Wildlands (2018) review
Wildlands is one of the latest games by designer Martin Wallace. If this name still does not tell you anything, it's high time you go and find out more and try out his games. He has created a few dud games, but usually, most of them are very good, and is one of the most original and talented authors since the 90's. He is credited with titles such as Age of Steam, A Few Acres of Snow and God's Playground. All very good, I tell you. In 2018, there were no less than three publications of his games that were available. Two from a Kickstarter: Auztralia and the new Brass: Lancashire. And one that went direct to retail: Wildlands. It is this title that we will talk about here.
Wildlands came out at Essen 2018 from Osprey Games, a rather surprising English publisher. Little known to the general public, Osprey Publishing specialize in book publishing or wargame rules. Their origins include famous wargames / figurine games like Frostgrave, Dracula's America or Bolt Action. They did not neglect the board game, by branching out and creating Osprey Games, with titles like Escape For Colditz, The Lost Expedition, London (another Wallace). An editor searching since a few years to stand out.
Following a fierce battle between Good and Evil, the capital of the kingdom has been ravaged. It is indeed in the middle of this territory that the final struggle took place. The victory of the Good was not without consequence and the capital was carried away leaving Wildlands (hence the name of the game) devastated.
Today, enemy factions find themselves in search of treasure, glory and fame. These are your goals, as you play one of these factions and impose yourself against others.
Wildlands is a game for 2 to 4 players, based in a fantasy world. Each player embodies a faction composed of several miniatures (5 per faction in the base game). The four factions are The Guild, The Lawbringers, The Gnomads and The Pit Fighters (one per player, of course!). Each offers a different gameplay. Not in the mechanisms, but in the way of apprehending and controlling them. To impose yourself? Nothing easier. You just have to be the first to win 5 points. You will earn one point if you manage to recover a crystal of your color or if you knocked out an opposing figure. A character out of play will of course not return. Once a player loses all their miniatures, he loses. So beware of being too adventurous.
In the game, there are two types of actions: default and flags.
When you play a card with your character icon :
Each card has several icons. When a card is played, you can activate only one miniature regardless of the image and the number of symbols. Yes, the whole game is based on choice. Doing this or that action will deprive you of other choices.
You also have Wild cards that give you three choices : move any character, draw two cards or interrupt. Interrupt is another rather malicious gaming mechanism. With such a card, you can intervene in an opponent's turn.
Once a player has finished an action during his turn, you can play a card for its interrupt ability and play as if it were your turn. But be careful, that player too can do the same, as too can the other players. Very quickly, everything can come one after another and can lead to hurt. Once each player has stopped and played their actions, the game returns to the current active player.
That's all? Almost. The game gives you the freedom to play as many cards as you want, but at the end of your turn you will only draw three cards, with a seven card limit to your hand. And when you interrupt a player's game, you won't draw again until the end of your turn.
With an air of a skirmish game (clash of small bands), Wildlands offers a little more than that. You can try to kill the characters of the other faction but you can also very well win without doing a single point of damage. And claim the shards of your color. Or even do a mix of both. It's a very competitive point race. You must constantly pay attention to what the other is doing. The interaction is very strong especially with the potential threat of an interruption on your turn.
We are clearly in a game that will not please everyone. Its strengths can also become its weaknesses. The impression of an omnipresent chaos (linked to the interruption mechanism). The great presence of luck (linked to the draw of cards that will determine the possible actions). The immediate victory without finishing the round. And the ease of access are some of the many points which can scare or even remove many players.
But Wallace is a well-known designer for cleverly mixing German-style gaming mechanisms with Ameritrash style. Wildlands is no exception to the rule.
Chance is indeed present, whether from the set-up or in full play, it is the cards that will allow you to carry out your actions. Sometimes, when you don't have a good hand, it can make you angry. But it's also one of game's wills, to force you to adapt to each situation. It is almost impossible to get stuck if you know how to change strategy at the right time.
The ability to interrupt the game of another brings, it is true, a little surprise effect, but it is far removed from "great chaos". Performing this action is both dangerous for the opponent but also for you. Because if you miss your shot, you will start your turn (and enemies' turn) with greatly reduced possibility. And it can hurt.
As for the immediate victory, which isn't very rare for a skirmish, it adds a real pressure to the game.
