Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 28 May 2019

A Glowing Review?:- Noctiluca


Game:  Noctiluca

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Shem Phillips

Year: 2019


Noctiluca is a 1-4 player abstract dice-selection game in which you will place your divers in order to capture and bottle the most noctilucas. The bio-luminescent (glowing) algae are represented by dice in 4 colours and by placing your divers i good spots you can collect them, bottle them up and deliver them to your waiting customers for profit. Unfortunately other divers have also started collecting the noctilucas and you'll need to be quick if you want to get the best diving spots.

Noctiluca is a simple game to play, At the start of each round the dice are rolled and distributed across the lake. Each player is given a couple of bottles to start with and their share of the 12 divers (half/a third/a quarter depending on player counts). They then take turns placing a diver on one of the 12 diving spots around the outside of the lake. When placed a diver chooses one of the two straight lines across the lake from their spot and a number and they collect every die in that line that displays that number. These dice are then added to their bottles, with any spares being offered to the next player. If you manage to finish a bottle you get a coin in the bottle's colour and can claim a new bottle from the open market.

A diver has 2 choices of where to go once they have secured their spot.

After 12 divers are placed the first round ends and the lake is cleared of all divers and dice before being refilled with a fresh compliment of dice. At the end of the second round the game will end and players will score points based on bottles completed (difficult bottles are worth more points), coins collected (with bonuses for the majority in each colour) and spare dice in uncompleted bottles. In addition each player is assigned a colour of noctiluca and will score bonus points for each die of that type in their completed bottles.

While Notiluca is easy to play, decisions can be very hard. I'd perhaps avoid playing this with someone susceptible to AP as at the start of a round there is a *lot* of choice. With 12 diver spots each giving 2 lines and 6 numbers there are 144 potential combinations for the first play of a round. This reduces as the game goes on eventually the last play has only 1 diving spot for a total of 12 potential plays (though many of those would be obviously foolish)! The ever decreasing choice also comes with an ever decreasing number of dice in the lake which makes for an interesting economy, early on you will get a lot of dice (perhaps so many you have to share with neighbours), while later on you struggle to get what you want. Conversely early game the coins are low value, but as you get further into a stack of coins the value increases.

As you fill your bottles you can earn coins, get the most of one colour and you'll get a bonus at the end of the game!

Usually the thinking time for taking your move is such that you can plan ahead during opponents turns, and certainly in a 2-player game you end up feeling engaged all the time as you are constantly looking for that next great dive. I do have concerns that this may result in a little too much downtime at higher player counts, however you should find that the whole game takes a very consistent 30 minutes regardless of players as there will always be exactly 24 diver placements.

Noctiluca certainly is a different abstract game and I really enjoy the mechanics of placing the divers. There is a huge amount of choice in each play and you definitely feel that each placement has a lasting effect as you drain the lake of more and more of it's inhabitants. The thinking time can be a bit of a downside and often the sharing of spare noctiluca when you overtake doesn't come up as much as I would like, it seems a little too easy to only take what you need a lot of the time. Overall it is a good, and certainly very different, abstract game that's certainly worth giving a try!

7.5/10



Noctiluca was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £33.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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