Circadians: First Light Review

Circadians: First Light is a game by S J Macdonald, published by Renegade Game Studios. It is for 1-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of field leader of a team of researchers based on a newly discovered planet. Players will be farming, constructing, researching and even trading to gain the resources that they need to be successful. In the end, the player that is best able to efficiently manage their crew to gain the most points will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Planet board is placed in the middle of the play area, on either side. The Gem Cache tiles are shuffled together before being randomly placed into the cut out sections on the edge of the Planet board. The red side with the points on it shoud be placed face down and not revealed to any of the players at this time. Gem and Water tokens are placed on certain spaces of the Planet board as indicated by the small icons at the top of these spaces. Each player will now choose a player color and will receive the Harvester in their chosen color, which is then placed in the center of the Planet board. The Negotiation board is placed beside the Planet board on the side that corresponds with the number of players. The 3 Clan boards are placed along the top of the Negotiation board on either side, with the green clan on the left, the yellow in the middle and the red one on the right. The Negotiation tokens are placed into the holes along the bottom of the Negotiation board. The Depository/Headquarters board is placed near the Planet Board on the side that corresponds with the number of players. It should be noted that when playing with less than 3 players, the column on the far left with the 3 player icons in the spaces will not be used. The “End of an Era” Event card is placed facedown on the Depository/Headquarters board in the space provided. This will form the Event Draw Pile. The rest of the Event cards are shuffled together and 7 cards are randomly placed on top of the Event Draw Pile. The remaining cards are returned to the box. The Location boards are placed below the other boards on the side that corresponds to the number of players. It is recommended to place the Control board close to the Planet board for ease of play. The Farm tiles are shuffled together and separated into 3 stacks of 5 tiles each. Each stack is placed faceup on one of the 3 spaces at the bottom of the Laboratory board. The Upgrade tiles are shuffled together and then separated into 3 stacks of 6 tiles each. Each stack is placed faceup on one of the 3 spaces at the bottom of the Foundry board. Ten dice of each player’s chosen color are placed near the Academy Board. Each player is then given a Research Base board, a Player Screen, 3 dice in their chosen color, 10 water tokens, 2 Algae tokens and 2 Power tokens. The Character boards are shuffled together and each player is dealt 2 of these facedown. The player will then choose 1 to keep and return the other one to the box. The kept Character board is placed beside their Research Base. It should be noted that if all players agree, each player may instead choose their own character from those available. The Item cards are shuffled together and then placed facedown into a pile above the Depository/Headquarters board. This forms the Item Card Draw Pile. Each player is then dealt 4 cards from the Item Card Draw Pile. They will each choose 1 card to keep, placing it facedown in front of themself. Each player will then pass the remaining cards to the player on their left. Players will then choose 1 card to keep, placing it facedown with their other Item card. Once more, they will pass the remaining cards to their left. They will choose 1 last Item card, placing it facedown with the other Item cards in front of themself. The remaining card in their hand is then placed facedown at the bottom of the Item Card Draw Pile. Players may then look at their cards but should keep them hidden from other players. The Water, Algae, Power and Gem tokens should be separated and placed into a supply near the play area, along with the 6 Multiplier cards. The first player is randomly chosen and is given the Start Player Marker which they will place near their Research Base. Once all this has been completed, play now begins.