Wildlands seems like a simple game, maybe too simple. And yet it's not.
It has the huge advantage of offering high accessibility. The rules are short but above all very easy to understand. Even if you can explain the game in less than 5 minutes, it does not mean that a player will master it. Each faction offers a very different gameplay in its reactions. For example, while one will go more towards melee confrontation, the other will go to dodge and speed. You will have to try to adapt, to best your opponent, who will do everything to take the advantage. It isn't uncommon to think and search for the best use of your hand, what card to play or not to play. And when is the best time to play it. The interaction is really ubiquitous. Whether it is your turn or not, you must always have an eye on the situation.
Freedom and adaptation are two words that fit perfectly well with the game. You have many choices, and you have a lot of freedom to accomplish them. But each action will be done to the detriment of another. You will therefore have to think carefully and accept the fact that we can't control everything. At the same time, this is not the goal of this type of game where the "take that" is very anchored.
Contrary to what you think, the game is short, or very short if you do not pay enough attention. This duration thus makes it possible to avoid the impression of not being in control and the frustration that can result from seeing one's actions fail while the plan of the other unfolds without a hitch. But it also offers the opportunity to play the revenge and try the different factions without having an impression of weariness. Still, of course, you have to like the style of games.
So, what's in the box? Inside, we will find the four factions with their deck of cards and colored bases, gems, damage tokens and a double sided board. Yes that's all. There is not necessarily a lot, but it is true that for the price of the game, it may surprise you. Going a little further in the inspection, we can see why and understand it.
The general composition, without being exceptional, is well made. The front and back board offers two battlefields with slightly different rule sets. The rendering is clean and visually pleasing. The art is by Alyn Spiller and Yann Tisseron. Particular care has been given to the miniatures. They are sculpted by Bobby Jackson (CMON) and Tim Prow (expansions of Cthulhu Wars). Despite a style a little retro for some, they are beautiful, fine and detailed. They have benefited from a black wash (rather well done) that gives them a real stamp (a bit like in Mechs vs. Minions). Good to be honest, when you remove the inserts (plastic), it's still a big empty box. The inserts are a little smaller and space to accommodate future expansions would have been appreciated. We also hope in the future, new colored base to avoid having to remove from the miniatures at the end of each game (at the risk of damaging them).
We still feel that Osprey took care to do a great job and wanted to offer a visually attractive game at the expense of a high price.
Wildlands is a game a little too much unnoticed after Essen 2018. It clearly didn't have the success it deserved. The price is unfortunately not foreign to me. It's really too bad especially since it's a good game and it does, not matter the number of players. In dual, it will offer you a more tactical challenge. At 3 or 4, the tension is higher and situation reversals can occur at any time.
Although it is true that the theme is quickly forgotten, the game is nervous, immersive, fun, fast, smart and cunning. Due to its high accessibility and simple rules, it could easily be used to introduce to non-skirmisher players.
Wallace and Osprey have already announced to follow their range. A first expansion was released shortly after the base game : The Unquiet Dead. This one offers a new faction (made up of 6 nice miniatures) that can be used instead of another, or that can serve as a neutral encounter. Be careful though, this expansion doesn't allow to play 5 players.
In 2019, other expansions are planned: whether new factions (the Adventuring Party with new rules) or new map.
A very good surprise, if you have the opportunity to try it do not hesitate a second.
Technical Score 8.5/10
Even if there is sparing amount of components, everything is really good. The miniatures are beautiful, detailed and well done. The wash effect is great. The rules are short and effective.
My BGG Score 8.5/10
(Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it.)
Easy to play, easy to get out, easy to learn but not so easy to master. The game is super fun and offers a good challenge.
Combined Score 8,5/10
And now it's over to you...
Hello Chaps and Chapette,
You may or not be aware of the time restrictions that fill our lives. The amount of time spent watching top ten lists on Youtube or the hour and a half a week that you are sat doing your business on the toilet. I personnel have stopped the top ten list, but am probably spending more hours in the bathroom (getting old, you know. =) )
I want to produce more content, but am restricted with family life (mainly because player 4 is very young) and new work that is coming in. I am even struggling to get a video a week posted. It won’t fit into my working day of music, music and more music...And maybe more after. So I ask a friend if he could help. Not with the music, because I have heard him sing. But with creating articles for the website and to give you another side to gaming here in France.
