Equinox: Purple Box

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In Equinox, mysterious creatures gather in the forest in an effort to write themselves into the legendary storybook and for tales to be shared for countless generations. However, there is room for only four more stories — not every story will be recorded, so the creatures have to be cunning and clever to outwit their opponents and make the cut. Equinox is a deeply satisfying bet…
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Category Tag SKU ZBG-PBG40070EN Availability Out of stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Stunning artwork
  • Tactical gameplay
  • Lovely stones

Might Not Like

  • Awkward large cards
  • A lot of shuffling
  • Negative player interaction
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Description

In Equinox, mysterious creatures gather in the forest in an effort to write themselves into the legendary storybook and for tales to be shared for countless generations. However, there is room for only four more stories — not every story will be recorded, so the creatures have to be cunning and clever to outwit their opponents and make the cut.

Equinox is a deeply satisfying betting game that gives players agency to influence the outcome of this competition. Each round, players place numbered power cards in front of the creatures, with the lowest-valued creature being eliminated from play. Players also place bets on which creatures they think will make it into the storybook, and you can use the special powers of these creatures to ideally turn things to your advantage.

Fans of Dr. Reiner Knizia might recognize Equinox as a revised edition of the previously released game Colossal Arena, but with two new creatures. Of the fourteen unique creatures, only eight are played in a game, which means more than three thousand different combinations are possible. To celebrate the equinox occurring twice a year, players can select from two distinct box covers, but note that the contents in each box are identical.

Fantastical creatures in a mythical setting. An epic struggle for legendary acclaim. Standout art and tactile components. Fast, competitive, tense and tactical card play. Is this Reiner Knizia at his best? Well kind of. Equinox is the new title from Plan B Games with Art by Chris Quilliams. But it’s actually a reimplementation of another two-decade-old game by the good Dr Knizia, Colossal Arena. We are living in the golden age of board gaming. There’s never been such a large group of people experiencing the joy of tabletop games. This of course means that there’s a lot of people out there now that would thoroughly enjoy some of the games released decades ago that are out of print today. Enter titles like Equinox. Now if you’re familiar with Colossal Arena or it’s predecessor Grand National Derby you’ll likely know what to expect. For everyone else read on.

How To Play Equinox

Equinox is essentially a card game. There are 14 creatures, each with 11 numbered power cards ranging from 0-10. Playing these cards is what makes up most of your turns. Each game 8 of the 14 creatures will be selected to battle it out over 5 rounds. With one being eliminated each round that leaves space for only 3 to survive into legend at games end. In addition to the 154 creature cards, the champion cards and row cards set out the shared play area. With the champions arrayed horizontally each one indicates the only column its matching creature cards can be played in. The rows cards 1-5 indicate the only row creatures can be played in that round.

Players take turns playing creature power cards into that rounds row. When all spots have at least one card in and a single creature has the sole lowest power on display the round ends and that unfortunate beast is eliminated. It’s all very sad for the mythological monster in question but I’m sure what you want to know is why do I care?! Because all players have a vested interest in which creatures survive and which don’t. See at the start of the game you’ll all receive 5 stones in your player colour and through the game you can use these stones to bet on certain critters surviving the game. The earlier you bet, i.e the higher row your stone is on, the more points it’s worth. Once per game, you can even make a secret bet with a face down card from your hand to keep your opponents guessing. There are other ways to ensure your favourites hold sway too, such as using unique creature abilities, “wild” chameleon cards and powerful tree cards.

Beauty And The Beasts

From an aesthetic point of view, Equinox is a truly stunning production. Chris Quilliams is the unbelievably talented and diverse artist that illustrated the Century games, both original and golem editions. With Equinox he has once again managed to create a universe of stop-you-in-your-tracks level gorgeousness. Not just the jaw dropping art but the graphic design and colour palette just pull you in and set a real atmosphere. The cards are large tarot size and decent quality. The ‘stones’, though clearly not stone are nice and heavy, and provide a pleasant tactile feel to an otherwise pure card game. Each of the 5 player colours are also provided with a completely unnecessary but nonetheless very well made felt bag. Unnecessary because they serve no in-game purpose and the box insert makes them redundant for storage too. They seem to increase the quality of the game purely for quality’s sake.

