Noctiluca Review

Dice & game box

Dive down and collect the glowing Noctiluca. Fill jars to gather their healing powers. Well basically just collect the most dice matching your little jars to score points and earn extra point tokens.

 

Game overview

In Noctiluca you compete against either the Tempest (solo play) or up to 3 players to gather the optimal dice for your jars. 

The game is played over 2 rounds where collectively all players place 12 pawns – no it’s not a co-op game. The pawns are equally divided amongst the players. 

The game board is divided into 18 spots and in each round it’s seeded with 4 dice in the inner circle and 5 in the outer. Each player get’s a secret color, they will score extra points for at the end of the game.

On your turn you place a pawn in one of the 12 outer spots and in a straight line going down, up or to the sides collecting all the dice matching the number you select. Be careful, if you take more than you need, you will have to share it with the other players in the direction of play (clockwise first round and counter-clockwise the last round).

Place your collected dice on your jar cards (you have 2 to begin with). If you fill a jar, place the card face down and take the top appropriate colored point token. Notice the points gets higher and higher for every time a token is collected. Then draft a new jar card choosing between 4.

Now the next player has only 11 spots to choose from, as you can not go in the same spot; this really makes the game tight in the end.

Once all 12 pawns are placed, the board is emptied and seeded with new dice. At the end of the game you check who has the majority of the point tokens in each of the 3 colors. The player who has the majority gets the rest of the tokens but flipped to their back (grey side) giving only 1 point – if tied it’s equally shared (any leftover are discarded).

You score the value of your filled jars, leftover dice on jar cards, your secret color card and of course your point tokens, front and back side. 

 

Game: Noctiluca

Player Count: 1-4

Max Playing Time: 30

Year Published:  2019

Rating: 7.08272

Designers: Shem Phillips

Artists: Bree Lindsoe,

Mechanics: Card Drafting, Set Collection, Worker Placement

BoardGameGeek

 

How is it?

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

So when I first saw this game I was drawn to it because of the visuals; the beautiful dice and the nice artwork on the jar cards and the interesting layout of the dice. I then was put off a bit by the review of a Mr. Zee Garcia, as he said the replayability was very low, because “you just draft a die”.  After a break I read and watched some reviews and decided to pick this up at UKGE (my first convention). And I’m really glad I did. 

This is easy to teach and with some depths and thinking, but everyone can join. There is also the option of just playing a less thinky game and thereby have a shorter game. Having the secret scoring color like in other games is a nice little twist and more to think of. 

This game also seems like a nice little gateway game; non-gamers would enjoy it; those I have thought it to like it.

The theme of the game for me is non-existing (something with collecting some underwater animals), but then again I don’t mind it, I play games that are fun and different, and I don’t necessarily need a theme. Don’t get me wrong having a strong theme is really great when you find them, and it’s something the boyfriend appreciate and therefore easier to get him to play (he claims to hates board games, so a fun and good theme is great). Even without a solid theme this game was approved by the boyfriend.

 

Strategy & complexity

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

You can make the games as simple as you like and as complex as you like, in the means of how much to think about getting just the right dice. There is still quite a lot of luck in this game; randomization of the dice to draft, your starting jars, your secret color and which dice other players will draft and ruin it for you. It’s not every often you get dice for free from your opponents from drafting too many dice (or too many wrong dice), but it happens once in a while, maybe a bit more in a 3-4 player game.

There is not the same kind of luck with dice rolling as the pool of dice is for everyone and you don’t have to re-roll. The values of the dice only matter for collecting as many dice as possible – once they are on your jar cards they don’t have an effect.

The degree of luck doesn’t bother me personally, but I could see why it would bother some. You just have to try and make the best with what is out there. 

 

Replayability

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The replay is pretty decent as the dice are randomly put out and so are the jar cards and your personal goal color. You might end up finding a strategy you like, but again because of the randomness of the setup it might not always be possible to fulfill that. 

Since the game is fairly short I don’t see a huge problem if you find the game a bit repetitive, as it’s quickly over. 

I see the amount of jar colors to be the perfect count in the higher player counts as having 4 colors would make everyone focus on their own color – and thereby having less competition. You can argue that there are too many colors for a 2 player game but for this, you try and get the majority in more than 1 color. In a solo game you need all the colors you can get as the Tempest (AI) just randomly collects.

 

Scalability

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The game works well for all player counts, but best with 2-4, as it feels more of a game with the interactions and following what other players are gathering. With the Tempest in the solo game it is random, what jar cards it gets and which dice it takes (but from a specific quadrant).

