First Impressions: Gravwell

Jobby struggles to escape the 9th Dimension…

Beyond the Black Hole

In Christopher Nolan’s epic film, Interstellar, the hero of the story manages to cross the event horizon of a black hole and see what’s on the other side.

… spoiler, it’s a 4-dimensional tesseract thingy.

Well, in Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension by Corey Young (published by Renegade Game Studios, 2013) players have slipped through a black hole and popped into the 9th dimension! Take that Cooper, you amateur!

However, the 9th dimension is a weird place where physics works differently. The players are trying to escape by flying their (still intact) spaceships out of a star gate at the end of a spiral. But the spaceships don’t so much fly as get drawn to other objects. In game terms, this is achieved by playing cards that are drafted at the start of the round. Each player chooses a card simultaneously and then reveals them. Cards are resolved in A-Z order and move the owner’s spaceship a number of spaces towards the nearest spaceship, possibly slingshotting past if the number on the card is high enough.

The bit in italics is key. If your action happens later in the turn then the other ships won’t be anywhere near where you thought they would be. If you are at the front and go first your ship is going to get pulled backwards! If you are at the back you will get pulled forwards. You’re in the middle? Lords know which way you’ll go!

Enough to Make you Black Out

When we played our first game Sarah innocently asked “So how do the ships move backwards?” Fair enough, on turn one everyone went forwards. By turn three chaos was reigning supreme! Our brains were steaming trying to predict what would happen. Many people were swearing at other people. I think some of us felt like Cooper in that clip as the gravity overwhelms him and his conciousness fails. Just when we thought we’d got a handle on it our ships flings off in the wrong direction!

The colourful ships are the players. The grey derelicts serve as a reminder of what failure brings!

This game is a great filler. Playing in about 20-30 minutes, it’s got very simple rules with no edge cases. It has snappy gameplay so it really conveys that feeling of racing to escape. Because of the chaotic nature of the card play and movement, players tend not to get too hung up on selecting their cards during the draft. But the draft is important so they do care. It’s tense. When you’re in the lead you are fighting to stay there. A well played card can slingshot you past all your opponents with you cocking a snook as you overtake them. But now you’re alone and there’s no-one to drag yourself towards.

So, first impressions? It’s great! It’s a bizarre four-way tug of war. I’m delighted Sarah gave it to me for Christmas and I thoroughly enjoyed my first play. In fact, I’m taking it to the Bennet Arms tonight. Time to suit up and get ready to experience some Gs!

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