This is perhaps a bit of a sticking point for Equinox. Sometimes its best qualities are also its worst. That’s actually rather ungenerous to its gameplay which is, by the way, phenomenal. But from a physical point of view, while the generous tarot size cards give it some serious presence, they also make it an almost unwieldy table hog. They’re not easy to shuffle or even hold your cards for those with smaller hands. Indeed with traditional sized cards and 25 coloured cubes instead of stones Equinox could come in a box half the size, cost half as much and be played in a wider array of settings without altering gameplay a jot. This will bother some more than others and there is in fact a lot to be said for its impressive presence, pleasing feel and big game aura. Nonetheless, it has to be noted.

Special Weapons And Tactics

Whilst undeniably simple in principle, this game actually provides a deeply tactical experience. The risk versus reward aspect of the predictions is classic Reiner Knizia and it can be exactly as mathematical and calculated as you want it to be. The main action is then split between protecting your favourites and trying to nullify your opponents scoring. This can be really tense and exciting as players try to outmanoeuvre each other with fast card play and crafty added abilities. It can be harsh, sudden and frustrating at times. With a cruelly timed 0 power card or worse, a sneakily played chameleon knocking out your biggest scorer. But that’s the kind of game Equinox is. A highly competitive and consistently interactive game of card battling. Underneath the cute and flowery veneer is an aggressively cutthroat game of fiery wolf eat winged fox.

Talking of fiery wolves and flying foxes the creatures on display as well as being gorgeously illustrated provide some well thought out rule breaking powers that change the game up in interesting ways. The fact there’s 15 of them but only 8 per game gives something like 3000 different combinations which is some serious replayability. Again though, this undeniably strong facet of Equinox’ replayability also throws up a bit of a weakness. You have to sort all the animals into their suits to be able to chop and change which are used, but this means some serious shuffling of that big old awkward tarot sized deck every game. It is a beast to shuffle, almost enough to put this lazy gamer off swapping creatures in and out. Not quite, because the different abilities are great, but almost.

Final Thoughts – Equinox

All in all Equinox’ strengths outshine its weaknesses by a decent margin. Here’s a game of surpassing beauty that revels in its own excesses. While your fellow players can frustrate you and downright mess you up, you won’t be bored for a minute! The game has an alluring natural arc, as each creature is eliminated the next round gets a little quicker and the tension builds a little more. The last round can play out alarmingly briefly leaving you breathlessly totting up your predictive successes. While Equinox supports 2-5 players I’d say that 3 is definitely the sweet spot. It undoubtedly works at 2 players but like all bidding/betting games, it’s better at more. The caveat being that at 5 with only 4 active columns in the last round it’s entirely possible someone won’t even get to take a turn in that vital last round. Hence 3 being the sweet spot in my mind.

Yes if you like your games fast, brutally competitive and gobsmackingly gorgeous it’s hard to imagine you not liking Equinox. It’s tactical and tense in a very pleasing way. I for one am glad that Knizia’s older titles are getting a new lease of life because that guy knows how to make them!

Equinox is another brilliant game from one of my favourite designers Reiner Knizia. It is essentially a betting game but one where you have a large control over the outcome. It is an aggressive game and can feel very ‘in your face’ but as long as you know that going in then you will enjoy the experience. Read on to find out how to play this creature tournament betting game.

Set Up

Out of the 14 different sets of Equinox creatures choose 8 sets and place the other 6 back in the box. Find the 8 champion cards that match the chosen sets and place them in a row at the top of the table. Then you place the row cards in a column starting with the secret prediction card (5 points) at the top next to the champion cards, followed by the 1 sand timer card (4 points) all the way down to the number 5 sand timer card (0 points). Shuffle the creature cards together with the chameleon cards and tree cards to form a deck which you place face down on the table. Each player is then dealt 8 cards together with 5 stones of a single colour each.

How To Play

Equinox is an elimination game where as each row is completed the creature with the lowest value is knocked out of the game. The game continues until either all rows are completed or the deck of cards runs out. When the game ends players calculate their bet winnings and the player with the highest value wins.

