The Board Dame Reviews: CO₂: Second Chance

“If the pollution isn’t stopped, it’s game over for all of us.”
CO₂: Second Chance is a 1-4 player economic cooperative/semi-cooperative action selection game designed by Vital Lacerda and published by Giochix.it with artwork by Ian O’Toole, Paula Simonetti and Giacomo Tappainer.

Box Game Length: 60-120 Minutes

Actual Playtime: 120-180 Minutes (I can’t see how you could win this game in 60 minutes, but you can definitely lose in 60 minutes.)

Setup time: 15 minutes

Player Count: 1-4 Players

Game Mechanics:

Area Control / Area Influence, Action Selection, Cooperative Play, Tile Placement.

 

BGG Game Weight: 4.00/5

Thematic Integration: High! Despite the theme itself, while some might think is quite dry. It really does feel like you’re running a company and you have to cooperate with other companies to fix the global energy crisis by reducing CO₂ emissions by building clean energy sources to meet the energy demands of that continent. It’s been rare to find a game that so clearly explains and plays out our current situation with harmful pollutants. Honestly, I would love to see this game used to teach people about the actions needed to save our planet, and the consequences if we don’t act quickly.

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Objective: In CO₂, each player is the CEO of an energy company responsible for meeting the energy needs around the world by providing clean energy sources to stop the increase of harmful pollution. We have 4 decades to clean up the mess we made with fossil fuels or we are all doomed.

You will have to attend energy summits to promote global awareness and to educate your scientists about different energy types so that they may return home with that knowledge to propel your company as a leader in that energy type.

If as a group, we aren’t able to keep CO₂ emissions down, complete public UN objectives as well as private objectives, and the game is over.

Game Round Summary: Each era, you will go through 5 different phases. Depending on player count, the first phase; the Operation Phase, will either have 2-3 or 4 rounds. Followed by the Income Phase, the Environmental Goals Phase, The Energy Supply Phase, and the End of Decade Phase.

1- The Operation Phase: In this phase, you must take one, and only one Main Action and any of the three Executive Actions, however, each can only be taken once during your turn. You can take any of the actions in any order you choose.

Main actions consist of these three options:

  • Proposing a Project: You present blueprints and models for your sustainable energy project by placing a tile of that energy type on the board with its project side facing upwards. This action allows you to gain knowledge in that sector and also receive a grant for that project.
  • Prepare Infrastructure: You prepare the power grid, construction side, parking lots, roads and any landscape alterations for your power lines by flipping over a proposed project and placing your infrastructure on that tile. Remember, you need a Carbon Emission Permit to start working! (CEPS)
  • Build a Power Plant: This involves constructing the plant itself and establishing energy distribution. To do this, you choose a Prepared Infrastructure in an energy type whose level is no higher than your knowledge in that sector and attach the corresponding powerplant to that tile (There’s a really cool interlocking effect with the game pieces) after paying the appropriate building cost and reaping the rewards in VPs for the entire group.

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Executive Actions consist of these three options:

  • Move a Scientist: You may move a scientist from your board to an unoccupied Proposed Project, or to any unoccupied Lobbyist card played by any player.
  • OR you may move your scientist from a Proposed Project to another Proposed Project, to an unoccupied Lobbyist card played by any player, any unoccupied Energy Summit space corresponding to the same energy type as that Proposed Project, or back to your player board.(NOTE: Anytime you move a scientist away from a Proposed Project, you gain knowledge in that energy type)
  • Visit the CEP Market: You may buy one CEP from the market, if there are any CEPs remaining in the market, the price does not change. If however the CEP market is emptied, you replenish the market by adding two CEPs, then the price of a CEP goes up by one, then the market is now closed for the rest of your turn.
  • OR you may sell one CEP to the market, then decrease the price of a CEP by one.(NOTE: Any CEPs sold or returned from your played board by any means return to the bank on the side of the board, never back to the market.)
  • Play a Lobbyist Card or Claim a UN Goal Card: You may play a Lobbyist Card (obtained during game set up) from your hand for the main effect on the card, or for the minor effect on the card IMMEDIATELY BEFORE OR AFTER taking the action depicted on the card.
  • You may claim a UN Goal Card from the display if you have the INFRASTRUCTURE supporting all built plants depicted on the card. Pay the required tech cubes and flip the card.(NOTE: These built Infrastructures have to have been built by the same player (same colour) to claim the UN Goal Card. The Proposed Project as well as the Built Power Plant could have been done by any player.)

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2- The Income Phase:
In this phase, players will gain income in either money or victory points based on their position on each track of the different energy types. Two stacks will receive income, so when choosing where to gain knowledge from complete summits, it’s important to try to stick together as much as you can so that more people receive income. The choice between VPs and Money is an important balancing act as you will be able to spend victory points to lower CO₂ emissions in the cooperative mode in a later phase. So plan ahead!

3- The Environmental Goals Phase: In this phase, you will flip any of the environmental goals you’ve accomplished. These goals range from building power plants in certain regions, of certain energy types, reaching certain spots on the knowledge tracks and attending summits.

For each tile not flipped, you will lose 1, 2, 3 or 4 points per tile depending on which era of the game you’re playing. It’s more punishing later on not to complete goals, so make sure that you’re doing your best to accomplish as many of these as you can.

4- The Energy Supply Phase: This is the phase in which you check global energy requirements and if you’ve met the supple with clean energy. Each era on the board, you will have to have built a power plan of the required energy type to not increase global CO₂ emissions. Those countries have to meet their needs for energy one way or another. Unfortunately that other way is with fossil fuels.

