Invented by Tom Schoeps.
Published by Goldsieber.
Reviewed by Dirk Bock (bock@VSIKP0.UNI-MUENSTER.DE).
3 - 5 players
30 - 45 minutes
Even though the base of STERNENHIMMEL are the signs of the zodiac, the game has nothing to do with astrology. Pure tactics is the order of the day.
The signs of the zodiac are depicted on 12 cardboard tiles and the players are out to "invade" them by placement of their stars. The stars - nine of each player's colour - have values on them, ranging from 1 to 10, including two twin stars and one black hole. In the beginning, the heaven is void, not a single star sheds light on the vast blackness of space. Five of the tiles are turned up and during my turn I place any one of my stars on an unoccupied star position. These star positions come in two flavours, small ones and large ones, which affect the way I place the star. On the small positions the stars are placed face up, so anyone can see the value, whereas on the large positions stars hide their value by being placed face down. Once a sign of the zodiac is completely filled with stars, the face down stars are turned up and the two players with the most valuable combination of stars cash in their victory points (called "Sterntaler", a word taken from a fairytale of the brothers Grimm). Generally, each star is worth its face value. Twin stars double the values of all neighbouring stars and black holes swallow their neighbours but first holes that are next to each other swallow each other and are taken off the tile. After that the remaining black holes dstroy all their neighbours. The player with the highest value on the tile gets his reward and the second ranking one a smaller amount of Sterntaler. After scoring, the "completed" tile is removed from the game and all the stars from that tile are handed back to their owners to further aid their conquest of the universe.
Sternenhimmel is not too subtle. You may bluff by placing stars face down but this consideration usually takes a back seat. Instead, look at what the other players have already played and go directly for maximum profit. The main decision points are choosing signs of the zodiac in which to place your stars and choosing which players you want to hinder.
Sternenhimmel is not the kind of game which will be pulled forth with trembling hands in three years time, but it works and it's fun. A nice - and short - game of tactics for more than two players.
In the German "scene" Tom Schoeps is well known, but he is not one of the noted and praised geme designers. Nevertheless, Sternenhimmel is the game out of the new Goldsieber products which probably holds the most appeal for the "serious" gamer, whoever this often talked about person may be.
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell