Designer: Manuel Correia
Artists: Paweł Niziołek, Piotr Uzdowski
Category: Card Game, Science Fiction
Price: $13.00 Board&Dice
Multiuniversum is a 1-5 player card game, published by Board&Dice. Board&Dice is based out of Wroclaw, Poland, and co-owned by Philip Głowacz and Ireneusz Huszcza, affectionately self-nicknamed Mr. G and Mr. H (for those with difficulty pronouncing their full names). Board&Dice has successfully funded and published Beer Empire, Dice Brewing, SUPERHOT: The Card Game, Exoplanets, and more.
Multiuniversum is actually a thematic reimplementation of Manuel Correia’s Carousel, which was an unpublished game, having undergone many different re-themes. Correia’s game was picked up by Board&Dice, deciding on the theme of time travel. Multiuniversum also has one expansion, titled Project: Cthulu, which was funded on Kickstarter last year.
Multiuniversum bears interesting artwork, likely a bit spooky for children. I’m referencing an angry gummy bear, with a blade dripping in sugary blood. Most of the monsters on the cards are frightening, considering they plan on escaping time loops and wreaking havoc towards those on the other side.
The worst thing about time travel is that we probably won’t ever be able to do it. Despite the high improbability of it ever happening, it’s clear that inter-dimensional travel is a hot topic for science fiction in the mediums of books, television, movies, and games. One could draw from a number of sources featuring time travel, from H.G. Wells’ original The Time Machine, or recent video game franchises like DOOM, where demons pour through inter-dimensional portals.
Multiuniversum puts players in the roles of scientists, who acquired too much knowledge while working on the Hadron Collider. With a pool of intellect, and working together in the secret CERN lab, five transformers have ripped open portals to other worlds. At first glance, this is wonderful because of the new advances in science which can be gleaned from these imaginary planes. Unfortunately, each new portal attracts formidable and deadly creatures to step through it, killing everything on the other side. Evil sea beasts, homicidal teddies, and barbaric metal monsters charge towards the opening. As a team of scientists, the player to close the most portals becomes known as the most heroic of minds, being awarded a Nobel prize, and crowned victor of Multiuniversum.
Players race between five different transformers, playing from a hand of three cards. Multiuniversum never lets players feel a card is worthless. As a design goal, each card can be used for something, whether it’s played for a specific action based on the transformer you are on, dropped into your equipment toolkit to close portals, or discarded to be replaced by a new card.
This multitude of options can give you many choices, sometimes leading to lengthy turns, characterized by analysis paralysis. While you are cursed by random card draw to some extent, the advantage is you never feel you’ve done nothing on a turn. If you don’t have the proper card to close a portal, you can drop it into your toolkit to prepare for a different portal. If you don’t have the right tools available, you could play a card to activate the specific power of the transformer you’re standing on. These transformers can do lots of things, including mixing up the portal stacks, making it difficult for other players to accomplish their goals.
By moving onto a transformer, a player can spend the required tools, along with the appropriately colored action card to close the portal. Each portal grants points per the number of tools spent to close it. In addition, at the end of the game, players should be working towards closing specific portals, as collecting sets will grant many bonus points.
Transformer cards are a bit crazy, and player labs feel bright and brilliant. What gets the game away from the grungy, expected art of a time traveling game is the distinct variance between portal worlds. In fact, when I’ve played with friends, I think the length of their turns is probably more due to how closely they examine the new portal’s creature instead of developing their actions. Each monster is unique, tremendous, interesting, and brutal in its own way. A few of the creatures take you out of the game, like the aforementioned teddy bear killer, but one doesn’t play Multiuniversum for the theme or experience.
Multiuniversum attracts players for the fast card play and by working the best with the hand you’re dealt. One action allows a player to shuffle through the discard and take any one card they desire. This is amazing.
More experienced players will likely devise wise tactics, making the game more difficult for their opponents, but I’m spending my games trying to make ends meet. You lose points for excess tools at game end, because how dare you waste resources. This also prevents someone from turn-by-turn dumping all of their cards into their toolkit, entirely depriving the deck of cards.
Since the art is here, and it’s just a card game, I don’t have any complaints based around presentation. The weird thing is how long it takes to reorient your mind around using cards in the most beneficial way possible. Each card has five actions to choose from, but you can only play that action if you are on the matching colored transformer. Even in the first three games, I was still forgetting about this, lowly mumbling, “oh, no,” once my turn finally came around, realizing my fault. This is the benefit of being able to use cards as tools, however. Furthermore, just because you can’t close your portal doesn’t mean you can’t discard your entire hand and hope for the right card draw for next turn. I think there are ways around this, and you might find yourself better at strategizing than myself.
While the deck can run dry somewhat frequently at five players, I’ve also found the player to be a bit messy. Each player lays down a lab card, one side denoting tools, and the other: close portals. It’s not a big deal, but with the tool art on side, you’ll need to stack tools on top of each other to keep track of what you’ve earned. Same with portals, though portals remain stationary, and tools are always fluctuating in and out of your inventory.
I also took some time to play the solo mode of the game, where you must take care to efficiently destroy the AI. It’s a bit difficult, as you must play smart, since the AI will not lose points for leftover tools. They move from transformer to transformer, equipping tools, and either closing their portal, or moving on to the next. It’s definitely a challenge, but with the simplicity of the game and setup, I can see this being an exceptional single player challenge for the solitudinal-minded gamers.
Overall, Multiuniversum isn’t bad, and I think it could be a hit as a quick, beer & pretzels game. It’s likely to cause a bit of confusion up front, but that disorientation should resolve pretty quickly once you’ve gotten a couple games in. After all, at a $13 price point, along with a cheap $9 expansion (Project: Cthulu), I think a group could find a lot of enjoyment at an excellent value. I should also mention that in terms of re-playability, players can find additional satisfaction with the included variants for the game. All together, quite a nice package.
The Bottom Line
Multiuniversum is a fun, fast, eye-catching card game. Once players get past the initial iconography hump, the game plays quickly, and you’ll never feel cheated at the noteworthy price point.