By Raymond "DuMeeple" Dumee on March 11, 2020
Today, we fast forward to the year 2755 of the galactic calendar. As expected, the human race fucked up our own Mother Earth and we are now on our way to suck all the life out of some more planets. Because after we molested our own beautiful Earth, we immediately grabbed our shit and took the first space bus that came by...
At first, things didn't look well for our race... that is, until we bumped onto this awesome planet called Myceliandre where they got a lot of spacy mushrooms called Mycelium (or, at least, that's what some smarty pants called them). This new superfood turned out to be the absolute shizzle for a super healthy human diet! This awesome discovery could lead to a beginning of a new era, in which humans would become some kind of super humans of the very healthy kind. But as always, the primitive human behaviours, greed and the desire for wealth took over and big cooperation's took over the planet and exploited its resources as much as possible. And then the Planet came alive.
In Living Planet, you will play as one of these big cooperations that are exploiting Myceliandre, while the planet is fighting back causing cataclysms at each turn, destroying your business. Living Planet is a medium to heavy board game that, or so one could surmise, revolves around four X-es. The game itself is an eXplore, eXpand and eXploit game and the fourth X stands for the planet who is try to eXterminate the players. It has some Worker Placement in it and a big part of Area (or actually buildings) Control. Everything is crafted in a futuristic space setting.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on an All-in Kickstarter edition of the game, which came with all its expansions and, maybe even more important, in an awesome big box. The base game has twenty-four Hexagons and a lot of Building tiles, one Stock Market Board with Stock Market cards and one leader board with four coloured dice. Resources come in Oil, Vibrium, Electricity, Iron and Mycelium. Currency comes in the form of Mega-Credit and there are a lot of them in the box. Every player has some Scientists, Motorized Scientists, Automation Chips, one Help Screen and six Planet Cards.
Every player starts from the same base tile with only one scientist and some Mega-Credit in his or her pocket. The player who goes first will become the leader and gets the leader board, along with its dice. Then, every player choses one of their planet cards with the dice numbers and everyone will show that simultaneously. The leader decides in which order the play will occur by ordering the dice on the leader board. Once done, all the dice will follow the sequence of three phases: production, actions and cataclysm.
During the production phase, every player gets the resources from their producing Factory buildings which have a corresponding number with the die. During the action phase, the active player can choose to do perform two actions. To do so, the player must choose from different types of actions: Explore more Hexagons and expand the planet, move your units to other Hexagons, construct buildings for more production or protection buildings to protect your cooperation from cataclysms, trade your resources for good prices, grab the number of the die in money and, last but not least, use Fate Control to change the number of a die later in the game.
During the cataclysm phase, the number and colour of the dice with matching icons causes cataclysms like tornados, earthquakes and geysers which will wound your scientists and damage or even destroy your buildings on the Hexagon they are happening. The more Hexagons are revealed, the more cataclysms can happen.
Living Planet is played over the course of twelve rounds, so everyone has had an equal opportunity to be the leader. After twelve turns, the game ends and it all comes down to which cooperation has the most buildings under their control and the fattest wallet, filled to the veritable brim with Mega-Credits. By tallying both of these scores, it is determined who the winner of the game is. Just before the planet explodes and kills everyone on it...
The Final Verdict
Good things about Living Planet are the setting on a futuristic planet and the great artwork on the tiles and easy used icons on the components. Another great piece of art is the on the side of boxes which, when all stacked together, form one big artwork. The quality of the cardboard components is great and the wooden resources are shaped. The base game box comes with a convenient insert and there is a separate box with handy player trays for a quick setup. Due the use of the Planet Cards, there is not much luck of dice in the game. Only from drawing tiles and stock markets cards, but you can influence this with a little bit of Push-your-Luck from the Planet Cards.
A not so good thing about the Living Planet (for me at least) is the duration of a game. Even with only two players, Living Planet easily takes up to two hours and the kids don't take such long naps anymore. Another thing is the artwork on most components looks great, but the design of the stock market seems to "come from a different planet". To be honest, the concept art showed during the Kickstarter campaign, was better suited to the final game in my opinion. Furthermore, this isn't an easy game to learn. There is quite a lot to read and not everything is written down in a completely clear manner. Nevertheless, we played the first few games, pretty much according the rules and, let's be honest, playing it is still the best way to learn a game.
We explored this game with a lot of pleasure and I like the long background stories added in the rulebooks and the funny little Easter eggs on the tiles. We also like the fact that, 'on the planet', we got a slight "play together" feeling, while 'behind the screens', you still are a big cooperation trying to make a lot of profit. The last super cool thing is the automated scenarios system, called SAGS. With this you generate random settings for a scenario and you are good to go for a new adventure on a Myceliandre like planet. With this system and the three expansions, this game has a huge replay value! And, if that wasn't enough, the designer created a Cooperation mode and dropped it for free on Board Game Geek. I say that is freaking awesome and I like that kind of enthusiasm!
Year of release: 2019
Designer: Christophe Boelinger
Artist: Bertrand Benoit, IsmaŽl Pommaz
Players: 1 - 4 players, ages 14 & up
Playtime: approx. 120 minutes