(Guillaume and I at Paris Est Ludique 2017)
I have know Guillaume for over six years now, and he was one of the first gamers that I encountered when I relocated to the land of baguettes, cheese and wine. From our first encounter, there was a magic in the air. Due to his infectious laughter and colourful personality, he has been in my thoughts for a long time. His kind and generous nature in helping where he can, with providing all the promos I give away, testing prototypes with me, correcting the rules error I make and giving me food for thought after the game has finished. In the passed, we talked of doing videos together and maybe a podcast (in French) but nothing came of it. And now he has moved out of my local area, I see him less and less, but think of him more and more. That’s when I came up with the idea of getting him to write with me, to which he graciously said yes. He will be giving different opinions to myself about games we have played as well as telling you about the latest games (he is a cult of the new dude).
I could tell you more about his background, make up some interesting stories, but it’s probably better that he do so himself. So I’d like to introduce to you, my fantastic French friend Guillaume:
“Wow !!! What a presentation! Right now, that really puts the pressure on. I do not know if I want all these compliments. Already 6 years that I have supported you? ... It shows how tolerant Barry has been. ;)
“I'll introduce myself as Guillaume, Guilou or Slave (for the intimates). I have the honor and the pleasure of joining the adventure alongside Barry. I will try to transcribe to you as best as possible my passion for games through my articles. I think we can say that I am a big player. But I'm not limited to just one style of games and I am open to everything. I fell into gaming as a child, like Obelix in the Magic Potion, and I never really got out. Unfortunately for my bank account ...
“I'd say that I am a curious gamer and love to discover, but also play and replay. Very inspired at a young age by games like Heroquest, Dungeons & Dragons or Magic. I love games that tell you stories, that make you live adventures, that make you dream. So, I naturally got closer to Ameritrash, Card Driven and Deckbuilding style of game, but not only those. For the rest... you will discover as we take a fun trip into reviewing.”
And there you have it. My gaming buddy, supporter and festival traveling friend is now helping me, point you in the direction of what games you should or shouldn't part with your hard earned cash.
Catch The Moon (2018)
Let’s start by saying that dexterity games are not my bag, baby. Although I do own one, that I got as a christmas present many moons ago. Wobbally is it’s name and I find it amusing because it’s a tower constructed from coloured marbles. And like Jenga, you’ll need to remove one every turn, without knocking the tower over. I have adapted the rules from the different variations that came with the base game to create my own fun version. But, all in all, I don’t hold dexterity games with any great esteem. I prefer to use the muscles in my brain than the muscles in my finger tips.
So why am I reviewing a dexterity game?
Well, number 1) I have demoed this game a lot for Bombyx and have found it fun to teach and also amazing to see the smiles and strange structures created. And 2) I do find it an interesting and elegant little challenge.
The story for the game (yes, this is a dexterity game with a story) is that the moon is feeling sad and lonely. And you, the players, want to cheer him up by paying him a visit. The only way to do that is to stack up all the ladders you can find and climb on up, without knocking any ladders over. Doing so will cause the moon to cry. A sweet, poetic story. Cute and adorable for families, but also serves to explain a little bit about the rules.
Players are going to take turns rolling a die and then add a ladder to the existing pile of ladders. The die will dictate the restrictions to how you add your ladder. It may be allowed to touch only one other ladder, or maybe two. Then again, it may have to be the highest ladder in the structure. If after letting go of your ladder, if it falls or others fall or the ladder breaks the restrictions of the die, you make the moon cry. Boo-Hoo! By doing this, you’ll collect one of the seven wooden teardrops that act as points and timer for the game. The game will end when a player takes that final teardrop and they will also be eliminated from final scoring for making the moon very, very sad. Whaa-Haa! The remain player with the least amount of tears wins the game.
Simple rules that make for a quick explanation and then your friends at the coffee table can jump straight in and play. With its small box it makes it very transportable and great for taking on holidays or just round a friend's house. The box insert can even host the game It suggests that you remove the gamebase from the box and place the ladders inside the insert. But equally you could leave everything in the base and place the ladders in the lid.
