Constellations: Hexagonal Stargazing!

Constellations, an Xtronaut game

Constellations is the second offering in the Xtronaut: Extreme Extended Exploration series from NASA scientist Dr. Dante Lauretta. Lay hexagons to grow the night sky and score points as you match patterns on your tiles!

Constellations is a tile-laying, pattern matching game for 2-4 players ages 8+, lasting about 30-60 minutes. The game was designed by Ian Zang and Dr. Lauretta and beautifully illustrated by Ashley Kenawell.

Constellations game setup

Setup

To begin a game of Constellations, place a hexagon with a Zodiac sign in the middle of the table as the “Starting Constellation”. Put a number of hex tiles back into the box depending on the number of players and the desired game length (regular, long, or extended). Shuffle the remaining tiles and lay three face-up in a line with the stack face down at the end.

Shuffle the Star Cards and deal five to each player. Lay five cards face-up in a line on the table with the deck face-down at the end.

How to Play

On your turn, you may take two actions. There are three different actions, and you may perform the same action twice. The goal of the game is to score points by gathering enough cards to play constellations. Each constellation tile has a cost listed in star types, a victory point value, and an adjacency bonus.

1. Draw a Star Card

You may draw a card from the face-up cards or from the face down deck. There is no hand limit! You need these cards to build your constellations. Some cards have two stars on them. O-Stars are wild.

2. Reserve a Constellation

If you see a constellation you really want, but you can’t afford it yet, you may Reserve a constellation. This means only you can complete that constellation now! You may only have one constellation in reserve at any time. You may replace your reserved constellation by putting the one you had on the bottom of the hex tile deck.

Placing the Virgo constellation
Virgo scores 15 total: 10 points, +2 for being adjacent to Leo, +3 for matching gems

3. Play a Constellation

If you have the necessary stars to match or exceed the requirements of a constellation that is available to you, discard those cards to play the constellation.

Score the number of victory points in the star icon on the card, plus two bonus points for each adjacent constellation listed in the adjacency bonus on the tile. Finally, add a bonus point for each gem that matches on the tile(s) you are connecting to. If no gems match, *lose* two points. Take tokens matching your points and flip the constellation tile over to see it in the night sky!

Game End

The game ends when the last constellation tile is flipped cost side up into the available constellation row. Each player, including the player who flipped the tile, gets one last turn. Then the player with the most points wins! Ties go to the player with the most cards in hand.

Impressions

Star cards: O, G, M, B, etc.

Mechanics

Constellations borrows mechanics from a number of tried-and-true games. Ticket to Ride mechanics are featured in the card selection, while reserving constellation tiles is reminiscent of Splendor. Because of this, playing Constellations feels familiar, even though it is its own unique game. This is helpful, since it was designed with children in mind, but it does mean that mechanically, there isn’t a new idea that stands out in the game.

The simple resource collection and matching mechanics of Constellations makes it easy to play with children, as it isn’t necessary to plan too far ahead to accomplish your goals.

However, since there is no larger goal than “get the next constellation”, it can be hard to keep kids’ interest over several rounds. The rulebook provides parameters for a longer game, but without additional features, we found these longer sessions merely dragged out the gameplay rather than enhancing the fun.

The game includes single-player and team-player variants for more ways to play.

Ultimately, Constellations is a mechanically adequate if not outstanding game.

Glowing constellation tiles
Glowing constellations, just like the night sky!

Art

Art is where Constellations shines, literally. Each constellation tile has a layer of printed stars that glow in the dark. It’s very cool to charge up the stars on the tiles and turn off the lights. It’s like a beautiful night sky right on your table!

Ashley Kenawell’s constellation drawings are beautiful and the simple iconography of the game is clear and easy to understand. It’s fun to flip the tiles from their gameplay-driven designs to reveal the beautiful animals or symbols our forefathers imagined the stars represented.

Final Thoughts

Star cards: A, F, K and Lynx constellation

I must take a moment to note the craft in building the constellation tiles. The star card cost is closely related to the actual stars represented in each constellation, which is awesome.

The game is rich with facts about space, a trend we see throughout the Xtronaut series. More than half the rulebook is filled with fascinating facts about constellations and additional space-related activities! Dr. Lauretta’s skill as a teacher is evident throughout the book, asking readers to stop and think about various aspects of stars in space.

Constellations got our family talking about different types of stars and many aspects of astronomy. It’s a perfect gift for the stargazers in your life, no matter what their age. Buy it on Amazon for around $25 or ask for it wherever you buy games.

rulebook page describing Main Sequence Stars
The rulebook is also a “Stargazer’s Guide”

The Family Gamers received a copy of Constellations from Dante Lauretta and Xtronaut Enterprises.

Constellations, an Xtronaut game
  • 8/10
    Art - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Mechanics - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Family Fun - 7/10
7.5/10

Summary

Number of Players: 2-4

Age Range: 8+

Playtime: 30-60 minutes

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