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Subject: Father Geek's Review of Village rss

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Cyrus Kirby
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Farmington
Minnesota
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The Basics:
o For ages 12 and up
o For 2 to 4 players
o Approximately 1 hour to complete

Geek Skills:
o Counting & Math
o Logical & Critical Decision Making
o Pattern/Color Matching
o Strategy & Tactics
o Risk vs. Reward
o Hand/Resource Management
o Worker Placement & Area Control

Learning Curve:
o Child – Moderate
o Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:
o Help guide multiple generations of an ambitious family to become prestigious and influential members of a village society.

Endorsements:
o Gamer Geek approved!
o Parent Geek approved!
o Child Geek rejected!

Overview

Author Steve Saint once said, “Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends. It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs.” This suggests that our actions influence how others remember us and impact their lives in some meaningful way long after we have gone. In the game, Village, you will take control of a family and help guide its members to take on important positions in the community, become strong leaders, and influential individuals in society. Once one generation passes, the choices you made will either help or hinder the next.

Village, by Tasty Minstrel Games, is comprised of 44 Family Member meeples (11 each in four different colors), 4 Monk meeples (black), 32 markers (8 each in four different colors that match the colors of the Family Member meeples), 6 Plague cubes, 72 Influence cubes (18 each in the colors of brown, pink, orange, and green), 40 Goods tiles (8 each of scrolls, horses, plows, oxen, and wagons), 24 Customer tiles, 15 coins, 20 Bags of Grain tokens, 3 setup cards (for 2 to 4 players), 1 “mass overview” card, 4 Farmyard cards (one for each player), 2 cloth bags, 1 starting player marker, 1 next starting player marker, and 1 game board. The component quality is outstanding, but the detailed artwork can make it difficult at times to easily identify certain portions of the game board. A helpful game board “Key” is provided to assist in any confusion that might come up during the first couple of plays.



Note: The game comes with a large sticker sheet and the owner is required to affix these stickers to both sides of the 48 meeples. The stickers are small and need to be placed on the meeples in such a way that is best described as exceedingly difficult and frustrating. The sticker placement will take the owner of the game some time to complete before game play. This is especially true if you want the game pieces to look good. Alternatively, you can use a sharp point permanent marker instead of stickers on the meeples. While not as nice looking, it will take you all of 4 minutes to complete and does not detract from the game’s enjoyment or play. This is what I did and I couldn’t be happier.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first place the game board in the middle of the playing area and hand to each player 1 Farmyard card. Each player should now take the 11 Family Member meeples and 8 markers that match the Farmyard card color. The Farmyard card is placed in front of their owning player and all the Family Member meeples with a “1″ on them are placed on the card. The remaining meeples are set to one side and will be used later in the game. Players should also place one of their markers on the cloud space immediately to the right of the illustrated bridge on their Farmyard card. Another marker will be placed on the book icon on the game board. The remaining markers are set to one side and will be used later in the game.

Second, each player should receive 1 coin, which is placed next to their Farmyard card. The remaining coins should be placed to one side of the game board and within easy reach of all the players.

Third, shuffle the Customer tiles. Depending on the number of players, a certain number of Customer tiles will be turned face-up and placed on the game board in the market section. The remaining Customer tiles are set to one side. If playing with fewer than 4 players, additional set up is required using the unused meeples to lockout the players from certain portions of the game board. This is explained in detail in the rule book.

Fourth, place the next starting player marker on its starting place on the game board and place the Goods tiles to one side of the game board as a general supply for all the players to tap into.

Fifth, place the Bags of Gain, Influence cubes, and Plague cubes next to the game board and the general supply, along with the green cloth bag.

Sixth, put the 4 Monk meeples in the black cloth bag and place the bag next to the church space, but off to one side of the game board.

Seventh, take and place the setup card that matches the number of players and the “mass overview” card near the game board for quick reference. Return the other setup cards to the game box.

That’s it for game set up. Decide who will go first and hand that player the starting player marker.

Playing the Game

Note: While the game is not overly difficult, it is rather involved. You first couple of plays will be spent referring back to the rule book for quick checks on actions, what individual game bits represent, and how they are to be used. Suffice to say, we are not going to duplicate the rule book here and will only summarize a typical game round to provide an example of play. We invite you to read the rules for full details on how the game is played.

The game is played out in a series of rounds with each player taking turns until there are no actions left to take on the board (i.e. no more cubes to collect). Available Influence cubes are random each round. A typical round set up and a player’s turn is summarized here.

