Game Buzz: Sonora

So, the roll-and-write genre has gotten completely out of hand. Now we have to flick things? How am I supposed to call it just another roll-and-write if you’re not even rolling? Sigh. Well, let’s take a look at

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Sonora is a new 1-4 player game designed by Rob Newton and published by Pandasaurus Games. It’s set in the Sonoran desert, and you’re trying to get your discs into areas that will allow you to score points in different zones.

Each player gets their own play sheet, as well as 5 colored discs in their chosen color. The discs are numbered 1-5. Everyone sits around the board at a different corner. The board, and your score sheet, is divided into four different zones – Cliff Dweller, Creek Bed, Canyon, and Mudcracks. The start player begins the game with the corner in front of the Cliff Dweller zone pointing at them.

image by BGG user stooge

A game of Sonora takes place over the course of 5-7 rounds, which is decided on at the start of the game. The first thing that happens in a round is the flick phase. Beginning with the start player, you’ll put a disc on your launch corner and flick it onto the board. You’ll end up flicking two discs per turn, except for your third turn where you’ll only flick one. A disc on the board remains there until the end of the round, and can get knocked around by other discs. It’s possible you’ll get it into the hole in the middle, in which case you’ll remove it from the board and place it in a zone on your sheet. There, it will score at the end of the round.

Once everyone has finished flicking all their discs onto the board, it’s time for the write phase. First, you perform any swap bonuses you have acquired, then you mark your score sheet in the zones where your disc ended up. If you landed on the border, pick the side that contains most of your disc, or choose if it’s exactly equal. The Cliff Dwellings will always be marked first, then you can mark the others simultaneously in whatever order you choose.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
  • CLIFF DWELLINGS: Figure out the total value of your discs in this region as compared to everyone else (there’s a Lizard multiplier that doubles the value of any disc touching it). The highest total will go first, then the next highest, and so on, with ties broken by whomever went earlier in turn order. There are 8 buildings in the Cliff Dweller section, and you’ll mark off spaces in those building equal to your total value in the zone. So, if that’s 5, you mark 5 spaces. If you’re the first player to complete a particular building, you’ll get the top reward. Everyone who subsequently completes it gets a lesser reward.
  • CANYON: The value of each disc you got in the Canyon corresponds to a different polyomino shape. Draw that shape, or one of a lower value, in a space touching a previously drawn shape on the Canyon section. There are different bonuses you can get if you cover them with the shape drawn, including cacti that score at the end of the game. There’s a Fox multiplier on the game board that allows you to draw two shapes for that value if you got a disc on it.
  • CREEK BED: The value of each disc you got in the Creek Bed tells you how many spaces to mark on the path on your score sheet. Every mark must be adjacent to one already drawn, and you get bonuses if you end a move on a bonus space. You could also end on a number, which scores points at the end of the game. The Owl multiplier on the game board allows you to draw two individual paths with one disc.
  • MUDCRACKS: The value of each disc you got in the Mudcracks zone tells you how many nodes of the network on your score sheet you must mark off. These nodes must all be connected to each other, and if you fully enclose a bonus with your network, you get its benefits. The Rabbit multiplier here doubles the number of nodes you can mark off in a turn.

When everyone has marked their sheets, the board rotates 90 degrees so everyone has a new launch corner, pass the start player marker, and start a new round. After the agreed upon number of rounds are over, do a final scoring on all zones, and see who has the highest score. They win.

image by BGG user stooge

I really think this game looks quite interesting. What you have here is a mashup of Crokinole with standard roll-and-write mechanisms in the form of different minigames to make up a whole. I particularly see shades of Roll Though the Ages in the Cliff Dwellings, all the polyomino games in the Canyon, and different network building games in the Creek Beds and Mudcracks. The art in the game is very evocative of the Southwestern US, and it’s nice to have a game with a different setting than most roll-and-writes (which often don’t even try). This looks like a fun one that I’m going to keep on my radar and hopefully have an opportunity to play some time.

That’s it for today. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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