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Planet Defenders Review

Quick Look: Planet Defenders

Designer: Wei-Min Ling
Artist: Maisherly, Paul Tseng
Publisher: Renegade Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 30-60

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

NOTE: This review covers the 2017 re-release of Planet Defenders from Renegade Games. This game was originally produced by EmperorS4 and has had minor changes to its components and rules.


tl;dr: Clever mechanics and adorable art combine for a great lightweight resource/set-collecting game with a tasty sci-fi theme.

Getting to the Game: Setup is simple and provides for some nice game variation. The same eight planet tiles will be used every game, but their position relative to each other can potentially change. Given that moves are often only 1-2 spaces, this is relevant enough to be worth a mention. The rest of setup involves shuffling cards and placing them near the board, your usual game-setup stuff.
Teaching Planet Defenders to new players is a simple task as well. There are no outlandish turn structures or odd game mechanics. Our games were a simple talk through the well-organized rulebook, and we were ready to go. 

Playing the Game: You and your fellow players take on the roles of interplanetary custodians, using the three provided robotic planet defenders to chase down rogue robots that have disobeyed their programming and are no longer answering orders. Your job is to secure as many of these robots as you can before your opponents do. Robots gained grant you points, and having a wider variety of robots will give you even more points. Technology cards are available for purchase during the game to assist in this quest, and variation in these also contributes to your end score, so you'll find yourself racing against your opponents for valuable colors and types as they pop up.

On your turn, you'll spend one "battery" to move one planet defender according to the movement tiles available to you. Once the defender lands on a planet, you gain the benefit of that planet. This often results in some combination of energy cubes and additional batteries. The casino planet forces you to roll a single six-sided die and gain benefits according to the roll. It's a tiny amount of luck, but there's no "bad" roll, so we actually found this planet interesting rather than frustrating. However, your mileage may vary based on your tolerance for variation.

If you need more resources, you can spend two additional batteries to move a defender again, using the control tiles. The restriction here is that you can't use the same tile twice in a turn, and two defenders can't end on the same planet. This optional second action can be more expensive than it's worth, but it could mean the difference between claiming a robot or missing your chance at it, so it's a decent tactical decision. 

Once you've taken your action(s), you have the opportunity for a final action: you can either capture a robot, or purchase a technology from the available pool. Only one technology may be purchased per turn, and you can't both buy a tech and capture a robot. 

Each robot has an energy cost which can be reduced by these special Technology cards. Pay the cost and claim the robot for your scoring area. Most robots also have a benefit in terms of a small refund once you buy it, so sometimes it's worth it to go broke on batteries in order to secure a robot that will give you a couple back when you buy it.

At the end of your turn, you'll remove the spent batteries off the control tiles and flip them over to reveal new movement options for your next opponent (the opposing sides are shown at the bottom of each card, so you know what you're giving the next player). This is a very simple and elegant mechanic that allows you to play some defense. However, tracking orthogonal movement in a 3x3 grid with three defenders and trying to lock your opponent out of a planet they clearly want can get a little brain-bendy. The option is very nice to have, however, and provides a good feeling of change between turns. 

As soon as two of the four available stacks of robots are depleted, the current round ends (each player gets the same number of turns) and players total their points. As mentioned above, there's a small bonus for varying your robot purchases among the six colors, as well as how many different types of technology you purchase. However, the bulk of your points comes from the robots themselves, so don't get too hung up on trying to diversify. Just score big and score often.

Worthy of mention as well is that a turn consists of one player taking at least one action, and possibly up to three. If you have players prone to Analysis Paralysis in your group, they're going to get triggered by this game. There are three movements available to them, but direction is up to the player, and with Technology cards throwing additional options for redeeming energy and batteries, as well as discounts on capturing robots, it can be daunting to figure out the "optimal" playstyle. If you have a couple of these players in a four-player game, there can be a significant amount of waiting for your turn. This would be the case in most games of this type, however, and there's nothing here that exacerbates the issue. 

Artwork and Components: This game delivers on this category in a big way. The artwork across the board is just adorable; from the rulebook, to the box, to the high-quality minis, all the way down to the planet tiles and robot cards, the finish on this game is top-notch. 
Component quality is equally impressive. Energy cubes are large, acrylic chunks that feel very nice. Batteries are smaller versions of their energy cousins, also in acrylic. The planet defender minis are a hugely welcome change from the cardboard standees of the original game.

The Good: Planet Defenders feels tactical rather than overly strategic. The flipping-control-tile mechanic prevents any player from planning too far ahead, and the sharing of the planet defenders themselves means you're never going to be sure if a desired move is even going to be possible. The length is just right so that you never feel like you're out of the game at any point. The rulebook is intelligently laid out and easy to follow, with good, clear examples. The artwork and components are spectacular. There's very little not to like about this game. However...

The Bad: The glaring problem we had across our testing games was that the blue and green energy cube icons on the cards and planet tiles are nearly identical. We had many, many instances in which we had to pick up the cards and put them next to icons of colors we were sure of just to see which color it was. There's some iconography issues on the player boards, as well. The latter is pretty forgivable, but the former can be very, very annoying.

MSRP for Planet Defenders is $45, which feels only a little bit high for what's here. If you can find this game on sale, and you don't have any color recognition issues, this game is worth snapping up.

Score: The price and color issues take this game down only a tiny bit, the art and mid-to-lightweight gameplay contribute heavily. I give Planet Defenders a score of Stellar.

 This is my fourth review for EBG and the first time my wife has won one of the games we've played together (she's actually won every game of this we've played so far). She demanded the following photo be taken and posted with the review to commemorate the occasion:

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About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
Planet Defenders Review Planet Defenders Review Reviewed by The Madjai on December 11, 2017 Rating: 5

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