Recommend
167 
 Thumb up
 Hide
35 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

Seeland» Forums » Reviews

Subject: What You're Missing: (Advanced) Seeland rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: NL [+] [View All]
Ben
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Welcome to the fourth installment of What You're Missing, a series of (highly infrequent) reviews motivated by my desire for acceptance to shed a little light on those few obscure, overlooked, or simply wrongly maligned games that I find particularly deserving.

Although this is the part of the review where everyone says, “This is not an explanation of the rules!” my own review philosophy is to explain how and why a particular game’s design creates a rewarding experience. Rules, opinion, analysis, and strategy are thus intertwined throughout. This is a comprehensive review. Skim at your own peril.

I’ve provided links to the first three reviews in the series below (purportedly because you might like this review and want to discover other great overlooked games, but mainly because I’m a thumb whore). I do think it’s interesting to see how this series evolved. If I ever find the time and passion to do this more frequently than very sporadically, I may just turn these into a GeekList.

Also, I want to apologize in advance for the sheer number of bad emoticon jokes and spelling/grammar mistakes. I was in a rush this morning and had time to be neither witty nor accurate.

What You're Missing: Assyria
What You're Missing: 2-Player Parade
What You're Missing: Cavum

Now, in my best Ed Sullivan voice, …something about a really big shoe.



Photo by Kopernikus.


What You're Missing: (Advanced) Seeland

Seeland holds a rather special place in the pantheon of What You’re Missing reviews. I’ve wanted to review it for quite some time (and indeed I’ve started and then stopped more times than I can count). I held back for two principal reasons.

First, despite a modicum of effort, I've yet to play the game with more than two players. That’s right, this is primarily a two-player review. ninja (Wait! Come back!) As I continued to play the two-player game (and continued to mull over the possible content for this review), I realized that my hesitance to get this game to the table with additional players stems from my suspicion that additional players will simply degrade the qualities of the game that I most enjoy. This may very well be one of reasons that Seeland is so under-rated to begin with. Two-player Seeland is fantastic in own right, and I can’t think of many valid reasons to play with more.

Second, Seeland shouldn't be this good. Yeah, so this one was the real sticking point. Seeland is addictive and entertaining, but inexplicably so. It’s simply not a game where I can marvel at the design and easily articulate its awesomeness (I’m doing a poor job of selling the 10,000 words to come, aren’t I?). Heck, I’m even a little embarrassed by the game. blush Seriously. It’s a game about playing numbered tiles and counting. Maybe all the way up to forty.

And yet…so awesome. You’re going to have to trust me a little on this one.


Overview:


Photo by henk.rolleman.

So this is where we start: Seeland is inexplicably fantastic.

An early 2010 release by German family-game publisher Ravensburger and German (figurative) giant Wolfgang Kramer -- this time in tandem with little-heralded Gunter Burkhardt -- Seeland is a tile-selection and tile-laying game that marries simple mechanics with attractive components, customizable complexity, and a thin veneer of so-staggeringly-bad-it's-kinda-loveably-good theme to produce a shockingly compelling gaming experience that defies all reason and logic.

I've previously compared Seeland to Vikings (and used the word "contrapuntal"!) -- the 2007 cult hit solo project by Kramer's erstwhile conjoined (evil?) twin, Michael Kiesling. After all, both games are relatively lightweight tile selection and tile placement games that involve alternately purchasing tiles from a common pool (arranged in a circle, to boot) and then playing them to the board for reasonably obvious and inelastic scoring opportunities that occur throughout the game.

But where Vikings's largely unwarranted success can at least be explained by its more-than-meets-the-eye central mechanic overcoming the mediocrity that otherwise permeates that game's remaining design and production, Seeland succeeds as a game (though clearly not in most gamers' hearts and minds) despite the seeming failure of its two central mechanics to live up to their potential. As a result, Seeland is somehow both less than meets the eye and more than the sum of its parts. Seeland is a game that succeeds in spite of itself.

And I love it.


Gameplay: (Don’t skip this part)


Photo by Kopernikus.

Seeland is a game about the reclamation of flooded coastal land in the Netherlands in the 17th century through a system of diking and draining. (What did you expect? "In A.D. 2101 war was beginning"?) Players assume the role of Dutch merchants, who purchase and construct windmills to pump water from adjacent land and who then cultivate the newly developed land to produce cabbage, rapeseed, or tulips.

