Gravwell: Escape From the 9th Dimension Review

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Posted April 20, 2015 by Crystal Pisano in Nerdy Bits

Designer: Corey Young

Artist: Alejandro Germánico Benit

Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment (2013) & Renegade Game Studios (2014)

Number of Players: 1-4

Duration: 20 minutes

 

Overview

In Gravwell, you and your friends are each piloting a ship that has been pulled through a black hole into an entirely new dimension. You need to collect fuel and be the first to the warp gate to escape. The thing is, the rules of gravity are a little different here, and propelling your ship toward the warp gate isn’t as simple as it seems.

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Imagine me flipping the box over for you like a weird board game-loving Vanna White

Gameplay

Players each start with a ship in the singularity (black hole) at the middle of the board and there are two grey derelict ships floating around in this newly discovered dimension. At the beginning of each round, fuel cards are laid out in piles of two with one card face up and one card face down. The number of piles is equal to the number of players times three. Players then draft piles of fuel into their hands.

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Some fuel cards

The 26 total fuel cards are uniquely lettered from A to Z and also have a single numerical value from 1 – 10. They also are one of three colors (types) of fuel. The most common is green fuel which moves ships toward the nearest object, purple “Repulsor Movement” fuel which pushes ships away from the nearest object and blue “Tractor Beam” fuel which moves all other ships closer to you.

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Zach plotting how to get his red ship into the warp gate

After all the fuel has been drafted, all players select a fuel card from their hand and place it face down in front of them. All the selected fuel cards are revealed simultaneously and play out in alphabetical order. This is important because you have to strategically plan what cards you’ll play in order to move your ship forward. If you play a green fuel card with the letter A on it and the nearest ship to you is behind you, your fuel will act first and your ship will move backwards the number of spaces indicated on your fuel card.

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The fuel discard pile was a bit sloppy, but who cares?

After all fuel cards have taken effect, players select a new fuel card and so on until all the fuel cards have been played. That ends the first round. The cards are then shuffled and players draft fuel again for the second round of play. Each player also has an emergency stop card that they can use once per round to discard their selected fuel card instead of using it. This is incredibly helpful if you realize you’re about the head backward 9 or 10 spaces. The game ends when one player reaches the warp gate or once six rounds have taken place.

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You can only use it once per round, but this card comes in handy!

Final Thoughts

This game is incredibly easy to teach and to play. Sometimes it really feels like a total crapshoot as to whether you’re going to do well or fail miserably. And honestly, I don’t see most games of Gravwell playing out in any unique or meaningful ways. Yet… I love this game. It’s kind of hard to figure out why, but let me try.

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Impromptu spaceship conga line!

I’m not sure what the tier of games right above “filler games” would be, but this falls squarely there for me. It’s simple but fun. It doesn’t take a lot of time to play, but the unpredictability of the order of the fuel is an interesting twist. You’ll plot out a wonderful move only to have someone play a fuel card that falls earlier in the alphabet and ruin your play in the most spectacular fashion. Yet, rather than getting frustrated, you laugh and (attempt to) plot an even better move for the next turn. Or, you lose the game horribly, laugh anyway, and move on. The game doesn’t last long enough for you to get too upset about anything. Trust me, I’m an expert at losing this game.

If you prefer intense strategy brain-burning games, this one isn’t for you. This game isn’t epic. It isn’t something that will blow your mind. What it will do, assuming you’re anything like me, is give you something other than a card-based filler game to play with a few friends between heavier games or to warm up at the beginning of a long day of intense gaming. I love having games like this in my collection. The only reason I’ve given this game a slightly-less-than-stellar rating is because I don’t think it will have TONS of replayability as time passes.


About the Author

Crystal Pisano