Recently, the Wife and I came in to a copy of a space themed indie game called: “Planetary Strike.” Upon asking Claim to Fame Games to review it, we received a copy for free for our unbiased honest review. At first glance, this game seems very minimal in its presentation, and difficult to immediately critique. But, once you dive into this title, you’ll find that it’s just a thrifty abstract game…not exactly what I expected.
Planetary Strike plays like a mix between chess and checks played out on a circular (but checkered) board. Your goal is to utilize your pieces to capture another player’s “planet” piece, not unlike a king piece in chess. Pieces move in different patterns and for different lengths dependent upon the pieces chosen to move. For instance, pieces with “1” and “3” symbols on them move diagonally, and pieces with “2” and “4” move in straight lines. Also, pieces can only move the amount of spaces as are indicated by the numbers listed on them, with “4” being able to move 4 spaces, et cetera. Not reinventing the wheel here, just solid abstract game mechanics. It should be noted that I only played this using 2 factions, with just a single faction per player.
I’m gonna be transparent and direct here readers, the actual gameplay itself was “okay.” It felt very much so like I was playing a modified game of chess while I was reviewing this…and that’s not a compliment. Abstract games typically aren’t my taste, I enjoy a few quite a bit but not many, and this did not thrill me in the slightest. Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here, this is an adequate game at its core, it’s just very “vanilla.” It doesn’t stand out in any major way, it doesn’t really utilize it’s theme, the gameplay itself feels antiquated…none of it evokes any feeling other than “meh.”
Let’s touch on the pros. Easily the biggest pro in the whole game for me was the rulebook. It was really well done, and clearly articulated everything it needed to EXTREMELY well. This was a digest sized, FOURTEEN page rulebook that was a breeze to read and understand. It contained rules, tips, online information, company information…this might be one of the best rulebooks I’ve ever encountered. Also, the game board itself contained a number of diagrams on it to help remind players of the rules regarding how to move specific pieces. Always a nice feature to see in any game.
Let’s move onto the cons. First, and easily the most apparent knock against this game: the packaging. The game and it’s components come in a what I can only describe as a shipping box, that is 12×12 inches, while being 2 inches thick…it almost looks like a hard pizza box. Beyond it’s cardboard exterior, it possesses a single (albeit large) sticker on the front with its logo. I’m not going to lie readers, this is not an ideal setup…it’s woefully aesthetically compromised. It’s difficult to properly articulate, it’s just all very underwhelming, and certainly not something I’d accept from other companies. Now, let’s discuss the components of the game…they too suffer from a similar problem to the packaging. They are sturdy pieces of plastic that all have individual shapes, with numbers on them. Nothing to really knock here, just nothing to phone home about either. I only found one part of the game itself to be lacking: the game board. I’m being very nitpicky here I admit, but the board itself is relatively thin and needs bent into shape in order to flatten. I just found it slightly peevish, but definitely enough to mention.
Alright readers, this is a tricky situation. Part of doing reviews of anything (in my opinion) is to be objective. To view, evaluate, and convey information without any sort of framework to the best of your estimation. But when is an evaluation supposed to account for the totality of a product, from its mental conception all of the way to its final production? I’ve yet to do that with any other games that have come across my table. I’ve not taken a copy an Asmodee game and said: “This game is good, but with their vast resources, they could’ve done even better!” as I fiercely spike the game into the Earth before scurrying off to some internet message boards to bemoan how the sky is falling and how woeful my existence has become. No, what I do is attempt to critically comb over a product to distill out it’s better qualities…and not so better qualities. That’s the hitch with Planetary Strike, if Level 99 Games, or Asmodee, or Fantasy Flight Games released this game…I’d not recommend this game. But this game ISN’T a major company release, literally EVERYTHING is done at the creator’s home. That’s a serious endeavor, and one that deserves merit…serious friggin’ merit. But, if we’re being objective and I’m keeping my integrity, I wouldn’t recommend Planetary Strike to anyone except for hardcore abstract gaming enthusiasts. That said, I hope to see more independent games like this in the future, it’s a great sign for the hobby as a whole and gives me hope for the future.
Perhaps I’ve become a cynic, but I simply cannot recommend this game guys. But, I can highly recommend you keep an eye on this company. Just because some hypercritical jerk online doesn’t like a product doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means a difference in taste, and I hope this negative review doesn’t sour you on this plucky little company. There is a review page on the company site with plenty of positive reviews, so please make sure to stop by there before making your final decision. Livingbytheboard is very much so hoping to an interview with this company, because we loved their story so much. Hopefully this review hasn’t stifled this plan. As always, we’d like to thank Claim to Fame Games for the chance to review this game and for a look into their neat little company. Thank you for stopping by readers.