The game is played over a series of 8 rounds. Each round is made up of 4 phases; Plan, Execute, Harvest and Rest phases. The first phase is the Plan phase. To start the Plan phase, the top card of the Event Draw Pile is revealed and placed faceup to the right of the deck. The text on the card is read aloud and the effects of the card, which affect all players, are then resolved. Some effects will be resolved later in the round, as noted on the Event card. Once this has been taken care of, all players will roll all of their available dice at the same time, behind their player screen. It should be noted that when rolling dice, players must follow 3 rules. First, no player may have more than 5 dice during the Plan phase. This includes both the Headquarters and the Research Base. Second, if a player has no available dice at this time, including in the Headquarters, they may gain 1 die immediately from the supply. Finally, once rolled, a player may not change the rolled value of the die until the Execute phase. After rolling the dice, each player will then need to assign each of their rolled dice to the various spaces on their Research Base. There are 2 types of locations that players may choose from; Garages and Farms. Garages are used to take actions on the various other boards during the Execute phase. When placing dice on these spaces, players must always fill from left to right. It should be noted that some spaces have an Algae cost that will need to be paid during the Execute phase to perform an action. Also of note, the first Garage space contains an upgraded vehicle that will allow the player to increase or decrease the die value assigned there by 1 during the Execute phase. Farms are used to gain resources. When placing dice on these spaces, players may freely place their dice and will not need to fill from left to right. Dice assigned to these spaces are activated during the Harvest phase. It should be noted that the first farm space does not produce any resources, instead it allows a player to increase the value of all other farm dice on their Research Base by up to 3. With the second and third farms the player must choose 1 of the 2 resources shown on the space to produce. The amount of the resource produced is determined by the value of the die placed there, as noted on the table at the bottom left of the Research Base. Once each player has finished assigning their dice, play moves to the next phase.

The second phase is the Execute phase. In this phase, players begin by removing their Player Screen and revealing their Research Board with their assigned dice. Before actioning the dice on each player’s Research Board, all the dice at the Headquarters are actioned first, beginning with the die that is farthest to the left and then moving right. It should be noted that dice that are actioned from the Headquarters can not be placed back onto the Headquarters. Also of note, the first die in the Headquarters may be flipped to it’s opposite side when being actioned, of course this is optional. Once all the dice have been actioned from the Headquarters, then players will begin to action the dice assigned to the Garages on their Research Base. This is done in turn order beginning with the first player and continuing in turn order. When these dice are actioned, there are 3 things should be noted. First players must always action their left most die on their turn. That’s because the order that each die is actioned is important. It should be noted that the first die that is farthest to the left is free to action. However the remaining Garages require 1-3 Algae to be used. If a player can not or chooses not to pay the Algae cost, then that die and all the dice to the right of it are placed in the player’s Cantina space. Each die placed there gives the player 2 Water from the supply immediately. Finally, some Upgrade tiles may be used to influence the cost or die value of certain Garages when their dice are being actioned. These specific details are explained on the back of the rulebook, but should be noted for future reference.

When actioning a die during the Execute Phase, the player may choose from 6 different Location boards as well as the Negotiation board and the Depository/Headquarters board. The Negotiation board allows players to score points but they have to spend resources to use these spaces. It should also be noted that placing a die below a particular clan allows the player to gain a unique ability. Also the first die placed with a unique value allows the player to gain an advancement. However, once the dice values of a specific clan reach a certain level, it may trigger a setback which will cost the player. The Depository is another place where players can gain points. This section of the board allows a player to play an Item card from their hand by paying the required resources. They will also gain a reward based on where the die was placed. The Headquarters allows a player to action dice first in the next round, as well as their choice between 2 Item cards or 5 Water. The Mining Camp is 1 of the 6 Location boards. This board allows players to harvest Gems by paying a certain number of Water based on which space they choose. The Laboratory allows players to purchase new Farms by placing 2 dice of the same value and paying either 3 Algae or 10 Water. The Foundry allows players to purchase Upgrades for their Garages by paying 2 Power or 10 Water. The Control Room allows players to move their Harvester to an adjacent space on the Planet board by paying 2 Power or 10 Water. The direction the Harvester moves is based on the value of the die placed. Once moved, the player gains any resources printed on the space. The Market allows players to make a number of trades for resources with the supply based the number of the die placed. The Academy allows players to gain new dice to action with for the next round by paying a number of resources. Once all dice assinged to the Headquarters and Garages have been actioned and resolved, play moves to the next phase.

