Sol: Last Days of a Star throws a graceful apocalypse party and everyone's invited



Yeah, seems like it’s being dispatched by the retailer that said it was out of stock, funnily enough.




What I always found amazing about Pratchett is that his books always feel silly as they start, and gradually without noticing the serious parts start worming their way in, and by the climax you actually care about the characters and the humor is (mostly) gone and it’s just a well-written story with an actual message.

btw, and taking this discussion even farther afield, if you have time for podcasts I strongly recommend The Adventure Zone by the McElroy brothers, starting from episode 1 - it’s one of those “funny people play d&d without knowing the rules” things that have gotten popular, but somewhere along the line the DM’s story starts coming through stronger and the story picks up some real emotional heft. So if you’re not into the humor at first, it might be hard to keep plugging away at it, but it’s very much worth it.


I played my first game of Sol last night and came back to ask a question it looks like you already answered: you just pick the instability effects at random when setting up?

That’s what I assumed—that’s what we did. Since it was everyone’s first game I just drew four blue ones at random.

The two of us that have also played Photosynthesis (and love it too) couldn’t help but notice and appreciate some similarities. The ships slowly orbiting Sol and the Sun slowly circling the board in Photosynthesis both require some planning about how you position things with an eye toward the future, and in both cases that future is inevitable and predictable (I know exactly where the sun/motherships will be in X turns) but still surprisingly easy to forget about in the moment.

The player interactions with each other are a little different, but can still feel similar. Photosynthesis is just about positioning yourself to block others and not be blocked yourself. There’s no way to actually benefit from what another player has done in the way you can use everyone’s stuff in Sol, but there’s still a familiar vibe to the way that you’re not directly challenging others on the board, but you’re heavily affected by it. Even though you’re not disrupting or altering what they’ve placed—you can’t cut down their trees or blow up their forges—you also can’t ignore it and just concentrate on your own little engines and designs.

And ultimately, we made the same kind of errors. As soon as the game was over we all started talking about how we would change our approach next time, because we all had some level of regret about the balance between building our grand plans for generating momentum and actually getting around to executing on them. I suppose that’s true of a lot of genres, worker placement for example when pursuit of the most efficient combinations might not be as important as getting some production sooner out of what you’ve got.

Some of those similarities to Photosynthesis are superficial, and when it comes to executing our grand plans too late in the game to really benefit from them, Photosynthesis has an entirely predictable game length. There’s no excuse there but lack of practice; with time and experience that should be less and less of an issue. There’s nothing in Photosynthesis like the instability of Sol to surprise you, you always know exactly how many turns you’ll have left.

When our game ended, the first reaction from my friend was that he really liked Sol, but probably still liked Photosynthesis more. He could explain Photosynthesis a lot faster to a new player—probably true. But he didn’t see me set up Sol, so then I started showing him all the instability effects we didn’t use, and he got really excited, and started to see the added depth that I don’t think Photosynthesis has.

I didn’t mean to talk as much about Photosynthesis here as I did. I can imagine someone laughing off the entire comparison—“What, you think these games are the same because they both involve energy from the sun and things moving in a circle?” But anyway, everyone liked Sol and I’m eager to play it again soon.

Thanks for the recommendation Tom!


And thank you for the description of your first go!


I love the Photosynthesis comparisons, Wholly. That never even occurred to me, but, yes, you’re spot on for calling out the various similarities and differences. I mean, they’re both ultimately about a sun.

I hope your friend gets to try more instability effects. Especially if you guys start to include yellows or (gasp!) reds. I also think the random event deck is appropriate once you’ve played a game or two, and it adds more of a “we’re all in this together” dimension to the instability.



So, anyone want to weigh in on a rules question?

The Motivate instability card, as explained in the manual:

MOTIVATE Immediately activate a station after converting it (do not draw extra cards).

The description makes it clear that you do not draw any cards for this Activation, though it seems obvious the Convert action would still get its normal draw (hence the word “extra”).

Page 17 outlines the rules for using Instability cards:

On your turn, you may elect to use an instability card earned on a previous turn. This is in addition to your regular action.

The ability associated with each instability suit is determined by the suit tokens assigned to each instability effect selected at the beginning of the game.

Each instability effect has a symbol indicating when it can be played: move, convert, activate, draw or any time.

Discard the instability card immediately after use and before drawing any new cards as a result of your action. You cannot play a card the same turn you receive it.

For the full list of possible effects, see INSTABILITY EFFECTS, back cover.

Emphasis mine, this makes it clear that under no circumstances could you play a card on the same turn you receive it.

