Game Buzz: Compounded

I’m not a science guy.  Never have been.  But you have to love a game where “the nerdiest person at the table goes first.”

image by BGG user getlouder
image by BGG user getlouder

Compounded is a new game coming from designer Darrell Louder and being published by Dice Hate Me Games.  It’s a 2-5 player game that takes 90 minutes to play.  It’s a game about chemistry, with players trying to make compounds before the others do.

The game comes with a scoring board (which is the periodic table of elements), an element bag, a lead scientist marker, 5 work benches, 5 fire extinguisher cards, 15 fire cubes, 5 scoring marker, 5 wild element tokens, 20 research tokens, 20 claim tokens, 20 open element space tokens, 69 compound cards, and 100 elemental crystals.  Each player begins the game with a work bench, four random elements drawn from the bag, a wild element, and a fire extinguisher.  16 compound cards (9 specially marked starting cards and 7 random) are dealt into a 4×4 grid – the research field.  The compound deck is then split into six stacks, and a lab fire card is placed on top of all but one.  They are all stacked, with the one that did not have a fire placed on top.

Each round of play in Compounded consists of four phases: discovery, study, research, and lab.

DISCOVERY: Beginning with the current Lead Scientist (first player), each scientist draws new elements from the bag, up to your alloted amount (4-7).  These go on your work bench.  You can also trade elements, tools, fire extinguishers, wild elements, and future favors during this phase.  However, there’s nothing that says you must keep your word on these future favors, so be careful.  This phase is skipped in the first round of the game.

STUDY: Each player puts a claim token on an unclaimed compound in the research field.  This continues until all players have placed their claim tokens – you’ll have 1-3, depending on your study level.  Once they are placed, a scientist may move one old claim token (from a previous round) to a new compound.

RESEARCH: For each level you have in research, you can place one element on a compound.  You may place on any compound, even if you don’t own it, but you get no benefit from playing on another scientist’s compound.  You can play on your own claimed compounds, and you can work on any unclaimed compounds, but only the player who places the last element will score.  You can also choose to play on your fire extinguisher compound, and can trade three of one element for any other one currently available in the bag.

LAB: Score your completed compounds, gain tools if the compound allows it, and raise the level of your experiments.  There are also chemical reactions that can come into play – a grant allows you to share points from a completed experiment, while volatile starts a lab fire.  In a lab fire, flammable compounds will explode if filled with flame tokens from lab fires, scattering their elements to adjacent non-exploded compounds.

After scoring, the research field is refilled, possibly causing lab fires.  Then the lead scientist passes to the left.  The game ends when  player reaches 50 points, or when a scientist completes 3 of the 4 experiments on his work bench.  It can also end if the research field cannot be completely filled.  You gain one point per element you have on a claimed and uncompleted compound, plus one for every two on your work bench, plus three if you have a completed and unused fire extinguisher, plus three for a wild element still in your possession.  The player with the most points wins.

Compounded has been getting some very good buzz from people that have played.  I think it’s largely due to having a relatively unique theme, as well as some interesting resource distribution mechanisms.  The rules are fairly simple – draw elements, claim compounds, distribute your elements, score.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Still, it looks like the real joy of the game is in the variation between compounds, making the elements you have work for you, and of course, making stuff explode.

My biggest curiosity about the game is in its educational value.  From what I’ve seen, it might go well in an actual chemistry classroom.  I mean, the scoreboard is the periodic table of elements, and the compounds are all legitimate chemical compounds.  It might work well in an educational setting, and I’d be interested to hear any reports from teachers who use it to some purpose there.

Compounded should be at GenCon, but only for demo – not purchase.  Nevertheless, it should be out in general release soon.  I’ll be hoping to try it out sometime as it looks like a good time, and probably more fun than I ever had in chemistry class.  Thanks for reading!

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