The third phase is the Harvest phase. In this phase, players will harvest their resources at the same time. Players will gain resources from the Planet and their Farms, taking the gained resources from the supply. On the Planet, the player will gain a number of resources based on the space occupied by their Harvester. On a player’s Farms, some farms will produce resources while others require a die to activate it. For those farms requiring dice, the amount of resources produced is determined by the value of the die and the table at the bottom left corner of the Research Base. Once players have harvested all their resources, play moves to the fourth phase.

The final phase is the Rest phase. In this phase, players will return all of their used dice from the Location boards, Farms and Cantina to their supply. Dice on the Depository/Headquarters and Negotiation boards should not be returned. They stay where they are placed. Once this is done, the first player from the current round will pass the Start Player Marker to the next player in turn order, making them the first player for the next round. Players will then need to check and make sure that they don’t have any more than 5 dice and 8 item cards. If they do, the extras are discarded to the supply or discard pile respectively. As long as it’s not the eighth round, a new round begins and play continues with a new Plan phase.

The game continues until the end of the Rest phase of the eighth round. At this time, the game ends immediately. Players will then score points in 5 areas. They will gain points from their dice on the Negotiation board. They will gain points from Items that they have acquired, both from the printed value and the bonus scoring abilities. They will gain points from their Harvester’s position on the Planet Board, if they’ve reached a Gem Cache. They will gain points from their Upgrades and Farms on their Research Board, as well as the printed values on their left most empty garage and farm spaces. They will also gain points for any remaining Gems in their supply. Players will then add up their points and the player with the most points is the winner.

This game has some great looking artwork and some very nice pieces to it. To begin with, there are wooden resources, gems and negotiation tokens. Each of the resources is shaped to represent a particular resources, for example the water token is blue and shaped like a drop of water. There are lots of dice in 4 different player colors. These dice are brightly colored and see through but are on the small size. I would have preferred the dice be more of a normal game size. Even so, I do like the colors and look of them, even though I don’t like the size. The Harvesters are also in the bright player colors and are 6 sided plastic rings that look nice when placed on the Planet Board. Speaking of boards, there are lots of boards for this game. There’s the circular Planet Board with cut outs for the Gem Cache tiles. This board is a bit drab and kind of lifeless, but it does it’s job quite effectively through the use of different icons for the resources that each space provides. I would have liked a little more flash and pizzaz but it may have been too distracting, thus the more drab look of the board. There are 2 larger boards and 6 smaller Location boards. The larger boards are the Negotiation Board and the Depository/Headquarters board. The Negotiation board has cut outs for the different Clans and holes for the Negotiation tokens that provide advancements and setbacks. There’s not much in the way of artwork on this one. The Depository/Headquarters board, on the other hand, looks like a space warehouse with a guy standing in front of some monitors. This same style of character artwork is present on all of the Location boards. The Mining Camp has a red alien with some kind of jackhammer/drill. The Market has a green alien selling some unusual wares at her stall. The Laboratory, Foundry, Control Room and Academy look like something out of Star Trek but with armored suits instead of colored ones. Even the Player Screens get a heavy dose of artwork, with each one displaying an array of aliens and humans from the game. The Character Boards and Clan Boards also display different characters and aliens alike. As far as the artwork goes, it’s over the top with thematic and gorgeous designs. Some of that artwork also makes it’s way onto the cards, especially on the Item cards. There are several different types of cards and each one is really great quality. The game also comes with some cardboard tiles for the Farm and Garages, as well as the Gem Cache, and AI progress. Yes, I said AI. That’s because on the back of the Research Bases that each player uses, there’s 1 of 4 different AI Opponent boards. Each AI has this really awesome looking droid like alien that you’re supposed to be playing against. Like I said, the artwork is gorgeous. Needless to say, once you crack this one open, you’ll find a lot of great artwork and great designs on some very good quality components. If all that’s not enough for you, the game comes with an insert that holds everything perfectly. Of course there is a little extra room once those punchboards are removed but such is life. In any event, this is very thematic and great looking game. I think players will find a lot to love in the way this one looks.
9 out of 10