For 2 players it’s a more back and forth game, meaning you can easier ruin something for your opponents. With more than 2 there are bigger changes you will get leftover dice, and maybe finishing a jar on another player’s turn.

It’s a much longer game with 3 and especially 4 players, because of the possible AP (Analysis paralysis), but it still a quick game. It’s nearly impossible to plan your turn when playing 4 players as the board would have changed so much, it makes sense to only start thinking about your turn when you’re next up.

 

Rules & accessibility

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Short, precise and clear rules, and easy to get you started. Only small thing was the solo rules; especially the scoring seemed a bit weird. Your score for a solo game is your points minus the points from the Tempest (AI), if you have a score of 0 or higher, you have won. No need for that, should be the same just having a higher score than the Tempest 🙂 

Game play seems straight forward, only confusion I had from people was placement of pawns and which lines to go down and why you couldn’t get the middle line. I personally thought is easy to understand, so it’s kind of how you visualize the board in your head.

 

Solo variant

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

The solo variant competing against the Tempest is really hard to beat; and I would say you need to get a bit lucky from the beginning in order to pull it off. I have won once of the couple of games I have played. There is no AI, it’s basically just some random cards the Tempest gets. Your turn is almost the same, only the way you get the new jar cards a are bit different, you get a choice between 2 every time you draw a new (no open jar card market).

Then after each of your turns, you draw the top card of the deck and give it to the Tempest and the token of the color of the card; so it’s always filled right away. Then you roll the die and remove all the dice in that particular spot (dependent on the quadrant and die value); removing quite a few dice quickly. You then turn the middle round marker.

The Tempest quickly gets majority in 2 or even all jar colors, so trying to always be ahead on one color is kind of a must. Not giving the Tempest too many dice from your drafting and then just hoping you got a good private goal color that match the jar cards. Also keeping in mind to try and take dice from the quadrant the Tempest will take from next, ensuring there are always a good variety of dice left.

I prefer solo variant with some kind of AI deck or mechanics, so you can better make some strategies. This is simple, but so unforgiving that I might not play it too often. But it does have a good, quick flow and not many changes from the multiplayer game. A good way to learn the game and if I just need a quick gaming fix 🙂

 

Skype-ability

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Noctiluca works great with remote play via Skype or Google hangouts; only complaint is the translucent dice, where the pips are hard to see on the lighter dice. I find it helps speed up the game with adding some numbers on each space, where you can place a pawn (could have been great if the numbers where printed on – there is enough space for it). This means you can just say something like “I want the dice with a value 6 from number 3 down to 8”.

 

Portability

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

The game doesn’t come with too many components, but the dice and huge board takes up the most space. A modular board would have certainly have made it extremely portable. If you are not travelling extremely compact, it wouldn’t be a problem to take it with you on travels; I would certainly do so. 

 

Appearance & component quality

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

The double-sided board is your standard, but good quality board. The tokens are nice thick cardboard and feels good in the hand. The goal and jar cards could have been a better quality; they are alright but on the thinner side. Since the game doesn’t require a lot of shuffling it should still last for some time.

A huge amount of colorful dice are included; not the biggest, but also not too small to be fiddly. Since the dice are translucent it can make it a bit hard to see the pips on the lighter color, especially when I play this game remotely; full color would have fixed any issues, but I understand it wouldn’t look as nice.

The only real complain I have is the translucent, plastic bag the dice are in. I mean we are supposed to draw these randomly and without looking, a simple non-translucent bag would have been nice. Until I bought one for this game, we just poured all the dice on the tabled, closed our eyes and shuffled. I think I expected a bit more for a Z-Man game; if it meant charging a bit more, I would rather have that then having to buy one separate after I got the game.

 

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Helge’s review

(and Birger)

What can I say, DICE! And lots of them; I love each and everyone of them. I have to be careful though, they seem small enough for me to swallow.

But the best way to get attention is taking over the board with my whole body, the game cannot be played at all. It’s nice and thick so it should withstand a scratch here and there without it breaking.

The point chips have a really good feel to them and thick quality, but still easy enough for me to secretly push them off the table. It’s nice that not all cards are kept in front of the player, but a few are stacked out of easy reach for the humans – it gives me some time to just sway my fluffy tail across, scattering them everywhere.

The box lid is my only complaint, it’s small and very shallow. I can fit, but not feel comfortable, so I’m not able to lay in there for a long time – good thing the game is rather quick.

 

Box Fitting:2 out of 5 stars (2.0 / 5)
Component Noise:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Component Count & Diversity:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Component Quality:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Human Annoyance Level (HAL):5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Average:4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

 

Game info

BoardGameGeek (BGG)

 

Rules explanation

Watch it played

 

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