Review: Sonora

In Sonora, players flick wooden disks onto a game board representative of the different vibrant landscapes across the Sonoran Desert sands. Each of the four areas is its own unique game in this new “flick and write”.

The Good

Innovative in the “and write” Genre (+5)

This is a really timely mechanic for me because I just learned how to play Crokinole during Dice Tower West and now flicking discs is just tons of fun. Pair this with the “and write” category and Sonora is suddenly one of my favorite games. Like most dexterity games this is part skill and gets better with practice. With the possible disruption caused by other players’ discs, your plans for scoring in the writing sections could be foiled in an instant. I’m glad that this game is not afraid to combine the tension of luck and control into one game, and over time it seems to be quite graceful.

Component Design has Deep Strategy (+5)

The dual purpose of the disks is a fun puzzle to try and figure out, since the interpretation depends on where they land. Each region of the board — Cliff-Dweller, Creek Bed, Canyon and Mudcracks — scores differently and in ways I have not seen in other games. Path building and hedging bets seem to be the main concepts they draw on. While the game does reward those who can hone in on their dexterity skills, I love that the chaos of less dexterous players can bring a challenge for scoring strategy.

It’s important that the fun in a game not have to rely on complete control. There are enough bonuses within each of the four regions of the personal player mat that can make a big difference. This way, successes or failures on the main board aren’t game breaking. If you can take advantage of some good placements in one round, it can help boost or at least set you up for later rounds.

Game Rules Show Self-Awareness (+5)

At the end of the round you are required to rotate the gameboard 90 degrees clockwise which ensures that folks aren’t just lazily dropping their discs into zones closest to them. The game’s awareness of the possibility of people taking advantage and the mitigation of that I appreciate so much. This is probably due to the plethora of playtesters who you can find named on the back of the rulebook. Amazing what rigorous playtesting can do!

Gorgeous and Vibrant Artwork (+5)

The game is so colorful and very much like a sunset as described in the game overview. The Creek Bed zone is especially pleasing because of its tree roots and the restriction on always moving forward.

Solid Solo Mode Included (+5)

I have lots of love for the solo mode as well. In the times we’re in, it’s helpful to have a game that can accommodate all levels of physical distancing yet still be worth buying. This game is exactly that and the AI is cruel, yet simple to maintain. It gets in your face in all the right ways and is not just a diluted version of the full game.

The Bad

Game Board is Light (-4)

While there isn’t anything truly bad in this game, I will comment on the game board. While its weight makes sense for shelving, it doesn’t quite make sense for the flicking action. Physical design is important in dexterity games. Folks can get a little into it and accidentally hit the board, which shakes up the discs already on it. This can create quite a bit of contention on rearranging to match original locations.

The Ugly

Solo Mode is Flick Central (-2)

I would say the one thing about the solo mode is that you need to be prepared to flick fifteen discs round after round. If your personal tolerance is limited to five discs then perhaps this is not the right game for your solo goals. I personally had a blast flicking so many discs in this mode because it gave me the opportunity to practice my technique.

Small Writing Space (-0.5)

There is a little bit of ugly on how small some of the spaces are on the gameboard for writing. The dry erase markers that come with it aren’t the finest point tip so things can be hard to write. Then, if you want to erase something to redraw, the erasers are not precise.

Pre-Marks are Slightly Confusing (-1)

These marks are unclear at first. You’re not sure if they’re actually included as a bonus or if it’s just the game trying to teach you how to draw. They do have this noted in the rulebook but it’s buried in paragraphs for each section. I know there is only so much space in the rulebook but I wish there was some kind of FAQ on what pre-drawn areas exist and why.

Difficulty: 1/5 for Novice of “write”,
3/5 for Expert of “flick”
Satisfaction Grade: A- (90%) for Amazing
Worth Your Money? Yes.