Calvin’s Commentaries: Moons and Stars

When a new game comes out with everything about it screaming that it is a very old, rather vintage one, it’s generally a win – especially for an abstract strategy game.

That is where old wooden games shine. They age whether played regularly or stored away in an attic, with a sort of dignified grace. They show their age well.

When plastics took over, games lost something in that regard.

My Terrace game from 1992 will never gain the wonderful aged look of my Citadel game from 1940, even if my Terrace game becomes 80-years old too.

But, it is possible to give a new game an ‘older look’ and that is particularly true when you are an artisan and create handmade games.

Kudos to Ben Jerred in that regard with his recently kickstarted game Moons and Stars.

When you first see the game in-hand you recognize it as a creation of passion by its designer.

The board is actually wood and looks old and weathered.

The pieces are cast from clay. That just seems like a ton of work, and you have to appreciate the effort.

Sadly, the cube pieces are a tad tiny, which means the engraved markings, which tell you what the piece does when that face is up, are small too, a tad indistinct, and that is an issue. When learning a game you don’t want to have to pick up pieces to determine which is which.

That does not mean there is no substance to explore with the game though.

So, from the Kickstarter campaign some fluff and background.

“Once upon a time, Moons and Stars only existed in the imaginary world of Allfield. Now, one of Allfield’s most popular board games is available to play and is coming soon to a table near you.”

Yes, there is some myth and fantasy woven into this one.

In terms of game origin; “this year I have had the honor to work with my family on Moons and Stars — a primitively-styled, handmade, limited-edition board game created from all-natural materials,” detailed the campaign. “Moons and Stars combines fast-paced action with strategy and chance based on rules that anyone ages eight and up can learn and play. It offers the ability to connect with others for about 30-minutes in a non-tech, no-screen kind of way.”

I like that this is a game that offers a modest learning curve, although, with some added rule options, you have lots to explore too.

The designer goes on to state his; “favourite part about this game is how it was invented and how we managed to bring it to Kickstarter. I have always been inspired by stories set in other worlds so my graphic novel “Allfield” served as the inspiration for this game. The fictional characters of “Allfield” play Moons and Stars. So, I set out to make a real copy without an idea of how it would play.”

This is not a unique approach to designing a game. Author Patrick Rothfuss teamed with game designer James Ernest to create Tak that was initially mentioned in Rothfuss’ book; ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’. That game is one of the best of the last decade.

Moons and Stars doesn’t rate quite that highly but is interesting.

Again from the designer; “I made the board and all of the pieces first, and then my 11-year-old son, who is amazing at games, developed the strategy and rules. His strategy was simple, ingenious, and fun, and, after a little tweaking of the initial rules, we felt we had to share the game with others.”

The adventure begins when you roll all 16 of your six-sided “ballit” game pieces – the ones made a bit too tiny, creating one of over 20,000 possible combinations – thanks to each face doing something different. Gain victory by one of two paths: capturing all of your opponent’s Moons and Stars, or reaching your opponent’s Treasure Stone.

So it is a game of pure strategy, which is also a good thing in my books.

The game is for two players, might take about half an hour, and given the story and the passion behind it is worth taking a look at.

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