Another thing that makes this game stand out is the fact that you can manipulate the other ladders by using your “chosen at random” ladder. Wiggling it into place. Tipping another stack of ladders one way, so that you can touch two ladders instead of three. But if something falls or touches the the table or the cloudbase, you end your turn and collect a tear. Before the next play continues to enlarge the structure. Yes, even if you know most of the ladders over, play continues as does the construction on the remains for your carnage. Keeping the game fluide and interesting. And then it comes down to that last tear, which is the game changer. Do you place your ladder in a simple fashion, or tempt fate...
It also has an elegant look to it. From the fluffy looking cloudbase that you stack the Salvador Dali style ladders, to the cloudbase itself. Which has various holes that you can place the starting ladders in to, therefore making the difficulty level for the start player a little bit more interesting, instead of giving them free reign of a simple placement. It is these ladders which are the key element to the strategy of the game. Admittedly, on my first game, I stacked the ladders in a very simple fashion. And totally missed the intricacies of sliding ladders in between other ladders or hooking them in such a way that created beautiful sculptures. Pictured in the last page of the Rulebook are examples of these beautiful types of combination of ladders and how to hook them together. This one page opened up the game to me.
The game is all about being careful and gracefully placing your ladders. Tempting fate and forcing players to use your previously placed ladder, which is not stable is amusing and satisfying when at least one ladder falls. Plus having a good idea about balance and gravity will help out play your opponents. And that's about it. A very simple dexterity game that has an underlying strategy and has a dreamlike elegance. After playing you may feel the urge to replay. That's one of the bonuses of a quick playing dexterity game I like this. As well as being a good physical dexterity game it is also a cerebral aesthetic game. The only thing missing is a larger version which you can place in your garden come the summertime and a few little variants, that will turn it into my favourite dexterity game.
(Tested is a format that I use to give a first or second impression of a game. Therefore, this article is not a final review, as I like to know all the ins and outs of a game before I score it. And this should be treated as giving you an idea about the game.)
Dungeon Crawlers have always been a one sided affair. A team of gallant Heroes would stand off against one evil play or dungeon master and their minions. Alone turns that on it’s head and has a team of devious masterminds hinder a lonesome Hero from achieving their objectives. It’s a nice twist in the genera. Placing it is a sci-fi setting also makes it stand out from the other board game counterparts. Giving a fresh feel and making my wish that is had the Alien licence thrown in. Even Dead Space from EA games would have been nice too. But luckily, if you know nothing of these two titles, the game feels like it’s own beast.
Let’s start with the set up, which is a little time consuming as at first. The Hero player will need to choose what suit their character will don. Each suit has its own special ability, from the Medic Suit that lets you recover a life point and mind point, to the Captain Suit that lets you reroll a die in combat. Added with that, there is a detailed miniature of each suit to represent the Hero on the main board. And a nice nod to Dead Space, instead of creating a doctor character called Ash and captain called Sheridan. Another nice touch is that all the suit not chosen may possibly be used in the game as companions that you may encounter in the quest. As you can just play a basic game (which is what I have done twice) or from a scenario from the scripted campaign book (something I haven’t looked at yet). In a basic game, there is the random drawing of the three mission cards, that are the objectives of the Hero. Kind of like what Riply did. Set the self destruct, grab the cat and get out of Dallas.
Each mission must have a different destination, so if two are in the laboratory, for example, you would redraw until you have three different ones. Two of these missions are primary missions. One will offer an upgrade for the Hero while the other gives the Hero a penalty to one of their normal actions and a reason to get this neutralised. The Hero needs to complete one of these before they can go directly onto the final mission, and win the game. Final missions consist of escaping in a pod or killing a boss creature. The 21 mission cards give a good mix to the replayability of the game. And with this Kickstarter (coming back in February 2019), there were some bonus mission added too. The Hero will then fill up the data sheet/player board with tokens, recording life and mind point, round tracker, locations for missions and turn tokens.