As mentioned above, Seeland's gameplay centers on twin axes of tile selection and tile placement. The tile selection is accomplished in the Market, where players will either purchase mill contracts (for the construction of new windmills) or bags of seeds (to cultivate particular crops). Players will then play the purchased tiles to the board (which represents a single diked area) slowly expanding the area of developed land. When all of the land surrounding a windmill has been drained and cultivated, that mill’s success is measured and scored as a player’s prestige. The game (basically) ends when either all the mills or all the seed has been sold.

Although Seeland comes packaged as a base game with optional expansions and rule variants, the base game is dreck –- mind-numbing, random, and soulless (I would rate it a 4). This review will cover Seeland’s most advanced game, the randomized tactical variant* with the addition of Governors and Records. I strongly recommend any experienced gamer interested in exploring Seeland start here and never look back.

* It’s worth noting that the randomized tactical game is a designer-approved variant not listed in the rules. It simply involves randomly placing the island tiles during setup, as in the base game, but then flipping them face-up before play begins.


The Market:


Photo by andre1975.

The Market, Seeland’s tile selection mechanic, utilizes a clever system often referred to as a "double rondel." I actually think that "double rondel" is a misnomer. Perhaps a more accurate description is to say that the Marketplace comprises both a semi-randomly populated rondel and a player finance track, abstractly representing the players' relative wealth.

The Market rondel contains exactly ten stalls, nine of which contain tiles that players may purchase. Tiles come in two types -- landscape tiles and mill tiles -- and the stalls are allocated by tile type so that the frequency and distribution of tile types in Seeland's Market remains static though every game. (Otherwise, it wouldn’t even be a single rondel.) The tenth stall is the Warehouse, which allows a player some financial freedom at a cost of three victory points (I find this to be rarely used).

The innovation of the design, however, is that the Marketplace stalls are randomly populated within each tile type. Thus, a stall that only contains landscape tiles may, at different points in the game, contain both a seven-point cabbage tile and a one-point rapeseed tile.

The ever-changing rondel that is Seeland's Market manages to keep each game fresh and tense throughout, while the structure provided by tile-type-limited stalls ensures that infelicitous random draws don't imbalance the game.



Photo by henk.rolleman.

Interestingly, tile selection is accomplished by moving the Guild Master (the large black figure in the picture above) forward from wherever he is standing to the tile that you wish to purchase. Since the Guild Master is shared by all players and can only move forward, tile selection is as much about what you leave for others as it is about what you take for yourself. Imagine playing Egizia with the Nile flowing in a circle and players sharing a boat. Simply bypassing a tile that your opponent wants is nearly as effective a defense as taking it for yourself –- in the two player game it deprives him/her of it for at least two turns – but it comes with the added benefit of getting to take something that benefits you.

The use of the Guild Master is one of the biggest reasons that I’m skeptical about Seeland with more than two players. With ten stalls in the Market and limited player finances (more on that later), returning to a bypassed tile is a several-turn proposition. In fact, the tile selection options available to a single player are so limited and so easy to discern, the consequences of your own tile selection in the two-player game are both readily apparent and immediately realized. This creates an atmosphere of tense planning and sense of meaningful decision-making.

With even a single additional opponent, the permutations of possible opponent moves would likely be too great to account for, and the strategic benefit of bypassing tiles would decrease (as the Guild Master moves farther between a single player’s turns). The result would likely be more self-interested, short-sighted decisions in this phase of the game, which I think would make it much less interesting and certainly less challenging. yuk



Photo by henk.rolleman.

I haven’t yet mentioned the player finance track, which, of course, provides the constraints for tile selection. The finance track is one of the game’s mechanics that I still can’t quite wrap my head around, and that somehow feels like it’s being underutilized despite the game as a whole working so well. Rather than have the players constantly paying the bank with separate money chits (and then adding some extraneous, inelegant income mechanic), Seeland tracks only a player’s relative expenditures.

The player finance track is exactly five spaces long (represented by movable coins placed around the outside of the Market rondel), with the players beginning the game sharing the space farthest back. During tile selection, a player must advance his marker one space on the finance track for each tile that he or she skips when moving the Guild Master. Thus, the more often a player reaches for a desirable tile (or skips a less-desirable tile), the less flexibility he or she has on subsequent turns.

Or so I had thought… angry

What is not immediately obvious until playing the game, is that if both players vacate a space at the back of the track, it gets added to the front of the track, expanding future flexibility for both players. This means that when one player skips ahead to grab a great tile, the only way the second player can leverage that to his advantage is to constrain his own spending to the same degree that he wishes to constrain his opponent.