Start of the Round

At the start of every round, a number of Influence cubes and all available Plague cubes are added to the green cloth bag. The number of cubes added is determined by the setup card. Note that after the first round of play, there will be cubes left over in the bag as not all of the cubes will be played to the game board each round. Then, one player randomly selects one cube from the cloth bag at a time and places them on the game board, in accordance to the setup card. Once completed, the round can begin.

A Typical Player’s Turn

A player will have a number of actions available to them on the game board to choose from, but the total number of available actions will begin to be reduced as the round continues. On the player’s turn, they must select one Influence or 1 Plague cube from the game board from an action space of their choice. The Influence cube is collected and saved on the player’s Farmyard card (there is no limit to the number of Influence cubes a Farmyard can store). If a Plague cube is taken, the player’s marker on the Farmyard card is moved 2 spaces going clockwise signifying the loss of time due to illness (which could also cause a meeple to be removed). Plague cubes are returned to the general supply and will be added back into the bag next round. Then, based on the action space the cube was taken from, the players will be allowed to complete that specific action. The actions are summarized here.

o Grain Harvest: this action allows the player to take Bags of Grain back to their Farmyard, but only if there is at least 1 Family Member meeple located on the farm. If the player has the oxen or the wagon, they can take additional Bags of Grain. Note that a Farmyard cannot hold an infinite number of Bags of Grain.

o Family: this action allows the player to add another Family Member meeple with the lowest number from the unused meeple supply and add it to their Farmyard card. Or, if the player prefers, they can return a Family Member meeple on the game board that has not “died” to the Farmyard card.

o Crafts: this action allows the player to craft goods using one of the five crafting locations on the game board.

o Market: this action creates a “market day” that all players can participate in. If the player is able to satisfy a customer’s needs in the market, they are collected for points.

o Travel: this action allows the player to send one of their Family Member meeples aboard. A trip that must be paid for, but will result in points of prestige for every foreign city the family members have visited.

o Council Chamber: this action allows the player to influence the ruling council of the village and gain a higher level of power and authority over the village’s inhabitants.

o Church: this action allows the player to send one of their Family Member meeples to join the local church, which will be useful in obtaining influence among the clergy.

o Well: this action allows the player to take any action on the board, regardless if there are any cubes on it or not, but at a cost of 3 Influence cubes of the same color. Note that at least one Influence cube must still be on the board for the Well action to be available.

Currency of Time

While we often think that money and goods can be traded and used as currency in exchange of other goods and services, Village also uses the currency of time. People, coins, influence, and other goods are not always in large supply. Time, on the other hand, is a resource that is always available to the player to spend if they do not have the people, influence, money, or goods to pay for an action. Time, within the game, is measured by the marker that surrounds the player’s Farmyard. It is also something of a death clock. Once the marker has gone fully around the time track, one of the oldest generation of the player’s Family Member meeples passes away. Generations are indicated by the number on the meeple. The first generation is marked with a “1″, the second with a “2″ and so on.

Once a Family Member meeple passes, it is removed from play, but not the board. Nor is the thematic “death” of the meeple a loss for the player. If a space is available in the Village Chronicle (a series of book spaces on the game board) the meeple can be placed there and their acts are forever remembered in the village’s history, in accordance to the last action space the meeple was on. If there is no space left in the chronicles, the meeple is placed in an empty grave space by the church, remembered by their family but not by history. This adds an interesting new twist on resource management. Using time at the cost of losing a meeple might seem rather expensive, but it can also be a method in which a player can strategically use the “death” of the meeple to gain more points, as well as take actions if they are woefully short on other resources.

Ending the Round

The round ends when the last cube is taken (be it Influence or Plague) from the game board and the action it is associated with is completed. After a long round of hard work and fruitful labor, all the Families gather at the church to attend Mass. Four meeples are drawn from the black cloth bag. By default, there are 4 Monk meeples who are neutral to all the Families and couldn’t care less about their ambitions. However, if a player sends one of their Family Member meeples to church as an action, it is possible that their color meeple will be selected. Or, if the player is not feeling lucky, they can pay for the privilege of hand selecting a meeple from the bag for one coin.

After the meeples are selected, each player will move their Family hierarchy on the game board that represents their Family’s influence and standing in the church. Meeples pulled from the bag are “moved” by the Family donating Bags of Grain from the Farmyard card.

Once every player has had a chance to pay, the player who has the most Family Member meeples in the church will be awarded 2 prestige points, which is recorded on the point tracker that surrounds the edge of the game board. Ties go to the player who has a Family Member meeples located at the highest position in the church.

This ends the round and a new round now begins. Change the first player as needed (and as determined by actions taken during the previous round) and repopulate the game board with Influence and Plague cubes.

