Back in 2018, publisher Pencil First Games released a beautiful-looking card game called Sunset Over Water. With some always-appealing art from Beth Sobel, this one caught my eye pretty quickly. While I never had a chance to play this set collection game, I kept it on my radar in case the opportunity presented itself.
Imagine my delight when Pencil First Games sent over a copy of their new “pocket edition” version of the game. This promises to be the same gameplay as the original, but in a more portable package. So grab your easels and brushes as we take a look at Sunset Over Water: Pocket Edition.
The gameplay in Sunset Over Water takes place over six rounds. Each round starts with players drawing three cards from their Planning Card Deck, choosing one, and putting the other two on the bottom of their deck. Each planning card will list a wakeup time, movement speed and restrictions, and how many cards the player can collect that round.
Then, from the earliest wake-up time to the latest, players take their turn. They can move their artist the number of spaces listed on their planning card, taking any cards along the way up to their limit. The only rule is that if another artist is on a card, they can’t take it. They also can’t move through empty spaces (areas where a previous player has taken a card), or end their turn on a space with another player.
After they’ve taken their cards, they check the commission cards to see if they can collect any. These require discarding specific sets of landscape cards. Finally, they check the daily goal card to see if they can claim that. Once all players have taken a turn, the grid is refilled and new commissions are revealed. At the end of six rounds, the player with the most points, wins.
While I’ve never played the original version of Sunset Over Water, I did check the rulebook (both old and new) to see if there were any differences, and the gameplay appears to be identical. So if you already own the original game, the only reason you’d pick up this pocket edition was to get a smaller game. For everyone else, it comes down to personal preference. But in my opinion, I think this game is probably better with the larger size.
Despite being a pocket edition, the game still requires a decent amount of table space. Plus, the icons can be a tad hard to see on the landscape cards. More than once our players said that they wish the cards were bigger as they squinted to identify an icon. The other issue was that one of the biggest draws for the game (at least for me) is the excellent Beth Sobel landscape art. The trade-off on portability vs seeing those bigger just isn’t there for me. And it’s not like the original game was Foundations or Rome size craziness.
But let’s move on to the gameplay now. I think Sunset Over Water makes a pretty solid gateway game. While it will take a bit for players to understand the three parts of the planning cards, overall they should be able to pick it up pretty quickly. I also liked that you only draw three cards from your planning deck each round, instead of having access to all of them. While that does cut back on the decision making space, it helps curtail both the learning curve and some serious AP that would have happened.
For player scaling, I think three players is probably the sweet spot for this game. At two players, the field is pretty open and you can usually get to where you need to be. With four players, it was way too crowded. I had a turn where I couldn’t move at all because I was trapped on the edge of the board with empty spaces and other players near me.
Finally, I want to mention the daily goal cards, which I thought was a neat mechanic. If you meet the requirement on the card (say collect a painting with three icons), then you get to claim this card, which is usually worth a few points. However, if another player later in the round also meets the goal, they steal that card from you. It’s a nice little bonus for a player going later in the round who may have missed out on commission cards that were taken by previous players.
Sunset Over Water: Pocket Edition is a solid little gateway game that’s not quite as serene as its beautiful landscapes will have you believe. There are decisions to be made here, players to block, and commissions to steal. Overall we had fun with the game, however, the pocket size feels a tad unnecessary for me. I’d rather just be playing with the full-size game. I should note that the game does come with both a mini-expansion (Nature’s Muse) and also a separate solo play mode. That’s some solid value in this little box.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A solid gateway game that, despite its simple ruleset, has plenty to think about during the game.
• Pocket edition loses some of its appeal
• Icons can be hard to see