Thursday, February 25, 2021

Four Different Games in One Box! - Aroma: A Game of Essence

Disclaimer Support me on Patreon!

Organic Aromas, the publisher of Aroma: A Game of Essence and supplier of a wide variety of essential oils and accessories, is an Elite Sponsor of GJJ Games on Patreon.  They supplied a copy of the game Aroma: A Game of Essence and I'm thrilled to share with you an overview of the four games included in the box!  Also, be sure to check out my Unboxing of Aroma: A Game of Essence to see everything included in the game!

Aroma is a smaller box game (about 6.5"x6.5"x2") that is jam-packed with 20 small bottles of essential oils, boards, cubes, tokens, and more.  Within this small box are four games!  Discover, Survive, Revolve, and Collect each use slightly different mechanics that have you pitting your sense of smell against your opponents.  Discover is for exactly 4 players, Survive is for 2-4 players, and Revolve and Collect support 3 or 4 players.  Each game also features a small, mini-game to help set up the game and determine the start player.

So let's jump into an overview of each of the games!

Discover is specifically for 4 players.  In Discover, each player tries to reveal their aromas before other players are able to reveal their own.  However, there's a second way to win - by correctly identifying your opponents' aromas when they try to bluff!  Essentially there are two points categories: your category's aromas being identified (I'll call these Scent Points), and one for successfully bluffing or calling someone's bluff (I'll call these Bluff Points).  The first player to earn 5 points in one of these categories wins.
To play, all 20 aromas are mixed up and each player takes five of the aromas.  The four boards are placed together to make a circle in the middle and each player also gets a set of cubes and their color score token in the category of their choice.  The mini-game for Discover has everyone drop their small cubes onto the center of the board and the player with the most cubes in the center circle is the first player and the first to select their random aromas.

Taking turns, each player will choose one of the five aromas in front of them, smell it, and then use the aroma ID token and the number on the bottom of the vial to identify the aroma.  Then they state to everyone else what the aroma is.  However, they may be lying.  They'll then choose another player to challenge.  Without smelling the aroma, the Challenged player has to decide if the Active player is telling the truth or lying by saying either "I agree" or "I disagree".

Depending on the response, a few different things can happen.

If the Challenged player agreed and the active player was telling the truth a cube is placed next to that aroma on the game boards.  This is a Scent Point for the player whose category that aroma is in (I'll call this player the Category Owner, who may or may not be the Active or Challenged player).

If the Challenged player agreed, but the Active player was lying, then the Active player successfully bluffed.  They can move their score token one space toward the center of the board, essentially earning one Bluff Point.

If the Challenged player disagreed and the Active player was telling the truth, then the Active player was also successful.  Again they can more their score token one space toward the center, earning a Bluff Point.

However, if the Challenged player disagreed and the Active player was lying, then the Challenged player caught the bluff.  In this case, the Challenged player has two options; they can score one Bluff Point and end the turn, or they accept the challenge and go double or nothing by trying to guess the aroma.  If they accept the challenge they'll get to smell the aroma and then try to identify it.  If they are incorrect they won't score any points, however, if they're correct they'll score two Bluff Points!  One thing the rules don't mention though is if the Category Owner gets a point by getting a cube placed next to the aroma on their game board.  I suspect they do since the rules do state that in order to win a player must reach the center before another player's aromas have all been revealed.

So, that's Discover, a game of aroma and bluffing!  It has elements of games like Liar's Dice and if you're not a huge fan of bluffing games (my family isn't), it'll lose something if everyone tells the truth all the time.  But if you do enjoy bluffing games, Discover adds a great, olfactory twist!

Discovery was the game that took me the longest to wrap my head around for some reason.  The rules are pretty clear, but I just didn't get how the Challenged player could answer without having any information about the aroma they were being challenged with.  And early in the game, this is the case.  However, as more challenges result in aromas not being revealed you'll also have to use some skills of deduction to figure out what aromas are left, what have already been guessed, and which aromas players may be trying to get (or prevent) from being revealed.  Once this clicked for me the game started to make sense (scents?) and then the rules became clear.  I think the game could have been explained in the rules a bit better, but maybe it was just me.

Survive is for 2-4 players and features some player elimination.  This is the only game that supports just two players, though the others could with some house rules.  The goal is to identify other players' aromas before all five of your aromas are identified.  In Survive each player uses the side of a player board that shows the names of all the aromas.  They'll also have the matching aroma tokens and player pieces.

Once again, the mini-game for Survive helps both with setup and choosing the first player.  All 20 aromas are randomly placed in between the game boards in a plus layout (or I suppose an X would work, too, as long as they're evenly distributed between all the players).  When one player says "Go!" everyone will simultaneously collect random vials, one at a time, and identify them by matching the number on the bottom of the vial to the correct aroma.  Then they'll place the vial in their tray, find the appropriate aroma token, and place it face-down in front of the aroma in the tray.  The first to fill their tray and place the tokens for all five aromas wins the mini-game and is the first player.

In Survive players will take turns moving their player piece to another player's face-down aroma token.  Then they'll take the corresponding aroma vial and smell it.  Once they've smelled the aroma they can guess what it is.  If they are correct the aroma token will be flipped upright and the vial removed from play.  The active player can collect the token for the scent they guessed and store it on their game board.  If they guessed incorrectly the vial is returned to the tray and the token remains face-down.  Then it's the next player's turn.

