The UK Games Expo gets bigger and better every year and with that, publishers are starting to use the show as an opportunity to launch their new titles. Not many, admittedly, and so far not the biggest names who save up their releases for the likes of GenCon and Essen Spiel. However, in 2016 the Polish publisher Board & Dice chose to release a pocket size game which proved to be a personal favourite of the show. That game was Multiuniversum.
In Mulituniversum players are scientists who unwittingly ripped open the fabric of space and time, opening portals to weird and wonderful new universes. On one hand, that’s great! Look at the lovely new places we can go to – but on the other, all the fearsome creatures on the other side of those portals can now enter our world. You really don’t want a sword-wielding gummy bear or zombie rabbit popping into our world for a visit. And so it rests upon the players’ shoulders to close up these portals as fast as possible.
The setup of the game revolves around five portal generator cards, each of which has its own stack of portals to close. Each player then has a hand of three cards with which to take actions on their turn – 3 actions per turn. These include research (taking new cards), using a generator (each generator has its own power), move (from one generator to another), close a portal (more on that in a moment) and recycle (take a card of your choice from the discard pile).
In order to take one of the actions on the card your meeple needs to be located on the generator which matches the action symbol on the card you wish to play, so you have to make sure you’ve thought about not only which actions to take, but also the order in which to play them. You don’t want to move to a generator that can no longer trigger the action you wanted to take.
In addition to this, each card also has a tool symbol on it. One of the possible actions is to prepare a tool, which means to place the card in front of you in preparation for closing a portal. Each portal needs a specific combination of tools and in order to use the Close Portal action you need to have the necessary tools prepared. This often leads to conflicts in your turn as you may need the card for the action of closing a portal, but also need to prepare that same card for the tool icon.
The game ends when three stacks of portal cards are depleted. Each portal has a victory point score and also a set icon. Players with five different icons on their closed portals will gain an additional 9 points, a matching pair of icons nets you 4 points or a set of three icons (the full set) gets 9 points also. The player with the most points, predictably, is the winner.
I was very surprised by Multiuniversum. At the Expo I had seen many people walking around with copies and many folks were talking about it, so when the opportunity arose I picked myself up a copy.
The art work, by Paweł Niziołek and Piotr Uzdowski, is superb for a small box game like this and the graphic design is simple and easy to understand. The wooden meeples are very nice, the box is made of sturdy and thick cardboard. So, production-wise it is a bit of a slam dunk, especially when taken with the cost. You can currently pick up a copy of the game from Meeples’ Corner for less than a tenner!
The game play is relatively simple and straightforward, but the dynamic of the multi-use cards is what makes it fun. You’re constantly challenged by being forced to choose between using cards for the actions or preparing them as tools and hoping to score the card you need in the end of turn redraw (or picking up a recycle action card for your current or intended generator). In my experience the relative simplicity of the decisions means it’s a pretty quick game to play. However, the game state will change rapidly as other players zip around the generators and close up the portals you may have been working towards, which for certain players may result in a bit of thinking time to re-plan your moves.
That said, none of our games have taken more than 30 minutes to play, even with five players, which puts it firmly in the filler category for most gamers. That may be doing the game a disservice though, as this is a chunkier and more thoughtful game than most games given that label.
For new players the number of icons to learn can be a challenge, though nowhere near as bad as a game like Race For The Galaxy. Every card has every possible action symbol, it’s just a unique layout of which generators the actions are assigned to on each card which changes. So there is a small learning curve at first, but once you know what the icons are and what the generator actions do you’re good to go.
Ultimately, it’s lightness may be its undoing for some gamers, but for me it is a delightful option for those times when you need something short, but fulfilling at the start or end of a game night. For less than £10 you really can’t go wrong.
|What I like||What I dislike|
|Awesome artwork and good graphic design||Initial learning curve for iconography – could have used some player aid cards|
|Quick(ish) and simple gameplay||AP prone players can cause heavier downtime|
|Small box size and table presence|