Thus, if that great tile taken by the first player happened to be next to a terrible, unusable tile for the second player, it’s the second player who is actually stuck in a bad position, faced with two unpleasant choices (take the bad tile vs. relinquish leverage over your opponent). At first, this confused the heck out of me because I expected the finance track to punish the player who was constantly, greedily jumping forward (it’s a rondel game, right?!). But I’ve since come to appreciate how the system actually incentivizes extorting your opponent through large advances at opportune times. It’s actually very Ra-like in that respect: either make your opponent take something he doesn’t want, or make your opponent gift you with what you want at little cost. Tile selection is about finding ways to get what you want while forcing your opponent to let you off the hook.

Kinda malicious for a game about purchasing windmills, right?


A Brief Aside About Rondels:
(This is just me ranting, you should feel free to skip this part.)

Seeland's use of the rondel mechanic is the first that really resonates with me.

In games like Imperial 2030, where each country has its own marker on the rondel, the mechanic simply serves to put logically consecutive actions as far apart as possible, forcing players to either spend time performing less desirable actions or spend time amassing personal wealth so that they can effective "spin" the rondel in the endgame. Particularly with inexperienced players, this use of the rondel too often results in a slogging game because "time" is not a in-game resource (and therefore can be spent freely) and players don't know how to plan for, initiate, or manage the endgame (which provides the much-needed external time constraint).

By contrast, in a game like Shipyard, there are several shared rondels. The hared rondel format usually has little to do with spacing logically consecutive actions (since the marker moves even when its not your turn), and more to do with forcing player interaction. Unlike, say, a worker placement system, a unidirectional shared rondel allows players with divergent strategies to play both defensively (passing your opponent's desired stop) and offensively (getting a tile you actually want) simultaneously. The problem with Shipyard's system is that so many different actions are required for victory points, the movement of the various rondels is hard to predict. It basically makes some aspects of the game feel more arbitrary and tactical than one would expect from a lengthy strategy game.

By employing a single shared rondel for tile selection, formatting it by tile type (ensuring that, e.g., mill tiles are always a little further away than you want them to be) but populating it randomly, and then tying it to a finance track that doesn't bog the game down with the need to accumulate actual money, Seeland manages to strike a uniquely satisfying balance in the use of the rondel. It creates tension but is never slugglish; it allows interaction without chaos. It is what (I think) a rondel should be.

[/rant]


Reclamation:


Photo by Mattinthewebb.

Of course, Seeland’s tile selection phase is only half the story. The heart of the game – and the aspect of the gameplay that I find most satisfying – is the placement of newly purchased tiles.

Each player begins the game with a single wooden windmill meeple (windmeeple?) in the circular cluster of mills depicted in the lower-right corner of the board. This cluster of mill hexes is the initial “developed area.” The rest of the map is composed of hexes representing flooded landscapes or inaccessible islands. The placement rules, and the concomitant placement strategy, essentially revolve around the answer to the following three questions:

What happens when I purchase a seed tile?
What happens when I purchase a mill tile?
What happens when my played tiles bump into islands?


Photo by andre1975.

When a crop seed tile (officially known as a landscape tile) is purchased, it must be placed on an empty space adjacent to one of your wooden windmills (flipped to show a cultivated landscape). This extends the official “developed area.” Thematically it represents the player draining and cultivating the area around his constructed windmills. (If tile connects a previously unconnected island tile, the island is now part of the developed area as well.)


Photo by andre1975.

When a mill tile is purchased, it may be placed on any vacant space adjacent to the currently developed area. Note that this provides significantly more placement flexibility than with seed/landscape tiles. The player may also elect to place one of his or her wooden windmill meeples onto the tile at this time. Because landscape tiles must be played adjacent to windmill meeples, not just mill tiles, choosing not to claim a mill tile is rare (essentially a purely defensive play). However, because each player’s supply of wooden windmills is limited to four, it is always a consideration.


Photo by haarrrgh.

If the placement of a tile causes any player’s wooden windmill to be completely surrounded, it is scored immediately and returned to his or her supply. In general, the score is the sum of the mill tile being scored and all adjacent landscape tiles. Other adjacent tiles (such as mill tiles) don’t contribute to the score. If the mill is adjacent to at least one tile of each crop type (cabbage, rapeseed, and tulips), it scores a five-point bonus. If the mill is adjacent to only one (or zero) type of crop, the player scores no points for his windmill.

Let’s simplify. Seeland’s core strategy can be stated succinctly as, “Play windmills to the board. Surround windmills with high-value tiles. Avoid monoculture at all costs.” It sounds rather straightforward.

…or so I had thought. angry

Wait, I should be happy about that one (and so should you). Take two:

…or so I had thought.

