Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

Circadians First LightSomewhere in Arizona… Tuesday… 5:02 am

Chris stood where the sun would eventually rise in his usual Tuesday safari suit and pith hat, trying to get the best view through the binoculars.

“Dude, why are you awake…” I started, but was interrupted by a “Shhh” and an evil look.

You’ll spoil the surprise. Now shut up!” he commanded through clenched teeth and pointed to the ground beside him. Like an obedient dog, I ducked where they directed me.

I tried to ask another question, but before I could say a word, he raised his finger to his mouth and pointed to the box next to him. Barely audible, he muttered, “I’m here to see them.” I looked at the box. Circadians First Light: Second Edition. To say that I was puzzled would be an understatement.

“Ummm, see… who exactly?”

He looked at me irritably. “Cicadas,” he replied.


He turned to me, clearly upset by the attention I was demanding. Taking a deep breath, he explained, “I need to see the cicadas at dawn… with the first light of the sun, yes. I cracked their complex code.” He beamed with pride. “If I do that, they will lead me to an alien ship and I can get off this stupid planet,” he continued. “You know. As the box promises.

I stared at him. Then to the box. Then back at him. “Dude, it says Circadians. Not cicadas.

You know what they say that in space no one can hear you scream. It was the opposite of that.


After the unpleasant experience of watching him cry in the fetal position for what seemed like an eternity, it dawned on me. I knew what needed to be done to fix this… to help Chris… to make the world right again.

I took the box and left.

This is the true story of how I got my Circadians First Light.

Gameplay overview:

Circadians First Light: Second Edition is an employment game for one to four players, 60 to 120 minutes long. The game uses bones as workers, so for consistency I’ll refer to them as workers in the rest of this review.

Circadians First Light is called Second Edition (this is the last time I mention it as Second Edition) because it includes revised and simplified terminology and iconography, two new leader cards, the Allies expansion, and two gameplay options.

Circadians First Light cards
Fourteen leader cards included in the game, although some are better than others

The game is played over seven rounds. Each round consists of the following four phases:

  1. Plan: Open the event card, roll the dice and assign them to the research base (all done behind your screen).
  2. Fulfill: In order of priority, place one or two lab cubes on the station, spaceport, or speech board from your garage.
  3. Harvest: Get resources (there are four types – algae, water, energy and games) from your harvester and cubes assigned to your farm.
  4. Rest: Take all the dice from the station boards, pass the first player marker and discard the dice to five if you have more than five, contract cards to eight if you have more than eight.

After seven moves, the game ends and the players count their points. Players score points in five ways:
• Negotiation board
• Maps of completed contracts
• Gatherer at the gem stash at the end of the game
• Points from the research base
• Unspent Gems

The player with the most points wins. Hooray!

Gameplay Circadians First Light
What the board looks like for two players in the middle and end of the game

Game Experience:

I really liked Circadians First Light. To be honest, I love worker placement games, but this one is special in an already crowded genre. “But Brian, what makes him special?” It’s good that my review is not finished!

First, hiding your worker placement behind the screen adds an element that is not often considered in worker placement games. Yes, there is the usual “will my opponent take the location I want?” voltage; however, there is an additional level of “how many workers will my opponent use this turn?” Escalating this tension is that the actual number of locations is severely limited. I mainly play Circadians with two players. In this case, the player considers that both the Foundry (allows you to buy a garage so you can accommodate more workers) and the Laboratory (allows you to build a farm to generate more resources) have only one place. Luckily, you can assign a die to the headquarters, and with a small bonus, you will be able to go first at the start of the next turn in front of the first player (due to the fact that the dice do nothing but sit in the headquarters). turn). Remember that there are only seven rounds in the game. Ouch!

Another interesting decision that this game presents is how to use your dice. Should they be placed in garages so they can be used as workers, or should they “stay at home” and generate resources? Unlike many worker placement games, visiting a location does NOT give you a reward for free. You must also pay resources to benefit from this location (other than the market, which allows you to trade resources for other resources). The balance between sending workers and keeping them at the research base for resources is the key to a winning strategy. Too many resources and you can waste valuable moves that could earn points, but if you don’t have enough resources, you won’t be able to pay the cost of the places you would like to use.

