After the long night, the bright strip of the sun is now slowly shifting over the distant horizon. But not the planet is moving and brings a new day, we in our airship are moving towards the sun. For a long time now our planet has been standing still and dividing into the areas of eternal night and eternal day. And like my father before me I travel from night to day and back again. The transport of vital goods is our life’s work. Without the steady stream of goods, life would come to a swift end here on Solenia.
Solenia by author Sébastien Dujardin and Pearl Games describes a strange world. The planet doesn’t rotate anymore and only by using gigantic airships there is an exchange of goods between the day and the night side. It is up to you to fulfill the different demands. You will be rewarded with victory points and the player with the most victory points wins the game. How the life as a board game airship captain is like, we explain in our review of the board game, which was published by Asmodee.
Solenia you physically incorrect world
One of the great aspects of imagination is that not everything has to make sense. For example, I can think of a planet that no longer rotates and consists only of floating islands. Nevertheless this planet is viable and serves as a setting for the board game Solenia. But we’re not on a physics-oriented blog here, we’re on a boardgame blog and therefore don’t care so much about science.
We are quite happy to move our airship over the surface of the planet to collect all kinds of goods and then deliver them to the cities. To do this, each of us has a deck of cards, 16 cards to be precise. The sets of cards contain identical cards and differ only in colour. Players with colour blindness were thought of in an exemplary way, because different symbols are present on the cards to make them distinguishable.
Solenia is played over 16 rounds, until everyone has used up their cards. To do this, play one of your three hand cards to the planet Solenia when it is your turn. Playing this card gives you resources, lets you complete missions, or lets the common airship fly on. Then you draw again on three cards and it is the next player’s turn.
What sounds like a relatively fast board game, it is. We haven’t had a game for a really long time and it didn’t matter if there were players at the table who had played Solenia before or players who participated for the first time.
Collect, collect and collect again
The main task for you is to collect the various resources. The main problem is that not every resource is found everywhere. On the night side of Solenia, there is enough water and stone, but the inhabitants would rather have grain and wood, which is plentiful on the day side. And three guesses as to what is and is not available on the day side?
So this is how we transport the wealth to the cities that also need it. Now day and night do not really border on each other and you have to store the goods of one side on your airship, which has only limited storage space to be able to deliver these goods. After completing a mission you will have free storage spaces as well as a few victory points more.
If at some point you don’t have room – and this happens faster than expected, even if the resources are not in plenty – you have to discard excess resources. But you can decide at this point which ones to throw overboard.
Fly my airship, fly
The trick in Solenia is the dynamic game board. As already described, there is an airship that moves over the planet. On the game table, however, the game board moves under the airship. Every time you play a card that moves the airship forward, the last part of the game board is removed, flipped over and then placed back in front of the airship. This is how we “move” around the planet. As a politician once said: “Forwards always, backwards never”.
The fact that the airship is constantly moving is not only a wonderful tactical element, it is even very important from a technical point of view. You can only play your cards in a location that is adjacent to the airship, adjacent to one of the cards you already have, or even further away if you pay for it. But the last option is very expensive. However, you can only play one card at a single location, no matter if it’s one of your cards or the cards of other players. And so there would be no more room to play if the airship would not move further around Solenia and clean up the board.
Dropping the old game board tile has another trick. Because every card not only gives you something when you play it on the board. It also gives you another bonus when it leaves the board as the airship moves. And I think that’s really great, because here I have to think tactically where to play a card. Do I continue to use it in front of the airship to stay ahead of my fellow players, but do I get the bonuses later? Or do I play it behind the airship to maybe get the bonuses faster, but maybe I’m blocking myself with the possible choice of locations? And do the bonuses even match the resources I need to complete the missions?
Sure, Solenia is not the board game sensation that keeps you bound to the table for hours. But Solenia works in all setups, whether I play it alone or in a full cast. It has a pleasant playing time and also the downtime of the individual players is quite short. There is also enough grumbling and cursing interaction by occupying locations and snatching away the openly available missions. And the missions will be snatched from right at the moment when you have all the goods together! Or after turning the game board again, the city you need to complete the mission will finally appear. No doubt your opponent will have visited it before you and put his card on top of it.
The first time I heard about Solenia, I thought that this is a board game that can only work with a certain number of players. And so I was even more surprised that it worked perfectly in the first trial game with two players.
Maybe it is also the simplicity that I like about Solenia. The rules are easy to learn and can be taught to new players quickly. And what might have caused a frown at the beginning, will be removed quite quickly after the first two rounds.
Attention air turbulence
What we did not like so much, however, were the perforated cards. Every card has a hole in the middle to determine which resource I get. What makes sense playfully, is not so optimal for shuffling. Here I could perhaps master the whole thing with sleeves, but after an intensive sleeve phase at the beginning of my board game life, I only do this very rarely.
In some games I also had the feeling of being completely at the mercy of others. The orders I wanted to fulfill were gone before I had the necessary resources and the following missions I could not fulfill at first. For example, I had only water and wood in my airship, but I couldn’t get to stones. My opponent fulfills the only available mission with water and wood and follows up with a new mission. Too bad that then only orders were displayed where I would have needed stones.
On the other hand, I’ve had games where it was just simply flowing. Because I not only got victory points by fulfilling the orders, but also bonus goods, I could already fulfill the next order and thus flew away from my opponents in terms of points.
Landing on Solenia
In short, I like Solenia, I really like playing it. Gathering resources and moving the airship over the planet makes Solenia a good game for me. And there I can also see over the small described flaws. I also find the playing time very pleasant. I don’t have to sit for hours at a board game every time to learn rules and then spend a long time playing it.
What I also find positive is that the game will be delivered with a ” difficult ” version again. The basic mechanics remain the same, but your airship changes. You now have less space for raw materials, the final score of completed missions changes and (in my opinion the best thing) your airships can be equipped with different improvement tiles. This is where a certain asymmetry comes into play, because the improvement tiles already give me a certain direction, which I use to adjust my playing strategy.
But this is also a weakness of the improvement tiles: They only make sense if your fellow players have already played Solenia, because only then can you see the connections.
And if you don’t have any other players at hand at the moment, you can also use Solenia in solo mode. But honestly, I only played the solo mode once twice. Once in the basic mode to get to know the game and the second time to learn it because of the improvement tiles. This mode is not really exciting. Because the opponent is not a human opponent, it is just a stupid machine controlled by a six-sided dice, which determines which locations are blocked by the opponent.