(shake)


Photo by haarrrgh.
Showing face-down islands. In the advanced game, these start face-up.


Remember those island tiles I mentioned earlier? If a player places a mill tile containing his or her windmill meeple adjacent to one or more of those island tiles, the tiles will count for scoring. Many of the island tiles contain high-value crops. Additionally, several spaces on the board border as many as three islands (meaning that you’d be scoring windmills in fewer turns without a loss of points). Although initially inaccessible, the slow expansion of the developed area ultimately means someone will be opening up highly valuable board positions. But, of course, if you spend your turn opening up those spots, you’re simply gifting them to your opponent. You therefore want to develop slowly, building up the developed area bit by bit until you literally force your opponent to open desirable spaces between islands for your benefit. But a slow growth gets boring sometimes.

Thank heaven for farms.


Photo by henk.rolleman.

Some island tiles contain farms (the zero-value tile in the above picture). If a player builds a windmill adjacent to one or more farms, he gains a studiver for each adjacent farm. A studiver is a small coin that can be turned in by a player to take an additional turn (one per round). The ability to take extra turns is very valuable, less for the benefit of the extra action, and more for the legitimate threat that inheres in simply having the option available. The threat of multiple successive turns alters the way your opponent must think about both tile selection (what have I left him/her? What will be left for me?), and tile placement. Life without studivers is often life at the mercy of a crafty opponent. They do come at a cost, however (that big fat zero, again).


Photo by henk.rolleman.

The Governors and Records expansion adds another wrinkle to the island tiles: Governors. Certain of the island tiles are marked with governors, pictured above. When a windmill is placed adjacent to one or more island tiles containing a Governor, one governor is transferred to the mill tile. (Any other adjacent governors are removed from play.) When that mill scores, its owner will receive a five point bonus if the mill’s production (score) satisfies the government’s expectation. In addition, the player who satisfies the most governors over the course of the game gets a final scoring bonus.

If a player fails to satisfy the government’s expectation, however, he or she loses five points at scoring, and the Governor moves to the next nearest windmill. So what determines the government’s expectation?


Photo by henk.rolleman.

Remember this picture? It’s that little 20 on the end. Yep, that one. Let it sink in for a minute.

The number of points needed to satisfy a governor when scoring a windmill is determined by the movement of the finance track during tile selection, which itself is determined by the number of tiles the Guild Master skips on the Market rondel, which is determined by which tile you’d like to place, which is determined by, among other things, whether placement of the selected tile – including any bonuses for crop variety – might be sufficient to satisfy the governor when scoring. zombie

This is not a game for your AP-prone friends.

At certain intervals, the game grinds to a halt when a crucial calculation is needed: "If I take this tile, I move that guy forward two, and then this coin goes there, meaning that this number is showing, so then I'd play it here, meaning you'd score these four tiles for 23 points, plus 5, but that's less than you need, so then you lose 5, then this guy would go here, where I have 27 points showing, which should be good unless you go there next turn, but you wouldn't do that, probably. Or I could take this tile, move that guy there, and then...." It’s not unlike deciding whether to choose the Captain in Puerto Rico ("If I take the Captain, and put Sugar on that boat, then he puts Coffee on this boat, then she'll put Indigo there, which means I can put Indigo there, so he loses his corn, then she puts Sugar on my boat...").

Gamer’s Note: Governors are an essential part of the interesting incentive structure present in the advanced game. The swing in points between satisfying governors and not satisfying governors is significant. It encourages players to actively interfere with governor-supervised mills to an extent not present in the basic two-player game. Because of placement restrictions, that interference is only possible by constructing mills in a cluster (either directly adjacent or close enough to share a single tile). This clustering is further encouraged by the movement rules of a dissatisfied governor. Note, however, that clustering also gives your opponent an opportunity to interfere with the success of your mills. Timing your mill placement/attack is key here, as are the crop variety bonuses. It’s a nuanced system that makes the game less zero-sum that it would seem with two players.

The expansion that introduces Governors also adds Records (no image, sorry), which is just a system of end-game bonus points for large single scorings. Twice during the game, when scoring a windmill, players may elect to record it as a record harvest. The four largest harvests are worth 20, 15, 10, and 5 points respectively. The most fascinating aspect of this system is that it is in tension with the Governors system that largely promotes windmill clustering (and thus reduced scores) in the two-player game. You want at least one mill in isolation from time to time that might be capable of producing a huge score given sufficient time (to collect high-value tiles) and no interference. With only four mills, which remain on the board until scored, a commitment to record harvests is a hard-to-swallow long-term proposition, but one justified by the bonus points, I think.


