Mindclash Games were previously only known for the right breakers. All of the publisher's games that have been available to date are rated above four in complexity on BoardGameGeek, making them unquestionably expert games. The current Kickstarter project for Septima already seemed to indicate a trend towards "lighter" realms. With the new Mindclash Play series and the first title, Astra, it was now clear for the first time in the area of ​​connoisseur play. In our board game review, we show how well Mindclash can do "easy".

Mindclash Games presented and released the first title in the new “Mindclash Play” series at SPIEL. Astra is the publisher's first title that is undoubtedly not an expert game. It admitted in the Kickstarter campaign Cerebria: The Inside World nor the card game Cerebria. However, since this was only included as a stretch goal, it was never really an independent publication and is not intended to be reissued for the new Mindclash Play label Astra clearly seen as something new at Mindclash. We were able to take it with us at SPIEL. The test shows how well Mindclash works off the beaten path.

Minimalist design

Have been making games at Mindclash Games since the release of the first title trickerion actually getting bigger and growing along with them perseverance or void fall to huge material battles, that's how it is Astra significantly more compact. Two double-sided sphere boards and five player boards are the "big" materials. There are also 60 cards, pens in five colors, stardust and telescope tokens and a starting player shooting star.

At the beginning, everyone receives a pencil of one color and a personal tableau as well as eight stardust. Depending on the number of people, the corresponding sphere board is laid out. The structure of the draw pile also depends on the number of people. The constellation cards are placed around the sphere and when the sphere marker has been placed, you can start.

Stardust, telescopes and the starting player shooting star: Visually, Astra is quite appealing. Image: Jonas Dahmen

Stardust, telescopes and the starting player shooting star: Visually, Astra is quite appealing. Image: Jonas Dahmen

The trains are simply structured. At the beginning you can activate abilities of your own constellations. This is not so relevant in the first moves. Once activated, the abilities are not available again until they have been refreshed in the action phase.

Two colors and two possible actions

In the action phase you can choose between two actions. When "observing" you can mark any number of stars of one of the constellations lying around the sphere with your own pen. You have to pay one Stardust for each star. The first person to mark a star of a constellation must start with the starting star. Then only adjacent stars may be marked. If you mark one of the big stars, you will immediately receive wisdom. This increases the limit of your own card display. One additional observation can be made for each telescope token.

The personal trays containing Wisdom (below) and the Stardust bag. Image: Jonas Dahmen

The other possible action is pausing. Here you fill your bag up to the limit with stardust. Then you can refresh all constellations that show the element that currently corresponds to the position of the sphere marker. Then it moves one field further.

If one or more constellations were completed during the turn, the person whose turn it was gets this constellation. Before that, all players who have also marked stars of this constellation may choose a bonus. Whoever has marked the most stars chooses first. The "discoverer" of the card does not choose a bonus, but only gets the card and later the ability that comes with it. The bonuses allow you to earn victory points, collect wisdom, enlarge the bag, reactivate cards or draw telescope tokens or stardust.

Stars are marked on the constellations. Image: Jonas Dahmen

Stars are marked on the constellations. Image: Jonas Dahmen

This is how the turns proceed until the end of the game card becomes visible. It triggers the end of the game. After a final round, points are counted. There are points for the size of the bag and the wisdom collected. In addition, there are additional points for every three stardust in the bag and two marked stars on uncompleted constellations. At the beginning, everyone received a personal rating card. Everyone already has two crosses there. Further crosses are made for the elements that you have in your display. This is the biggest source of points in the final tally. Finally, there are points for the constellation cards that are active at the end of the game. 

Whoever has collected the most points wins the game.

Infobox

Number of people: 2 to 5
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 40 to 100 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: moderate
Genre: Kennerspiel
Core mechanisms: area majority, set collection

Authors: Patrik Porkoláb, Frigyes Schöberl, Eszter Krisztina Sas
Design: Csilla Fekete
Official Website: Astra
Year of publication: 2022
Language: English
Cost: 36 Euro

Summary

The rules of the game are actually relatively simple at their core. However, there are a few additions that raise the level of the game to just under the connoisseur level. 

The starting position of the game is also really good. The idea is exciting. Marking stars with washable pens and discovering constellations is new. Unfortunately, the game cannot implement the idea satisfactorily. The theme doesn't come across in the game mechanics. In itself, that wouldn't be a bad thing if it worked well.

The material is ok. Some cards from our edition had damaged card coatings in the corners. But this can also be an isolated case. The many plastic packaging for the material were very unnecessary. Unfortunately, the foil around the box is still standard. But also on the inside, each component was separately welded; even the pens or the five player boards. Many innovations at SPIEL also showed that there is a better way.

Marking the stars with the erasable pens is nice, but unfortunately the white dots of the stars are too small. The colors cannot really be distinguished well and clarity suffers. The blue pen could not be removed completely (at least with the included attachment) and tends to smear. Here had to be helped wet.

After all, the rules are reminiscent of the usual high Mindclash standard, both in terms of the layout and the quality of the content. Nothing really to complain about here.

The individual trains run quickly. A real development is not experienced in these. It is not certain whether you can reactivate your abilities once they have been used if the sphere marker is moved unfavorably by the other players. This is not the only lack of incentive to secure the constellations for your own display.

In theory, a "normal" strategy in which you really want to complete constellations should be better. In practice this doesn't really work. The victory point bonus on many constellations is actually more lucrative for the supporting players than collecting cards for the effects and victory points via the elements. The other bonuses also feel at least equal to the card abilities.
The problem of the second strategy has already been described above and the former is more dependent on luck, depending on the number of people and the amount of cards available, since the elements have to come at the right time. In the beginning you don't have enough wisdom and accordingly you can only have a few cards.

So there is no flow of the game. Attempts are often made to secure the majority of the constellations without completing them. That's not the only reason why the game drags on even longer than it would be appropriate for the content offered. There are far too few really exciting skill builds or good opportunities for satisfying combos on turns.

Unfortunately, the game doesn't work for two. Despite the dummy player in a third suit, the game is absolutely not recommended here. You probably wanted to have the “2” on the box rather than the game really being designed for it.
The ideal cast is achieved with three or four people, even if the playing time is actually too long.

The game moves somewhere in the no man's land between a family game and a connoisseur's game. The basic concept is very simple, but it becomes more cumbersome than elegantly complex, especially in the final scoring due to superimposed rules. That Cerebria Card game seemed a bit "unfinished". But this is played in at least 20 to 30 minutes. Also at Astra the feeling arises as if something should have been finished that isn't finished yet.

In particular, the high luck factor of the theoretically better strategy using your own point table with the elements compared to the security of the support bonuses damages the game. The replay appeal is also rather low due to the always same process and a low development of the possibilities via a game.

Preview Product Rating Price
Mindclash Games 24807 Accessories, Multicolored Mindclash Games 24807 Accessories, Multicolored * 59,80 EUR

Last updated on 9.02.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API