Full disclosure: A review copy of Dimension was provided by KOSMOS.
Sometimes games come back around, which I think is cool! Dimension was originally released in 2014, and I think Barnes & Noble started carrying it recently, so it’s seeing an effective relaunch, which, neat. I’ve been trying to extend my understanding of games back and forward through time, so playing some games that came out before I got into reviewing can be helpful. Lets me see trajectory, I suppose. Anyways, that’s fun, so let’s check out Dimension!
In Dimension, players move as quick as they can to build pyramids out of spheres. Simple, right? The challenge here is that each round, players also have six task cards that are revealed to make things a bit more complicated. The task cards each specify challenges that must be completed in order for your pyramid to be valid. These tasks are things like “whenever a blue sphere is present in the pyramid, it must be touching a blue sphere” or “there can only be two orange spheres”, things like that. Should you manage to complete all the tasks and use all five colors of spheres, you gain a bonus token! If you fail to complete a task, you lose two points per task! There’s a logic to the placements; you just need to figure it out. Though, sometimes, it’s not possible to make a valid pyramid at all! Can you solve the puzzles and think in three dimensions?
Player Count Differences
Very few, since, as with a lot of games, you’ve got your board, your tokens, and your own business. I think, with more players, there’s some ability to look at someone’s board and adjust yours to better mimic theirs. I don’t really think that’s useful, since you’re on a timer regardless, but it’s much easier with more players to get a few different perspectives. Are they actually … correct? Hard to say. But beyond that, there’s effectively no player interaction. You do your thing, they do their things, and you ultimately get some spheres on top of other spheres and call it a stack. Not much else to it. As a result, I don’t really have a strong preference for any particular player count for Dimension.
- Move fast! As is the business of literally any speed game, you need to move fast if you want to survive. Play quickly, scan cards, and do your best to make sure you’ve got it all in your head if you want to score the most points.
- Make sure you understand what all the cards mean before the round starts. This is generally just a polite thing to do for all players. I usually read through all the cards before the start of the round, just stating their rules out loud. This way, if anyone is confused, I can show them a quick example of just that task before we get started. Does this help the faster players have more time to prepare? Sure, but I’d rather that than making players who could use a bit more explanation feel bad during the game.
- You should try to get a sense of the ideal shape as you see the cards; then you just execute. This, of course, is much easier if you have a solid ability to visualize things in your mind’s eye. If you do, then you can usually pretty quickly arrive at something that at least mostly works. If you can’t, then you really need to hustle so that you can try out test shapes.
- You can’t always get a Bonus Token, but better to avoid getting one than actively losing points because you tried for one and messed up your stack. Granted, avoid getting too many and you’ll lose points all the same, but if you try to get one and end up messing up your tasks, you get the worst of both. You lose points now and later. Not ideal. Sometimes you have to make compromises, and I usually will put “not getting a Bonus Token” at the top of that list.
- Sometimes the task cards will contradict each other; when that happens, try to complete the one that is more lucrative. If they’re worth the same, do whichever is easiest. It’s annoying, but it does happen. There are some ways to weasel around it, such as not placing any spheres of one of the colors indicated on the “spheres of these two colors must touch” cards or only placing one sphere of the indicated color if both spheres are the same color, but otherwise, you might just have to pick one task and go for it to the detriment of the other.
- Symmetry can be a helpful way to organize your brain, but it also can trick you into thinking a structure is valid just because it’s aesthetically pleasing. This happens to me on the regular. I just like symmetric pyramids and, as a result, am willing to overlook that making them symmetric just cost me 4 points. There are a few benefits; a symmetric placement on the bottom of the pyramid can mean that you placed three spheres that are all adjacent to the center sphere but are not adjacent to each other, which may be just what you need for a task.
- If all else is failing, optimize for placing as many spheres as you can. That’s at least guaranteed points. Just make sure you’re not messing yourself up by doing so. Placing 10 spheres and completing six tasks is much better than placing 11 and completing four. Make sure you’re still paying attention, even if you’re in a hurry.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- This game is a useful example of how to design a multi-round game with some additional features to make the rounds feel interconnected at, at least, a basic level. I complain every few reviews about a game that feels like they just added “play three rounds until someone wins” to pad out the game length, and, being real, Dimension is also an example of that, but they at least try to address it with the Bonus Tokens. At the end of the game, you gain or lose additional points based on how many Bonus Tokens you have, so it feels like the rounds matter to the overall game more than just “here are some additional rounds”. Something like that is a very simple way to make your game feel more cohesive, even if I’m not, say, totally convinced by it. I appreciate the effort.