Components & Theme:


Photo by andre1975.

Ugh. Everyone always wants a section on components, even though I tend to think you're all nuts because "components" is really some secret BGG buzzword for "pretty pictures," which is a fine thing to care about if you're an amateur art collector, but a stupid thing to care about it you're a gamer.

Okay, what can I tell you? The board is very large and quite beautiful. It is a puzzle-piece board, however, so it is prone to some warping in humid environments, which will affect how the pieces fit together. That can be a minor annoyance, but never more than that. The landscape and mill tiles are smooth and a little thin, a la Dominant Species (something tells me that reference has little descriptive power for the audience likely to be reading this). The set I got were misaligned on the back side more than I usually expect from a professional game, but still completely usable.


Photo by henk.rolleman.

The artwork clutters the board something awful during play (Neuland, anyone?) and I would have greatly preferred a simpler, cleaner approach.

This is a very poorly disguised Dominant Species rant, isn't it?

So?

I can't let you do that, Dave.

Sonofa.... Well, the wooden bits are great, and I find the colors quite soothing, though I hear that they are bad choices for the colorblind (Wolfgang Kramer: "Suck it, colorblind!" arrrh ). In contrast to something like Vikings, with its small board and garish color scheme, it's a huge step in the right direction. But it's still unlikely to completely satisfy Michael Menzel lovers (I blame the cabbages, really). I'd put the component and artwork quality slightly above something like Ystari's Assyria and slightly below Small World (which is also a cluttered mess, but a slightly more whimsical one).

Chart?

Chart.


▲ ▲

soblue

One of the biggest drawbacks to the game is thematic. No, not the theme itself (I find that quirky and fun, and it is a large reason I bought the game in the first place). Rather, the gameplay is simply too abstracted from the theme for any decisions to come intuitively. As a primarily heuristic gamer, this is only acceptable to me in games with very clean rulesets (Samurai, Hansa Teutonica). Seeland falls on the right side of that line, but only just. It's unlikely you're going to end the game feeling as though you've just successfully reclamated coastal floodlands and cultivated the best rapeseed crop in all of the Netherlands. But you might.

The other theme-related downside is that the game lacks a narrative arc. I mean, at all. Even a game like Hansa Teutonica can be summed up by describing various player strategies and the effects it had on the gameplay. Seeland is 60-90 minutes of surrounding windmills with colored, numbered tiles. I dare you to write a succinct session report of that: "I tried to focus on putting high number tiles around my windmills, and low number tiles where I bordered Jenn's windmills. Jenn's strategy was to try to put high number tiles around her windmills, and to put low numbered tiles where she bordered my windmills. It was a hard-fought battle, but I think my strategy was just a little bit stronger today."


Summing It Up:


Photo by olavf.



There is a moment in Brass that I love. It comes early in the Canal Age, when every player appears to be exactly three turns away from building the age’s only shipyard. You all want to start preparing to build it, but you can’t do anything that might help an opponent build it faster. But you’ve got to do something, right? And the more you do this turn, the further back you slip in turn order, so you might miss your chance anyway. So you all just sort of position yourselves without doing much of anything. Sometimes for multiple turns. It’s tense, difficult, and weirdly satisfying to accomplish so little.

Seeland is like extending that moment for 60 minutes. It is a game that lacks a narrative arc, a game in which every small action feels a bit too much like biding your time, and where the opportunities to make a big advance are rare. And yet it is a game that seems to make more from less, and produces a better gaming experience for gamers than several titles with much more promise.

Perhaps it does this by defying expectations at every level. The marketplace rondel and finance track seem almost backwards. And yet it produces an extortive choice environment that is engrossing and results in the only rondel encounter I’ve actually really enjoyed. The tile-placement restrictions seem to require isolation and multiplayer solitaire (those expecting Samurai would initially be sorely disappointed). But the additional nuances – islands with large scoring opportunities, farms, and governors turn Seeland from a mediocre tile-laying game to a crafty and cutthroat game about mill positioning and domino effects.

In feel, it’s a little (very little) like playing two-player Tigris & Euphrates. Excellent play requires constant attention to the potential consequences of the placement of a single tile. The early two-player game, in particular, feels a bit like an arms race -- each player slowly building up the developed area such that it is always a single tile away from opening up a desirable location, hoping to outlast the other until something has to give. For a simple game, mastering the spatial possibilities of each turn provides quite a tense, interactive challenge that draws me in again and again.

