Friday, May 8, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of On Pointe by Analog Game Studios

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of On Pointe by Analog Game Studios
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Title: On Pointe
Designed by: Elisa Prashad
Publisher: Analog Game Studios
Year Published: 2020
MSRP: $50
2-4p | 20-30 min | 8+

My middle son discovered ballet, tap, and other forms of dance about 18 months ago and absolutely fell in love with the art of dance.  He's grown immensely in the past year-and-a-half and relishes the time he can spend dancing.  When I saw On Pointe on Kickstarter last year I jumped at the chance to order him a copy.  The one thing he loves almost as much as dance is board games, so combining the two was a no-brainer.  He's used to everything ballet being mostly girl-centric, so he was very happy to see that there were boy characters in the game, too.  So, does it hold up to our gamer household's expectations?  Read on to find out!

Experience life as a ballet dancer, from the Barre to a Star. Earn your pointe shoes and tutu; collect gems, treasures and the tiara.

In On Pointe players advance as a professional dancer would, from learning the basic ballet moves, mastering rehearsals, performing on stage, competing to become Prima Ballerina and accepting their bouquet at curtain call.

A competitive game with light strategy and set collection with a race down the board, avoiding obstacles and out-maneuvering your opponents, but being first to collect your bouquet doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll win – it’s all about the points that you collect along the way.

Experience the life of a ballet dancer, from the Barre to a Star.  Know your positions, use the right moves: collect gems; treasures; and the tiara.  A game that will keep you on your toes.

- Description from publisher

Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Wonderful theme and artwork for any families interested in games and ballet!
  • Boy friendly!  Male dancers and double sided player boards so you can decorate your tutu or tunic!
  • Easy rules are fast to teach.
  • Fast gameplay!
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • Each game is a fun journey from practice to rehearsal to the big performance.
  • Plays well at all player counts, but feels more crowded at 4 players than 2, which drives some interesting choices.
  • Simple gameplay and rules open the door for house rules.  I want to come up with a cooperative variant!
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • The game plays 2-4 players, and there are 6 character standees, but only one is a boy character.  Would have been nice to have at least two.
  • There can be quite a bit of luck with the card draws.
  • Strategy is very simple and won't be enough for heavier gamers.
  • A few situations aren't covered in the rules or are very vague.
  • A few component misprints - not game breaking though.
Final Thoughts:
On Pointe ended up being exactly what we had hoped it would be!  It's a light game, perfect for families and non-gamers, and it just drips theme.  Every little aspect of the game is steeped in the ballet theme.  From the gorgeous artwork to the move cards named after ballet moves, to the action tokens named after different positions, and every little bit.  My son was in a performance of Swan Lake last year, so he was excited to see characters like the Black Swan show up.

The game is very light on strategy though.  There are some interesting decisions to make when competing to acquire props or trying to race to the end, but it's generally a pretty open board with simple choices and quite a bit of luck.  This won't come out at your board game night with a group of adults, but for families, especially families with dancers and fans of ballet, this is a perfect little game!

There are a few rough spots in the game, though they don't really take away from the enjoyment of it.  A few situations that come up in the game aren't clearly spelled out in the otherwise very straightforward rules.  There are a few areas on the board that we assumed can't be moved into (the barre and piano in the practice space), but it's not specifically stated in the rules that these are inactive spaces.  It's also not clear how much movement the curtains block on the stage, particularly for diagonal moves past the curtains.  If you move directly onto a space separating an area (between practice and rehearsal or between rehearsal and the stage) you'll earn a gem, however it's unclear if you can pass this space up and then move backward into a previous area on a later turn so you can go back for props that you missed or try to get that gem.  We've been playing that you can backtrack, but it would be interesting to play where once you've advanced beyond a section you couldn't move back to it.  We also noticed a few misprints on the components, like missing points on the backs of a few gems. 

I also wish there was another boy standee.  The game plays 2-4 players, so it would have been great if there were 4 female and 2 male playable characters, since you can't have more than 4 girls play at once.  It is nice though that they included the option to decorate a tunic instead of a tutu on the flip side of the player boards though.  Ballet is generally female-centric, and my son has accepted that fact, but it's nice that at least some thought was given to boy dancers, too.  After all, some dudes dance!  (He has a t-shirt that says that.)

None of these issues detract significantly from the game, but they did cause us to search the rulebook to see if there was something we missed a few times.  They're easy enough to house rule, and the game is light and fast enough that small variances like this don't affect the overall gameplay.  In fact, the game is simple enough that I can see all sorts of variants being possible.  I'd really like to work out a cooperative variant for the game.

I don't often write up reviews for games from my own collection, saving the time I spend writing reviews on games sent to me from various publishers, but we really enjoyed playing On Pointe, and I wanted to share our excitement for the game.  So this is a completely unsolicited review!  The theme, artwork, and gameplay really brought the ballet home!  If you have a dancer in the family this is definitely a Bloom game!  If you don't have dancers at home this is still a very solid family game, so I'm giving it an overall rating of Bud.  Dancers and families both will enjoy On Pointe, so head on over to the Analog Game Studios website and pick up a copy for your favorite dancers today!

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:

This game is great and worth
adding to your collection!  It should be
on just about every gamer's shelf. 
Bud!  This game definitely has some
great moments.  It's good for several plays
and should appeal to most gamers, especially
if you enjoy other games like this.

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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

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