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PLANET RUSH Designed by Reiner Knizia Published by Victory Point Games The basic premise is that you are one of five corpora...





Designed by Reiner Knizia

Published by Victory Point Games

The basic premise is that you are one of five corporations vying to build structures on the planet, Zenobia.  The one who contributes most will gain ownership of the planet.  If that brief description rings faint bells or stirs vague memories, don't be surprised.  Planet Rush is essentially a simpler remake of Reiner Knizia's Tower of Babel.  Indeed, Alan Emrich has already labeled it the Designer's Cut, as it seems that the briefer rule set that we get in Planet Rush was the original preferred design.

So, definitely a light Euro made even lighter, but, I have to say, not a Euro quality production.  The rules booklet is a bare 8 pages made out of two sheets of slightly smaller than A4 size paper, folded in half and stapled down the middle.  This really looks more like a DTP package.  It is full colour [though mainly blue] and semi-glossy, but the outer spine of the rulebook was already starting to look slightly cracked when I opened the package.  The "board" is made up by laying out the eight, very thin cards that represent the potential structures to be built and each player receives  a larger mat of equally thin card on which to record his/her score and a set of small wooden cubes in the player's designated colour.  Each player also gets an individual Faction Negotiation card.

The game set out for the maximum 5 players.

The cards that represent the four different types of material with which to build these planetary structures are clear, bold and of standard size, but they too will need the benefit of sleeving to make them durable for repeated play sessions.  Surprisingly the solidest pieces are the bonus markers and the rather nice launch pad and rocket that mark the Active player. 

Though the artwork is good and conveys the S/F theme appropriately, that is the only way in which the theme is represented in the game.  The rules and gameplay add nothing at all to the theme.   Seeing that the artwork on the player mats shows that the so-called corporations are owned by five different galactic races, I'd hoped that at least there might be some minor special rule for each ... but alas, no.

One of the 5 player mats - essentially a personal score board

That the game already exists in a slightly more complex form does tend to spell out that the background is fairly immaterial.  In its first incarnation, players were trying to construct the 7 Wonders of The World [with a potential eighth Wonder - the Tower of Babel - hence the original game title].  As stated in my opening paragraph, here we are trying to build planetary structures.  It could just as easily be five car manufactures aiming to contribute most to the design of eight cars or five railroad companies working to lay the tracks for eight new railroads in the Wild West.  Many Euros do tend to have bolt-on themes, but this does seem an extreme example. 

Game play is very straightforward.  In the Build Phase,  the current Active Player, receives the Launch pad and Rocket and has the choice of one of two actions.  Either the Active Player draws a Resource card or nominates one section of a building to be built by placing the Rocket on the corresponding section of the building card and announcing how many Resources are needed and what type they are.

Here are the four Resources:

Materials, Research, Power and Robotics.

This latter choice of Action is really the heart and key interest of the game and I'll shortly examine that in some depth.  Should all the sections of a structure be completed in the Build Phase, then that building is scored.

The second phase of each turn is the Resources Phase when each player draws one Resource card.

The game continues until all the sections of 7 out of the 8 possible structures have been completed and a final bonus scoring is then conducted.

So, back to a detailed look at the only [slightly]complex part of the game : THE BUILD PHASE and the choice to offer a section of building  for construction.

The Active Player chooses and places the Rocket on the section to be potentially completed.  He/she announces the number of Resources needed, depending on how many circles there are on that section and the type of Resource, which is also marked on the card.

And here is the dinky space Rocket sitting on its Launch Pad, ready to blast off

to mark the next section potentially to be built!

For example, the Power Station is made up of two sections: one needs 6 Green Research cards and the other section needs 4 blue Power cards to build.

The next step is that all the other players [but not the Active player] secretly choose how many cards of that Resource they want to bid.  A player can include Resource cards different from the one nominated, but I can see no point whatsoever in doing so, as such a bid has to be automatically rejected.  The only other card that can be usefully included in a bid is a player's Faction Negotiation card. 

