This game is incredible. I know this might make you just skip the rest of the review, but please bear with me; there is a reason for that, but first things first.
You are a cultist. No, that wasn’t an accusation, just the role you take in the game. As a cultist of a rather Lovecraftian disposition, you want your primordial, and rather evil, god to come to this planet and cause havoc. Otherwise life is just too tedious. In order to achieve that, you can command the skies to move, morph and flip in the night sky. Once you get the right combination of sky elements in a specific location, your ritual is performed successfully and your summoned creature from the Lovecraft mythos materialises. Of course, yours is not the only cult and you have to share the sky with fellow cultists with their own agendas.
What sounds like a silly explanation hides an extremely deep game.
The board consist of a set of 25 tiles with various symbols on both sides. Stars, comets, asteroids… all of them at your mighty disposal to help you generate the combinations needed. Each card portrays a creature. Each one of those creatures allow you certain actions. The basic actions are to move the row of tiles one space, to saw two adjacent tiles, or to flip a tile to make the underneath symbol count. Once you get the stars in place, the creature you so prepared for makes an appearance and gives you some points.
However as you get to summon more of the creatures, things become even more complex. A creature might allow you to swap a move action for two flip actions. Or a swap action for three moves. Then you can stack the effects if you so wish, so you could end up exchanging a move with two flips another card gives you, and then one of those flips into three swaps that yet another card you play gives you…. and so on and so forth.
Put bluntly, you have to think… a lot.
One thing you don’t have to do, though, is plan in advance. You could try to get all the right cards, plan all the right flips, moves and swaps and get ready to win the game. Then another player comes along, changes a few things in the board and your planned combination becomes useless.
The production values are as good as one could expect from Steve Jackson Games. The cards are solid and sturdy, the box is strong and thick, the mats are tremendous and the illustrations are absolutely hilarious. Goomi makes an absolutely fantastic job. Very characteristic and with a brilliant style, they fit the humour of the game to perfection.
I adore this game. It is fiendishly difficult, despite the simplicity of the rules and the frustration of loosing your carefully prepared strategy will frustrate and amuse you in equal measures. The number of combinations available from such a small number of moves is staggering and will keep you surprised at what the other players do, what you discover you can do and find out what you didn’t do and could have done. It’s complexity is fittingly mind-bending for the subject, and you’ll feel you’re going mad with the number of combinations possible.
I give this excellent game 4.5 stars out of 5.
The Stars Are Right is available from: