SNAP Review – Subastral
The landscapes of the planet Earth are as beautiful as they are varied. In some places, a full day’s travel could lead to a different landscape that looks like it’s on a different world. These biomes are rich habitats filled with all sorts of different flora and fauna. We may be filled with wonder when we look up at the stars, but there are plenty of incredible things to see when we lower our gaze from the skies, as well.
This is a SNAP Review for Subastral.
In Subastral from Renegade Games, you play as researchers trying to learn about as many biomes as possible, and learn as much as you can about each one.
We mentioned Subastral was illustrated by Beth Sobel. That should tell you basically everything you need to know. Each card is just beautifully illustrated. Each biome has its own picture and there’s also a cloudscape for the center of the table.
Beth is an incredibly talented artist, and that’s good, because there’s very little graphic design needed for this game, so the art takes center stage.
With over 100 cards in the game, it would have been nice to have more than the eight pictures that accompany the eight biomes, but given the feel of the game, and the fact that it is a set collection game, it works.
I really appreciated that there are little facts for each biome, and they’re different for each of the numbers 1-6.
To start, modify the biome deck depending on player count. Then each player takes three cards from that deck. Insert the game end card near the bottom, and put the cloud cards together to form the cloudscape. Put a biome card on each of the cloud cards, face up.
On your turn, you play a card. Pretty simple. Put that card face up into the center row onto whatever cloud number matches the number on the card. Then, you can take the cards on any cloud to the left (toward the biome) OR to the right (toward the sun) of the card you just put down.
If you take cards on the biome side of the card you put down, add those cards to your hand. Then, draw another card from the biome deck and add that to your hand as well.
But if you take cards on the sun side, you add that stack to the tableau in front of you. That means you can never play cards from your hand down in front of you, which is tricky! You must match biomes that you already have down, but a new biome just goes next in line.
When the game end card is drawn, keep playing until the last player in turn order gets to go, then everyone gets one last turn before scoring.
Remember, we said there were two different kinds of sets that you score.
First, you’ll score mixed sets. These sets stop wherever there is a gap, so the order in which you put your biomes down as you collect them is important. So, a set of three in a row ends up scoring you 6 (1+2+3). A set of eight is 36.
This is where the order becomes really important, because if you have the first biome, second biome, third biome, and seventh biome (in your second row), you’ll only score three of them because of that gap. So, it gets pretty tricky.
Then score matching sets. Find the two biomes in your tableau with the most cards. Multiply the count of cards times the column number.
Pinchback and Riddle are great at making thinky games (we are big fans of Pinchback and Riddle), so I knew whatever was in this box was going to have some kind of layered mechanic and probably be somewhat abstract, but it’s hard to know what you’re getting just from the box. But it’s a pretty box!
I thought there might be a little more digging into the biomes themselves, and maybe collecting sets of attributes for those biomes.
I was surprised that the theme does not matter in this game. But marrying a relaxing, cerebral abstract game with these peaceful landscapes worked for me.
I liked the juxtaposition of the clouds and the ground. It felt kind of like people were standing in different places around the earth and looking up at the same sky. It’s a weird feeling of interconnectedness, I suppose.
This is a great game for a couple or a group of people who don’t mind just a little bit of analysis paralysis, or who don’t get bogged down by it. It’s really easy to get tripped up by the challenge of balancing the cards to pull into your hand against those you want to take from the center and put in your tableau.
There’s definitely a puzzle here that isn’t just luck, but it takes more than a couple of plays to really set a strategy and plumb the depths. I think the suggested age range of 10+ is about right. A younger kid could play, but they’re going to get tripped up by remembering that the card they play is not the card they get to keep.
I think this would be great to add to a gameschooling repertoire, as we talk about the earth and all of the various biomes in it, and why they are all important.
We love closing out our night with a game of Subastral; it has a nice full and relaxing feeling to it.
What are we going to rate Subastral? 4 out of 5 beautiful biomes.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Subastral from Renegade Games for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range: 10+ (might go younger)
Playtime: 15-30 minutes