Sonora

What do we think of the world’s first “flick ‘n’ write”?

1-4 Players
45-60 minutes
Pandasaurus Games

Set in the beautiful Mexican desert of the same name, Sonora has some incredibly striking artwork, so striking in fact that Sam wanted to buy this game the second he saw it on Instagram! Eventually I caved and we bought it, but in a way I am slightly regretting it because since our first game (which I won by a single point), he has won five in a row, and I cannot seem to beat him (is he cheating?!)…

So how on earth does a flick ‘n’ write work? Well first you flick stuff, then you write stuff. Then you flick some more stuff, and write some more stuff. Whoever flicks the best and writes the best after six rounds wins! Ok I’ll explain in a little more detail than that, but you get the idea. It still comes under the same, more general genre of roll and write games (if you follow these reviews you’ll see that we’re a big fan of them), such as Ganz Schon Clever, Cartographers, Railroad Ink etc. and I think this game is right up there with the best.

Each player has five coloured discs, numbered one to five. You take it in turns to flick these discs onto the desert, which is split into four stunningly illustrated quadrants representing different areas on your wipe-clean player board. You have the Creek Bed, the Canyon, the Mudcracks and the Cliff-Dweller Ruins. Each of these have different ways of scoring you points when it comes to the write phase. Touch any of the bonus spots littered around the desert and the number value will be doubled, so if your opponent sneaks onto one of them, be sure to try and bash them out the way!

There’s no way that pink 5 will still be there after all the discs are flicked!

Once all the discs are in the desert and you’ve forgiven one another for knocking each other’s discs away from the bonuses, it’s time for the writing phase. The numbers on the discs allow you to do varying amounts of crossing off in the section the disc landed in. They are each their own little mini-game and the sum of your points across these areas will be your final score at the end. Choose to focus on one or two of them or try and spread across all four, its up to you!

In the Cliff-Dweller Ruins (iguana), you add up your discs’ values, then cross off that number of hexes in whichever group you fancy. Finish off a group of hexes and you’ll score those points at the end of the game (some even give you a cheeky instant bonus). Keep an eye on what your opponents are doing here because only one person can score the top bonus on each group!

In the Creek Bed (owl), you start at the top and work your way down, scoring points each time you circle a number. The points towards the bottom are HUGE, so once you’re down there, putting your 1 and 2 discs in that area will get you some epic scores!

Down in the Canyon (fox), each number disc corresponds to a shape you can circle within the crossword-like maze, where you will find points-scoring cacti and a whole host of bonuses. My top tip is, even if you don’t go crazy for the Canyon, you should still do a little bit, as there are some great bonuses near to where you start!

Finally we have the Mudcracks (rabbit), where you add the value of all your discs in the area and cross off “nodes”, which will gradually surround cacti which score you varying numbers of points at the end of the game. The ones close to your starting point in the centre score fewer points, and get more rewarding the further out you go.

In the Canyon. Not only are you trying to circle cacti, don’t miss out on the bonuses (the bunnies, owls, and the black symbols)

The bonuses you get across the four quadrants allow you to get even more out of each round. In fact, it’s possible to get one bonus which then leads to you crossing off another, and another, and so on! This is where you will win the game, try and make the most of the bonuses which are nearby!

My other tip for Sonora would be, whilst you shouldn’t worry too much about where your discs end up, as the game goes on and you get further down the Creek Bed, maybe try to get your 1s and 2s into that area because those two discs could score 18 or even 20 points!

After five (quick), six (normal) or seven (long) rounds, you work out your scores in each of the four areas and declare a winner. I don’t see any point in doing seven rounds, so we always just do six.

I really love Sonora, despite the fact I always lose! It’s a stunner to look at, the artwork is so interesting and inviting. There’s enough skill involved in the flicking to make it not feel completely random but there’s still a lovely amount of chaos too. The really good players (e.g. Sam) will find a way to maximise their discs no matter where they end up, grabbing all available bonuses along the way. It’s thinkier than most other roll and writes we’ve played, but I would say it contains the right amount of brain burn. It goes without saying but with other games in the genre the “roll” element is completely random, whereas with Sonora there is some small element of skill involved.

It is possible (especially towards the end of the game) to get into a bit of analysis paralysis, so mine and Sam’s ethos is just go for it, try not to worry too much about it, and enjoy the ride.

One criticism could be that there isn’t much replayability with Sonora because there’s only one side to the player boards (well, they’re double sided, but they’re the same on both sides). Perhaps they could have given two different sides to give two slightly different challenges? Even so, we’ve played it six times already and there are plenty more people we want to introduce to it, we aren’t bored of it yet! It does feel as though Sonora would be easy to add expansions, by introducing modular quadrants that you could add in and out, but how they would link up with each other is a job for someone cleverer than me 🙂

Overall I would completely recommend Sonora to you, it’s up there with my favourite roll and writes (Cartographers is my absolute favourite – currently being lent to a friend so I can’t provide a review!), its pretty, easy to learn and fun to play.

Sam wins. Again.

Get this game
https://pandasaurusgames.com/collections/shop/products/sonora
Check this game out on Board Game Geek
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/296626/sonora

2 thoughts on “Sonora

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