Circadians First Light Screen
Place your dice behind the screen and away from your opponent’s prying eyes!

The value of the die will also affect your decisions. For example, the Foundry board has three slots. One or two dice can buy the left slot, three to four can buy the middle slot, and five or six can buy the right slot. In the Control Room, the value of the rolled die determines the direction in which you can move your harvester on the Planet space. Finally, resources generated from your research base yield more resources at higher dice values. This adds a third layer of complexity to deciding when and where to play dice.

Fourth, I like that the two main ways to score points, either by completing contracts at the spaceport or by negotiating with the three factions, require you to constantly roll a die. You are not limited to the three dice provided during setup, as you can use the Academy board to collect new dice; however, it takes one more turn in a tense seven-round game. Planning when to score those two boards can be tricky.

When completing contracts, the difficulty is that you may not be able to play the die value you have because its slots are full (there are three slots for each valid die value, with the allowed die values ​​decreasing with fewer players). At the same time, contracts can bring more points. Many of them give you special abilities during the game, while others give you the opportunity to get extra points at the end of the game.

There are three questions to consider when negotiating: which faction you want to negotiate with (each has a special power that triggers immediately), whether the faction has free slots, and whether you will fail (the two-dice penalty is the same or the die value is too high) the same faction). Negotiation points can be very high, but they can be expensive, especially if you instigate bad luck.

Insert Circadians First Light
Great storage solution included in the game

Finally, there are leaderboards. They can be quite powerful, sometimes to the point where you think you lost the game because of the leader your opponent has, not because your strategy for the day was terrible. It reminded me a little of Marco Polo in regards to the leader’s envy that this game evoked. Unfortunately, not everything is so rosy with the leaders…

I only have two issues with Circadians First Light and only one is gameplay related. While I like leaders, I don’t think they are as well balanced as they could be. There are a few leaders that give permanent bonuses, such as the ability to move your harvester for free every turn or an extra 3-value die every turn, and they don’t count towards your dice limit. In addition, there are leaders with situational abilities, such as treating failure as a positive thing (which if you never provoke failure) or ones, twos and threes are considered sixes for your farms (which if you do not need resources this turn or you don’t roll one, two or three). In each game, I would take the first two leaders, not the second group of leaders. Fortunately, at the beginning of the game you have three leaders and you can choose one of them. I just want EVERY option to be “woo” rather than “nah”.

My second problem has to do with art. I love the game. I don’t like art. The artist from Hadrian’s Wall drew this game. I didn’t mind the Hadrian wall art. Things were noticeably worse in the Circadians. First, everyone looks like they’ve seen a ghost or are looking through you. Their eyes are strange. Secondly, it looks like the characters were drawn and then the computer pasted them over the background. I’m not an artist, so I can’t explain. I can just tell you that I love the game, not the art.

Final thoughts:

SJ Macdonald has skyrocketed to the top of my favorite designers. Circadians First Light is his first solo design credit. SJ and Shem Phillips also created the Western Kingdom trilogy (Paladins, Architects and Viscounts). All four games are in my collection.

Circadians First Light is the only workspace (dice) in these games. Assigning your cubes behind the screen, as well as deciding whether they will be used to work or to create resources, is a unique and attractive mechanism. I also appreciated that the multiple scoring paths allow you to freely choose how you want to play the game, adding to the replay value. In my opinion, Circadians First Light is a must-have game, especially if you like job placement games.

Final score: 4.5 stars is a great dice placement game that is so unique that it remains in my collection.

4.5 starsHits:
• Hidden dice placement
• Strictly limited choice of jobs
• Deciding whether to use the cube as a worker or a resource generator.
• Influence of the value of the die on your decisions
• Choice of when and if to score on the call boards or the spaceport.
• Leaderboards

• Leader card balance
• Art

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