For Science! merges real-time, dexterity and cooperative gaming
It’s a wild combination that works far better than it has any business.
Well, folks, it’s been about a month, and that seems to be about the cadence we’re on right now for this newsletter. I’m back with a look at a game I really enjoyed playing over the last two or so months, For Science!, and as I have recently, I’ll be keeping my focus pretty squarely there. As much as I keep my focus here on any one thing, at least. You know the drill. Or maybe you don’t, and you’re new. Great! Welcome! I hope you’re doing well.
I’ll share some of what I’ve been playing after the main subject, then I’d like to tell you about a new project around science fiction short stories I started recently.
Sometimes, when I back a game on Kickstarter and the box size is either larger or smaller than I imagined, I’m a little taken aback. I don’t know why that is, because frankly, smaller boxes are nice, and I love games with big, chunky pieces. But that’s exactly what happened when For Science! arrived at my house, and as a result, the oversized, difficult-to-manage box was sat waiting to be played. I’m sure I thought, “oh, this is going to take some work to learn,” but expectations and reality are funny things, especially when you don’t open a box.
All that to say, I did open the box recently, and I did play For Science!, and I had a really great time playing it. The rules? Easy to teach, easy to demonstrate. The gameplay? Not overly difficult to grasp, but a deal more difficult to accomplish. This is a game that is absolutely up my alley, and I think it’s a little weird that I avoided it because the box is big. And make no mistake, the box is big, but it’s full of wooden pieces that you’ll have to figure out how to balance atop each other, all in the same of science.
For Science! is a real-time cooperative game, which means that it’s going to be an altogether frantic experience. You play as a team of scientists racing against the clock, performing research to develop cures to diseases, which sounds a lot like A) reality, and B) the game Pandemic, but I assure you, it’s not really like either. To develop cures to diseases and perform supporting research, you’ll be designing cures, then building those designs with blocks. And you’ll have to do all that quickly, because this is a real-time game, and you’ll have to do it carefully, because otherwise, you’re going to knock over your blocks, which is not exactly a desirable outcome — but it’ll happen, and you can try again. This isn’t Jenga. Mostly.
There’s a very nice emergent responsibility here that surfaces while players figure out the things they’re good at. You could be building out designs with blocks, or you could be arranging the “master cure” tiles if players are moving quickly enough. Somebody’s going to have to, and you’ve got just 15 minutes to do everything. Those tiles will give you benefits that last throughout the game, with each player’s role providing them a special ability, and those might be just what tips the scales in your favor.
I can’t say enough good things about For Science!, but I do have a little hesitation recommending it. It is, after all, out of stock at Grey Fox Games. They’re awaiting a new shipment of the game, and that’ll help them gauge interest in a further reprint. I’m optimistic that there will be another printing, but if this sounds like the sort of game you’d be interested in, you might want to set an alert on the Grey Fox website.
I played 7 Wonders: Architects with two sets of friends, and it’s a nice twist on the now-classic drafting game. It’s also a good deal simpler, with fewer interactions to worry about, in large part because of a quasi-drafting mechanism that has you pulling cards from one of three different places (your face-up deck, your neighbor’s face-up deck, and a face-down common deck.) Constructing your wonder is a much simpler task, and resource management becomes considerably easier to grasp, too. This is easily a better game for introducing to new gamers, which has been one of my major complaints with 7 Wonders over the years: There’s simply far too much to juggle with seven new players. Games have really streamlined over the last decade, and I’m glad this one takes advantage of those trends. Oh, and setup? It’ll take minutes. You could easily get it all handled in under a minute if you were on top of things.
I also played a few rounds of Anomia, which remains one of my favorite small-party games. I’ve rarely laughed as hard as I have playing this game. It’s basically a word-shouting game. You play a card from the common deck on your turn, placing it face-up in front of you. If the symbol on your card matches another player’s card, you have to name something that fits the category on the card. It’s a great, simple game that takes minutes to learn, but no matter how many times you play you’ll probably say something totally irrelevant — last time I played, I was trying to name an ocean, and I just shouted the word “water.” It was not at all what I was thinking, but this game creates moments like that. I subsequently couldn’t say anything because I was doubled-over laughing at myself. Anomia: highly recommend.
One last thing — I’ve started another little newsletter, which I’m currently calling The Speculative. It’s an avenue for me to talk about the speculative fiction short stories I’m reading these days, and I’m aiming for a monthly cadence. We’ll see what the future holds for this one, and I’m excited to explore it.
You can find me on Instagram at @donteatthemeeples, and I read public domain science fiction stories at Vintage Sci-Fi Shorts. I’m currently working on the fifth season over there. Thanks as always for reading, and I hope this has all found you well.