Designed by Drake Villarreal, Solani is an entry in what looks like it could be a series of games from Final Frontier based on creation myths. In this case, the game is based around Navajo mythology for the creation of constellations in the night sky. Solani is a beautifully produced abstract strategy game, with art by Bojan Drango. The tiles are all screen printed wood and the game comes with stitched-edge mats for the central and four player boards.
Solani is played over 12 rounds where 1-4 players will each turn be drafting tiles to place out on their individual boards, each of which represent a night sky. Each turn you'll usually be drafting a circular 'Star Cluster' tile depicting a number of stars and a 'Star Branch' tile that shows a number of connections to circular tile spaces. After players have taken turns drafting, they simultaneously place out the tiles on their individual boards so that, after the initial connecting tile, they are always adjacent to previously laid tiles. You'll score for Star Cluster tiles where the number of lines of connection exactly matches the number of stars. As an alternative to taking a circular star cluster tile in the drafting stage, you will usually have the option of exchanging it for a planet in the central display corresponding to the number of stars on your Star Cluster. Planets are placed out in the same way as Star Clusters but they score set collection points both for each different colour and for matching colours within the same sector of sky, but the planets will only score if they are not tethered by any connections...
There are cards that give all the players extra incentives for particular patterns of placement in specific sectors of their sky and you can earn special feature cards when you surround the 'Dark Sky' tiles on your board. These give an extra scoring opportunity available just to the player with that card. In a game where the scores can be quite close, the bonus cards can be what separates the winner from the other players.
With turns that are deceptively easy to learn and play, it can come as a surprise to discover this game's depth in optimising your drafting and placements, and in the timing of when to go for the special feature cards on offer. There's a degree of luck, of course, in which tiles are drawn each round, so it can be frustrating when you have no choice but to draft a tile that you know will reduce rather than add to your scoring possibilities. However, you can mitigate the luck, at least in the early and mid-game, by placing Star Cluster and connecting tiles that generally keep your options open. In most of our plays at Board's Eye View we found the final scores were quite tight, so every point counts!