all are chosen, place the remaining tiles face-down in a pile to the right of the 10th stack. If that pile fills up (> 5 tiles), make a new pile to the right of that stack. If that pile fills up, return the remaining tiles to the box.
Once every player has taken a card, resolve the Animal Cards in that stack (if there are any present). Each Animal Card has one of three types:
- Most Regions of a type: This refers to having the most distinct groups of triangles (Areas) of a single type on your planet. Note that each connected group of Areas forms a Region, so if they’re all connected, it’s just one large Region.
- Largest Region touching a specific Habitat: This one might be largest Mountain touching Water or largest Snow touching Desert. It’s really just a Region with the most Areas in it.
- Largest Region not touching a specific Habitat: Same as the previous one, but no part of the Region may be touching that Habitat type. If it is, you are considered to have a 0 for this.
For each Animal, check to see which player has the most of that condition. If it’s a tie, put that Animal Card at the bottom of the next round’s stack of Animal Cards; you’ll settle it then. On the last turn, check to see which player has the second-most or third-most (in a tie). If it’s still tied (or if it’s Most Regions of a type), return it to the box.
At the end of the game, reveal your Natural Habitat Card! You score points based on how many Areas of that type are on your planet. It helps to remove all the tiles from your planet so you can count them out without double-counting. You also score bonus points for your Animal Cards:
- 1 point if the Animal Card type matches your Natural Habitat.
- 2 points if the Animal Card type does not match your Natural Habitat.
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I think I prefer this one at higher player counts. At lower player counts, you’re essentially incentivized to minmax since it’s a lot easier to block one person (as they can likely only diverge from you by so much). At higher player counts, more players are specializing in mutually exclusive things, so you won’t have the ability to do more than influence certain areas. That’s not to say the game feels random at higher player counts; on the contrary, it feels like you have more control since your opponents have to really spend more time building themselves up instead of trying to take you down. It makes the game feel a bit more dynamic and a bit less like a slapfight, which I appreciate. To that end, yeah, I’d recommend this game at 3+. Two-player didn’t quite do it for me, since the best you could hope for was a lucky draw that your opponent couldn’t immediately match or beat.
- Look ahead to see what kinds of tiles you should be grabbing. If you want, you can try to prep for the late game by taking a bunch of tiles that nobody else might want, which may be useful for you? Generally I try to act a couple moves ahead. It doesn’t matter if I lose the first Animal Card, especially if I get the next two after it. Just keep an eye on what your opponents are taking so that you know if it’s actually within your sights.
- Don’t necessarily just go for the largest Region. If you go for the largest Region of each type, you risk getting messed up if the Animal Cards mostly tilt towards largest Region that doesn’t touch a specific type. If none of those cards are in play, well, go off and build the biggest Regions any planet has ever seen. Otherwise, make sure that you’re building up the smaller ones so that you can potentially swipe those cards. If other players are aiming to build large, it’s possible that you can swipe those cards without much effort, as well; I’ve seen someone win it with a size 1 Region.
- Don’t forget your Natural Habitat. This is a great way to earn a bunch of points, and you should doubly make sure you don’t neglect it. If you put all your energy into it, you’ll earn a bunch from the Animal Cards that match your Habitat and you’ll get a huge end-game bonus. Will it be enough? Well, that depends on how many Animal Cards match that color.
- Similarly, don’t forget to take a few Animal Cards that don’t match up with your Natural Habitat. Remember, other Animal Cards are worth twice as much, so try to get a few that don’t match your Natural Habitat, especially at the start of the game. This should give you a nice starting runway to score on if you choose to focus on building your Natural Habitat after that.
- Go after cards you can win. This seems obvious, but I mean you should keep track of what your opponents are doing, as I mentioned earlier. If you’re way behind and can’t catch up, pick something else to go after! Only your Natural Habitat matters at the end of the game, not how many Animal Cards you almost scored but just barely missed.
