Solar Sphere

review by Alapai

Solar Sphere is a dice placement game for 1-4 players from Dranda Games. In it, you are obtaining resources, fighting off enemies and recruiting crew members in order to co-create a solar sphere and save humanity, trying to get the most glory for helping to create the Sphere in the process.

Each round of Solar Sphere starts with each player rolling their dice, the turn order being determined by the total value of the dice rolled high to low. Then, players take turns using their dice to visit locations around the Sphere. Each location has a restriction of what dice can be used, such as only a 1 or 2 or only an odd number. Locations will do various things when visited. You can gain resources, more drones, build a Sphere hex, recruit crew members to your ship or fight off the Resistance ships trying to stop the construction of the Sphere. Along the way, you are gaining or losing reputation and morale in your quest to build the Sphere. After 6 rounds or after the Sphere is built (whichever comes first), the game end and players add up points to determine a winner.

Solar Sphere, while in a smaller-sized box, is a dense game. There is a lot of initial setup and turns can potentially get bogged down by analysis paralysis. To set up the game, you first have to create the Sphere, consisting of 19 hexes, 18 of which you have to shuffle, flip a few if playing with less than 4 players, then distribute them around the center core hex. Then, while the rulebook lists 3 border tiles, there are actually 12 border pieces, each of those 3 tiles broken up into 4 pieces each. You have to then place them around the Sphere hexes in the proper arrangement which, while not difficult, is a bit annoying. You then put all the locations around the Sphere, the resources next to their corresponding location and randomize the Sphere scoring card that will determine bonuses at the end of the game. Then you have to create the resistance deck of 12 ships, which will vary depending on the player count, and shuffle it, placing two random ships next to the deck, with space under them they will move to at the end of the round if not defeated. The crew cards are separated into three decks by point value and each is shuffled with two crew members placed underneath that can be recruited. Then each player gets their individual setup, with a Command Centre, markers to track score, turn order, reputation, morale and faction, as well as their dice and drones that they’ll use to take actions. Each round, while the locations are restricted in which dice you can place, there are plenty of actions you can take. Let’s say you only roll 1s. You can, on your turn, obtain ore, fabricate drones, salvage drones, build a Sphere hex and recruit crew. Or you can use your dice to go to one of those locations to get a better effect from the location in the future. Plus, you can even exhuast drones to change your dice rolls to take other actions if you want. Ultimately, you want to build the Sphere hexes and defeat the Resistance ships in order to get the most victory points as well as gain morale, but there are plenty of things you need to do in order to be successful at those actions.

Solar Sphere lists itself at 60-90 minutes, but more so than other games, I’d say you need to give yourself some extra time for at least your first playthrough, as the setup takes a significant amount of time and figuring out what’s happening is going to take some time; those first turns/rounds will probably be much longer than what you can get them down to once you have a strategy worked out.

I recommend Solar Sphere for players looking to get a game with resource management and has a wide decision space where decisions need to be made not just thinking about one action, but all the future actions you are going to make.

Solar Sphere is available now from our webstore.

Solar Sphere