A to Z Gaming: Planetarium

Planetarium board

We pushed around fledging planets to shape a planetary system to our whims in Planetarium, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Planetarium game box

Basic Info: Planetarium
Players: 1-4
Time: 45 Minutes
Designers: Dann May, Stéphane Vachon
Artists: Dann May, Greg May
Publisher: Game Salute

Planetarium is a game where players simulate a newly-formed planetary system with four planets that are still under development. By collecting resources onto the planets, players can add characteristics to them that will make them habitable or inhospitable to life. Whoever can accumulate the most evolution points wins the game.

Planetarium game set-up

The game is set up with the board in the center of table. The resource tokens are placed at random on the spots on the board. The planets, lettered A-D, are placed on their indicated start positions. The habitability indicators are placed hostile-side up on each of the corresponding planets in the corners of the board. The decks of low, high, and final evolution cards are each shuffled and placed on the table.

Each player gets a resource collection board, score markers, player cubes, and two of each of the evolution cards. They must discard one of their final evolution cards before the game begins. Then they’re ready to go.

Planetarium game board

On their turn, the player will first move one piece on the board — planet or resource — one space clockwise. The movement can be along either the thick orbital lines or the thin lines connecting one orbit to the next. If this causes a planet and resource token to be on the same spot, the player places the token on the corresponding planet of their collection board.

Then the player can optionally play a low or high evolution card onto one of the planets. (Final evolution cards can only be played at the end of their last turn.) They must have the corresponding materials on that particular planet, and any other requirements on the card be met (for example, some can only be played on the two gas giants). The player puts the resources onto the track on the side of the board, places the card next to the board on that planet’s side, and puts one of their player markers on the card. The player marks their points, and then replaces the card in their hand, either with a low or high evolution card, or by looking at the top two final evolution cards and keeping one. However, players can only have four total final evolution cards in hand.

If they play a card, they also assess the habitability of the planet — this is indicated by the sum of the numbers in the upper right of each card played on that planet. Numbers in green indicate habitable points, numbers in brown are hostile. Which ever is higher wins, and the habitable/hostile token should be flipped the correct side.

Planetarium planet evolution cards

As soon as a player covers up the “double arrow” spot on the resource track, players can move tokens up to two spaces on their turn. And once the track is completely filled, the game end is triggered. The current player now has the option of playing any number of final evolution cards from their hand, if there is a planet that meets the requirements and that player has a card with a cube currently on that planet. All other players also get one final turn, which plays as normal, but after which they can play any number of final evolution cards from their hands.

Then, whoever has the most points wins.

Planetarium planet resources

We backed this game when it was on Kickstarter several years ago. It seemed like a no-brainer, since I’m an astronomer. I really like how this simulates a planetary system as it is forming. Of course, it’s not a perfect simulation, but that would be hard from the game-play point-of-view! For instance, there clearly were some game-balance decisions that were made, since you can play “oceans” on a gas giant, which doesn’t make a lot of sense for a planet without a known surface. But still, the idea of material swirling around and defining what the planets will end up like is pretty cool.

Planetarium Final Evolution Cards

How is it as a 2-player game? Planetarium is good as a 2-player game. There’s certainly a lot more chaos with higher player-counts, and, in general, fewer turns for each player. But I still enjoy it with just two.

How about the art and component quality? I like the art in the game — the various cards all show what a planet might look like with whatever characteristic you’re playing to it. The cards are good quality, but we ended up sleeving them because we stained the back of one of the final evolution cards. The resource tokens, player mats, and score markers are all good, chunky pieces. Good quality all around.

Will this stay in my collection? Yes, this will stay for now. Planetarium doesn’t hit the table very often, but it’s a fun time each time it does. I love both the space theme and science that went into this one.

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