Ending the Game and Final Scoring

The game ends when a Family Member meeple is placed in the last available position in the chronicles or the last grave is filled. All the players, except the player who just triggered the end game (thematically speaking, the Family Members are in mourning), will be given a chance to complete one last action. Once completed, the final scoring takes place.

Points are scored from the cities the Family Member meeples visited, influence in the village council, influence in the church, the living history of the family in the Village Chronicles, how many customers the family successfully satisfied due to good business decisions, and the family’s overall wealth. All the points, defined as prestige, are kept track of using the player’s marker on the track that surrounds the game board.

The player who has the most points at the end of the game wins.

To learn more about Village, visit the game’s web page.

Prediction

Huzzah! It feels so good to get back to Euro-style gaming!

Village has a lot of actions. Lots. My biggest concern is that the Child Geeks will get lost because there is little in the way of “connecting the dots”, so to speak, that will help them decide which action is the best to take. For the Parent Geeks, the game is casual, but demands the player really focus in on their turn. Failure to do so will result in mismanagement of resources, I’m certain. I feel fairly confident in my prediction with these two groups.

On a positive note, the game doesn’t have any reading, all the information is visible to all the players at all times, and there is nothing to hide. This makes the game exceptionally easy to teach and to assist inexperienced players. Games where you can talk to another player’s position in the game make it much easier to demonstrate possible strategies, cause and effect, and discuss possible moves with the player without ever actually having to look through their stuff. Technically, a game like Village should allow a player as young as 4-years-old to sit and play at the table because everything can be demonstrated and discussed out in the open.

Not that I think a 4-year-old could play Village. Oh, goodness, no. This is going to be an easy game teach (the player’s turns are very straight forward), but every player is going to have something of a learning curve when it comes to understanding how the actions in the game can benefit them. In many ways, Village is like a big control board with knobs and switches. Players are allowed to flip switches and turn knobs on their turn, but there is little in the way of feedback to suggest that flipping or turning anything is furthering the player’s goals. That is going to frustrate some and artificially inflate the game’s perceived level of difficulty.

For the Gamer Geeks, all I’ll need to do is state that this is a Euro-style game and here are the actions which result in so many points. That’ll be more than enough for them to understand and play the game. Everyone else is going to take more effort.

And so, I got to work, teaching the game to those I could when time allowed. It took several days to teach my oldest little geek how to play the game (my 5-year-old showed no interest) mostly because there were a lot of questions to answer. His biggest concern was that of resource management and how to use what he collected to obtain more. Smart kid. But what really had him confused was the resource of time, how it always slipped away, but was always available in abundance. For a child who lives in the here and now, where “tomorrow” is just a word, and the world sometimes ends at the tip of his nose, suggesting that time was a commodity that could be held and then lost was a tricky abstract concept. I decided to boil it down to something like “points”. When you spend so many time “points”, you had to remove a meeple. This made it much easier for him to understand.

And so, as I set up our first play of the game, I asked my little geek his thoughts on Village so far.

“This feels like a really, really big game. There’s a lot to think about and to do. I don’t have any idea how to win this.” ~ Liam (age 8)

His words pretty much capture my thoughts, too. Let’s see if the game play can keep him on track and interested or feels like it is taking an eternity.

Final Word

The average time to play this game is probably closer to 2 hours when you first start to play it. Not because the game itself takes that long, but because the players will take their time to consider what each action can or cannot do for them. Once the game’s actions are well understood, you can actually complete this game within 1 hour or less, depending on the group size. Just note that your first couple of game plays will not be swift.

My Child Geek, at the young age of 8, understood the rules of the game, could play the game with little assistance, and even made some excellent moves to collect points. He also disliked the game. A lot. He was, in his own words, “bored to tears”. Euro-style games are the game equivalent of a period piece dramatic film. Deep and involved, but feel like they are moving at a snail’s pace. This was not lost on my son or any of the other Child Geeks we played the game with. While very playable, Village didn’t keep their interest for very long.

Parent Geeks very much enjoyed the game, and thought it was an excellent choice for family game night. They were saddened, of course, to see that their younger Child Geeks were not willing to play the game based on its duration and cerebral demand, but they also recognized that this was a game meant to be played with an older and more patient audience. Child Geeks as young at 7 could play the game, but Child Geeks only started to enjoy the game around age 10. Even then, their level of engagement with the game and the other players was somewhat shallow, but improved as the player became older. Based on this and how much the Parent Geeks enjoyed the game play, they approved it.