Overall, I find Seeland quite well-crafted, quite challenging, and quite addictive. It may be my preferred 2-player short game (it certainly is at the moment). I find the game occupies a space in my collection most similar to At the Gates of Loyang (perhaps also apropos because both games are a few turns longer than needed). The difference is that while I always enjoy playing Loyang, I always want to play Seeland. It's a simple, but not simplistic, game that requires a lot of thought, has the potential to generate a fair bit of tension, and can be played competitively by cutthroat gamers without feeling combative. It hits the right spots for me with its combination of clever design features, quality components, and rich tactical gameplay. I highly recommend it to anyone who is on the fence about it (but not to those who were never intrigued by the concept in the first place).
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Ben - you must keep writing these. Another remarkable review that articulates so much about the pleasures of games & gaming. Thank you.
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls

Lacombe
Louisiana
msg tools
Suddenly a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
mbmbmbmbmb
I had taken it off my wishlist, but you just put it back on.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
William Crispin
United States
Wilmington
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Hmmm this was so far down my list I was not even going to try it. Now I need to check it out.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for all the kind words everyone. It really means a lot. (One of the downsides to reviewing only obscure games is that I'm never sure how useful my contributions actually are.) And don't worry, Tom, I love writing these reviews too much to stop. It's just a question of when the right stars align.

For those giving Seeland a second look, I'd be interest to hear what made you cross it off the list initially. I was on the fence for quite awhile before I took the plunge myself. I'm also always happy to answer questions that the review might not have addressed.

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
What a great review of a great medium-weight game!

I bought Seeland back in July after reading about it in Spielbox. I've logged several plays since then and have enjoyed every one. Unlike you, I have always with at least three players. I can understand the points you made about tile selection on the rondel, and how it is much harder to plan with more players, but honestly it does not detract from the game for me and no one I've played with was bothered by it. You just make the best of what's available to you at the moment and think less about what the other players will do before your next turn. With the stuivers, it's even more pointless. Still, it doesn't bother me and I enjoy the game immensely. My friends do too, as the game is requested pretty frequently and I almost always bring it with me when we play somewhere else.

Also, I will say that most every game I've played, someone has held back on the finance track at some point during the game, preventing the other players from skipping tiles and sometimes keeping the governor requirement very high. It is a little hard to pull off, but when you're close if forces the other players to show some discipline and it is a lot of fun when you can pull it off. If you can, sometimes other players are forced to pick up a windmill tile when they have no more windmill tokens left to play or are forced to take a low value crop tile or a crop tile when they have no windmills on the board. And you end up with a lot more control over your own tile selection when you can pull it off. In a two-player game, do you find this happening very much?

The only other difference between my experience and yours is that we have always played with the island tiles face down. I absolutely love the risk-taking aspect it introduces. Sometimes you end up with a farm and get a stuiver (or perhaps two or very rarely three) and sometimes you get a governor when you really, really didn't want one. Sometimes you get a crop tile that isn't worth much or wasn't the crop you wanted. I have never felt like it detracted from the game. I am also wondering how it would play out with more players if they were face up. I'd think it would be very hard to arrange it so that you were the one who ended up with a specific island tile you were after. Keeping them face down, at least for us, introduces some nice tension.

I hope a lot more people will pick up this game after reading your review. It certainly was well-written.

6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls

Lacombe
Louisiana
msg tools
Suddenly a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
mbmbmbmbmb
chally wrote:
For those giving Seeland a second look, I'd be interest to hear what made you cross it off the list initially. I was on the fence for quite awhile before I took the plunge myself. I'm also always happy to answer questions that the review might not have addressed.


A number of comments had made it seem like there was not a lot going on, and that there weren't very many interactions between the different parts.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
dougbass68 wrote:
What a great review of a great medium-weight game!

Thank you. meeple

dougbass68 wrote:
Unlike you, I have always with at least three players. I can understand the points you made about tile selection on the rondel, and how it is much harder to plan with more players, but honestly it does not detract from the game for me and no one I've played with was bothered by it. You just make the best of what's available to you at the moment and think less about what the other players will do before your next turn. With the stuivers, it's even more pointless. Still, it doesn't bother me and I enjoy the game immensely. My friends do too, as the game is requested pretty frequently and I almost always bring it with me when we play somewhere else.

I'm really glad to hear that you feel that the rondel isn't meaningfully hampered by three or more players. I'd love to get a 3- or 4-player game to the table one of these days. Perhaps I overemphasize medium-term planning and non-randomness in these sorts of reviews. I agree that, no matter the number of players, Seeland makes selecting tiles interesting.

