Even my grandfather does not remember, what it was like, when the sun was on the horizon. We know it only from ancient drawings and descriptions, that are passed unknown for how long from a parent to descendant. No one knows, how long it has been for our side to see the light on surface of Solenia. Immersed in eternal darkness, we look for light and we long for the shadows. In the end, we do what we do best: we trade.
In a world divided by light into two seemingly incompatible halves, we are invited by designer Sébastien Dujardin. Into the world created in imagination of illustrator Vincent Dutrait. The resulting game is then released by Pearl Games, and is coming to Europe under Esdevium Games distribution. It appeared on the shelves at the end of 2018.
Box and lid have plenty of light, because it’s all white and offers a beautiful break between the day and night on the lid. After opening the packaging, players find a world divided into five strips, that connect to each other and create a transition between light and darkness on the table. Each piece contains five locations (each big enough for a small card to be played) and rivals work together to place the giant airship in the absolute center. Next to the map, they will prepare the delivery tiles for both day and night demand, revealed four of each and set the rest as a drawing pile.
Each participant chooses color and, accordingly, board with airship. He places this small cardboard in front of himself, along with the set of cards in his color. From this shuffled deck, he draws three cards at random. In order to start the game, each receives also stock of stone or wood tokens based on the player order.
Players progressively go through rounds. Every one is expected to play one card from his hand on the board. But it can be placed only in some fields – those, that are adjacent to either the airship figure or the cards of the player from previous turns. From this rule, player can free himself, if he pays the raw material for its placement. Conversely, when playing a zero value card, an airship moves instead of any gain. And that might be (and will be) used for player’s profit.
Whether the player places the card there or there, he will always overlap picture printed on the board itself. It can be a city or location, that can produce some raw materials. Here, players instantly receive income corresponding to value of played card. He must place it in cargo compartment of his ship, the capacity of which can never be exceeded. Their type is visible easily even after the card is played, because all cards have an opening in the center, making them really unique.
However, if the player places the card on the city, golden star is what remains at its center. Such a move is followed by an obligation to fulfill one of the available delivery orders. Delivery of raw materials can only be done to the benefit of tiles from the corresponding part of the planet – in the daytime city, players perform day tasks, nightly in night.
Not only do they have to return the corresponding raw materials to the bank, but they can take the tile and place it on their own plan at the first free position. They will receive a reward in the form of other raw materials and later, stars. And it is about these shiny things in the end.
At the end of the round, player evaluates cards located on the left stripe of the map, gaining some additional rewards, then taking the entire strip off the map, turning it upside down and connecting it to the world on the right. In fact, the whole game board is constantly overflowing and with it, changing day and night. Cards from such a stripe are discarded.
The player then draws a new card from his deck and the game goes on with further playing cards and delivering. However, as soon as all the opponents have played the last of their sixteen cards, the game ends. There will be more obtained stars for completed pairs of day and night tasks as well as the remaining raw materials. The player with the highest number of star counts becomes the winner.
Solenia is a delivery game, in which it is purely about getting and spending raw materials. However, players do not need to move around the map themselves, they just need to put the cards in the right place. Of course, their placement is not completely free and its controlled by the airship movement around the world. But it is the same for all, so the players are all on board and only go with their vehicles to the neighborhood.
Theme and atmosphere are excellent for the pure Euro game. Most of us like the effect of the moving board, with the slowness of which is also shifting the layout of the day and night. These two parts are important for the whole game – it is divided into plates and everything is governed by these two areas. However, there is not much to plan ahead in the game, it’s all about tactical decisions.
Players always have a handful of cards to choose from. Their numbers have a great effect on the income itself, and so the combination with individual locations on the map is a little different every time. It is then the player, who is interested in the raw material. The city can only be visited, if anyone is able to supply one of the available tiles.
And where there is a positional game, there is also contact between the opponents. They try to use the advantageous position of the airship and be in places earlier, than the others. They can also easily steal tokens, that someone else wants. Only those in the correct light range are always available.
Generally, from a gameplay point of view, it is a very nice game. It will be fun definitely for anyone, who likes smart and simple games. The experience remains good across all the available numbers of participants, which is also a great news. In addition, the game only takes about 45 minutes to complete, which is also a very positive value.
But the game’s top edge is the processing point. And we are not just talking about graphics or rules with lots of examples, but especially about unique ideas. In the box you will find cards with a round hole in the center, a beautiful airship figure, or a moving game board, that also shows us moving border of day and night.
Solenia is a game of day and night and it fits perfectly. It has the potential, it’s interesting, but it’s not THAT good to become a top class game. If you like to deliver resources, you will be pleased with the processing and moving map. Together, the game is really interesting, just in terms of gameplay, it is not the perfect tip. Even so, Solenia ranks among high-quality games.
Solenia may not look like it, but in the end, it is a fairly simple game, in which you just need to play one card in your turn. But, all these cards have an opening in the middle, that reveals what’s underneath – reward, that the player will get. There are, of course, some other interesting moments in the overal gameplay, all of which start with a moving map. There is a shift of light and darkness. Matches are pleasantly tactical, fast and not difficult. Solenia is a very nice game, that gets significant points for originality and processing.