A Gamer Geek’s level of enjoyment with the game was based on their enjoyment of Euro-style games. Those Gamer Geeks who detested Euro-style games naturally disliked Village. Those who enjoyed Euro-style games loved it. There was nothing in the game play or the rules to suggest that the game was a bad one (in fact, several comments were made regarding the excellent component quality and design), and all the Gamer Geeks, be they Ameritrash devotees or classic Euro-style zealots, all agreed the game was a good one.


Then my wife asked, “what are you play?” This initiated a 15-minute explanation delivered by my little geek.

Gamer Geeks, your level of enjoyment with this game is primarily based on your point-of-view of Euro-style games. If you don’t like Euro-style games, skip Village. If you do, you’ll find Village to be a fun and challenging game that introduces a new resource seldom seen: Time. This was perhaps the biggest draw to the game, as it gave all the players another way to pay for actions. This gave the players much more to think about, too, as it opened many new possible methods of wining. While the use of time as a resource is unique, the game itself is hardly groundbreaking. You’ll be pushing cubes, moving meeples, collecting resources, and spending them in the same way you’ve done before with other Euro-style games. While not a detractor, just be aware of it before you go buying it for your game collection.

Parent Geeks, this is a very well designed family game in the Euro-game style of play. The players are never in direct conflict with each other which allows for casual play and easy table conversation. The game is challenging and every player will always be forced to make a choice of “pay now” or “pay later”. This game will also challenge a player based on the many choices it provides. There are multiple ways to gain points and even more ways to streamline a single round to come out on top.

Child Geeks, this game is going to be a bit too much for you unless you already are familiar with and have the patience for Euro-style games. This is not a fast game, nor will it create any real sense of adventure or excitement. You’ll find that the best way to play the game is silently, deep in thought, and half-crazed with speculation. That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? One day, you’ll have the mental stamina and geek skills to sit down and play this game like a Boss. Until then, keep playing the many, many other games available to you that are lighter and more entertaining.

Village has been dubbed, by some, as a “modern Euro-style game”. I fail to see any level of modernization, as the game is steeped with Euro-style game mechanisms that have been around for a long time. I also fail to see any real originality in the game, although the currency of time is a very neat idea. However, its uniqueness will eventually become unnoticeable after a few game plays. “Time” will become nothing more than just one more resource to be used and pushed around the board. I guarantee you’ll miss it when you play other Euro-style games, however.

Village is solid game, but does not provide anything you can’t get from other Euro-style games on the market today. Which is to say, it has passive game play, simple rules, plausible choices, short downtime, zero luck, and a scoring system that always keeps a player’s marker moving forward. For those players who like Euro-style games, they’ll no doubt enjoy Village. For those looking for excitement, the game will fail. This is a game about efficiency, about making small but meaningful choices again and again, and to slowly gain points over a period of time. The game is an exercise in long-term planning and feels rewarding to those who like to see complex strategies come together. Again, think of a period piece dramatic film, and you’ve got a very good idea how Village feels.

Personally, I rather enjoyed Village, finding it fun and challenging to play with potentially a lot of replayability. I say “potentially”, because after playing it a number of times in a row, no one wants to play it with me. Still, it’s a good game and one I would gladly play again. I, however, would have a hard time recommending Village to someone not familiar with Euro-style games. If you are and are looking for a new game to add to your table, Village is sure to please.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

Respectfully submitted by Father Geek
fathergeek.com
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David Jensen

Smyrna
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I like the format. GeekSkills is a great idea.

Second - and immediately caused me to respond is that you marked your meeples with marker! I love it!
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Cyrus Kirby
United States
Farmington
Minnesota
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notyetsuperman wrote:
Second - and immediately caused me to respond is that you marked your meeples with marker! I love it!


All it took was 10 minutes alone with those small meeples and even smaller stickers...

Thanks for reading!
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Michael Fairgrieve
United States
Corvallis
Oregon
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Great review.

I've been looking for another Euro that stands apart from the rest, and I thought this was it. The more reviews I read though, the more I think this might be one I'll pass on...at least for now. I'm not a big fan of cubes in games (as a general principle), and the "time mechanic" feels like kind of a gimmick in an otherwise ordinary Euro. Thanks for the review though, it gave me a lot to think about.
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Cyrus Kirby
United States
Farmington
Minnesota
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newkillerstar27 wrote:
Great review.

I've been looking for another Euro that stands apart from the rest, and I thought this was it. The more reviews I read though, the more I think this might be one I'll pass on...at least for now. I'm not a big fan of cubes in games (as a general principle), and the "time mechanic" feels like kind of a gimmick in an otherwise ordinary Euro. Thanks for the review though, it gave me a lot to think about.


Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment! Glad to hear our review has helped.
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