- You can connect major disjoint Areas together towards the end of the game to make a huge Region, if you get the right tiles. That’s an awesome way to surge for late-game Animal Cards, if you get the right ones. Just make sure you don’t miss out on tiles you’d need to make that connection happen. It’s a huge bummer if you end up split (unless the late Animal Cards reward multiple different Regions of the same type).
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Lots of variety. There are so many different Animal Cards! That and the tiles can make for a very different game every time you play.
- I was worried it was going to be too similar to Kingdomino. It has some similarities, but the major differences of the Animal Cards, the placement, and the scoring make it its own game, though I’d say they exist in the same genre pretty well.
- The magnets, obviously. I love games with magnets. I think they’re just, one of the coolest things you can add to a game. The fact that you can slap the tiles on and they actually stick is delightful to the point of being amazing, and I’ve wanted to play this game since I got to try it at BGG.CON with a few absolutely delightful people last year (shout-out to Michael and Erin).
- The 3D effect in general is pretty cool. I think it’s very novel, but in a way that is really going to appeal to people. Personally, for spatial games, the combination of Kingdomino, Scarabya, and Planet is a tough one to beat from Blue Orange Games. I’m still a bit surprised by how Scarabya flew under the radar; I thought it was pretty great.
- Not terribly difficult to learn. You just pick a tile on your turn and slap it onto your planet. The scoring isn’t that complicated either; the hardest thing is remembering how to qualify for certain Animal Cards, and that’s not the worst. Very family-friendly game, and it comes with a beginner variant, also! That’s always nice.
- I like the box color a lot. It’s a very nice blue.
- It’s pretty easy to guess fairly quickly what color Natural Habitat Cards players have. It’s another one of those things where it’s kept secret, but not practically. I don’t dislike it, but it doesn’t do anything for me either.
- It’s a bit annoying early-game if you don’t get any useful tiles for Animal Cards, or if lucky flips lead to early snags. It’s just like, sometimes only one desert tile comes up. When that happens, if the Animal Card(s) are desert-focused, the first player gets it. That can be pretty annoying, but that also happens in some of the other tile games. Thankfully, it’s unlikely to happen enough to swing the overall game.
- One player min-maxing can make the game pretty annoying. It’s the worst at two; they’re allowed to ask to see your planet so they can essentially spend the entire game counting how many tiles you have of each component type and figuring out what they need to take to block you until the game is essentially random chance. At higher player counts, they’re thwarted somewhat by everyone usually taking different victory paths, but they can still slow the game down. I respect the utility of letting players see what their opponents are doing, but perhaps limit it or something to avoid the aggressive min-maxer.
- The magnets aren’t terribly easy to shuffle in any useful way. This is one of my bigger gripes about the game; the magnets stick together and there’s no easy way to shuffle them without it being a pain. Not much to do about it beyond “that’s a consequence of having magnets”, but it is rather inconvenient. The only thing I dislike about magnets.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I’m pretty excited about Planet! While I was worried at first that the novelty of magnetic tiles on a dodecahedral base would eventually wear off, not only has that not happened yet, but I’m also enthused about how many different Animal Cards there are! I think, in that sense, it’s a bit simpler (score-wise) than Kingdomino, even though the size of the box would suggest it’s a heavier game (or maybe that’s my bias). That puts it in a nice spot for gateway tile-laying games, which is interesting. Plus, I tend to prefer this at higher player counts (as opposed to Kingdomino’s two-player superiority, though I’ll happily play it at any). What it’s got going for it is a really cool tactile experience and some 3D gameplay that’s going to be really interesting to new and old players alike (I feel; I haven’t seen this really anywhere else). Where I feel it struggles is at two players, since min-maxing can be an actual problem. I feel like the game really requires more players to make that sort of analysis paralysis less common during the game. Additionally, as much as I love the magnets, they are pretty much impossible to riffle shuffle, so it can be a bit of a pain to randomize them for the initial setup. Thankfully, that’s what I think is the worst about it. Beyond that, it’s got some fun art, a cool theme, and great components, so if you’re looking to make yourself a planet, you love magnets, or you just enjoy tile-laying, I’d recommend checking out Planet! It’s a solidly fun casual game, I feel.