You’ve probably played, or at least heard of, roll-and-write games like That’s Pretty Clever, where players roll dice and use the values shown to mark off certain spaces on their individual scoresheets. Those spawned flip-and-write games, like Welcome To…, where the dice are replaced by decks of cards that are shuffled each game and revealed one or more at a time. Now we have the flick-and-write game with Sonora, where players flick numbered discs on to a board and mark off spots on their scoresheets based on where they land—but, unlike any other games in this space, you can bump other players’ discs if you find they’re in your way… or if you’re just feeling a bit spiteful.
Players in Sonora each get five discs in their chosen colors, numbered 1 through 5, and will flick them all on to the board in each of the game’s rounds, with six rounds forming a standard-length game. You may choose to flick your discs in any order you’d like, with players going around the table, flicking two at a time in the first two turns and the fifth one on the last turn. The board itself has four quadrants corresponding to the four areas of the scoresheet, each of which gives you a specific action to take with your discs that are there once everyone has done their flickin’. There are also eight smaller bonus circles around the board that let you double the value of a disc or score it twice in its area, and there’s a small, recessed area in the center that lets you take your disc off the board (so nobody can knock it to another space) and score it for any quadrant you like.
The scoring part of the game is a bit more involved. The top left quadrant, represented by the lizard symbol, has several clusters of hex spaces that score when you complete them; you add up the values of your discs in the lizard area of the board and then mark off that many spaces in any way you choose. The top right quadrant, represented by the fox, has a large grid with many spaces that contain three types of cactus or various bonus symbols. You score each disc separately here, tracing a specific polyomino shape on the grid and gaining credit for whatever you’ve encircled. The more of each type of cactus you’ve covered by game-end, the higher your points total, with a benefit to gaining more of a single type than balancing across all three.
The lower left quadrant (the owl) has a branching tree of circles with point values and bonus symbols on them. Here you score each disc individually, in a peculiar way: you cross off one circle up to the disc’s value on the path of your choosing, except you circle the final space, gaining that many points or the bonus shown there. The lower right quadrant (the rabbit) has a grid of nodes with values on them; you add up the values of your discs in that area and use the sum to cross off nodes up to that total. You then connect every two of those nodes you’ve crossed off, and once you’ve completed any triangle you score for the symbol you’ve surrounded—two, four, or six points per symbol, becoming more valuable as you move further away from the center where you start. There are some small bonus areas here outside of the network of nodes, so if you have value you can’t or don’t want to use to cross off more nodes, you can use the extra points to get a different bonus.
Those bonuses are the key to racking up a big score in Sonora, and, aside from all the flicking, setting up a daisy chain of bonuses is the best part of the game. Many bonuses let you fill in something else in the fox, owl, or rabbit sections, as if you had an extra disc in those sections, which you must use immediately when you gain them. You start the game with one free reflick, which you must use immediately after the bad flick, and one free swap, which you use after everyone has finished a-flicking, swapping any two of your discs on the board; you can gain more of these bonuses in each quadrant depending on where you choose to spend your discs. There’s also a set of ten Discovery bonuses that you can unlock and that, unlike other bonuses for the fox/owl/rabbit sections, you can save for use later in the game.
Sonora also comes with instructions for solo play that, while a bit convoluted in parts, do work reasonably well once you get the hang of it. You’ll flick three sets of discs when playing solo, and after the flicking is done, you choose one set to score for yourself, one to score for the “AI” player, and one to discard. You score the AI player first, but do so in a way that makes your life more difficult in each quadrant, making some spaces unavailable or raising the cost to fill them in. I’ve tried this a few times and I think the lizard quadrant’s AI setup might be tuned to too difficult a setting, although that’s based on just three plays.
The best roll- or flip-and-write games reward you for setting things up the right way, so that later in games you can rack up some big scores with just a single roll or flip—the daisy chains of bonuses you get in That’s Pretty Clever, finishing a row or parks or pools in Welcome To…, getting the right combination of bonuses and cards in the same color in Silver & Gold. Sonora does offer that, and you absolutely can set yourself up to get series of bonuses that boost your score to 200+ even after a few plays. Nothing in the game is quite as satisfying as the flicking, though, especially when you knock your cutthroat daughter’s disc off a bonus space and get to laugh at her indignant cries of “Bro!” It’s a clever concept for two to four players and plays in 30-45 minutes once everyone knows the rules.
Keith Law is the author of The Inside Game and Smart Baseball and a senior baseball writer for The Athletic. You can find his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.