TableTopTakes: Gravwell

So, a couple of weeks ago, I went to San Diego for a work trip. You will know which week, because there were no posts that came out that week. In typical fashion, I spent time around downtown watching the Comic-Con goers, went to Sea World, and did all the touristy things. Right? Nope, I went to places that locals were more likely to eat, went to a few breweries and went to a local board game shop. And this was a fun place. At Ease Games in San Diego has a nice set-up and the brewery attached to it has some decent beers, especially their sour.

Image Source: Renegade Games

But while I was there, I got to play a few games that I hadn’t played before, and accidentally came home from my trip with two games. The first two that I played were Lucidity and Fae. I’ll write TableTopTakes on those later, but the one that I played by myself thus far (though I’m hoping to play this weekend), is Gravwell.

In Gravwell, you and your opponents are being sucked through a worm hole and you really want to escape it and get back to your home. So you are playing cards each turn that have a letter(s) and a number on them. The letters are generally elements from the periodic table, but that isn’t all that important. The important thing is that as you all pick cards and play them face down in front of you, the earlier letters in the alphabet go sooner and later letters mean you’ll go later in the round. Then the numbers on the card tell you how far you can move. But there’s one last piece of information on the card, and that is how you move.

This deserves it’s own paragraph because it’s the key part of the game. There are three different colored cards. The different colors mean different actions on the card. The most common means that you are moving towards the nearest ship. The other two either pull the ships towards you or repel the ships. This is where the game really takes off (all puns intended), as sometimes the ship that is closest to you is going to be behind you. So, do you pick a earlier letter card and either hope that they are faster than you and get a head of you or will you have to move towards them. As you would guess, the earlier letters don’t move you as far, and the later letters tend to move your further. Those that repel you from another ship or draw them to you aren’t early in the alphabet, but aren’t always extremely late.

Image Source: Renegade Games

To add in to this, you aren’t getting a random hand of cards in the game. At least not fully. The person who is furthest from escaping after round one, gets to select a pile of cards first. Now, with this, you don’t have perfect information. You know the top card of a pile of 6 cards in a two player game, and in higher player count games, you have multiple piles, I believe for three players it is 9 piles of two cards each. So in that case, you know half of the cards that you are going to be getting. But so do your opponents. So you can formulate a bit of a plan, but even if you don’t have perfect information on the cards.

The game lasts 6 rounds, so the game moves along pretty quickly. Each round consists of playing six cards but everyone is playing cards at the same time. And most of the time you have a pretty obvious choice of what you want to play. There are a couple of other things that add to the complexity of the game, or that you need to consider. The first is that there are a few derelict ships floating around as well. That actually is really  helpful, because those ships influence which is the closest ship to you. So instead of an opponent dragging you back, if they are closer, they can launch you further ahead. The other is that sometimes you think you’ll have a bead on what other players are doing, then they will do something completely different and you’ll be in a situation where you’d be going backwards ten spaces. That would suck, however, once per round you can play a card that says emergency stop. That means the card that you played is completely cancelled and you don’t go anywhere that turn.

That’s literally the whole game and probably enough of the rules that you could make your own made up copy of it. What I appreciate about this game is that it plays quickly while having some level of strategy. It isn’t a very complex game, but you do have to plan out your turns, you have to get that repel when you’re looking to win the game, and you’re always trying to guess what other players are going to be playing. There’s enough going on, and while there isn’t a take that aspect to the game where you can mess over someone else’s plans intentionally, unless you remember their cards, everyone is always involved in the game.

The production quality of this game is nice and it’s one that you can play with almost anyone. There aren’t many pieces and the concept is simple enough that I think you could even play this with younger children. They  might not fully understand the strategies for it, but it’s simple enough that they could probably start to learn it and figure it out over time. It’s a good game for that lighter weight strategy game and it really is fun because you are hoping that no one will mess up your plan with the card that you are playing.

Overall Grade: B+

Gamer Grade: C

Casual Grade: B+


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