Publisher: Arcane Wonders
Age: 14+
Players: 2-6
MSRP: $44.99

It’s not often I get to review a board game based on a video game I’ve also reviewed (and loved). Age of Wonders: Planetfall is the tabletop adaptation of the 4x, turn-based video game of the same name.

Other than the art and factions, however, most of the gameplay has been stripped away, leaving a much more simplistic drafting card game. Once that initial shock wears off, you’ll discover a well-balanced evolution of classic card-drafting tabletop game, 7 Wonders.

7 Planets

Players select one of six factions lifted from the video game, including the insectoid Kirk’ho and necromantic cyborgs known as the Assembly. Each faction has their own special ability, starting resources, and little wooden ship token.

The game plays in seven rounds, with seven different planet-decks of cards that gradually escalate in cost and power.

Each round, a number of cards are drawn from the planet deck and randomly placed in three rows representing levels.

Each card has slightly different costs depending on the level it’s placed on. Drafting a level three card is more cost-efficient, but drafting also determines turn order, resulting in a later turn for “exploring” further into the planet.

Like 7 Wonders, most cards also have a cost you’ll need to pay in order to claim them. Planetfall uses two resources, strength and energy (as well as experience, which acts as a threshold for combat). Strength is typically used to defeat enemy cards, while energy is used to claim landmarks and technology.

All claimed cards grant bonuses (including victory points), with players constantly moving their resource markers up and down throughout the rounds. The extra layer of resource management adds a nice layer of complexity each round. I may really want a certain landmark to get the paired landmark bonus, but I’ll need to defeat an enemy first to get the energy needed to claim the landmark.

Each planet deck consists of two rounds of drafting, as players vie for the best cards, and future draft order. It’s interactive without being needlessly cruel or “take-that.”

In addition to spending and gaining resources, players are earning empire points (victory points) and working toward shared goals, which are selected from a group at the start of the game.

It’s weird that there are no secret personal goals. Most victory point tabletop games also have a secret goal that players are working on that helps guide their strategy. Planetfall only has the shared goals that everyone knows about.

The only asymmetry lies in the players’ faction abilities. Faction cards are double-sided, giving twice as many ability options. One side is fairly straightforward and easier for new or younger gamers (gain two energy when claiming certain cards, for example), while the other affords more interesting abilities, such as granting bonuses when selecting cards from the second row, or swapping strength and energy values once per planet. There’s a nice balance between game-altering abilities and those that only make you slightly lean toward certain cards.

The Rating

Age of Wonders: Planetfall has a recommended age rating of 14, which feels way too high. Younger teens are more than capable of managing two resources while selecting cards each turn, and the cards themselves are easy to understand. In fact, Planetfall could represent a fantastic gateway game into more complex drafting games and management games.

The Takeaway

While I’m disappointed that the official Age of Wonders board game isn’t some massive Mage Knight-like strategic hex crawl with wargame tactical combat, I quickly warmed to this elegantly simple adaptation. As an avid board gamer I appreciate great game design.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is an excellent game that builds upon card-drafting gameplay with its colorful sci-fi theme, plays quickly, and easily scales up to six players.

Hopefully we’ll still get that huge Age of Wonders board game someday.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is available at the Arcane Wonders shop.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.