I decided to read over JW's End Times post again that he posted recently, as I don't want to bore anyone with more of the same Ark Nova talk. As usual though, I want to share my initial impressions. 😊
As has been my usual method over the past year at least, I played my first runthrough of the game two-handed to get a feel for the game on the whole. My first impression; Table Hog!
That said, as much physical space this game takes, and as abundant as the decisions are throughout, setup is quite quick. The organizers that come with the game are a big help without question (not pictured). When JW mentioned he used it as a "filler" game, I wondered how such a big box could possibly be a "filler" game. But I think I understand a bit more now, at least from the reasonable setup time perspective. 🙂
I didn't actually make it through the entire game. I had to have dinner at some point after being at the table for a few hours. Granted, as usual on a first play I was taking my time and diving into the rulebook, glossary and BGG forums as necessary. Today's solo mode attempt will be much faster for sure. However, the time flew by for me! I loved it.
One mechanic I really like in Ark Nova is the 'Actions'.
In this pic below black's zoo map/player board, you can see 4/6 actions (sorry - bad camera work 🤣). 5/6 actions are right in front of you at all times; Playing an animal into your zoo, Taking an association action, playing a sponsor card, drawing cards and building a structure in your zoo. The sixth action is not on a card, but allows you to get an 'x' token (which can boost the power of a card in later turns if you choose). Without the need for a "cheat sheet", you have everything you need right in front of you. I love that!
The action cards have a number above them. This is the actions power. Let's say I choose the 'association' action from the above pic. It has a power of '2' this turn. This means, I can take an association action up to 2-power from the association board. After I complete the action, the association card moves into the 1-space, while the other cards shift to the right. A simple mechanism that makes you think ahead. 😀
Here's a picture later in my game of the black player's animals. JW pointed out the feel from other familiar games. I agree 100%. The cards themselves totally remind me of Terraforming Mars. In particular the icons. Just like in TM, the cards you play help you gain other cards based on icon requirements, and of course cards have various actions/bonuses when they're played. Some cards, such as sponsor cards have ongoing effects during the income phase of the break. Very Terraforming Mars-esque.
I also felt a similar feel at times to Wingspan (as JW eluded to). At least with this first play, I noticed there is the odd interaction with some cards etc, but most of it is building your own zoo while your neighbours do the same. Very similar feel to Wingspan where you're building your own aviary, mostly independant of anyone elses. There is still the competition for points in the end, but throughout the game you can focus on your thing (mostly). Again - from my first play at least.
I found the "Break" aspect of the game to be very cool! Ark Nova has no rounds. You take an action. The next player takes an action. It carries on like that, until the little coffee mug component (awesome) reaches the "Break". At that point, you take a "coffee break", reset some things, gain income etc... Then away you go again. The break could come quickly or it could take quite a while to get there. It'll vary game to game depending on players action selections. I see it as just like running a real zoo: There's so many things to consider. It's exhausting. You gotta have a break! And when you do, you can reset yourself and then get back to work. Love it! 😋
I'm very anxious to play the solo mode today, especially based on JW's recent post. I'm open to all kinds of solo modes, but typically my favourites are the ones where it feels like I'm playing an opponent. The idea that this solo mode is neither that, or BYOS (which is 'meh' for me) is intriguing. I'm excited. Based on a quick read of the 1-page solo mode last night, it seems very simple to run which leaves you more time to sort out your best moves for your zoo.
I loved Ark Nova at the table. I'm so happy it's part of my collection! I honestly didn't want to stop playing. If it wasn't for dinner with the family, and a movie with my wife afterwards, I would've kept going. It was really fun! Although JW and I compared elements to Wingspan, I personally would not put it in the "relaxing" category as I do Wingspan. 🤣 There are many decisions to be made!! However, I would classify it as satisfying and fun without question!
Speaking of fun; I don't care how bad of a day someone has had, if you draw this card and play this little guy into your zoo, you're 100% going to smile! 😁