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On Pointe

Grand jeté your way from rehearsals to the stage, as you embark on the career of a ballet dancer and compete for the role of Prima Ballerina.

Currently on Kickstarter, On Pointe is a grid movement game with elements of set collection and racing to the finish line. Are you ready to dance?

Gameplay

The board for On Pointe is divided into two halves: the rehearsal area and the stage area. Seven dancers are placed in each half of the board and curtain game pieces are also placed where the rehearsal area turns into the stage. There are also fourteen prop tokens, two in seven different colors. Players randomly place these around the board so that there are seven on each half, with no two props adjacent to each other. Players put their ballerina player tokens on one of the four start locations in the rehearsal area and the game begins.

Each round, two cards per player are drawn from the deck and placed face-up. These cards are movement cards, and show a number and a direction (diagonal, forward, left, right, backwards, or some combination of these) and a number of spaces. The person with the first player token chooses a card, moves their ballerina the exact number of spaces listed on the card, in one single direction shown on the card. If you cannot move the full number of spaces you cannot select that card, unless there is no card whose movement you can legally follow, in which case you select it but your ballerina stays put.

Your ballerina cannot move off the board, through or onto another player’s piece, or through or onto the curtain pieces (you have to make your way around them). You cannot move through the dancers on the board either; however, you can stop on their location, in which case you take the dancer game piece and move it to your player board. A dancer is worth negative one point at the end of the game. If your movement ends on a location with a prop token, you collect the prop token. Each prop token is worth two points, and if you manage to collect a matching color pair, you earn an additional two points.

There are several locations on the board where, if you end your movement on them, you collect one gem worth three points. One space near the end of the board also awards the first player who reaches it the prima ballerina tiara token, which is worth four points at the end of the game. If you land exactly on the Pas de Deux location, you may discard one dancer in order to collect a gem.

Each player also starts the game with five tokens, each of which can be traded for a special ability once per game. These abilities include things such moving in a different direction than the one indicated on their selected card that turn, collecting the nearest prop token, or doubling the movement value from a card.

After you have moved, you flip over the card you selected and the next player in clockwise order selects a card. After all the cards have been flipped over, they are discarded and the player whose ballerina is the farthest behind on the board takes the first player token. Then a new round begins.

The first player to reach the end of the board takes the first place token. From that point onward, players can no longer use movement cards to move backwards. You take place tokens based on the order in which you reach the finish line, with the earlier tokens being worth more points. After the last player has crossed the finish line, players calculate their scores and the ballerina with the most points wins.

On Pointe components

Photo by Richard MacRae of Analog Game Studios

Review

On Pointe is simple to learn but offers some really fun strategy, as you must adapt to the cards available to you and your order in the turns. You must plan your path around the board and choose which items to pick up and which to leave, all while being careful to avoid obstacles.

There are several ways to score points, from collecting the props and gems, to racing ahead to claim the tiara or first player token, all complicated by the need to avoid the dancers or bring one dancer to complete the Pas de Deux location. All these elements ensure that while the game is easy to learn, there’s still weight in your decisions. It’s much more than just a race to the finish line.

When choosing cards, you can also keep an eye out for where your opponents may wish to go. Players can move to block each other and get in the way, particularly around where the curtain game pieces are, where the board becomes the most congested. You do have to be careful when moving your piece around this area, however — it can be a little tricky to avoid knocking over the game components.

This game has a refreshingly original theme that you don't see that often in board games. The game nicely embraces the theme as well — the board is a great set piece and looks fantastic, the movement cards reflect actual dance steps, and there’s plenty of lace, tutus, and pointe shoes throughout the game. We also appreciate the fact that the game features both female and male dancers. The theme is probably going to be a turn off for some people, but if you enjoy creative new stories for your board games, On Pointe fits the bill nicely. As a lifelong fan of ballet, I particularly enjoyed it.

On Pointe is light, refreshing, and strategic. There’s solid player interaction, plenty of choices to be made each turn, and is accessible and enjoyable for both adults and children. Check it out on Kickstarter and give it a whirl.

Pros: Unique theme, good player interaction, fun game board, movement system is clever

Cons: Can be tricky not to knock things over on certain areas of the board, theme will be hit and miss for some players

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.