It’s at this point that the Evil players will stroke their evil beards, then be able to start setting up, as they now need to generate the two levels of the dungeon. Sorry, spaceship map. These are two, double sided small boards, that have corridors and room spaces layed out in different formations. And the reason that the Evil players have to wait this long to set up is so they know what locations the Hero is searching for, as they have to place the room tiles onto the map. They’ll also choose which part of the ship the Hero wakes up in. Obviously, the further apart you can place the Heroes destination, the harder it is for them to complete their missions. After placing these locations strategically, you get to add few nastie creatures from your pool of worms, parasite, hybrids and cultists. And all this will be concealed behind a screen from the Hero player, until they discover it while exploring the dark desolate vessel. And the final thing the Evil players do before the game can begin is select two of four decks of card to play with. Fury, Speed, Terror and Traps. Each give a benefit to either combat, speed of your creatures, mind damage and damage in general. These cards are reaction card, because the Evil player doesn't really have a turn. It will be the Hero who takes all the actions. The only way that the Evil player can disrupt the Hero is to play a card that says you can play it if the Hero moves. Or operates something. Then... WHAM!
The game contains a vast amount of components, from boards, cards and tiles, to more tokens than you’ll ever need. Oh, and a handful of mini’s. In the games that I played, there were never been a swarm of enemies on the main map, which I believe justifies only having 23 minis in the game. They are well detailed and again, we have hardly used many in the games we have played, lending an air of “Alien”, and not “Aliens” to the game. There are some nice “in the box” trays that you can pull out and place next to you. This lessens the burden of sorting out bits from baggies and speeds the placement of everything on the table immensely. And your going to need a big table to play this on. As well as, situate the two sides in the right way, so all the Evil players can see the minimap and relay everything the Hero encounters onto a main map area. While having the Hero, not to far away, so they can see this main map and have space for the items they collect. Depending where the Hero goes and how ever far they go, this main map could take a vast amount of space, as it stretches out with each exploration. This is until the Hero swaps floors or more likely, at the end of each round. When a round ends, any parts of the map that are not in the Heroes line of sight, are removed. Making this a memory game for them. Luckily, there is a segment on their board that they can use to trace their steps, using some of the myriad of tokens at their disposal.
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of the game play. The Hero will wake up in their location, not knowing where they are and have to complete two of three objectives to win. The Hero player will perform all the actions that you come to expect from a game of this ilk. Mainly move, fight, search and interact. With every action announced before it is performed, the Evil players then have the chance to play a reaction card and move the world around. Each card can be used in two ways. If the Hero player claims they are going to search, card marked with the search icon can be played against them. These may say that an item found is damaged and not working correctly. Or, while searching, a distant creature moves closer. Very “take that” in essence, but of course, very thematic at the same time. Hero and Evil players then do these actions in the order indicated on the card and then it’s the Heroes next turn. Do this eight times and it then it’s the end of the round.
There is a limitation of two cards maximum that can be played each turn. Because bad shit doesn’t happen in one chunk, unless your me. It is spaced out. Building up to the climatic finally. And depending on your playing style, you could create the classic “little bumps in the night” up to the “mass attack.” Or mix it up with a loud, aggressive attack in the intro to shock your Hero and then recoop before the final onslaught, like a modern horror film. These cards go onto a track above the Hero board. Once the track is full, no more cards can be played. This has another interesting limiting device, as if two cards are played on a turn, one of those cards if placed horizontally to take up two spaces, filling the track faster. But you may have stunted the poor Hero enough to justify this risk. Filling up the track will unfortunately stunt you as the Evil players. At the end of every round, a collection of danger tokens are given to the Evil players, depending on the number of spaces left open on this track. These danger help the Evil player immensely. They active a bonus power on the reaction cards, if they are played when the Hero is in a zone with a danger token. As well as give a bonus to combat.
Now I mentioned a second use for these cards. You can spend one or two of them to spawn or move one of your existing creatures. Again, these cards go onto the track, clogging the amount of actions, you as Evil players can take. But this is a nice way to mitigate bad cards in your hand. Discarding them, so to speak. Every movement and spawn will have to be communicated to the Hero. Whether it be a “Sluuurping” sound, 4 spaces from their west or a “Haunting Gurgle” from the other floor. And all the while, the Evil players will be trying to communicate with their team, in code. Pointing. Humming. Making words up. As your not allowed to see the other players cards and you don’t want to tell the Hero what you have planned. But you want to convey the plans you have concocted in your head to the rest of your team.Giving some interesting aspects to the Evil teams play. Unless you are playing ALONE. This is a nice roll reversal on the discussion front from games like Descent, where the heroes talk about how to take out the tribe of goblins.
