False Economy

False Economy

Well, I couldn’t not make a pyramid joke. I am only human, and a pyramid scheme joke while playing ‘7 Wonders’ is as inevitable as a wood for sheep joke during ‘Catan’. Except of course, being a pun, I would argue that the pyramid scheme gag is a far, far higher form of humour.

In a continuing theme of playing our way through some of the more glaring omissions in our board gaming lives, we finally got to play ‘Lords of Waterdeep’ a few nights ago. I was dubious going in. As much as I had heard what great game it was, I had also heard that it was a rather average worker placement, and it was just the D’nD dressing on top that got people so excited.

After one playthrough, you could categorise my level of surprise as ‘pleasant’. It looks top notch, with a very nice board, solid components, and enough artwork and flavour text to make the theme feel more than just mere set dressing.

We played a six player game with (I believe?) all of the expansions rolled in. There were enough options open every round to keep your mind on the board during down time, and the ratio of players to spaces available on the board was just about enough so that while you couldn’t wholly rely on your plans, you didn’t find them in tatters every other turn.

On top of vying for board space, there were a few player interaction elements – although more than some of these might have come from the expansions. Again, the balance between being able to hamper your opponents while not being able to completely derail their game seemed to be finely tuned.

Despite lacking the opportunity to use pyramid-based puns, it is a game I want to try again. One play is enough to interest me in more, but I don’t yet feel I have a handle on its depth or replayability.

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Village meeple

Writer_smallerVillage meeple

Before we ever played it, I had a lot of fun just describing ‘Village’ to friends, particularly non-gamer friends, and watching their reactions. ‘Harvesting, crafting, markets, raising a family, milling grain, local politics. It’s just small town life. In fact, it’s not even that exciting, it’s small village life. Oh, and of course you have to go to Mass at the end of the round. Obviously.’

Quaint theme aside, Village is a worker placement game, with some mild resource management added into the mix. Nothing unusual there, but it is a unique mixture of elements with some brilliant innovations. If you don’t have the resources to pay for something, the game will often offer an alternative – paying with time. Don’t have the materials required to craft that plough? You can send a member of your family to the blacksmith (plough-smith?) to be apprenticed to the craft. Training costs time, but it does mean that from then on, whenever you need a plough, you can just spend more time to make one instead of using actions to gather resources to build one. The catch here is that time is the ultimate finite resource. Once you have ‘spent’ enough time, a member of your family will pass away, leaving you with one fewer workers to place. And four generations is the limit of your family; you can’t simply keep spawning more.

On the other hand, when family members die, they can potentially be entered into the village chronicle, and earn you victory points. To add to this again, the game ends when the village chronicle is full, so you can potentially exert some control over the length of the game and force it to end sooner, which might suit you better. So working Grandpa to death at the forge might be the best option for your family. Delightful!

After only a couple of plays, all the options in the game seem well balanced, and we haven’t hit on a ‘killer strategy’ that carries with it a greater chance of victory than any other. Your options on any given turn are limited, and dwindle alarmingly as other players remove precious cubes, and potential actions, from the board. You have to be willing to adapt your strategy to suit the games’ flow and the interference of other players. While there is no direct conflict or antagonism between residents, you can’t live in a village that small and not be affected by those around you. You will occasionally rub up against your neighbours, or elbow them on your way to market, eager to get to the good customers first.

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