I guess my hope with that section of the review was to emphasize for those players who do like to look ahead that Seeland (at least two-players) provides the opportunity for players to do so. There is a certain type of joy that I take in using this turn to set up the next (or the one after that, even) and I had initially worried (wrongly) that it wouldn't be possible with a game like Seeland.

dougbass68 wrote:
Also, I will say that most every game I've played, someone has held back on the finance track at some point during the game, preventing the other players from skipping tiles and sometimes keeping the governor requirement very high. It is a little hard to pull off, but when you're close if forces the other players to show some discipline and it is a lot of fun when you can pull it off. If you can, sometimes other players are forced to pick up a windmill tile when they have no more windmill tokens left to play or are forced to take a low value crop tile or a crop tile when they have no windmills on the board. And you end up with a lot more control over your own tile selection when you can pull it off. In a two-player game, do you find this happening very much?

Quite a bit, yes. This is definitely something I had wanted to emphasize more and ultimately failed to. In addition to the two situations that you describe, we regularly set each other up to get stuck on the Warehouse, costing them three points. These moments are always quite satisfying. More often, however, the choice to hold back on the finance track is about ensuring that a particular tile you want in 2-3 turns will still be there, or ensuring that a desirable number is still showing when you attempt to satisfy a governor.

Of course, I still think it's more interesting how counter-intuitive the finance track is. But maybe I'm just a sucker for surprising design elements.

dougbass68 wrote:
The only other difference between my experience and yours is that we have always played with the island tiles face down. I absolutely love the risk-taking aspect it introduces. Sometimes you end up with a farm and get a stuiver (or perhaps two or very rarely three) and sometimes you get a governor when you really, really didn't want one. Sometimes you get a crop tile that isn't worth much or wasn't the crop you wanted. I have never felt like it detracted from the game. I am also wondering how it would play out with more players if they were face up. I'd think it would be very hard to arrange it so that you were the one who ended up with a specific island tile you were after. Keeping them face down, at least for us, introduces some nice tension.

Some people really enjoy risk-taking and risk management games, especially those on the lighter side. I certainly don't want to dissuade those people from picking up Seeland. The face-down island mechanic is surely fun for them.

I'm a player who much prefers low-luck (but not necessarily no-luck) games. Games like Thebes and Stone Age don't quite satisfy me, and Seeland with face-down tiles feels like it belongs in the same class.

I think you're right that the face-up tiles would be harder to make work in a multi-player game. Similarly, I think the face-down tiles are probably less workable in a 2-player game. In a competitive 2-player game, the numbers on the landscape tiles selected from the rondel tend to become less important, either through good finance management or through clustered mill placement. That means that Governors, Records, and Island tiles play a huge role in determining the outcome. For example, I've almost always split the Governors 4-3. If finding Governors or Studivers become a random exercise, then the marginal advantages of good play are swallowed by the advantages of good luck.

The multi-player game provides fewer opportunities for zero-sum parasitism. That means greater possible gains from good play, which makes an equal amount of luck less offensive. I'm not sure how I'd feel about losing out on the tension of controlled growth, though. That's really something I enjoy.

I really appreciate your thorough and thoughtful response, Doug.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
NateStraight wrote:
A number of comments had made it seem like there was not a lot going on, and that there weren't very many interactions between the different parts.


I've seen a few of those comments, too. I think a fair number of those commenters have only played the base game, however.

I also think this sort of underscores the recurrent theme of the review.

Seeland is ostensibly a game about picking high-value tiles cheaply. On this view, placement is just a way to "bank" the value of the tile. There is also some minor color matching and a little random island-flipping fun to break up the monotony. This would not be a fun game for me. I am not surprised that it is not a fun game for others.

For the competitive gamer, Seeland can actually be a game about manipulating your opponent's options: using the finance track to generate purchasing dilemmas; using your windmill placement to force wasted turns and sub-optimal cultivation; and jockeying for position in the race to the prized Island spots. The advanced rules foster this environment in a two-player game. It's still not Age of Steam, but it sure as hell ain't Candy Land.

8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I just wanted to add one last comment to thank my readers for keeping the streak alive: each and every What You're Missing review is the highest-thumbed written review for its respective game!

