Game Buzz: Nova Luna

In 2007, Uwe Rosenberg shocked the the world with the release of Agricola, a big complex Euro from the designer of such classic smaller and lighter games like Mamma Mia and Bohnanza. In 2014, he started producing more small games again, starting with Patchwork, and proved he still has the touch in that area as well. Today’s game fits into that smaller game category, and it’s called

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Nova Luna is a new 1-4 player game from designer Uwe Rosenberg, inspired by Corné van Moorsel’s game Habitats. It was released at Spiel by Edition Spielwiese, with Stronghold Games set to release it in English at some point in the future. It’s an abstract game where players are building connections between tiles based on the cycle of the moon.

The game comes with a moon wheel which has 12 slots around it. A moon marker is placed in the 12 o’clock spot (which happens to be right above an illustrated new moon). 11 tiles are randomly placed in the other slots, face up. The remaining 57 tiles are placed in face down draw piles. Each player gets 21 discs of their color, one of which goes on the new moon on the moon track. These discs are placed in random order, and the player on top will go first.

image by BGG user sverbeure

Throughout the game, it will be the turn of whomever is furthest behind on the moon track (or on top if there’s a tie as that player was the last to arrive at that spot). You can choose one of the first three tiles clockwise from the moon marker to put into your tableau, moving the moon marker into the newly emptied space. If there are 1-2 tiles remaining around the wheel, you can choose to refill all empty spaces before doing this, and if there are 0 tiles remaining, you MUST refill before doing this.

The tile you take has a number on it that indicates how far forward to move your time disc on the moon track. It can be placed anywhere on your tableau that is adjacent to another tile. It’s then possible that you will be able to score. Look at this example from the rulebook:

The yellow tile has three scoring requirements – three turquoise circles, three red circles, and two blue circles. The blue circles requirement has been fulfilled because there are two blue tiles adjacent to the yellow tile. You can mark that with one of your discs. If you fulfill the other two requirements on the tile, you’ll get to mark those as well.

But wait – how are you supposed to fill the other two if there are only four sides? Here’s another example:

You can chain tiles together for the same effect. So, here, only one blue tile and one red tile are touching the sides of the yellow tile, but there is a group of two blues and a group of three reds. So you can cover both of these with discs. At least one tile from the group must be touching the target tile for it to score. And, if on a future turn, you were to put another red tile on the bottom side of the upper right blue tile, you would have completed a group of two red AND a group of four red in one move, covering both scoring spots. It is important to note, however, that a tile cannot count for its own scoring. For example, if that red tile with the turquoise and red spot was not touching other red tiles, but was touching a turquoise, it wouldn’t score until another red was added next to it.

So the game continues until one player has placed all 20 of their discs. They win. Alternately, if the tiles have all run out, the player who has placed the most discs wins.

image by BGG user Lerneo

I still like seeing Uwe Rosenberg coming up with these smaller games. I think it’s really where he’s at his best, when he can strip down concepts into tight little packages. A lot of his bigger games are very well designed, but it’s like he decided to throw everything he could into a single box (yes, I’m looking at you, A Feast For Odin and your 60+ action spaces). I’m not saying there haven’t been clunkers in his small games as well – Hengist from 2015 was a small two-player game that is the lowest rated thing he’s ever done (at this writing, it sits at #17,637 on the BGG charts, and that’s out of about #18,000 games rated enough on BGG to have a rank). But when he can strip something down to its essentials and make an intriguing game out it, it’s great.

This game looks like it has a lot of elements of Patchwork in it – at least, the time track mechanism is virtually identical. And while I haven’t played Habitats, Corné van Moorsel is a designer that has intrigued me for quite some time, and this makes me want to seek out that as well just to compare. So this is a game I’m looking forward to trying out sometime. I think it’s something I’d like, though it seems like it would be best as a two-player game.

That’s it for today – thanks for reading!

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