This is a pure text game for two to four players from a company that goes by the extraordinary name of Celerysoft. The game is neatly but sparsely packaged with a monochrome inlay, instructions and a recipe for braised pigeon with celery, er yes, thankyou very much. Just what I needed. Really!
Ah, but the game what of that? Well, as there was no solitaire option, I had to pit my wits against you guessed it... me. And sure enough, twas a mighty challenge (brain the size of a planet and all that). After selecting the number of players, each player names his or her homeworld. Order of play then progresses sequentially, each player taking all the actions for a turn before the next.
There are various choices open to a player presented on a menu. Certain choices may lead to a second menu for elaboration. Initial choices allow a player to review status, access mining, trading, government or military options, check how much money has been spent (and where), and end the turn.
The status screen displays the planet's name, cash reserve, population, a popularity factor and a strength factor. The mining screen gives you the initial option of carrying out a scientific analysis of the planet's surface. This costs 20,000 credits (your bank balance always starts at the 50,000 credit mark) which is quite a chunk, but rewards are to be gained in later months once ores have been discovered and become serious mining propositions. Once mines are open (normally two minerals can be discovered on each planet), money may be spent on actually extracting them for sale on the trading screen.
Trading is the next section on the menu and like mining, selecting this option leads to a sub-menu. The most advisable thing to do first is to check on the sale prices for various minerals. It may be that mining certain ores will not be profitable, depending on the state of the market. After viewing prices, you may wish to sell some of the ores you have processed. If this is the case, yet another sub-menu opens up allowing you to sell any proportion of any ores to the Intergalactic Federation. Ores can never be sold to other players.
The government option is most peculiar. Typically, selection of this option prompts the arrival of another sub-menu but the options therein are not what you might expect. This is primarily a spending screen. Money can be invested in housing, transport or buying imports (the nature of these remains unspecified). The only other option on this screen is modification of the tax rate. This leads to yet another menuette displaying the current level of tax and population. Tax may be raised or lowered: obviously the taxation rate affects the amount you have to spend each year. However, to offset the advantages of a high tax rate, the rate is inversely proportional to the popularity level. A balance must be struck.
The military option gives you the choice of either spending money on defence or going to war with a neighbour. There is no choice for those who want to form alliances. Belligerent races may only engage each other on an individual level. This limits players ' choices. Only non-hindrance pacts are feasible.
Another option provides a summary of progress made by the player this turn, and details expenditure. At the bottom of the main menu screen lies another menu catering for loading and saving games, quitting the entire game or moving play on to the next month.
The character set is redefined and is the only presentation feature in the game. My real moan with Planetopoly is not that it lacks a one player version (although considering the simplicity of the game, one should have been included), but the lack of options available. Apparently, an improved version of the game has been prepared for PBM gaming. I can see no logical reason for not adding some of these details to this game. It hardly packs out the memory.
As I've already stated, interest could have been increased by active allegiances. There is more to government spending than transport and housing. There could have been more atmospheric background in terms of this anonymous federation. Whatever, there isn't enough in this game to keep me interested for more than a few games. Reasonable is about the best compliment I can give to this cassetteful of missed opportunities.