Good job, everybody!
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Diane H
United States
Lake Orion
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
awww, man, I think I drooled reading what you wrote about this game, and it looks so dang pretty. Plus, my mother was born in Holland so I think I NEED to have this game...now, if someone were actually selling it that would be nice cry....
Great Review!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh
Canada
Cambridge
Ontario
flag msg tools
“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” -Bukowski
badge
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
mbmbmbmbmb
I've read entertaining reviews, and I've read informative reviews, but this is perhaps the best simultaneously entertaining and informative review I have ever read! thumbsup thumbsup
5 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy Andersen
United States
Ada
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
OK, so I skimmed it at first. Shoot me. Then I had to go back and read it carefully. Outstanding review and the reason I just shelled out $54.00.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I keep taking this game off of my list and then I read this review and I keep putting it back on. It probably won't ever get bought (or at least not until it starts showing up in auctions or on trades) but I thought you'd like to know that your reviews are good enough to keep making the rest of think about spending more money
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Butterfly0038 wrote:
I keep taking this game off of my list and then I read this review and I keep putting it back on. It probably won't ever get bought (or at least not until it starts showing up in auctions or on trades) but I thought you'd like to know that your reviews are good enough to keep making the rest of think about spending more money

Thanks, Jimmy! It's always very much appreciated to know that people like what I'm doing.

Given our overlapping tastes, I think you'd like it if you had a place for it in your collection (i.e., if it fills a need that's not being met elsewhere). But for most people, it's probably a try-before-you-buy type game. It's certainly on the far light side of what I typically like, and I'm always worried that comparing it to something like Brass, given my other favorites, will lead people astray. I never want to have people waste hard-earned money.


(By the way, I just had my first play of De Vulgari Eloquentia this week, based in part on your review. Very intriguing.)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jonathan Harrison
United States
Fisher
Illinois
flag msg tools
So long ...
badge
... and thanks for all the fish.
mb
Reading this review for the second time ... forgot how good it was. If you wrote more, I'd read more.

thumbsupthumbsupthumbsup
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
HuginnGreiling wrote:
Reading this review for the second time ... forgot how good it was. If you wrote more, I'd read more.

thumbsupthumbsupthumbsup

Check out Ben's comments in his Collection list! They're mini review in and of themselves, have been very helpful to me. thumbsup

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
dougbass68 wrote:
HuginnGreiling wrote:
Reading this review for the second time ... forgot how good it was. If you wrote more, I'd read more.

thumbsupthumbsupthumbsup

Check out Ben's comments in his Collection list! They're mini review in and of themselves, have been very helpful to me. thumbsup


Aww. Thank you, guys. I would like to write another review, but time has been scarce and most of my plays over the last several months have been of older games. No one needs a What You're Missing review of Goa.

With the new Essen crop out and available, I should be able to put something together in the next month or so. In the meantime, you can check out my recent LobsterTrap Geeklist for my off-the-cuff reactions to a number of new releases.

Thanks for the support!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Logan
United States
Peoria
Illinois
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I got Belfort for Christmas, and the family and I really like it. It was my first Worker Placement game, and it has made me hungry for more. I started researching Worker Placement games, and came across your review. Long story short, Boards & Bits has it listed for $26, so I snagged a copy.

Fresco and Shipyard are at the top of my list as well. Your review of Ora et Labora steered me away from the heavier WPs. Thanks again for the great review.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian Foster
United States
Kirkland
Washington
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
In the 4 1/2 years I have been involved with BGG, I have read hundreds of reviews-more than I could ever count. Your review is STUNNING! One of the best ever. I am beyond impressed.

Since I have too many unplayed games, I have voluntarily put myself on restriction from buying any more games. I broke that promise and bought Seeland, in large part because of your review.

It's on its way, and I am looking forward to playing it.

More reviews like this. Please!
4 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John blog
Australia
Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Ben,

You articulate our gaming experience so well! Keep doing it!

sean
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gabriel Kuriata
Poland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Great review!

Just one thing - about a year ago I dismissed this game with a comment "Vikings". I tried Vikings and hated them, because of the damned blue people (fishermen), luck and no strategy (except for one - be lucky enough to buy blue people whenever they're available).

So, do I have the chance to like this one despite my hate for Vikings? I have an opportunity to buy this for a relatively good price.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Gabriel_Kuriata wrote:
So, do I have the chance to like this one despite my hate for Vikings? I have an opportunity to buy this for a relatively good price.

Yes. I don't like Vikings much at all. Seeland is a very different game. Kramer & Kiesling's newest game, The Palaces of Carrara, feels much more like Vikings, however, so beware of that one. Thanks for reading!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gabriel Kuriata
Poland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Thanks for a quick reply and a warning :)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Fabrice Dubois
France
La Garenne Colombes
Hauts de Seine
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Awesome review wow

After reading the rules, i am convinced by this game given the format (45 min, 8 year old +, 2 players) and the theme (for an euro).

I own Tikal and Samurai so how does it compare to them ?

PS : if you have another overlooked games, let your reviews coming.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.