So with the Hero taking actions, the Evil players occasionally interfering with those actions. They are also responsible for doing the bookkeeping of the game. They adjust the hidden mini map whenever they or the Hero does something. They also update the main map for the Hero to see where they are and what’s about. Whenever a unseen creature spawns or move, they inform the Hero or move them if they are visible, while making strange noises to insight fear. All this storytelling is meant to enhance the Hero players experience. And I kind of felt that after two times playing on the Evil player team, this game is exactly that. The Hero is playing a game and the Evil players are reading the story. Although playing as the Evil player made it easy to explain the rules to both side...While playing. Which is a bonus.
For our Hero, they are having to use the items that they have collected. They are having to use their memory, to map out the ship. They are mainly going to have to use the actions wisely, because there are not many of them. Eight actions per round and only four round, which is enough to move and map out the entire ship, but you’d fail the mission. But our Hero has a little bonus in adrenaline tokens that can be used on a turn, to either heal a point of damage or go into bullet time. This lets the Hero perform two actions instead of one and prevents the Evil player from interfering with a reaction card during those actions. A little advantage for Mr No-Friends. This can be very useful when scanning for a location, in which the Evil player will tell you how many spaces away that room is and can’t react, which will allow them to lie about this information. Or even where a monster is. Knowing when to switch lights on and in which direction is also important. As the ship is in total darkness and the darkness is your enemy. It makes the creatures attacks stronger and it also makes you crap your pant. If ever a creature jumps out on you in the dark, you can kiss you mind points goodbye. Knowing when to search and after you have found an item, do you upgrade it, burning a component from another item you own? Which is again thematic and cool. And should you fight or run? Running can be a good option, as time is against you. But fighting is also a bonus. Defeating two of the same type of creature gives you a special ability. Seeing a door means there is a room. Could it be the one the Hero needs? And will there be any surprises behind it? Lots of choice for the Hero and tons of good ideas in the design that seem to balance out nicely.
Lorenzo Silva is fastly becoming a designer who’s input in any title seems to be a fresh twist to any genera of game. From Steam Park to Dragon Castle, there is always some little nuance in the rules that I like. And the same is true with this co-design here. There is a lot more to the game that I can explain here, like the combat dice that have three results. Hit, miss and a possible hit, depending if it’s dark or light. Some many nice little ideas that convey the sensation of one of the greatest horror films ever, but I’ll leave that for a final review. Everything I encountered in the game was thematic and fitted in this world of lost in space. Ever rule and mechanism, while being slightly chunky and clunky, fitted into the experience of the game. And I’m sure with more plays that it will get smoother, and timing issues will disappear, like a xenomorph out an airlock. As I mentioned earlier, this may feel one sided, where the Hero is playing a game and Evil players are story telling, but I still haven’t played as the Hero to confirm this. And I have played with two different groups, and I have trouble getting a feel for a game while teaching it. But so far from what I have played...
Tested - Liked - Want to play again soon
(Just needs a cracking soundtrack to play with ;) wink)
Cuzco - Tested (2018)
(Tested is a format that I use to give a first or second impression of a game. Therefore, this article is not a final review, as I like to know all the ins and outs of a game before I score it. And this should be treated as an giving you an idea about the game.)
Tile placement and world building is the name of the game here. Just like in Carcassonne, you and the other players at the table will be generating a landscape, from which you will profit in the form of points. But so will the others, using the stepping stones that you have already created to boost their scores.
Cuzco is the 3rd in the “Mask Trilogy” from Kiesling and Kramer, that has been rejuvenated by the team at Super Meeple. Although this game has not kept the same name of Java, it still has a small component upgrade just like Mexica and Tikal had before it. And having never played any of these game before, I will be coming at this with a fresh perspective. I can’t tell you if the games rules have been changed or improved, but I can obviously see that the has been a facelift done on the temples and meeples, that are physical improvements to the aesthetics of the game. And man, the game looks more and more beautiful as the game develops. So let's talk about the game.
As an Inca dignitary, you’ll spreading out your tribe over virgin soil to cultivate and develop the villages you construct into cities. Constructing temples will earn you prestige points as well as being the tribe that offers the most gifts to the gods at a temple, when a festival is held there. Irrigating ponds to water crops will also give big points too.
