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Solar Draft

In this appealing light card drafting game from Tasty Minstrel, players are scoring points by building their own solar system.

The mechanics could hardly be simpler. Each player is dealt 3 cards from the deck of 90. There is a display of 5 cards. On your turn you can either draw a card into your hand (either one of the face up cards in the display or the top facedown card from the deck) or you can play a card from your hand into your tableau: the solar system you are building in front of you. You can't have more than 5 cards in your hand, so there may be turns when you only have the option of playing a card.

The cards in the deck each represent a planet, moon or comet. The planets come in three different sizes and four different colours. Cards have a score value shown in the top right but most also have text detailing a special action or impact on scoring. So, for example, a planet may give bonus points if it is adjacent in the solar system to another medium sized planet, or, say, if it has three moons.

Zach Moore has created here an entertaining card game that's easy to learn and which plays in around 20 minutes. The game takes 2-5 players but, for us, it was at its best with 2 or 3 players: with more, it can take too long between turns and everyone's turns take longer because the display is more likely to have changed substantially by the time your next turn comes around.

Your focus is almost entirely on your own evolving solar system: there's no 'take that' element, tho' you just might want to take a card that is sub-optimal for you in order to deprive an opponent of the chance to pick it up. The game ends when a player lays down an eighth planet card, so Solar Draft can get quite tense as solar systems approach that point: of course, you won't want to end the game if you think an opponent's score is likely to be higher than yours...

The anthropomorphised cartoon artwork by Katie Welch adds to Solar Draft's appeal, emphasising that this is a light game, and full marks too to TMG for giving us a game where every card is unique. Tho' Solar Draft is not overly taxing, there's a judgement call in hitting the right balance between building high point-scoring combos while staying within the strict limit of the five-card hand size. We found that it was certainly best to avoid your hand size reaching the limit so that you don't put yourself in the frustrating position of being unable to pick up a card in the display that is of particular value to you. You can also make some literally game-changing alterations to your solar system mid-game by playing cards to 'terraform' (substitute) a previously played planet...

We've thoroughly enjoyed our plays of Solar Draft. It's a great little filler-length game.

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