Periodic: A Game of The Elements is designed by John J. Coveyou and Paul Salomon. It's published by Genius Games. Much like their previous games, such as Subatomic and Covalence, Periodic is based on a scientific theme. This time, it's the Periodic Table. The game accommodates 2–5 players and plays within an hour.
Players travel around the Periodic Table in order to research elements. Researching a certain combination of elements quicker than the other players will award a player with a goal card and an award token. This provides a benefit later in the game. Alongside the race to achieve goal cards, players progress along an academic track to gain points, for end game scoring.
Playing the Game
On their turn a player can do one of two things. They either spend energy to activate multiple periodic trends, or gain energy to activate a single trend. Activating periodic trends is how a player’s flask travels around the Periodic Table. There are five trends available and each allows the flask to move 1–5 spots in a certain direction. When activating multiple trends on a turn, a player will place one energy token onto the first trend used, and two energy tokens on all trends activated thereafter. However, when activating a single trend on a turn, a player will collect all energy tokens from the trend instead.
Flasks that end their movement on an Element listed on a Goal card, enables the player to research that Element. Once one player has researched all Elements on a goal card, the card is claimed, along with an award token, if available. Any other players who have also researched Elements on the claimed card, will receive lab tokens (points) for their efforts, and a new card is then revealed. Goal cards come in four colours, forming four separate stacks, and act as one of the game-end triggers; Once a stack of one colour is depleted, the game will end at the completion of that round.
Players must also try to move their microscope along a track of eight element group cards. If their flask is within the group of elements shown on the next element group card along, the microscope moves to that card. Moving to a new card also allows a player to advance on the Academic track. This acts as another end game trigger. Once two players have reached the right-most spots of the track, the game will end at the completion of that round.
At the end of the game players must add up their points. They collect them from completed goal cards, position on the academic track, lab tokens and their personal agenda card. The agenda cards show two objectives that, when completed, provide extra points. The player with the most points is the winner of Periodic: A Game of the Elements.
An Educational Experience
I really hoped that playing Periodic: A Game of The Elements would prove educational. It's certainly an unusual, and rather niche, theme unless you're a Chemistry teacher. Therefore, without an educational aspect, it could be considered as random and dull.
Happily, I have learnt plenty of scientific terms, and about the structure of the Periodic Table and the elements. This is primarily due to the way the periodic trends, activated during gameplay, are an accurate reflection of the way elements are positioned within the table. For example, activating the ‘Increase Atomic Mass’ trend allows a player to move their flask across the Table, in a down and right direction. As a result. each element the flask travels through does actually increase in Atomic Mass. The other trends available reflect the way elements are positioned. This is done based on Atomic Number, Ionization Energy and Atomic Radii.
Periodic: A Game of The Elements is a light, strategy game. It provides a player with interesting choices as to how best to navigate their flask from element to element. Players are racing each other to complete goal cards. Therefore, finding the most effective route around the board is key. Players must decide whether to spend lots of energy tokens in one turn. Doing so could see them research several elements and claim multiple goal cards. However, by doing so, they are giving their opponents the option to gain a large amount of tokens on their turn. The player who manages their energy resource the best, through the ‘spend’ and ‘gain’ actions, will most likely win the game, as they will be able to research the relevant elements in the fewest turns.
With so many elements in the Periodic Table, knowing and remembering where the required elements are located can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, this was clearly considered within the game design, as there are goal markers placed on the elements needed to be researched. Players can focus on navigating from one marker to another, which allows for fast turns and clear objectives. The goal markers match the colour of the goal cards to help see where the elements are located. This is a great addition to the game, making it fairly easy to plot your moves… but will you get there before your opponents do?
Goal markers, flasks and microscope are wooden, custom-shaped pieces, and are great to look at. The rest of the components are fairly standard, but high quality. The colour palette used for player pieces isn’t the greatest however, with the pink and purple pieces being very similar. I think this is the only negative I have for the game, which can be avoided when playing with less than five players.
Final Thoughts on Periodic: A Game of the Elements
Periodic: A Game of The Elements is easy to learn, once you are familiar with the scientific terms, and easy to play. It would be fun for children who are studying Chemistry, as the gameplay improves a player’s knowledge of the Periodic table and its Elements. Also, there is enough strategy to keep adults engaged in the gameplay. For any fan of light strategy games, this is definitely worth having in the collection.