Subastral

Subastral

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We need only lower our gaze from the stellar night skies to the planet below to see that beauty surrounds us! The biomes of Planet Earth are as diverse and wondrous as the living creatures that populate them. Subastral is the new game from the award-winning design duo of Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback, featuring art by Beth Sobel. Subastral is a strategic card game for 2–5 research…
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-RGS2196 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

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

You Might Like

  • Quick and easy to play
  • Some good strategy elements
  • The stunning artwork
  • Having a scorepad helps a lot
  • Solid rulebook to get you going

Might Not Like

  • How much space you need to play
  • Working out which biome types you’re missing
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Description

We need only lower our gaze from the stellar night skies to the planet below to see that beauty surrounds us! The biomes of Planet Earth are as diverse and wondrous as the living creatures that populate them. Subastral is the new game from the award-winning design duo of Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback, featuring art by Beth Sobel.

Subastral is a strategic card game for 2–5 researchers. Collect cards that represent your notes on eight different biomes: subtropical desert, savanna, tropical rainforest, chaparral, temperate grassland, temperate forest, taiga, and arctic tundra.

Will your journal of research notes on the planet’s biomes be deep and diverse enough to stand out amongst your peers?

FEATURES:
Collect notes on eight different biomes around Planet Earth!

Deep and diverse research will be rewarded!

Interesting hand management and unique set collection!

2-5 Naturalists, ages 10+, will research for 15-30 mins.

Player Count: 2-5
Time: 15-30 min
Age: 10+

In Subastral, a 2-5 player game from Renegade Games, you take on the role of a researcher who has been charged with documenting as much as you can about these wonderful biomes all over the world. Can you collect the most notes to be recognised as the top researcher in the field?

With huge rolling mountain ranges, dry, arid deserts, thick, luscious forests and bleak arctic tundra, the diverse environments of planet Earth are truly wonderous to behold.

Setup

To begin, you’ll lay out six numbered Cloud cards across the table and place the Sun card on the right-hand side. You’ll notice two things straightaway here. Firstly, the art from Beth Sobel is just stunning, and you’ll find more wonderful illustrations on the biome cards you’ll be collecting throughout the game. Secondly, for game that comes in a small box, you need quite a bit of space. This is quite important for gameplay as you’ll all be laying cards out, so do find a decent amount of space for everyone.

Next, construct the biome deck depending on the number of researchers at the table and place it at the left-most side of the Cloud cards. This scales really easily with the cards you need to add for three, four or five players being clearly marked in the bottom corner. Deal three cards to each player as their starting hand. You’ll then add the Game End card into the biome deck, with its placement being a certain number of cards from the bottom of the deck, depending on player count.

Finally, reveal six cards from the Subastral biome deck, and add one to each Cloud card, placing them face-up. You’ll then reveal a final two cards, placing them face-up on the corresponding numbered Clouds.

There are eight different biome types in the deck, and these are all identified with unique icons and names. Each card has a number between one and six that will determine where you play cards and what actions you can take – they don’t affect scoring in any way. The art for each biome type is identical, and the cards contain a fact about each environment you’ll encounter.

The biome types aren’t distributed equally throughout the deck so collecting notes on some biomes will be harder than others. This seems relatively trivial, but scoring is going to partly depend on completed rows of biomes in your journal so, knowing what’s more or less likely to be available is an important point I didn’t fully appreciate on my first playthrough.

Conducting Your Research

On your turn in Subastral, you’ll choose a card from your hand and play it on the Cloud with the corresponding number. So, my Savanna 4 card would be placed on the Cloud card marked with a 4. You then get to choose the biome cards on any other Cloud. If you take from the piles to the left of where you placed your card, you’ll add these to your hand, giving you different options on your next turn. If you choose from piles to the right, you’ll take these and place them face-up in front of you, adding them to your research journal.

These face-up cards represent the notes you’ve made on particular biomes and must be placed in a row from left to right. If you’ve taken a pile with multiple types of biomes, you get to determine the order they’ll be added, but you can’t change this once they’ve been placed. Again, it’s helpful to bear in mind which biomes are relatively scarce at this point. I’ve played Subastral being almost oblivious to this detail and in those early games it was a lot harder to get a good score.

The exception to this rule is when you play your card onto the first or sixth Cloud card. In this special case, if you choose the pile at the opposite end (e.g. play on one, choose six, or play on six, choose one), you get to decide if all those cards are added to your hand, or placed in your journal. This can give you a little more flexibility in how you decide to conduct your research throughout the game. You can never play cards directly from your hand into your journal, and the core of Subastral comes from managing your cards effectively to be able to get the notes you need into your journal.

This takes some getting used to as the desire to scoop up rare cards into your hand is strong, but what you’re looking for are more common cards that will help you add those rarities directly to your journal.

You then draw a card from the deck and add this to the now empty Cloud space to refill the row. If you ever start your turn with no cards in hand, you draw the top card from the deck and your turn ends immediately. There’s a penalty for not managing your hand well.

This game really does need space – the large Cloud cards take up room in the centre of the table but finding room for each player to have a row of eight cards (and potentially multiple rows) isn’t always easy, especially at the higher player counts.

Play continues with researchers taking turns to play and select cards until the Game End card is revealed in the deck. You finish the round, and then everyone takes one more turn so everyone’s had an equal number of opportunities to make notes, and then you score your journals.

Scoring

You determine your points in two different ways, scoring points for the different number of biomes you’ve managed to collect (referred to as mixed sets), and separately for those two biomes where you have the most cards (matched sets).

Mixed sets scale up the more biomes you’ve been able to research, and you can count multiple rows, counting each from left to right until you reach a gap in your journal.

Matched sets score you points based on their position in your journal and you score for the two largest sets. So, cards in the eighth position are worth 8 points each, cards in third position are worth 3 each. Ties are resolved left to right, so you want enough cards in the first position to score multiple mixed sets, but not so many that one of your matched sets ends up only scoring you a point per card.

If it all sounds a bit complex, I understand that, but it’s actually pretty simple once you start playing. The box comes with a scorepad which is pretty unusual for a game of this size but is a really thoughtful addition based on the layers involved in scoring.

Final Thoughts

I was drawn to this by the art – I’ll buy anything Beth Sobel has illustrated really. But I’ve stayed for the deceptive levels of strategy that run right through the game. You’re balancing your hand, so you don’t end up cardless and potentially giving your opponents an advantage while you just draw a card and watch on. You’re keeping an eye out for those piles that maybe offer you three or four precious cards for your journal that help you complete that first mixed set for a full 36 points. You might even be playing a comparatively rare tundra card from your hand onto a Cloud, in the hopes you can place it into your journal on your next turn, as long as your opponents don’t take it first.

This is a set collection, card drafting game that is easy to teach, quick to play, but tricky to master. At two-players, you’d easily have time to fit this in over a 30-minute lunchbreak and still have time to leisurely enjoy a sandwich. I think it’s a game that will leave you thinking “OK – I get it now – I can do better than that” and will have you coming back again and again trying to prove it.

Zatu Score

Rating

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

You might like

  • Quick and easy to play
  • Some good strategy elements
  • The stunning artwork
  • Having a scorepad helps a lot
  • Solid rulebook to get you going

Might not like

  • How much space you need to play
  • Working out which biome types youre missing