At the crossroads of board games, particle physics, and chemistry lies Subatomic, a $29 atom building board game that’s both fun and educatio—WAIT! DON’T GO!!! I promise you’ll want to play this game.
Sabatomic is the kind of board game you play, and then obsess about how you’ll play differently the next time you get to break it out. Like any good strategy board game, paths to victory vary with each game, and with each player’s tactics.
Setup took me about 15 minutes the first time we played, but now only takes five. That’s honestly the worst thing I can say about Subatomic. If you play many strategy board games, you know it can be much worse. I’m looking at you, Power Grid.
Subatomic’s mechanics are easy to grasp, yet make for nearly infinite tactical paths and a challenging contest between players. Start with a core deck of cards, from which you’ll draw a five card hand each turn. You can play the cards in your hand to buy more powerful cards for your deck, add particles to your atom, claim energy tokens, or perform special actions. You continue refining your deck, completing elements, and claiming end goals until a player has five elements, signaling the last round of the game. Final scoring is based on the types elements built by each player and the “end goals” each player claimed.
With the game laid out and none of my usual “Ages 10+” crew around, I drafted my six and nine year old daughters as stand-ins so I could learn the mechanics and general rules. With so many tiny baubles, tokens, wood cubes, cards, and illustrations, I knew they’d be interested in a new game even if they couldn’t fully grasp the strategy.
After playing a few rounds for them, my six year old started resisting my help with her hand and acquisitions. A few more rounds later and neither would let me see their cards. They were logically playing cards and tokens to add more powerful cards to their deck and construct atoms. By the end of the first game, I was barely helping at all.
Both my girls ended up beating me. I blame a few less than optimal early hands, or maybe I was distracted... I don’t know, okay. We were all immediately ready for another game, but it was a school night and already past their bedtime.
This first game of Subatomic took about two hours to learn and play through, but the three of us can now finish a game in an hour. The time flies by and we have a lot of fun playing, so it’s become a fast favorite.
Subatomic is already way over-funded on Kickstarter, but you can still preorder it for $29, or $39 for a collector’s edition, with expected delivery by September, which as always with Kickstarters, is subject to be pushed back.