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Review : Periodic - A Game of the Elements

Tuesday, 13 August 2019  |  Russ

A Review by Nick Gouldstone
Periodic: A Game of the Elements as a premise is a well thought out and interesting take on a general “move here, do this” mechanism however it does have a few small flaws but nothing that would stop me bringing it back to the table. It is a charming game with a bright and colourful board with a strong push towards education.
The game is based on a delightful looking board of the periodic table of elements with a selection of cards dotted around the board. The goal of the game is to have the most points by the time the game concludes. You achieve this by moving around the periodic table via the 5 routes printed on the game board by spending energy points or taking the energy on the space if it is the only move you will perform that turn. This mechanic is interesting in that it can produce a powerful turn for one player when they have a large amount of energy since you can continue making moves providing you have the energy to spend. The game has 4 decks of goal cards which range in difficulty, with the objective being to end a move on a specific element on the table to place scoring cubes on that goal card. Once 1 player has completed all the sections of a card it is scored with a full bonus to the completing player and a smaller point pay out for any other participating players and if they are present, the scoring player can take a 1 off bonus power token. There are also 8 cards dealt around the board to form almost a set of wings hugging the board which have another token on. The purpose of these cards is that if you decide to end a move on the next periodic group in a clockwise order, you can move this token on the achievement track which is worth an increasing number of points. Each player also received a hidden objective card which adds extra point scoring to the final total which occurs when 1 goal stack empties or player(s) make it to the end spaces of the achievement track.
Gears behind the game
The games movement mechanics are rather unique. When you decide on what action to take, you will be moving your action token, left, right, up, down, or a combination of two of these things to manipulate and navigate across the elements themselves. Each element that is scoring that round will have a token on it to remind you where to go. I enjoy the idea that you can continue to take movements so long as you have the energy to do so, and the only hindrance to this is that your first action is 1 energy, but all additional actions cost 2. This can make for powerful turns where you could score a single objective card in 3 swift moves (providing you have the energy to do it). This also works when you have little of zero energy as if you only take 1 action in a turn, you collect all the energy from the space you choose. This can allow stockpiling of energy for the aforementioned super turn.
The periodic group cards which surround the board also make for a secondary achievement you can strive for but you may find yourself forgetting to do it until closer to the end of the game because of how restrictive to the rest of your gameplay it can be. 
Highs and Lows
The production on this game is very nice but could be improved. The tokens are standard wooden tokens we have seen 1000 times but they are shaped into flasks and microscopes and look appealing. The board is a high quality, thick stock with a bright and vibrant element table which is attractive to play on and look at. Personally I disliked the bonus tokens and the text on most of the cards. The bonus tokens did not look in place with the rest of the game in that they seemed a little cheaper in quality to the rest of the game and the same for the card text but this is nit picking. The only other concern was with the achievement track. I felt that by following my personal goal card and achieving the public goals was a much more efficient use of my actions than trying to progress up the achievement track which made me ignore the whole process for the majority of the game.
Final Thoughts
As a game premise I think the designers were onto a winner with this game. Having cut their teeth on games like Cytosis and Subatomic, this game falls in line with their ideals of making science and board gaming a compatible couple. An ambitious idea to go for however I find that the game falls flat and excels in this area at the same time. If you enjoy the idea of a board which is effectively the chart you stared at during science class, then this is the game for you. It is presented beautifully and will look great in a collection and if a minimalist and educational game are traits you look for this is for you.
 A lot of people will not forgive the game for trying to teach them science while guising as a board game but if you can look past that, the game itself is an enjoyable romp of last minute point stealing and card collecting which can leave even the most dedicated of scientific minds stumped on their optimal next move.    
Thoughts from Russ at The Board Game Hut : I'm not a fan of abstract games normally (and this is fairly abstract), I prefer more thematic games, however, I did enjoy my playthrough of Periodic. There are a lot of choices to make - which objectives to go for, whether to make just one move and gather more energy or spend your energy now for a big turn.  The game mechanics could probably be transferred to almost any other theme really, but they do tie it in quite well and is mildly educational without forcing you to learn :) 
Designer: John Coveyou, Paul Salomon 
Artists: Tomasz Bogusz 
Publishers: Genius Games 
Release Date: 2019
Player count: 2 - 5
Age range: 10+
Time: 45 minutes
Mechanism(s): Grid Movement, Pick-up and Deliver, Set Collection