Flicking games are my jam. Whether it’s the classic Crokinole, the delightfully monstrous Terror in Meeple City, or the criminally underappreciated Ascending Empires, I’d be happy to play a great flicking game over just about anything else on my shelf. So when I heard that Pandasaurus Games was developing the first-ever “flick and write” game, it leaped to the top of my “must play” list! The name of the game is Sonora (1 to 4 players, 30-45 minutes), from designer Rob Newton and artist Tom Goyon.
Each round involves players flicking their five discs (labeled with numbers 1 through 5) onto the recessed board, which is divided into four quadrants, each with unique artwork and associated with a specific creature native to the game’s namesake in Mexico (Rabbit, Lizard, Owl, Fox). Each of these board sections is connected to a unique puzzle on the individual player boards. Once all discs have been flicked onto the landscape, each player will interact with the mini-games matching the terrain their discs are occupying. As a not-so-subtle nod to Crokinole itself, any disc that falls into the central bullseye of the board is immediately removed, and acts as a wild disc for any of the four quadrants. Further, if any part of a disc is overlapping one of the special bonus spaces, that player will use that bonus instead of the terrain itself. The game plays over 5, 6 or 7 rounds, the number of which should be determined before the start of the game. At the end of the final round, all players score their mini-games, and add them together. The one with the highest total score wins the game!
Looking at the player board puzzles in a bit more depth: The Lizard game involves filling in clusters of hexes to check off, with scores available to the first player to completely fill each cluster. In the Fox game, players transform disc numbers into tetris-shaped pieces, which must be connected orthogonally, and score points whenever a shape overlaps with a symbol. Rabbit is all about filling in circles and lines to create triangles, with each triangle containing either a bonus action or a scorable icon. Finally, the Owl board is all about navigating flight paths, starting at the top of the board, and using full disc values to mark each step of a path, with only the final step of each disc use being scored.
The game also includes a solo mode, in which three player colours are flicked onto the board. One colour is chosen for the player, another is selected for the “opposing” player, and the third is discarded. In this mode, the player mostly scores in the same way as the standard game, while the solo opponent aims to block scoring options on your own board. Navigate the obstacles to build the highest score possible.
Taking a familiar roll-and-write concept and replacing the dice with a dexterity element is inspired, and it’s absolutely worth reading Rob Newton’s designer diary on this game. Being able to see the various photo iterations of the game from prototype to final product makes for a really interesting journey.
Tom Goyon’s artwork is perhaps the most appealing aspect of the entire presentation. The rich oranges and deep purples of the game really pop out, and help to distract from the abstract nature of the game design. As far as I can tell, this is Mr. Goyon’s first contribution to a tabletop game, but hopefully not the last we see of his work in this medium!
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, I love a good flicking game. Developing the skill to nail the perfect flick is often satisfying in these games, and Sonora offers many tasty targets to aim for. However, between the puzzly player board and the dexterity element, it was a bit disappointing to realize that flicking was the least satisfying part of the package. The collection of four mini-games is truly fantastic, and on several occasions, I found myself wishing there was a quicker way to bypass the flicking and get back to the puzzle. My inner dexterity nut is concerned with this imbalance of gratification!
Price point and reusability are two other checks in the Sonora’s favour. The game can be found in the $30 to $40 CAD price range, which is only slightly more expensive than the average roll-and-write title, and far less expensive than most flicking games. As the box includes dry erase markers and boards, there is no paper pad to worry about running out, which is another nice consideration.
I’d be happy to recommend this game to fans of the “writing” aspect of a roll-and-write, as Sonora’s puzzle game is strong. On the other hand, if the dexterity element is the game’s main draw for you, it might not scratch the itch in the way you’re hoping for. As I fall into the latter category, I’ll happily play Sonora when others bring it out, but it personally wouldn’t be a game I reach for often. I’m thrilled that this concept exists, and I hope that this is just the first of a whole new subgenre of the roll-and-write category!
The Daily Worker Placement thanks Pandasaurus Games for sending a copy of Sonora for review purposes.