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Subject: Village Idiocy: my first play (2P) rss

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Andrew Watson
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Village was top of my list of games to learn for a few weeks. Then, toward the end of a recent game group meeting, the planets aligned: our fearless leader’s copy of Village wasn’t in use; I was looking for one last game; and someone else (L) was willing to play and teach Village.

L had only played twice before, with the full complement of 4 each time. So she took the 2-player setup card and set up, while I skimmed the rulebook, reading what seemed to be key passages to her and to myself. We talked about several aspects of the rules, both during setup and during the first few turns. Perhaps I didn’t read enough, or we didn’t talk enough...

I’ll quickly note two of the central mechanisms of Village. One is that your turn starts with taking a cube from an action space, and continues with you taking the action for that space. There are exceptions to this, but let’s have a straightforward example: you take a cube from the Family action space, then add a new member to your family. Most cubes represent some sort of influence, which helps you do something. For example, orange cubes represent skill, which helps you with Craft and Travel actions. Then there are black cubes, which represent plague.

The second mechanism is that time is a currency. Time can be used for certain actions. It can also be used up by plague. A time track runs around your player board (aka farmyard), and at the end of each lap, one of your older family members dies. This has its bright side, in that the life just ended may be celebrated in the Village Chronicle, and thus provide you with points at the end of the game.

My first impression was that there’s a tremendous range of actions to consider. There are 7 action spaces, and an 8th “substitute action” space. I’ll list them, giving for some of the spaces a mistake related to the rules governing that space, and indicating such mistake with numbers (in parentheses).

But before before we even get to the the specific action spaces, let’s recall that taking a black cube gives you an action, but costs you time, and thus brings a family member closer to death. We played that a black cube triggers an advance of 1 space on the time track,but the rules clearly state that it should be 2 spaces. ( That’s rules mistake 1).

- Grain harvest. Take 2 bags of grain from the supply. We got that right. But at least one of us forgot something I’d read aloud: that you can take extra grain if you have a plow and an animal to pull it (2).

- Family. As noted above, this is an addition to your family.

- Crafts. This is a set of 5 buildings, One way of using a craft building is to have a family member spend time there. For example, I could have someone train as a wainwright, which costs 2 time, then produce a wagon, which costs another 2 time. There is another way of acquiring a wagon: paying 1 orange cube (representing skill, as noted above) and 1 pink cube (knowledge). We played that you have to have a trained family member before you could get a wagon from the Wainwright building. Reading the rules after the game made it quite clear that we played wrongly. Paying with cubes is distinct from paying with time, so you can get a wagon with a pink and an orange without any family hands getting dirty, or family time being spent (3).

- Market. You can serve customers here, selling stuff for victory points. We played the market according to the rules. But I underplayed it due to a misunderstanding of the game. Some of the transactions yield 3 points, which seemed to me very few. The biggest I saw yielded 8, which didn’t seem huge. I didn’t realize that those are pretty decent numbers, since it is rare for any player to get to the end of the 80-point score track that runs round the edge of the board. I’m used score tracks on which one lap often insufficient.

- Travel. We played this correctly. L explained it particularly well, then played it particularly well.

- Council chamber. We played this correctly.

- Church. We played this correctly.

- Well. I completely forgot about this, the substitute action location. I’m going to blame myself for a rules mistake (4), since I remember reading about the well out loud to L and myself, and I could and should have made extensive use of it. It provides a way of performing an action when there is no cube left in that action space. Toward the end of the game I was cube-rich, and could have used the well to travel or to take other point-scoring actions.

But I finished the game with a stack of cubes, and cubes are worth nothing in end-of-game scoring. Thus I lost by a wide margin, and claim the title of Village Idiot.

My main impressions of Village after than first play are:

- Although there’s a lot going on, the game can zip along.

- It could, and perhaps should, be a fairly short game. (I can’t help comparing it with Agricola, which was played at a neighboring table; in Agricola, there is a lot going on, and it usually goes on for a long time.)

- The previous point is rather thematic: life is short, in the midst of life we are in death. So it fits with the end condition, which is that either the chronicle of notable dead villagers is completed, or the graveyard fills up with the bodies of the less illustrious.

- I can’t wait to play again!
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Moe45673
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I won this in secret santa. Am currently waiting for a bunch of games to arrive, all at different stages of transport (some kickstarter, some ordered online, etc). Village is a game I was curious about but was not a must-have (any game that's not a must-have immediately is discarded from my attention and I cease to research about it). Still, your review makes me excited to own it, break it out, and possibly replay it ad infinitum. I don't really own any colorful euros like Catan, Stone Age, etc, so it would be nice to own one that I could "gasp" also enjoy!
 
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Gastel Etswane
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Moe45673 wrote:
I won this in secret santa. Am currently waiting for a bunch of games to arrive, all at different stages of transport (some kickstarter, some ordered online, etc). Village is a game I was curious about but was not a must-have (any game that's not a must-have immediately is discarded from my attention and I cease to research about it). Still, your review makes me excited to own it, break it out, and possibly replay it ad infinitum. I don't really own any colorful euros like Catan, Stone Age, etc, so it would be nice to own one that I could "gasp" also enjoy!


If your invitation for a game is still open, I might have to take you up on it.
 
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Moe45673
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Course it is! Hasn't arrived yet.....
 
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Andrew Watson
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My second play confirmed by Village Idiocy. It was with 4P, none of the other 3 having played before.

I should have played closer attention to the excellent discussion of rules that you may be playing incorrectly before teaching the game. Then I might have realized that:

- you can take a council action for free if you have a family member in the chamber. You only pay if you move up within the chamber. If you don't move up, you can take the action at the level you're on, or take the action at any lower level.

- the mill (the one one out among the craft buildings) has time as an input, not just grain. This makes thematic sense: it takes time to mill grain into flour, and then to sell the flour.

On my third play (which I hope comes soon), I will actually know the rules. Whether I will play better is another question...

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