The land on the main board will terraform very quickly as each player has six, sometimes seven actions points to use on their turn, if they decide to use one of three bonus tokens. Most of your action points will be use to add a tile to the board. You’ll have a personal reserve of special tiles, made of one and two hex’s, but you’ll mainly draw from the general pool. This pool consists of a three hex tiles, each has one village hex while the others are fields. You can place these on any of the spaces of the main board and even go off the main board, as long as one of the hex’s of the tile sits in a space. Which is an interesting prospect that can change the game, when you think all is lost in the closing stages of play. Tiles can also be stacked, giving you a 3D terrain, that is not only pleasing to look at, but also gives the games main strategic mechanism. Connecting the village sections of tiles together, make a village bigger. The bigger the village, the bigger a temple can be constructed inside it, transforming the village into a city. Which mean the architect of this monument reaps a bigger chunk of prestige points.
But to be able to construct, you need to have control of the village. Having one of your Incas on the highest village tile, gives you this control. And it’s this control mechanism that is the main strategic mechanism I mentioned earlier. Adding an Inca of your colour to the board will cost an number of action points, depending if they enter the map from the forest side of the board or the mountain side. Which doesn’t sound like much, but as the game goes on, the Incas will stop entering from the cheaper forest side of the board and start coming from the action point eating, mountain side. As it may be quicker or cheaper in action point spending to get your Inca to where you want them. Your Incas can move about freely on one type of terrain, field or village. But as soon as you cross over from one type to the other, that eats up an action point. Seen as your opponent's Inca’s will block routes, you may have to weave in and out between them. Or it may be more beneficial to move one you placed earlier to get to where you're going. Having your Inca of the highest level tile in a village, gives you the right to construct a temple, or enlarge one that is already there. Giving the 3D meaning to the game and leaving you fighting for this higher ground. Or terraforming for.
Building costs an action, but will give you those much needed points. The larger the village, the larger the temple you can construct. And the stone like pieces of the temple components look stunning as you build here, there and everywhere. Adding depth to the board, with its colours and shape, making for a easy reference in the game. As do the little flame tokens that are place on top, when a festival is held there. With the increments of the temples at 2/4/6/8/10, which also tie in with the village size, you will find yourself following a pattern on each of your turns. You’ll start by making the village sections as vast as you can, getting an Inca to the higher ground of said village, before finishing your last action on the construction. And possibly hold a party after, gaining bonus point. See, burning the candle at both ends does pay off…
Then the next player will come along, enlarger that city, insert an Inca and add levels to the temple on their turn. Receiving a larger chunk of points than you did previously. Maybe have a better party than you did too! Before the player after them, maxes out the city, sending the temple to its highest level and parties like it’s 1999. Which at first will make you think that this is just a rinse and repeat game. And it can be that for lazy players. Or you could “PLAY THE GAME.” It’s always advisable to get in the other players way, while helping yourself to the largest piece of cake. That’s where the pleasure of the game comes. Placing tiles out that make your opponents think “what are you doing!” Or getting to a temple, just to finish it off, amassing the largest score possible. Even block main routes with you Incas, forcing other players to use more actions to get to where they want to go. And even just simply, laying the foundations for your next turn. And even though there is this slight nastiness between players, it is hard to see, but occasionally felt.
Many Inca’s in the same village may jussel about to get the privilege to build. As ties can be a frequent occurrence. If players are joint on the highest level, the deciding factor goes to the one who has the next highest Inca. So on and so on, meaning a village may be swarming with players Inca’s, which can be a good and bad thing, as a village can be cut into parts. A strategically placed tile can replace that one village hex with a field, making that once larger city/village into two smaller ones. Again, having a Inca in the right place can play havoc on this possibility, retaining this man made settlement in it’s form.
Yes, villages and cities can be reduced as well as be enlarged, as long as there is only one temple in that zone. And as long as the tile placement rules are followed. What’s that? More rules? Well, nothing overly complicated. But something else to carefully plan as you play. If you play a tiles on top of another, it can not stack in the same way as the one beneath it. So in the case of a three hex tile being played, it can not be directly placed on top of another of the same size. Meaning that it has to be placed on top of different tiles. Although placing a smaller tile on top of a larger one is permitted. This prevents a back and forth of, “this was a feild, now a village, now a field, now a village…” And lends itself to a deeper way of thinking, as the tiles need to sprawl out and not stack like a two year old stacks the same size Lego blocks together. This cuts down on the “I’ll just place these willy-nilly on the board” moments that unthinking players do. You may find that you will have to place two or more other tiles on the board before placing the one that you need to fulfill your dream. As you can see, there is a little more to this game than in other tile placement games, due to this 3D aspect. As 1) being higher allows you to build temples and basins, 2) let’s you shape the map and 3) make for a sexy tabletop experience.