You will need to fill that energy demand (empty era space) with a fossil fuel tile and subsequently increasing it by the PPM number depicted on that tile.

You must also spend a CEP for increasing global pollution. That CEP will either come from the region itself, or if a player controls that region (from previously building power plants in that region) it can come from their player board, or from a region they control, it can be a different region if they control more than one.

If you cannot pay a CEP, either from the region, another region, or your player board, you must pay a fine. You will lose VPs in the amount of the current market value of CEPs.

Don’t worry, it’s not all lost, in future rounds, you can decrease the global pollution levels by replacing those fossil fuel power plants with clean energy power plants.

Artwork: The new artwork is beautiful and much more appealing that it’s first edition. We are in a time in gaming where even “boring euros” need to look pretty. As a super fan of those “boring euros” I really appreciate all the effort put in to renewing and updating these games.

But more important that beauty, the artwork needs to be functional, especially with heavier games. In this case, it really knocked it out of the part. The iconography is fantastic and very clear, the distinct colours for each energy type and the overall layout is crisp and clear which allows for a much smoother game play experience.

Components: The quality of this game is top notch! I’m a fan of wooden components, cubes, disks, meeples, and power plants, give me all the wood! This game doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The ingenious use of interlocking pieces with infrastructure and power plants is so visually satisfying.

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The only knock I have against it is that after a few plays, I have already broken one of the tips off of the solar power plant from being in the box. It was an easy fix with glue, but the small section of that power plant are a little weak.

The card stock is excellent and something that is made to last. Thick cardboard pieces, including player boards that I would be shocked if they ever warped under normal conditions. The inclusion of the player aids that fit perfectly against your player boards are genius as well!

The insert is just about the only thing I don’t like in this game. It could have been loads better, and doesn’t make for easy or fast set up at all. If you’re a vertical stacker like me, good luck, it’ll be a hot mess when you open that box again. I ditched the insert and just put everything is baggies. Makes for much quicker set up and I can continue to stack vertically.

If you are a kickstarter backer, you also got some plastic components for this game. I’m not a fan of plastic, as mentioned above, wood for lyfe! But more importantly, it seemed a little odd to me to have a game about fossil fuel emissions, using plastic for their game. Overall, it’s probably a small issue to have, but it’s one nonetheless.

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Scales Based on Player Count:

Solo – Haven’t played. Will update after solo run!

2,3 and 4 Players – The game scales really well at all player counts and have roughly the same amount of turns per player, the only difference I felt at 2 players was that you were able to accomplish the UN goals a little more easily as you’d have far more infrastructure per player. It was less puzzly in the sense. However, with two players, you did have to focus a little more on gaining scientists than in a 3 or even 4 player game as we start the game with less of them as a group.

Changes from the First Edition:

  • Added cooperative mode, which is now the main game (but you still get the full competitive game, too!).
  • New private goals to play the co-op version.
  • Event goals were created for the co-op version.
  • Different UN goal cards, and different point values.
  • You can claim a UN goal card if you have the right infrastructure, while in the original you needed the right power plants.
  • The way summits give points has been altered a bit, but it works basically the same way.
  • A few new endgame objective cards have been added, and some have been tweaked.
  • Your scientist must leave the Project tile to get you knowledge.
  • Scientists are no longer allowed in infrastructures.
  • You can sacrifice a scientist to take a minor benefit from lobby cards that have already been played.
  • Hiring a scientist gives you a “wild” knowledge point.
  • No more payment to other players. When the scientist moves out, the scientist’s owner gets a knowledge point.
  • Placing projects gives you a knowledge point.
  • Building a plant costs a CEP.
  • New goal cards.
  • Events work a bit differently: They now cost a CEP as well, and if pollution is above 400 ppm, 2 events occur, instead of just 1.
  • Added UN Inspectors Variant.
  • One turn fewer per decade in both versions.
  • One decade fewer in co-op.
  • Spend points to reduce CO₂ and pay for events.
  • You lose if your points go below zero in co-op.

Replayability: With a variety of tiles and cards for set up, you will almost never have the same global energy requirements, nor the same UN Goal Cards. Then there is of course the semi-competitive side of the board; the original implementation of the game that adds a whole other kind of playing experience. With both sides, effectively two different games and tons of components, this will be a game that is never short on fun.

Overall Thoughts: I love every Lacerda game I’ve played. I might be a little biased in that sense, but this is probably my fave Lacerda game so far. As a person that often doesn’t enjoy cooperative games, I actually prefer the full coop side of the game vs the semi-cooperative.

The cooperativeness of the game adds to it’s immersive feel to me. Particularly the discussions that take place on which continents we desperately need energy, those that are doing well, and the compromises that have to be made to save the world and ourselves.

The other thing I absolutely loved about this game is the rulebook. Aside from it’s very clear pictures and explanations, are the footnotes. If you’re being taught how to play, I would recommend taking a look at the rulebook and reading all the footnotes explaining what each different action means, why they are important and their global implications on air pollution, it really added to the feel of the game for me and how important each of the actions were. It’s really really really thoughtful.

A little tid bid of advice for playing this the first couple times is to look at your starting lobbyist cards. Then compare them to the UN Goals and try to focus on working your way towards those. Of course you also need to manage the goal tiles, so gander at those and start building in the areas that are needed on there first, but I found that to be a helpful starting point on what you want to do. It can be a bit daunting your first time, so have fun and good luck! The world is depending on you!

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