A to Z Gaming: Newton

We took on the role of 17th century scientists working, traveling and studying to become the best scientific minds in the world in Newton, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Newton
Players: 1-4
Time: 90 Minutes
Designers: Simone Luciani, Nestore Mangone
Artists: Klemens Franz
Publisher: Cranio Creations

In Newton, players take on the role of scientists seeking out great discoveries in the 18th Century. By working, traveling, developing technology, learning lessons and studying. Whoever best uses their time on their journey to becoming a master scientist wins.

The game is set up with the map and work/technology boards placed in the center of the table. The ancient lands, universities, city tiles, invention tiles, objectives, and bonus tokens are randomized and placed on the map on the designated spots. The action cards are separated by level, shuffled and a market of three of each level laid out. Players each take a random player board and the scientist, students, and travel cubes in their color. They also take two coins and and their starter cards into their hand.

The game is played over six rounds with each player taking five turns each round. On their turn, the player will take a card from their hand and place it on their desk on their player board. The bottom of the cards have a symbol at the bottom that defines the main action they will take and the middle of the card might have an additional action they can choose to take. When they take their main action, the action will have a strength equal to the number of that particular symbol that are on their desk that turn, including the newly-played card, the pre-printed symbol on their desk, Development Tiles added to their desk, and (after the first round) symbols from tucked cards. The possible actions include:

  • Travel (compass symbol): The player can move their scientist around the map a number of spaces up to the strength of their action. If they pass over any bonus tiles, they take them immediately. If they land on a city, ancient land or university tile, they’ll place one of their travel tokens there.
  • Work (square tool symbol): The player moves their marker on the work track a number of spaces up to the strength of their action. Along the way, they earn coins for each most of the spaces they move across.
  • Technology (gear symbol): The player moves one of their students along one of the tracks on the invention board a number of spaces up to the strength of their action. If they pass over any bonus tiles, they take them immediately. If they land on an invention tile, they take the bonus.
  • Lessons (mortar board symbol): The player can take one card into their hand from the market from the deck up to the value of their action. The card is not replaced from the deck.
  • Study (book symbol): The player takes one of their book tiles and places it on their book shelf up to the level equal to the strength of their action. However, they can only place the books on a spot where they have satisfied the pictured requirement. These requirements can take the form of places the player needs to have placed a travel cube or books that they’ve already played (on cards) this round.
  • Joker (jester hat symbol): The player chooses an action and, for this round only, the joker counts as one of those action symbols. In subsequent turns this round, however, the joker doesn’t count as anything.

When players want to move a piece onto an Objective Tile, they have to meet the book requirement (on played cards) indicated on that space before they can.

On their turn, the player can also use coins to take free actions, like increasing the value of their action strength by one, adding another student to the technology track, adding cards to the card market, or buying potions. Potions can be used to ignore book requirements.

After everyone has played five turns, the round ends. Players each choose one of the cards they have played that round to tuck under their desk, leaving the action symbol showing. They take the remaining cards they played that round back into their hands. Players each get any income from tiles they’ve collected or rows they’ve completed in their bookshelf (income is indicated by the exclamation point symbol). Any left-over lesson cards are discarded, and three more of each level laid out. The first player marker moves clockwise to the next player and the next round begins.

The game is done after six rounds. Players tally up points for any Objective Tiles where they have a player piece and points on their played master cards. Player with the most points wins.

I was interested in Newton for the theme initially — I mean, that should come as no surprise, given my background. We tried out this game at the Dice Tower Retreat in 2019, and my first game of it was fairly disastrous, with me earning only about half the points of the other two players. Oof. I’m not used to that! But it made me want to figure out the game.

We picked this up at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down, as part of a big order for games to our friendly local game store in hopes of helping them out a bit. Now we’ve gotten it to the table several times, and I’ve definitely gotten better.

The game is fairly tight, though, with agonizing decisions each round as to how to spend your limited actions. It always feels like you could do something amazing, if you only had one more move! And, choosing which card to tuck each round is difficult. You need to keep at least one of that tucked symbol in your hand, otherwise you won’t be able to activate it.

We’ve really been enjoying our plays of this.

How is it as a 2-player game? Newton works well at two players. There isn’t a huge amount of player interaction — mainly it comes with the bonus tiles and available cards each round.

How about the art and component quality? I like the art style of Newton — it feels like old-timey science art. The iconography is clear, and easy to understand once you get into the game a bit. The components are good — nothing to complain about.

Will this stay in my collection? Definitely. This game is right up our alley. We’re enjoying tight games that present a lot of different paths to victory. We certainly aren’t done exploring Newton yet.

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