Inspired by the whimsical novel The Little Prince, this is a great game for all ages.
Tender, philosophical and sometimes even melancholic, The Little Prince (1943) by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is not an easy book to describe. Perhaps that is why the story’s whimsical imagery and illustrations – by the author himself – are better-known than its storyline.
Described alternately as a children’s story and an adult fable, the book tells of a pilot stranded in a desert who meets a “little prince” claiming to have fallen to Earth from a small asteroid. Over the next eight days, the prince tells the pilot more about his home planet, as well as the many strange characters he’s met on his journey to Earth, and what unfolds is a richly allegorical tale that deals with themes of love, loss, materialism, and relationships.
Of course, interpreting such deep and abstract concepts into a board game is a tall order, and The Little Prince: Make Me A Planet doesn’t even try. Instead, this pretty little game, designed by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala, simply uses the story’s quirky settings and characters to create a creative and fun playing experience. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it simply means that the game isn’t for you if you prefer something deep and thought-provoking.
That said, there is a fair amount of strategising involved, so don’t write this one off as a lightweight!
Make Me A Planet is well-made game, with de Saint-Exupéry’s artwork being used directly, which should please fans tremendously. The concept is simple. Each player builds a planet for the prince, and different elements give your planet more or fewer points. The person with the highest number of points at the end of the game wins.
The game is primarily made up of four different types of tiles: two kinds of planet corner tiles, planet centre titles, and character tiles.
The corner and centre tiles are illustrated with various elements from the book, such as sheep, elephants, lamp posts, and sunsets. The character tiles feature specific people from de Saint-Exupéry’s tale: The Geographer, The Drunkard, The Businessman, and so on, as well as The Little Prince himself.
To play, each player takes turns drawing as many tiles as the number of players, from one of the tile pools (divided by type). The player who draws gets to choose a tile to keep first, before selecting another player to choose. This goes on till each player has taken a tile, and the last to do so begins the next round of drawing.
Players start assembling their planets with each tile they get, much like putting a puzzle together.
By the end of the game, each player will also have drawn four character tiles, one for each corner of the planet. Each character gives points in different ways; for instance, The Businessman allows you to score points for each Sheep on your planet, The Lamplighter gives you points for each lamp post, and The Turkish Astronomer scores points for each Large Star.
There are dangers, however. Remember the fearsome baobab trees that threaten to overrun the prince’s planet in the books? They’re here too, and if three or more of them pop up on your planet, you have to turn over the tiles they’re on – meaning any other elements on those tiles don’t count towards points. And while the prince’s home planet had three volcanoes, having too many in the game is a setback, because the person with the most number of volcanoes has the equivalent number of points deducted from their score.
Bringing together luck and strategy, Make Me A Planet makes for a quick yet very enjoyable game. The gameplay allows players to both gamble their luck by choosing particular tiles that they hope will increase their points as well as sabotage other players by taking tiles that may be useful to them.
It is also a fairly simple game that can be played with people of all ages (the game recommends ages eight and above), with only minimal set-up and familiarising needed before you begin – a definite plus if you’re playing with children. And because it doesn’t rely on prior knowledge of the book, players don’t even need to be familiar with the story; as long as they’re up to trying something new, they’re likely to enjoy this fast-paced game.
True fans of The Little Prince may be a little disappointed that Make Me A Planet doesn’t delve deeper into the book’s mythos, but it must be acknowledged that the story itself, with its many metaphors and abstractions, is not one that lends itself easily to “gamification”. Instead, this is a fun way to engage with some of the book’s whimsies, and perhaps even encourage those who have yet to read the book to give it a try.
Find it on the online store