I’ll admit, the rulebook for this game was a little bit intimidating. There was so much information and it looked like it was going to be a lot to keep up with and try to learn. To be honest, I put off playing it for awhile simply because of the rulebook. Of course once I started reading through it, everything made sense. I realized then that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. In fact, it was pretty straight forward. Every step of the game from setup to scoring was explained in great detail in a very simple to understand way. The rules have plenty of examples and lots of great pictures to help players understand things. The last couple of pages of the book even include an idex of the item cards, along with clarifications on the character boards and advancements and setbacks. The back of the book covers the different farm and upgrade tiles with great pictures to highlight each one. If that weren’t enough, the book also includes a solo variant with 4 pages worth of information for playing by yourself. I’m very pleased with the overall look and feel of the book and I see now that there was nothing to be so concerned about. As it is, the book is really well written and it is very easy to read. Overall an excellent job.
9 out of 10

Let me be completely honest. When I first looked at this game, I thought, “Man, this is gonna be pretty boring. The box looks cool, but the rulebook looks so complicated. I think this is gonna be a definite get rid of game.” Well let me tell you, I was WRONG! I know, I don’t say those words that often, but it’s true. I’ve actually been on the lookout for a really good dice placement game, that’s basically a worker placement game with dice. I had played a few that didn’t really work out for me. This one on the other hand, is very good. It takes this space colonization kind of theme and gives you lots of options for placing your dice. Having so many options to choose from, it can be hard to decide where to place each of your dice. Which, like the rulebook, can be a bit overwhelming. The thing is, the game isn’t overwhelming. After you get going for a round or two, you get it and everything just starts to move right along. Of course, you do have to worry about the luck aspect of dice rolling, but there’s plenty of things to offset those rolls, so it’s not too big of a concern. As you play the game you always have to be thinking ahead of where you want to place your dice and what you want to do. However you need to have back up plans as each board is tight and it’s very easy to get blocked out of going where you had first planned to go. I’d like to mention that each character that you play feels completely different and will help push you in a certain direction for making choices that will help that specific character play best. Now, not only is this a good game for multiple players, but it’s got a great solo mode too. In fact, you can even use the AI for the solo mode as an extra player for playing with multiple players, just to tighten up the boards even more so. If that’s something that you feel like doing. Personally, I love simply playing this one solo. The game comes with 4 levels of AI from Easy to Insane. I’ve yet to tackle the Insane AI, but I’m sure it’s pretty rough. The Hard AI was tough enough to whomp me pretty savagely. The way that the AI plays is through a series of Scheme cards that tells you exactly what the AI does on it’s turn. Mainly blocking you from using certain spaces and gaining resources or gems to be able to gain enough points to destroy you with. Needless to say, I’ve had a great time winning and yes…losing to the AI. Fans of dice placement or worker placement games should really enjoy this one, especially if the theme is appealing to you. This is one that I highly recommend for multiple and solo players. I can say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this game and look forward to playing more of it.
9 out of 10

Circadians: First Light is a dice placement style game with a space theme. The game is a little over average length, with most games taking around an hour and a half. The components are absolutely gorgeous. The artwork is great and the quality of each piece is very high. I love the character and alien designs that this one has. The rulebook is well designed and even includes rules for solo play, which I love. The game itself is a lot of fun for both multiple players as well as for playing solo. There are a huge amount of choices that are available for players to make and lots of paths to victory. This is one that multiple players and solo players can easily enjoy. This is one that fans of dice or worker placement games should enjoy. It’s one that I highly recommend. Now if you’ll excuse me, the droids need more algae.
9 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Renegade Game Studios at their site.



About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
This entry was posted in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.