20 May 2021
Desert I land discs (for points)
Let’s imagine ourselves heading into the Sonora Desert, a vast, mostly unpopulated place that gives the perfect excuse for a rather nice box cover. Whilst gazing out across the horizon, we’ll then convert what we see into a roll and write. Except, it’s not a roll and write, but a flick and write. And really, it’s not even that, because it’s four flick and writes to be played simultaneously. And when we’ve done that, we’ll call it Sonora.
So, let’s clarify a few aspects here first. The game board itself is basically a plastic framed board. The corners are bigger, so that each player has a platform to flick tokens from, and the board itself is split into quadrants, which you’ll spin 90 degrees each turn. The flick in the aforementioned flick and write gives the dexterity, seeing you place your numbered tokens onto your corner, and flick them into the area you want to gain the number of points on your token for.
It’s all very simple, because each of those four sections is a mini roll and write in itself. One sees you using the numbers on the tokens to mark off as many areas as your tokens represent. Another, sees you use those numbers to gain shapes to fit into its oddly shaped areas, trying to highlight specific characters for additional points. Some numbers can be added together for some quadrants, and some can’t. There’re also bonuses on the board for each of them, plus some bonuses on your scoreboard for being the first to complete it. You’ll play all four of the games and their rules concurrently, to make up one super Megatron of a game. Did I say simple?
That’s easily the worst part of Sonora, as with many games, being the learning it. Going one by one with each quadrant, then learning the additional bonus actions, and then adding in that you need to retain the independent rules for each of them, and then retaining each of those to be able to play them simultaneously – it’s a slog. Admittedly, it’s well explained, but you’ll need a clear head, or someone good with retaining instructions to get through the first game.
It’s the same with the solo play. You’ll be playing as your own competition. It works mechanically fine, but it doesn’t invoke much fun, we substituted the second player for a high score table, and that was enough to enjoy it alone.
So surely, with all that this isn’t a game to pick up? Well, certainly, your brain will hurt for the first little while, but once you break that barrier, I can happily say it’s a delight.
Each of the four quadrants in isolation are a solid and varied roll and write game. Having them together is like levelling up your strategy. Adding to that, is a much keener sense of competition than you would expect. Your turn sees you flicking two tokens onto the board, and you may have them perfectly placed for the turn you want – only to have your opponent flick their token into yours, sending it to another quadrant and ruining your perfect turn. You may try to do the same to them on the next go, all the while considering how success or failure to do so will impact the scoring on your board. A little dexterous, a fair bit competitive, and a lot fun.
If you like the roll and write genre, this is absolutely the game for you (after an initial frustration period). If you don’t like the genre… run in the opposite direction and don’t look back.
For something a little different in your Roll and Writes, this is perfect.
Designer: Rob Newton
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Time: 30-45 Minutes
What’s in the box?
- Game board
- 20 Coloured discs
- 4 Wipe clean scoresheets
- 4 Dry-erase pens
- First player token
This article originally appeared in issue 47 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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