At a Glance
Constellations is the second game from Xtronaut Enterprises, a company founded by the leader of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. This new game will have two to four players, age 8 and up, craning their necks to the heavens, collecting stars, and building constellations for in a 30-60 minute game that’s both educational and enjoyable.
In the box, you’ll get:
- 36 Constellation Cards
- 72 Star Cards
- 34 Point tokens
- 1 Rule & Educational Handbook
- 1 Commemorative Patch
I played an early version of the game, so I haven’t seen final components or evaluated the artwork, but judging from their previous game, the award-winning Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration, (read our review) and the images on the Kickstarter page, Constellations is shaping up to look very good. Also, like Xtronaut, the rulebook will include an educational element, which is one of the things I really like games like Constellations. You’re sitting down for some family time, why not learn something while you’re at it?
Star Cards are the building blocks for your constellations. They are colorful (using the same relative color as the ones astronomers assign to each type of star) and each of the seven types has a fact that defines each of the spectral classes. The Constellation Cards are large hexes and rich with illustrations, information, and iconography for the game. On each, you’ll find the name of the constellation and its type. At the center of each Constellation Card will be a series of star types and a number, showing what the cost to build that constellation will be. Additionally, a large number is there to show you how many points you’ll earn for building the constellation, along with any bonus for adjacency to certain constellations. If the constellation is in the Milky Way, that will be noted, as well. Around the edges of the card are gems, which will dictate placement within your night sky.
How to Play
Shuffle and then draw from the hex cards until you find a Milky Way constellation and place it in the center of the table. Then, randomly return a number of cards to the box. The number will depend on how many people are playing and the length of game that you wish to play. Place the Constellations deck aside, face down, and draw three hex cards. These are the available constellations. Shuffle the Star Cards and deal five to each player. Set the deck on the table, face-down, and turn over five cards. These are the available stars.
On your turn, you must take two actions and you can take the same action twice. You can draw a star card. Either draw from the face-up cards or from the deck. (There is no hand limit!) You may reserve a constellation, taking a card from the available constellations. You may only have one reserved constellation at a time and may return one that you have already reserved. Finally, you may play a constellation.
To play a constellation (either one that you have reserved or one from the available constellations), you must discard Star Cards that meet or exceed the cost requirement on the Constellation Card. The Constellation Card is then placed on the table, adjacent to an existing constellation. You score the points for the value of the Constellation Card, plus 1 point for each gem you can pair along the edge of the Constellation Card and its neighbor(s) — if you can’t pair any gems, you lose 2 points. If your constellation has an adjacency bonus you can fulfill, you get 2 bonus points.
Play continues until the last hex card in the Constellation Card deck is turned face-up and added to the available constellations. At this point, each player gets a final turn and points are added. Most points wins.
Why You Should Play
Constellations is a great family game for a few reasons: First, it’s pretty easy to pick up and play. Even if you don’t understand anything about star types and gems and other astronomical matter, you can still play the game and have a good time. Second, the game has enough meat to it to keep players engaged. You can play longer games and there are variants and advanced rules included that will make play pretty challenging. You can play solo or as teams, too. Third, you will learn something by playing Constellations — and that’s pretty neat! The rulebook has a healthy dose of easy-to-understand science explanation in it and, just playing the game, you’re going to pick up on some things too. We liked that a lot.
Trying to puzzle out which constellation to go after and how to fit a constellation into the table’s version of the night sky was a challenge, but still a fun one. It’s a real challenge and, thankfully, the reward isn’t huge, so just matching one or two gems seems to be the average.
The mission patch is a neat addition to the game and one that will have kids dreaming about visiting space — or at least looking up. And any game that can accomplish a goal like that, while still being a fun time, is surely worth checking out. Like Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration before it, Constellations is a family-friendly game that’s both engaging and educational. I really enjoyed playing it with my kids and, as each game progressed, we learned a little bit … while having a lot of fun. You can back it on Kickstarter now.
Disclosure: GeekDad was sent a beta copy of this game for playtesting.