- The orbs are really fun! Spheres? Orbs? I just like saying orbs more. They’re just a very fun component. They’re biggish, they’re fun colors, and they have a decent weight to them. Weightier spheres would be even more fun, but then the game would be much more expensive and much heavier, neither of which are ideal.
- I also like the verticality of the game as it’s played. I generally like games that play with a vertical element; it’s why I like Catch the Moon so much, for instance. It improves the game’s table presence and stacking is always an entertaining feature. I think the sphere pyramids (sphereramids?) you create over the course of the game are fun to create, as well, since you’re starting with a seven-sphere base. It’s just a nice feature.
- I like the way the multiple cards overlap to create a logic puzzle. I really enjoy these piecemeal logic puzzles; several of my current favorite games (Turing Machine, Cryptid, The Search for Planet X, The Shipwreck Arcana) do a really good job of this, as well. Having a single logic rule is fine, but having a bunch and having players figure out the valid intersection of all of them is very fun. I love seeing players figure out how to do it in real time as well.
- Adding in a real-time element to all of this does a great job keeping it hectic. Adding real-time to this is a bit cruel, but it makes the game very fun and quick, which I appreciate.
- The real-time element does also make the game play quickly. Yeah, I love a short game, so even six rounds of this don’t feel like they take all that long. It’s still a pretty quick game, just with a deceptively large box.
- Pretty easy game to teach, especially because doing a practice round is so simple. You really can just drop the spheres, flip a few cards, and say “we’re doing a practice round, go” and let players figure out how to play from there and an explanation of what the cards do. It’s a very quick teach.
- I like the color scheme for the orbs, but I would have loved something other than black and white as the last two colors. This is partially because editing the photos is going to be a pain, but also just something to make the game pop a bit more. The black spheres don’t really … do that. They are nice from a contrast perspective, though.
- The 50-point tokens being as small as the 1s was a bit confusing. The points increase in size until they hit 20, then drastically decrease in size for the 50s. I am not sure why that is. Most likely answer is some kind of restriction around the number of punchboard sheets that they could produce for the game, but, beyond me. It’s just weird to have the highest denomination be smaller than the second-highest.
- I get what the icons on the Bonus Tokens indicate, but I’m not sure why that’s what they’re going for. Thankfully, the rulebook explained to me what the Bonus Tokens look like, but I otherwise was not going to figure these out. To be fair, I’m also not sure what I would recommend putting on the bonus tokens in this game, so this seems as good as anything else, I suppose.
- A bigger sand timer would help make it a lot clearer when the round’s over. The sand timer is a little small; we ended up having to put a player in charge of watching it.
- Having several inherently contradictory tasks in one round can be fairly annoying. I think a few of the other games I’ve seen play with this have some level of filtering to make sure that there’s no overlap, but, for instance, a game I’ve enjoyed recently (The Crew: Mission Deep Sea) is also pretty vulnerable to this. It’s just annoying, even if you take the game’s variant advice and just ignore contradictory tasks. It means you have to pause briefly, reorganize, and you may still get another contradictory task on the next flip.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I enjoyed Dimension! It presents a very appealing set of features for a crowd of folks looking to get into board games. The real-time elements make the game frenetic and entertaining, while keeping players in it until the very last grains of sand drop from the round’s sand timer. The logic puzzle of it would already be challenging on its own, but it’s further enhanced by the real-time elements. Now, players aren’t just completing against spatial reasoning; they’re also competing against time. That does a nice job of mixing things up, and your rounds of Dimension will often end with players laughing as they notice that they frantically misplaced some spheres or just cleanly forgot how to count. With more experienced players, you may notice that players are very frequently hitting the 10- or 11-sphere point each round. The game offers some solutions: you can just … add more tasks. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it is workable. The big problem is that, as fans of The Crew: Mission Deep Sea might recall, randomly-assigned tasks have a knack for occasionally contradicting each other. I’d love something more from the game than “if you don’t like that, just don’t use the contradicting tasks”, but, that’s how it is, sometimes. I think that I’d love to see a more complex version of Dimension, at some point; maybe with more colors, a bigger pyramid setup, or more intricate tasks, but for an introduction, I think the game does a good job! If you’re looking for some light logic, a quick game that’s easy to set up and play, or you just really like spheres, Dimension might be up your alley!
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