18 November 2019
Periodic is closer in excitement to dropping potassium in water than reading from dusty textbooks.
Despite being a game inspired by the periodic table of elements, Periodic is closer in excitement to dropping potassium in water than reading from dusty textbooks.
It’s clearly been created with its educational benefits in mind, but the gameplay is much more interesting than you might assume from the dry premise. Even so, there’s actual scientific backing to what you’re doing – players spend or collect energy tokens to adjust their atomic mass and increase their ionisation energy and atomic radii (it’s less complicated than it sounds), moving around the periodic table to claim the individual elements listed on a variety of different goal cards. Finishing your turn in specific groups – noble gases, halogens, metalloids and so on – advances you along the academic achievement track, earning extra points.
The objective cards’ scientifically accurate specificity give the game a charming sense of quirkiness, as you race to be the first to concoct ‘disinfectant for pool and hot tub water’ (HOCl and HOBr, if you’re wondering) or the ‘gas inside incandescent light bulbs’.
Hidden agenda cards and a light amount of player interaction and strategy through claiming energy spent by your opponents and the chance to benet from goal cards others fulfil complete a design that finds a comfortable resting point between genuine educational value and not leaving everyone around the table bored out of their minds. The gameplay is a compound of familiar ideas, but the approachable delivery makes it easy to digest the pill of knowledge wrapped in the middle – and worth playing just for fun.
Considering its creators were working with a grid of squares certain to elicit flashbacks to tedious chemistry lessons for most people, the colourful and clear presentation means you’ll quickly start finding your way between seaborgium and livermorium with ease. Though given the pop and clarity of the rest of the game, it’s a shame that the near-identical visual similarity between the pink and purple player pieces caused confusion for our group on multiple occasions.
It won’t set the world on fire, but the fact that the designers have turned out something this enjoyable whether you’re revising for your science exams or not simply has to be applauded. And if you (or someone you know) are looking for a way to learn your Ac to Zr that doesn’t go down like a Pb balloon, this becomes a must-have. It turns out the most important element in Periodic is surprise.
PLAY IT? PROBABLY
Designer: John Coveyou, Paul Salomon
Artist: Tomasz Bogusz
Time: 40-60 minutes
Purchase the game here
This review originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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