The quiz picture this time is of a magical game from way back
The last quiz picture was of The Settlers of Catan Card Game
The spotlight is on Village which won the 2012 Kennerspiele prize and a well deserved winner it was, it now sits at 100 on boardgamegeek and is ranked at 73 of their strategy games so I was surprised to find that we had not played it at the club before, sadly it had been so long since I last played it that I had forgotten the rules so it took a little longer than normal for us to get started whilst I refreshed my aging brain with the rules. In the game each player runs a small farmstead through several generations (up to 4) and uses the members of their family (workers) to go into the town (the main board) to advance the player on the score track, but this is not a worker placement game despite placing workers. There are two very neat mechanisms in the game that make it intriguing to play (the use of “time” and cube collecting instead of worker placement as the driving mechanism) and with several routes to victory there is always lots you want to do.
The aim of the game is to gain victory points which are given for various acts but essentially is notoriety for good work for the village the majority of which are gained at the games end, the main board is split into 7 zones each of which has a different function and a number of coloured cubes are placed on them at the start of each round, these are pulled from a bag and the number is dictated by the number of players. Then in player order everybody takes a turn going round the table, on a turn a player must take a cube from an area and then may perform the function of that zone, play continues until there are no more cubes left on the board at which point the round is immediately over the village church functions are administered to, new cubes are put out and a new round starts.
So the different zones (in brief) are the Church Archway where you can get a new family member (effectively marriage followed very rapidly by offspring but only 1 per cube action); Collect Wheat, you can only collect wheat if you have a worker still on your farm, the amount of wheat increases if you have a horse or an ox; then there is the artisans zone where you can collect an ox, a horse, a plough, a wagon or a parchment scroll, these are used in some of the other zones, however they cost cubes and “time” you may also turn your wheat into gold; the Town Hall where through promotion you can gain cubes and artisan products but this also costs cubes and “time”; the Market Place where you can trade your artisan products for victory points; the Countryside where you go travelling which costs a wagon, cubes and “time” for small in-game rewards and finally the Church where for cubes or “time” you can send a worker to be trained for the priesthood. The Travelling, Church, Town Hall and the Artisan area all require the use (placement) of a worker of which you only get 4 at the beginning of the game, the Travelling, Church and Town hall all give game end victory points depending on your presence at the end of the game.
I have mentioned “time” having to be spent for the majority of your actions, this is kept track of around the edge of your farm board and every time a player completes a lap with their time marker they MUST lose one of their workers to the graveyard initially this must be one of your level 1 (starting) workers, once all the level 1 workers are lost you must move on to your level 2 workers, similarly when using the Church Archway action you must collect a level 2 first and cannot move on to level 3 unless you have already collected all your level 2 workers. When a worker must be placed in the graveyard you decide which of your level 1 workers must go, it need not be the one that was doing the action at the time of the loss (and even though a loss is triggered this is dealt with at the end of the action so you still get the action even if you remove the one that just triggered the loss). There is the Town Book this is split up into 5 areas (Church, Travelling, Artisan, Town Hall and Farm) when a worker is removed from a zone it will fill one of the slots in the book for that zone and his deeds for the village will be recorded for posterity (and end of game victory points) however if all the slots for that zone have already been taken the villager is sent to a paupers grave, the game end is triggered by no spaces in the book or the paupers graveyard. you can manipulate time to cause an early demise, such as training a worker to make a Plough which costs 6 time, or you can be frugal by choosing actions which use little or no time such as wheat collecting.
At the end of the round church administration is undertaken, first off anyone who added a worker to be trained for priesthood can pay 1 gold to have that worker instantly promoted to the church, any not paid for go into a bag with 4 dummy trainees and are drawn randomly until the total of all trainee promotions drawn or paid for is 4, at which point anyone can pay wheat to gain further promotion for any of their pieces in the church, the player with the most church members gets 2 points, rank within the church being the tie breaker.
Gold accrued in the game from the Mill (wheat into gold) can be used for Church training, a wild cube, traded for 3 VP’s in the Town Hall or is 1 VP at the games end. There is one exception to the taking of a cube on your turn and that is you may visit the well and pay in 3 cubes of identical colour instead to take an action of your choice and you may choose a spot where there are no cubes to be taken. Amongst the resource cubes there will be some black cubes, these reflect illness and cost a player 2 additional time to the action they are taking.
Overall there is a lot to take in initially however after the first round the game mechanics become second nature and the players can concentrate on tactics and making sound choices for gaining the most victory points, the game does reward good planning and clever use of the cubes, one player set up shop in the Town Hall and collected artisan products to sell at market, another player concentrated on travelling, the game is big enough that you there are lots of choices, and no one choice of actions is any better than any other it is the overall economy with which you play that will decide the winner. After the game one of the players went and bought their won copy and I do not think you can get a better endorsement of a good game than that.