Posted by: gschloesser | August 9, 2011

Phoenix

Designed by:  Zach and Amanda Greenvoss
Published by:  Euro Games
2 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

This is the latest in the 2-player series from Euro Games and the first that is NOT from designer Bruno Cathalla.  Instead, this one was designed by two newcomers, Zach and Amanda Greenvoss.  Further, the game was not released in the compact box size as seen with the three previous releases.  Rather, this one is in a larger box, about the size of the familiar bookshelf style, but thinner. 

I first saw this being played at the Gathering of Friends in mid-April, but never had the opportunity to try it.  Fortunately, I secured a copy before I departed and coerced my wife into playing a few nights prior to our Westbank Gamers session, figuring she would enjoy the puzzle-solving aspect of the game.  She did … but not too much. 

Forget about the theme here – there is none.  This is purely abstract.  I’m not even sure how the name is in any way related to the game play.  The game contains a forest of wood:  6 “light spectrum” large cubes in different colors and thirty smaller pawns, 5 each in six different colors that match the larger cubes.  There are also fifty cards that determine the movement of the pawns and cubes, a cloth bag in which to place the pawns and a board onto which the cubes and twenty of the pawns will be placed.

To begin the game, the six large cubes are arranged randomly on the spaces provided in the center of the board.  Then, the thirty pawns are mixed inside the cloth bag.  Twenty pawns are drawn randomly, with ten being placed on each side of the board.  Each player is then dealt five cards. 

Game play is actually very simple.  The objective is to arrange your ten pawns in the same color sequence as the six large cubes.  The game ends when the first player accomplishes this task and victory points are earned for a variety of accomplishments (which I will explain a bit later).  

In order to move the pawns and cubes, each player will alternate playing (or discarding) one card and drawing a replacement.  The cards generally allow a player to move pawns in his row a specific number of spaces, swap the positions of pawns within his row, swap pawns with your opponent or move a large cube one space.  So, the trick is attempting to play your cards in the correct order so that the end result is the arrangement of your pawns in a sequence matching the large cubes.  That’s it – it is that simple. 

The game does have a puzzle feel to it as you must analyze the cards you have and discern the best order in which to play them to accomplish your objective.  Of course, the drawing of a new card each turn could affect your plans and it is quite likely your opponent will play a card or two to disrupt those plans.  

Once a player successfully arranges his pawn in an order matching the six large cubes, the game ends and players tally victory points as follows: 

a)      Being the first to arrange your pawns in the correct order:  5 points 

b)      Having ALL six of the colors in the spectrum represented in your line of pawns:  4 points 

c)      Having 3 pawns in a row of the same color:  2 points 

d)      Having 4 pawns in a row of the same color:  3 points 

e)      Having 5 pawns in a row of the same color:  4 points 

Once points are tallied, the board is re-set and two more rounds are played (similar to Lost Cities).  However, I see no reason why players couldn’t just play one match, particularly if time was tight.  The ultimate winner is the player with the most cumulative points after the agreed-upon number of matches. 

The game is easy to teach, learn and play.  Further, it plays quickly – a recommended three-game match takes about 20 – 30 minutes.  And, it’s not bad.  Unfortunately … and I’ve been saying this about quite a few games lately … it lacks a certain ‘spark’.  It just isn’t terribly exciting.  When faced with the choice of a 2-player game to play, there are just so many better, more exciting ones to choose.  I can’t see myself grabbing this one off the shelf with any degree of regularity.  If my wife had been smitten with it, then it would be a keeper.  Perhaps it will find a better audience amongst folks who aren’t as familiar with or have access to the wide range of 2-player games available on the market. For experienced gamers, however, this one probably won’t prove terribly exciting.  Sadly, I don’t see this one sticking around for many more plays.

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Responses

  1. Phoenix is a bright, popsicle-colored rarity that plays a little too fast for its setup time. With occasional exceptions, this is multi-player solitaire and something deeper is missing in the card deck. It’s a cute idea but best left for kids. (3/10)


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