On your turn you carry out the actions as follows:-

  • Make or Reveal a Prediction – In this phase you can make a regular prediction, a secret prediction, reveal a secret prediction or skip this phase entirely.

Regular predictions are completed by taking one of your stones and placing them on a space in the current row at the space where a creature card is or will be and who you think will survive to the end of the game. You cannot place a stone on a space where another stone has already been placed.

Secret Predictions can only be played in the first round (the first round is from the start of the game until the first row is completed). When you do this you take a creature card from your hand and place it face down on the table with 1 of your stones on it. When you make a secret prediction you do not play any more cards this turn and therefore skip phase 2 play a card. You can only make 1 secret prediction in the whole game.

Revealing a secret prediction in Equinox means you turn over your card and place it in its correct place in the current row and then place your stone on the corresponding champion card at the top of the table. During this turn you still play another card in phase 2.

  • Play a Card – When you play a creature card you place them in the current row in the column indicated by their champion card. You cannot place a creature card of a creature that has been eliminated. If there are already cards in the space you place your card on top and if there is a stone here you make sure it remains on top after you play the card.

If you are the controller of that creatures special power you take the action immediately. To become the controller you must have the most points from your stones on that creature. The points range from 5 (revealed secret prediction) to 0 depending on which row the stones are placed. If 2 or more players have equal points no one has control over that creature.

The special powers override the rules and are only activated by the controlling player placing one of the creatures cards (not the chameleon or tree cards).

When you play a chameleon card you can play it on any creature spot in the current row (that has not been eliminated). This does not activate the creatures special power. In addition the next creature card to be placed on top of the chameleon also does not activate that creatures special power.

You can play a tree card and then follow its instructions. For the Ancestor card you select one creature still in play and all players must now confirm if they have made a secret prediction for that creature. The Dryad card allows you to take a visible creature card from anywhere on the table back into your hand.

If you have no valid cards that can be played (because your hand is full of creatures that have been eliminated) you may skip playing a card.

  • Discard Cards from your hand – You may now discard up to 3 creature cards from your hand (of creatures that have been eliminated) showing all of the cards discarded to the other players.

Draw cards back up to your hand limit of 8 – If you have less than 8 cards in hand draw more cards until you have 8. If this causes the deck to run out then the game ends immediately.

Elimination of a creature if applicable – As long as the game hasn’t ended you check to see if a row has been completed (a creature, chameleon or disappearance card in all spots) and if there is only 1 creature with the lowest number (if there is a tie you continue playing until only 1 creature has the lowest number). In which case this round ends and you place a disappearance card on the next row in the spot for the eliminated creature. You then prepare the next round by placing disappearance cards in the spots for any creatures previously eliminated.

End Of Game & Scoring

Equinox ends on the completion of the fifth round or when the draw deck becomes empty. Players reveal their secret predictions and place the stones on the equivalent champion card. Points are then allocated to each player depending on where their stones are placed (5 to 0 points) on all of the creatures that remain at the end of the tournament. The player with the highest number of points wins. Ties are broken by the winning player whose secret prediction was correct and then the most stones in the first row and so on. If it is still a tie by the fifth row then the victory is shared.

Creature Powers

Each creature has a secret power which is fully explained at the back of the rule book. The cards also have good iconography which are very easy to read and understand. Some of these powers allow you to draw more cards, retrieve a previously placed stone, make another player temporarily lose half their cards, place a second stone in a turn, play a second card, steal a card from another player, discard creatures still in the fight, use a creatures power who has been eliminated, retrieve cards that have already been played, exchange cards between the rows, discard cards already played, have extra strength, take a chameleon and add it to your hand. Gaining and knowing when to use these powers can really swing the game into your favour.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped you to learn the rules and how Equinox plays. Obviously I would always recommend people use the official rule book to learn the rules in depth but this blog should give you a really good flavour of how the game flows.

I really enjoy the game and if you want to find me on twitter to discuss how brilliant Equinox is please do @boardgamehappy.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Stunning artwork
  • Tactical gameplay
  • Lovely stones

Might not like

  • Awkward large cards
  • A lot of shuffling
  • Negative player interaction