Planet Unknown is a polyomino, tile placement game for up to 6 players. Each player takes on the role of a unique corporation trying to colonise their own planet.
Take turns rotating the tile holding tray and placing them onto your board triggering various rewards. Gameplay continues until a player can no longer place a tile, thus triggering an endgame scoring phase to see who has the most points!
Rotate & Colonise
Gameplay in Planet Unknown is simple and turns play quickly.. This is mostly due to the “lazy Susan” tile holding station.
A large circular holding station that sits in the centre of the table. The outer ring holds the larger tiles while the inner ring holds all the smaller ones. This genius component not only allows for a fast set up and great organiser for all of the tiles but also helps speed up the flow of the game. Having all of these tiles available for everyone to see and take from makes for a smoother game experience for everyone.
Each player on their turn will first rotate the tile holding station to any side they wish. Then each player simultaneously takes one or both tiles from the section that corresponds to their arrow. Placing your tiles down is also an easy task. Your first one must touch the edge of your planet, the rest must touch the edge of at least one tile you’ve already placed. Each tile has one (or two) symbols that match one of five symbols on your corporation board, allowing you to advance your makers and claim a reward. Then an event card is drawn. These optional and customisable cards can help or hinder players throughout the game. Finally the first player marker is passed to the next player in clockwise order and gameplay is repeated until final scoring is triggered.
Advance Your Markers
What I love about Planet Unknown is the sheer amount of replay value and ways to gain points in the game.
Despite being an easy to learn, tile placement game, players will spend time pondering which tile to place on their planet. You won’t want to fill up your planet too early, or take up spaces and ruin a placement later on. Also which track do you want to advance? This can depend entirely on the situation and knowing and where to progress on a track can give huge rewards.
There are five tracks players can advance on by placing rules with matching symbols . Going from left to right we have civ, water, biomass, rover and tech. Civ allows us to take a card from the matching number of set aside numbered cards and choose one. These can range from boosting our scoring methods from various sources or a simple bonus or reward.
- Water is the easiest track to understand as it just gives victory points, however players can only advance on this track if their corresponding tile is placed on an ice section of their planet.
- Biomass allows for biomass tiles to be placed. These small, one square tiles fill up spaces on your planet and can help with end game scoring.
- Rover grants movement to your small car like miniature. You can move across your planet and pick up life-pods and meteorites. These can be placed on your corporation and help you score points.
- Tech grants new abilities each time you reach a new level.
You can also perform multiple advancements in one turn by hitting the synergy boost icons that are scattered across the tracks. These allow you to move a marker up again on any track, you can even hit another synergy boost for a huge combo!
When scoring in Planet Unknown, players first check out their planet and placement of all their tiles. Each full row and column grants points, more for the larger areas of the planets but beware, any gaps or meteorites can prevent scoring. Players will then check their corporation boards and any gold point markers contribute towards their score. Finally everyone checks their civ cards and objectives to see if they have gained any more points before the total is revealed.
Endless Replay Value
Planet Unknown is full of variety and customisation. Each planet and corporation board is unique, and has a regular, beginner side which allows players to all play with the exact same layout and abilities. I love the creativity used here. Each planet is completely different in its layout, scoring and restrictions. The corporations are fun to experiment with. While they all share the same five tech tracks, each one gains rewards and progresses differently.
Some of these are more difficult than others and the rulebook wasn’t as clear as it could of been in explaining them. Players may find using these a little too challenging or unbalanced at times. They can also find a lot of satisfaction trying to figure out how these unique boards work and each one feels like a fantastic little puzzle.
Production & Presentation
Planet Unknown has some great design choices but also a few issues here and there. I have already mentioned and praised the lazy Susan tile depot but I also love the dual layered corporation boards. These thick, durable boards have nice indents for the marker cubes and although this is a minor design choice it makes all the difference. The markers, life-pods and meteorites all fit onto the boards and unlike games like Terraforming Mars, these wont slide around or fall off.
Another great asset of production in this game are the game trays that hold all the extra components. Player markers, biomass tiles, rovers, meteorites and all the cards fit into these with ease and allow for more smooth gameplay. My biggest issue with the design of this game is the box itself. Although great effort has gone into creating the tile holding depot and gamer trays all this doesn’t quite fit into the box. No matter how I tried to arrange the items I always found that the box lid wouldn’t quite close completely and actually bowed outwards slightly.
The problem with this is I couldn’t put this game on my shelf vertically as all the tiles would fall out of the holder. If I stacked any games on top of the box it would most likely result in damage to the lid. The rovers and meteorites were a little inconsistent in their look. Whether this was an intentional design choice or not I wasn’t sure but some looked a little darker and misshaped than others.
For the gameplay I found this game works well at any player count due to everyone playing their turn at the same time. Aside from rotating the lazy Susan to potentially ruin a turn for someone there isn’t much interaction between everyone and it can often feel like multiplayer solitaire.
Planet Unknown is an innovative and fresh take on the polyomino tile placement genre. The easy to learn, difficult to master gameplay combined with simultaneous actions among players make this game flow smooth and play quickly.
Huge replay value and endless customisation make this game an outstanding experience for players of any age.