The Active player then decides which of the bids to accept.  In choosing which bids, there are some restrictions.  Most important is that the number of cards must be exactly the number needed. So, if 7 are needed, a bid of 5 and a bid of 4 could not be accepted as there would be 2 cards more than was needed.  Whereas, a bid of 5 and a bid of 2 would work fine as a choice. 

However, the Active player can always include cards from his/her own hand. So, using the same example. If 7 cards were needed and the bids were 5 and 4, the Active player could accept the 5 bid and add two cards of the correct Resource type from their hand or accept the 4 bid and add three cards of the correct Resource type from their hand.  [Always assuming the Active player has the necessary number of appropriate Resource cards in their current hand.]

Of course, even if there were appropriate bids that add up to the right number of cards, the Active player can always choose to reject one or more bids and use their own cards instead.   

The other restriction is that if several of the players have included their Faction Negotiation card in their bid, the Active player can never accept more than one such bid.

Having decided which to accept, what happens next? 

Well, first of all, for a bid without a Faction Negotiation card included, the Bidding player puts one cube of his/her colour for each Resource bid on the building section. 

However, if a bid with a Faction Negotiation card included is accepted, then the Active player must put the corresponding number of his/her own cubes on the building section and the Bidding player is awarded the Bonus marker from the relevant building section. 

Finally, if the Active player didn't accept any bids that contain a Faction Negotiation card, then the Active player gets to claim the Bonus marker.

During the game, there are only two ways to score Victory Points:

[1] There are three types of Bonus marker that can be acquired in the way that I've described above and players score different numbers of Victory Points according to the type and number that they collect, as the game progresses.

[2] When all the sections of a building have been completed, that building is scored.  This is done by flipping the building card over to the back where there are five circles containing VP numbers.  The player with most cubes on the building places one of them in the highest scoring circle on the back of the card and so on down. 

A neat idea is that the fourth and fifth circles don't score you any VP points, but if there is a fourth or fifth player who has placed cubes on that building you still need to place one of their cubes in the circles that score zero points.  This is because they will count in the final scoring at the end of the game.  All other cubes on the structure are now returned to each player they belong to.

In total, to build all of the 7 structures, 22 cards of each colour will need to be played.  There is also an 8th structure called The Alien Ruins, which consists of a single section of eight circles.  This can only be built using a type of Resource that is no longer needed to build a section of any of the other seven structures. e.g. if all the sections that needed the red Robotics resource have been built, then the current Active player could nominate the Alien Ruins to be built with 8 red Robotics resources.

When seven of the eight structures have been built the game ends and the Final Scoring takes place.  If a player has a cube on all seven structures he/she scores 15 Victory pts, on six structures 10 Victory pts and on five structures 5 Victory pts.  If you've built on only four or fewer structures - tough - you score nothing!

So, folks that's it.  I have gone through the crucial bidding mechanic in depth, because virtually the whole game centres on that one major element.  It does work well.  There is interesting interplay between what cards you hold, what sections have so far been built, what players have scored so far, whose bids to accept or not [beware the payback from not accepting someone's bid, when they reject yours.], which building and which section to put up for construction.

But, it is very much a one mechanic game and very much a light filler.  It is quick to play and quick and easy to pick up the few rules.  For me, it's the type of game that gets played at the club while people wait to see how many turn up before moving on to heavier fare or else serves as a light family game - 'cept that I can see certain family members' personalities affecting which bids get accepted!!

My other concern is the very insubstantial nature of most of the components.  At the moment I haven't been able to find it sold outside the States, though I assume that will happen.  But for the moment, $32.99 plus the not inconsiderable postage/import costs is a high price for what you're getting.  VPG make many excellent games [see my review of Espana 20 vol 2], among them many solo games, but Planet Rush is not one I'd "move in a rapid fashion" to get. [There, I managed - sort of -  to avoid the awful pun!]