Starry Night Sky – Cool Constellations
I never spent much time looking at the stars as a kid. I learned the Big Dipper (Ursa Major), how to find the North Star, and Orion. That was enough for a city kid like me. But I did wonder how ancient astronomers decided which stars would make up a constellation and how they named them.
In Starry Night Sky, you get the chance to explore a completely new night sky full of fabulous constellations with inventive names. The further afield you search, the more chances you have for points; but you’ll want to collaborate with other astronomers to complete the constellations so everyone can enjoy them.
How to Play
Each player puts their telescope on the central START space. They draw three random star tokens from the bag and place one in each of the holding areas on their personal board. They also draw three Myth cards – these are end goals that are kept secret from the other players.
Place Discovery markers across the top of the main board according to the number of players.
Keep the bag of star tokens and the deck of circular Exploration Goal cards within easy reach. Pick a start player, and you’re ready to begin.
On each player’s turn, they first Gather and then Explore.
Start your turn by drawing an Exploration Goal card (if you have fewer than three). These are challenges to complete during the game to earn more points.
Then pull three stars from the bag. Assign each one to a different “star pool” on your player board.
Now that you’re prepared, you can search for constellations in the night sky! First, move your telescope to a constellation. It must be adjacent (along the connecting paths) to your previous position.
However, you cannot stop on a constellation that has already been fully “mapped” (all star spots are filled) or on the START space. Instead, move through these constellations to reach ones on the other side. This enables you to travel farther every turn!
Once you have moved your telescope to a constellation, you “map” it. You must place at least one star from your collection onto a matching spot. You can play as many (or as few) stars as you like, but they must all come from the same star pool. Gain a point for each star you place.
If you are the first player to place a star here, you “discover” the constellation. Take a Discovery marker and gain points. Put that Discovery marker on the new constellation.
If there is already a Discovery marker on the constellation you are visiting, it is “partially mapped”.
Start your turn by moving to a partially mapped constellation to get an additional “bonus explore” phase before ending your turn.
If your star placement filled all the available spots, that constellation is now “fully mapped”. Flip over the Discovery marker to show this constellation may now be passed through freely.
Check to see if you fulfilled any of your Exploration Goals during this turn. If so, discard them and take the points listed on the card.
You also have the option to trade in an Exploration Goal for a single star of your choice color. Just make sure you have room in your star pools to keep it!
Taking the final Discovery marker from the Night track triggers the end of the game. Finish the round so all players get an equal number of turns.
If any players discover new constellations when the Night track is empty, they use Discovery markers from the “Dawn track”, worth three points each.
Once all players have finished, everyone reveals their Myth cards. If both constellations on a card are complete, the player who holds that card gains the listed points. It doesn’t matter who completed those constellations.
Discovery is collaborative, after all – although someone will win the title of Best Astronomer!
We’ve played constellation-themed games before. But Starry Night Sky combines the thrill of discovery with a point-grabbing puzzle.
Every turn, you must balance your immediate goals with the star tokens you have and the constellations you can reach. You could pull together just the right combination of star pools and Exploration Goals to have a 10-point turn!
But even when your turns don’t come together just right, you’ll still earn a few points by adding to a partially-mapped constellation or starting a new one.
Even though you’re accumulating points and playing on a common board, Starry Night Sky doesn’t feel like a cut-throat competition. You don’t claim constellations, you merely add to them. You can’t stop your opponents from getting points or reaching their goals.
The possibility of bonus explorations encourages you to travel to partially-mapped constellations, and your own goals will push you to finish them off so you can travel farther across the board.
Beautiful Starry Skies
The art by Nim Ben Reuven adds to the delight in this game. The star tokens are tiny plastic gems that give off a sparkle and shine.
None of the constellations on the board are familiar ones, either. This adds to the sense of discovery as you cross the board; and the names are pretty fun, too.
Partially Cloudy Skies
But even though the individual constellations are attractive, the board as a whole feels a little disorganized. Some constellation circles seem like they should be adjacent, but aren’t connected. And the small constellations aren’t big enough to fit all the tokens needed. We occasionally struggled to fit star tokens, telescopes, and a Discovery marker in a way that didn’t obstruct any important information (like paths).
Lining up all the Discovery markers face-up is the longest part of setup and feels inappropriate for this otherwise lightweight game. But there are only 24 of them, so it still isn’t terrible.
In addition, there was a rule that tripped us up – the bonus exploration as described above. The rule as stated doesn’t quite match with the examples given to illustrate it in the rulebook, and it took some time to decipher which interpretation made more sense.
Family Friendly Stargazing
Regardless, these flaws are minor when compared to all of Starry Night Sky‘s assets. We absolutely love the collaborative nature of this game. It also features very little reading, so kids as young as eight should be able to play.
It can be frustrating to be unable to get to your Myth constellations, or when you seem to always pull the wrong color stars. But there is a little bit of mitigation in the tools available to you in the game. Use those bonus explorations and turn in a goal to get a specific color star. Make your way across the sky to the constellations you care about most.
Although there are some hiccups, we think Starry Night Sky is an excellent addition to your family board game shelf.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Starry Night Sky from Buffalo Games for this review. We’d like to thank Emma Larkins for reaching out to us about her game.
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Starry Night Sky
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 10+ (we say 8+)
Playtime: 30-45 minutes