But my question is at what point in the turn do you actually “use” the instability card? Are you announcing and playing your Motivate instability card as a modifier to the otherwise-normal Convert action you’re about to perform? Or are you announcing and playing your instability card as a reaction to the normal Convert action you’ve just performed?

It matters with Motivate (and maybe other instability cards I haven’t tried yet) because in the first scenario, you announce you’re using motivate. It’s discarded, you take your Convert action which can result in drawing new instability cards, then you get the activation as well (which explicitly does not grant another draw of instability cards). You can’t use any of those cards you just drew on this turn, but you’re ending the turn with another instability card in your hold.

The alternative is that you first perform the Convert action, and when drawing new instability cards you opt to keep the Motivate card you already head instead of any of the new cards. Then you play that Motivate, get the free activation which doesn’t give you any new cards, and you end the turn without any instability cards in your hold.

I can’t find a clear ruling in the rule book of which approach is correct.


“Immediately” very strongly suggests you don’t get to keep the card.


I’m not sure I follow. Do you mean the “immediately” in:

Discard the instability card immediately after use and before drawing any new cards as a result of your action. You cannot play a card the same turn you receive it.

I agree you discard the instability card (the “Motivate” suit card you’re using) immediately after using it, but I still don’t see an unambiguous explanation of when you use it.

“Hey guys, I’m using this instability card now so my upcoming convert action also gives me an activation”


“Hey guys, I just did a convert action so I’m using my instability card to do a free activation as well”


“immediately activate a station after converting it” ie, it’s played at the point of conversion, before drawing cards. Or at least, the activation happens before drawing cards, so the playing must also be before.


But “immediately” could just be the timing of when the activation happens, it’s still not clear to me that’s necessarily when the instability card is played. “I’m playing motivate, so now when I do a convert it’s immediately followed up by an activation” still makes as much sense as “I just did a convert, so now I’m playing motivate which allows me to immediately activate”.

The manual is here if you want to refer to it, the last page has all the Instability effect details.


But the activation can’t happen before the card is played, by definition.


Also, regardless of the effect text,

also means you discard before drawing. It’s “your action” not “the instability effect”.


How did I miss this review? This game sounds really great, via Tom’s silver tongued (or typed) description. Do you guys think the listed game time of 45-90 is close to accurate? Games that typically run over 2 hours are often no-gos in my group (2 hours with learning is fine). That’s probably the only thing that would keep me away.


Our only game so far was three of us learning and playing for the first time (I’d read the manual through by myself once in advance but that was my only prep) and it took just shy of 2 hours for me to explain and the three of us to play. I’m guessing with 5 players it might be possible to go over 2 hours even without including time for teaching it (some of the instability effects may also slow things down a little, I’m not sure), but in most cases I’d say yeah, under 2 hours seems right.


Neither of my scenarios involves activating before the card is played.

Reading the other instability effect descriptions in the manual, most of them seem to implicitly involve playing the instability card (and immediately discarding it!) as the first thing you do on your turn, which establishes a new/additional way that things will behave during the turn you’re taking. I’m leaning in that direction.

Still, I can think of a devil’s advocate reading of every part of this. “Discard the instability card immediately after use and before drawing any new cards as a result of your action” could still depend on what “result of your action” means. Your normal action, or the new action that the instability card is allowing? I can see the argument that they’re both actions, and it could apply either way.

I appreciate you arguing with me on this, I’m not saying you’re wrong! I’m just saying I’m not convinced either reading is air tight, so I just keep trying to poke holes in what you’re saying.


I think you’d have to willfully misread the rules to interpret “your action” as anything other than the main convert/activate/move, not least because some instability effects aren’t the sorts of thing you can do in an action. More importantly, they’re never labelled as actions in the rules.


I played this for the first time last night. A two-player game took nearly two hours but that was mostly due to my own obtuseness about understanding the relationship between the instability cards and the effects (plus just first-timer slowness). Now that we’ve figured that out, I’m pumped to play it a lot more with different combinations of effects.


Glad you got to try it, Mr. Orbit! I’ve only played two-player once, but I recall thinking it felt a bit empty compared to larger player counts. On the other end of the spectrum, five-player games feel too chaotic and cramped. They’re both viable ways to play, to be sure, but I think the sweet spot for me is three players. With that player count, the game plays more with that tension of using your own structures vs someone else’s structures.

Also, I’ve only used the red cards once. Those are the instability effects that add direct conflict among players. Brutal. But, yeah, as you say, that’s one of the really cool things about Sol: playing with the different combinations.



I also picked up a copy. I’ve played two games with my wife (though the first we called a draw as I forgot to shuffle a flare into the deck!). So far we both love it.

Interestingly, @tomchick, one of the designers posted on BGG to say it was designed as a two player experience, and were pleased by how well it scaled.