Noctiluca (Z-Man Games)

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Even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I’d spend an afternoon diving for Noctiluca, strange luminous creatures that appear to swim in hidden jungle pools on the warmest evenings of the year, in a quest to fill as many jars as humanly possible with these oddly coloured beasts. But I did, or rather I spent an afternoon completely immersed in Shem Phillip’s game in which players (in this case, my teenage daughter and yours truly) attempt to collect as many of the weird creatures as possible in two rounds comprised of six turns; or four turns for three players and three turns for four players.

Played on a beautifully illustrated board, Phillips game is compulsive, incredibly quick and emphasises strategy, forward thinking and a feverish attempt to second guess the moves that other players are going to make.  The Noctiluca are represented by one hundred and fifty coloured die, the majority of which are randomly scattered among the pools on the board, and twelve pawns (representing the divers) are then shared equally among one (yes, there’s a solo mode, which is just as much fun as the multi-player version) to four players, who then attempt to fill their ‘jars’ (cards) with as any of the die / Noctiluca on the board as possible, with victory going to the player who manages to fill the most jars with Noctiluca by the end of the second turn. It’s simple, fun and thoroughly addictive.

While the premise might seem a little odd, the gorgeous components and ridiculously easy rules ensure that you soon forget about the bizarre idea that the game is based on, accept it and lose yourself in the wonderfully playable and engaging mechanics of Noctiluca.  It’s a near faultless, immersive game that’s habit forming and the last time I became as obsessed with a game as I am with Noctiluca was way back in the early eighties when TSR encouraged adventurers to explore the depths of their board based Dungeon! and Steve Jackson Games packed Car Wars into a neat little plastic box. I swear, this game should come with a government health warning, because once you start playing, you won’t be able to stop. Ever. I’ve got Noctiluca to catch…  Tim Cundle

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