When someone has all five of their aromas identified they are eliminated from the game.  The player that caused the elimination then gets to take a second turn.

The game ends when there is only one player remaining with unidentified aromas.

And that's Survive.  It's a somewhat simpler game, but has more emphasis on learning and being able to correctly identify the aromas.  A lot of people don't like player elimination, and the way this game is structured, someone can be eliminated pretty early on.  So one house rule you could use to avoid someone sitting out for too long would be to end the game as soon as the first player is eliminated.  Then the player that collected the most tokens is the winner with a tie breaker being the player that collected the most tokens in their category (or the player with the most unidentified aromas remaining in their tray).

Revolve is for 3-4 players (though you can make it work with two, also) and everyone plays simultaneously.  The goal of Revolve is to be able to identify more aromas than your opponents.  Throughout the game you'll smell 16 of the 20 aromas.  In Revolve the game boards are placed in the center of the table to make a square, but with the quarter circles facing out.  Each player also gets their player token and a set of aroma tokens.

Revolve's mini-game to determine the starting player is a little balancing game.  You start by stacking the score tokens and then placing the starting token on top, to make a little platform.  Then players take turns stacking their cubes on top of the platform to make a little tower.  When the tower falls the cube that remains on the top determines the first player.  Then, starting with the first player everyone takes turns selecting a random vial and placing it in their tray.

Revolve is played over 4 rounds.  Each round all players will take one aroma from their tray and identify it by the number on the bottom of the vial.  They then take the corresponding aroma token and place it face down in front of them.  Then, simultaneously, all players pass their chosen aroma to the left.  Then everyone smells the aroma they were passed and tries to identify it, without looking at the number on the vial.  They'll take the aroma token they think matches that aroma and place it below the token previously selected.  Then everyone passes the aromas to the left again and this repeats until everyone receives their original aroma back.  
Then, everyone will reveal the aroma they originally selected and everyone else gets to see what they got correct.  Score one point for every correct guess and then remove those aromas from the game.  The player tokens are used to track points on the game boards.

This repeats four times until 16 of the 20 aromas have been used.  Whoever has identified the most aromas after four rounds is the winner!

Revolve is nice, because everyone is participating at all times.  The pace is slower and there's not as much player interaction, but it's fun to see what everyone picked for the different aromas.  Can everyone tell the difference between Lemon and Grapefruit?  Maybe what you thought was Cypress everyone else knew was Eucalyptus.  This is a great game to play casually around the table after dinner or while having other conversations.  There's not as much reliance on paying attention to what other players have previously selected, especially if you use the cubes to mark off the aromas that have already been used.  It's much more of a game of the moment that you don't have to pay super close attention to and remember stuff in order to enjoy.

Collect is also for 3-4 players (playing with two players is possible, though a little more challenging to adapt).  The goal of Collect is to find all the aromas in your category before the other players find all of their aromas.  Collect is the only game where the aromas aren't completely randomized in setup.  To begin you'll need to identify all the vials and place them all together with their appropriate category.  Then give each player a game board and the cubes in the matching color.

The Collect mini-game has everyone toss their player token onto the box top.  The closest token to the white circle in the center goes first.  Players take turns taking one vial from any other collection and adding it to their tray.  Players shouldn't take vials from their own collection - those are the ones they'll be trying to find throughout the game.

Once everyone has their tray filled with five aromas from other players, they'll take turns searching for the aromas from their own category.  The active player will choose another player and take an aroma from the chosen player's tray.  They'll smell the aroma and then guess what it is.  If they're incorrect they return the vial to their opponent's tray.  If they are correct and it's from their category, they get to keep the vial, but if it doesn't belong to their category it goes back to the other player and they get another turn.  The player can keep guessing aromas until they either guess incorrectly or collect a vial from their collection.  When the turn is over the players can rearrange the vials in their trays.  That way you are never quite sure what aroma you're going to pick at the start of your turn.

The first player to collect all of their own aroma vials is the winner!
Collect may be the simplest of the four games.  It's more challenging than you might think though.  There's limited player interaction, but you do have to pay attention in case someone correctly guesses an aroma from your collection.  Then you'll at least know which player has your aroma, so you can start to figure out where you need to go to find your aromas.  Plus, it's always fun to see what others are guessing for their aromas, especially when they guess incorrectly!

Final Thoughts
Well, there you have it.  An overview of all four games you get with Aroma: A Game of Essence.  It should be noted that, for the most part the rulebook was clear, however, as I mentioned above, I had some difficulty understanding the exact flow of Discover at first.  I also noticed that some terms are mixed a little throughout, like a few references to "scent tokens" instead of "aroma tokens".  There were also a few other small typos, but nothing that would add confusion.  

I think the most confusing thing in general was not realizing that the mini-games helped complete the game setup.  At first I started reading the rules and then skipped the mini-games since they are all titled "See who goes first - The GAMENAME mini game".  I figured we'd just randomly choose the first player, but those mini games also include some final steps for setup.  Usually it's just distributing the vials, but it's important to know where they go for each game and the main game's setup instructions have you setting up for the mini-game, which then tells you the final setup steps.  So don't skip the mini games!  Or at least, read through them to see how you'll need to distribute the vials to all the players.

If Aroma: A Game of Essence sounds like an interesting addition to your collection, be sure to check it out at the Organic Aromas website!

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