Gazing at the stars has been a pastime for humanity for generations. We love to seek out the brilliance sparkling in the night sky, catch as many shooting stars as we can, and sometimes, if we squint just the right way, we can see bits of ourselves in the cosmos. StarFall by Scott Almes is a game in which astronomers compete to identify cosmic wonders in hopes of creating the best portfolio and titled the most renowned astronomer.
About the Game ^
StarFall is a very easy game to play for two to four players in which players will attempt to collect their ideal Sky Tiles to achieve the greatest amount of points. To do so, players will have to time themselves appropriately so they can purchase Sky Tiles from the Stargazer Board they need at a price they can afford. Sky Tiles represent the cosmic wonders in the game – purchase the right Sky Tiles, and accumulate more points.
The currency in the game is called Stardust and comes in the form of Stardust Pieces (the wooden orange and white stars).
Each player on their turn must decide to do one of the following:
- add a Sky Tile to the Stargazer Board,
- move a Sky Tile that is already on the Board, or
- “discover” a Sky Tile.
When a Sky Tile is added to the Board, it is placed in the first, and most expensive, space on the Stargazer Board.
If a player doesn’t want to pay the premium for the Sky Tile, they may choose to move the Sky Tile on their own turn to the next available space, making the Sky Tile cost fewer Stardust. Or, they can just wait for an opponent to do it.
If a player decides to “discover” a Sky Tile, they pay the Stardust to the bank and earn the Tile for the end-game points.
There are 27 unique Sky Tiles in the game, each with different quantities and types of cosmic wonders. There are five wonders players will collect in sets for points, all providing different ways to earn points:
- The player who accumulates the most stars on their Sky Tiles earns a bonus
- Planets are worth points each
- Moons are worth points but only when paired with planets
- Black holes are negative points unless two or more are accumulated, then they are a bonus
- Comets increase in point value for every one collected
- Clouds are worth points alone, but earn bonus points when multiple colors are collected
In addition, leftover Stardust Pieces are worth points, so players are encouraged to “discover” cautiously.
The game ends when players either all run out of Stardust Pieces, or there is only one Sky Tile left in the game.
(photos from BoardGameGeek.com)
Final Thoughts ^
StarFall was very easy to learn. There are really only three things you’re doing: placing, moving, or taking a Sky Tile. That’s the extent of the mechanics. Nothing confusing about it at all, definitely family friendly. Not baby friendly though, they’ll eat the Stardust Pieces. THE STARS, I SAY!
The rulebook was very simple. Step-by-step, simple to read through, and left no ambiguity. The art of the game resonates within the rulebook, along the “sky” of the pages. Very cool.
Speaking of art, minimalism is the name of the game here. And I LIKE it. You don’t see too much minimalism in gaming so I can highly appreciate this trifecta of love to me that is games, space, and minimalism. The color scheme is wonderful, and I love the Stargazer Board. Its like sitting in a park gazing at the sky. The artist is Ian O’Toole, if you are interested.
Is it fun? ^
My short answer is yes. StarFall is a wonderful filler game, as it plays a full game in about half an hour. It doesn’t take long for players to catch on to the game so players who have experience with StarFall will have an even faster gaming experience. The game is family friendly, and can invoke discussion of space when talking about why moons can only score when paired with planets, what comets are, and so on. The quality of the Sky Tiles and the player aids is very nice, as is the quality of the Stardust Pieces. I believe this theme is unique; I cannot recall another game with such use of astronomy. It really is a delightful game.
I feel the game is a little expensive, and I understand that the box is large, and with large boxes comes greater costs. I think the box size is unnecessarily large. If the Stargazer Board had been designed to fold, the box could have been less than half its size, greatly reducing the cost. The box is also unnecessarily deep. I can only guess that the size of the box was designed so it filled more shelf space, thus increasing the likelihood of a gamer looking at it.
I think StarFall would be a great gift for families and fans of astronomy, as well as filler games and lighter games. I leave this review with a quote for you, keep looking up!
(photo from BoardGameGeek.com)
I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky. -Carl Sagan