Not only can you build temples, cities and villages. Small and large basins of irrigation water can be created. These can gain you a small or large chunk of points in one fail swoop, if you pay attention. These basins can only be created on the board itself and never on top of tiles already placed. If while placing tiles, you leave a hole of empty board spaces, totally surrounded by tiles, for an action you can transform them into these water pools. Collecting three points for each single irrigation tile placed. That can sometime be a large chunk of points. Again, as long as you are have the highest Inca adjacent to this body of water when you build it, you will get these points. So being careful not to give points away or lose them in a tie is always a think to look for.
As I mentioned early, the game can follow a repetitive formula of, place a few tiles, move an Inca into a village, build the temple, score point. Added to this simple pattern is the prospect to earn extra points by using a free action at the end of your turn, holding a festival in a city. Any city on the board that you have an Inca in, can be used. If there are other players, with Incas in the same city, they also can participate in this mini game. Players will start the game with a few cards in their hands, depicting one or two gifts for the Gods. More cards can be collected by spending one or two action points to receive one or two cards, each turn you take. And these are always blind from the draw pile. With only three types of gift on these cards, you could draw the same thing every turn. That can be a benefit and a curse where festivals are concerned.
Some of these cards are spilt, holding two different gifts, so they can be used as one or the other. The discard pile will dictate which gift or gifts the Gods hold as the flavour of the month. These images are of statues and masks, but it’s the colour of the background that makes them easy to distinguish. When a player holds a festival in a city, they play a card that has the same colour background as the card on the discard pile. Each other player, in the same city may also offer the same gift to the Gods. And so on around the table, until all players are fed up with giving or can not give any more. That’s when you count to see which player has offered the most gifts. That player then earns some bonus points, depending on the size of the temple and if there were other players at the festival. Before all played cards are discarded and a new card from the draw pile is place on top of the discard pile, create the next fashion that the Gods wish the Incas to follow. This mini game breaks up the play a little and adds a little layer of marzipan to the already nice simple icing covered sponge cake. You may feel that wasting an action to draw a card is a pointless affair, but it is one you should not forget. Festivals can be frequent occurrences and other players will get fat on the juicy points that are left behind. No sugar rush included. And after the festival is finished, a touch is lit on that temple, signifying that another festival can not be had there until the temple has been developed to a higher level.
The game comes to an end when the general pool of tiles is empty. From then on, each player has one more turn to scrape up any point that they can get, plus move their Incas to prominent positions in each city. Because after you have used your last action point, it is time to do your final scoring. A simple case of looking at each of the cities and seeing which ones you have control over. Remember, control is the Inca that is on the highest level in that city. For each city you have in your control, you win the points indicated by the size of the temple there. As you can see, you may have control of a city at the end of your turn, giving you points, but then the next player can then take control, scoring from the same city. This makes for an intriguing last turn. You may just try to take as many points as you can or try to make it hard for others to claim control over the cities, by dividing them or moving one of your Incas to a hex, that makes players spend more actions than they should. Oh, so sweet, when you can reduce someone's potential final score from 55 points to only 30.
All in all, this is my type of euro style game. The rules are relatively simple, with a few exceptions. Like Carcassonne is simple to explain and then you get to the Farmer scoring rule. But once you get your head around all of the little intricacies and start playing, you’ll take to it like a duck to water. This is a game that could be classes as just one of those classic euros, with very little variety and small replay value because it’s the same thing over and over. Much like Splendor and Pastiche, games that I can see myself playing many time, adapting my strategy and learning new ways to get the most points. This is definitely a game that an experienced player will walk away with, in regards to final score. And there is no sign of luck helping you. You’ll just have to use your keep eyesight, imaginative perception and mathematical calculation to be a master at this game.
Tested - Liked - Want to play again soon
Barry Doublet &