Theme and What is it?
Several millennia ago, the tiny planet Solenia lost its day-and-night cycle: Its northern hemisphere is forever plunged into darkness and its southern hemisphere is eternally bathed in sunlight. Your mission is to travel the world to deliver essential goods to the inhabitants of both hemispheres.
While the Day people want you to deliver the Stones and Water (which are rare in their hemisphere), the Night people sorely need Wood and Wheat to survive.
Be efficient and outpace your opponents to collect the most gold stars by the end of the game! (description from the designer)
In Solenia, you play cards from your hand on to the 5×5 game board to collect goods — Wheat, Wood, Water, and Stone — to satisfy the requirements of the hemispheres.
The game is played over a series of rounds, during each of which each player plays one card from their hand from their deck of 16 cards. The game ends when each player has played all 16 of their cards.
Each turn, you have 3 numbered cards in your hand (except for the last two turns, of course). Each player must play a card on an empty space on the game board with some restrictions — cards played must either be adjacent to another of their own cards or adjacent (or underneath) the floating yellow airship.
It is also possible to Lengthen your Voyage — placing cards that ignore the placement rules — by discarding a resource of any type per empty game board space you wish to skip.
Play a card on a Floating Production Island to gather Wood, Wheat, Stone, or Water that you collect on your airship. You may have up to 8 resources at any time.
Play a card on a Floating City to fulfill a delivery requirement and collect a Delivery tile which contains bonuses and points. Players want to balance their deliveries to Night Cities and Day Cities evenly to maximize their point earnings.
When a player plays a card with a value of “0” (zero), the Giant Airship moves forward on the game board and the first strip on the modular board is removed, flipped over, and added back as the last strip. In this way, the game cycles from night to day to night again.
At the end of the turn in which a “0” card was played, any cards on spaces on the first strip activate and are returned to their owners’ discard pile. The game ends after everyone has played all 16 of their cards.
Scoring is pretty simple… You count the gold stars on your Delivery tiles. Your first four day/night pair of delivery tiles earns additional gold stars (1 for the first pair, 2 for the second pair, 3 for the third pair, up to 4 for the fourth pair). Every 2 remaining resources earns a gold star. Add any additional stars you earned during the game. The player with the most points wins!
Solenia makes a solid first impression. The box for Solenia is striking. It’s earthy background with a bright central graphic showing two hemispheres — one bathed in sunlight and the other in darkness — is very attractive and eye-catching.
Opening the box, I was surprised at how thin the manual was. It is only 4 pages and full of illustrations and examples, all in full color and nice quality. There is a additional 2-page sheet with information about Expelled Airship Cards, Improvement Tiles, the Winter side of the Player boards, and the Solitaire variant.
The inside of the box contains a well thought-out and designed cardboard insert. It holds all the pieces in separate bins for ease of setup, play, and tear-down.
Game Build Quality
The quality of the game is reasonably high and in line for a game of this weight. The box is a little thin but the cardboard tiles, strips, and tokens are of good quality and are colorfully-printed. The wooden resource tokens are appropriately sized and distinctly different enough that they can be identified at a glance.
The manuals are thorough and well-written with no evidence of typos or omissions.
The strips that make up the game board are cut precisely so they slot together nicely.
This game should fit well on a standard card table for four players. It’s not too “sprawly”. The “conveyer belt” game board needs to be manipulated frequently, so I’d probably prohibit beverages within elbow-range to avoid dousing your cardboard!
With bright colors for day and soothing muted colors for night, Solenia stands out for good art. Each component, graphic, and icon has been thoroughly thought out and makes sense and is very consistent.
The cards are really an interesting part of this game. Each of for the four sets of player cards are different color, but the designers went a step further — each of the player decks has slightly different graphics to help further differentiate them.
In addition, the cards each have a hole in their center, through which it is easy to see the resource underneath. I know that die-cutting cards is a fairly popular manufacturing trick right now, but Solenia is the first time I’ve seen it so I was impressed.
The game is “thinky” but not overly so. Some of the strategy is determining the best time to play your limited number of “0” cards, causing the Giant Airship to advance and cards in the first row to fall off and activate. Carefully managing your “0” cards is a key to doing well in this game.
The Winter side of the Player Boards offer additional scoring opportunities and represent a more advanced game. Additionally, there are Improvement Tiles that can be added to games. These Improvement Tiles give discounts, change the “0” card to a value of “1” (though the Airship still advances), and give some end-game bonuses, amother other changes. There is also a Solo Variant, though I haven’t tried it yet.
There is an impressive amount of replay-ability in this game, and the game is enjoyable enough that you’ll want to replay it.
Age Range & Weight
10+ seems to be an appropriate age suggestion for this game.
BGG rates this game a 2.31/5 in weight, and I agree. Mechanically, it is easy to pick up but the deeper strategy and timing rewards will reveal themselves on multiple plays.
Solenia is a beautiful, medium-weight game of pick-up-and-delivery. It has a new mechanic of the “conveyer belt” game board that is constantly changing. The timing of when your cards drop off the front of the strips adds a great strategic element to this game.
It’s light enough that medium-level gamers would enjoy it. It’s probably too heavy, though, for your newbie gamer friends. The solo mode and included variants will keep the game fresh for many plays.