Ed P Marriott
Sailing the seas with a bunch of stinky grown men could be tough. Dealing with scurvy, fighting over food, worrying about when you might earn a hook or a pegleg or an eyepatch are all daily concerns. Not to mention the captain's annoying parrot asking for crackers all the time. But, ahoy matey! There be treasure to be plunderin'. So hold fast, tighten the jib, and batten down the hatches for a go at Libertalia!
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Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:19 pm
Ed P Marriott
In the Steampunk genre there is an affinity for airships. So steampunk fans will enjoy Sky Traders... maybe. In Sky Traders you are taking on the role of a merchantman who happens to fly an airship. Players will be working to utilize a market system to buy low and sell high. But to buy any good you have to be in the city that produces it. And to sell that good you have to be in some other city. As a pilot of an airship you've also got to make sure you have enough phlogiston (fuel) so that you can continue to travel. In each round players will roll and allocate dice to the market board where the dice are used to influence the market. Influence the market in your favor and you can reap some serious profits. But watch out because others can influence the market against you.
Sky Traders is at its heart a market/economy game. The theme is fine, but it could have been almost anything. It might as well have been taxi drivers in New York City. As far as a market game goes, the mechanics work pretty well. There is a little luck/randomness to it, but it works just fine. If you're ready to fly an airship that runs on phlogiston to pick up and drop off different types of goods, then it's time for you to play Sky Traders!
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Ed P Marriott
Living in a village can be difficult. You've got to run a farm to grow the food you need. You've got to play a role in the church. You've got to try to please customers in the market. You've even got to play a role with the city council. But as the years go by your family line will begin dying off. You've got to make sure the younger generations are ready to fill in for their elders. Throughout the game you will be gathering cubes to purchase different goods that can be used to fulfill customer orders, help you advance in the city council, help you travel if you venture away from the village, and help you earn prestige as a well-known villager. But be careful that you don't waste too much time or your family members could start dropping like flies. When you're ready to throw back the clock and attempt to succeed as a villager, then perhaps it's time to try your hand at Village.
Here's what's in the box:
44 Family members
4 Black monks
1 Sticker sheet
6 Plague cubes
72 Influence cubes
2 Cloth bags
1 Starting player marker
1 Next starting player marker
40 Goods tiles
24 Customer tiles
20 Bags of grain
3 Setup cards
1 "Mass" overview card
1 Game board
In each round of Village the action spots on the board are seeded with resource cubes. On your turn you will take a resource cube from any of the locations and then, if you want, perform the action that the location allows. Locations include the Church, Crafting buildings, Market, City gate, City council, Harvest, and Family. Crafting buildings are where you can obtain goods tiles like a plow, horse, ox, wagon, or scroll. At the family location you obtain a new family member. The church location allows you to earn points. The Market allows you to fulfill customer orders. The City council gives you special abilities like gaining two goods cubes of any color, or becoming the next starting player, or earning points. The Harvest spot lets you obtain bags of grain, which can be used for various things in the game. After all of the resource cubes are removed from the spots then the "Mass" phase of a round occurs. In the mass phase player pawns are removed from the black cloth bag and placed into the church. But the black monk pawns are in the bag as well so if you put any pawns into the bag then you must realize that they may not make it into the church during that mass.
On your farmyard board there are little hourglasses. These are how you determine when a family member will die. Each time you perform an action that requires time to be spent you will move your time marker around that appropriate number of spots. Any time the marker crosses the bridge one of your family members dies.
So you have to not only manage the goods that you are procuring, but you also have to manage the time that it takes to procure and use them. The game ends when enough people have died. In my first play we had two players tie with 52 points, each had 6 customers, which was the first tiebreaker, and the tie was broken with number of living players on the board. The third place player was about 10 points behind.
WHAT I LIKED
Time & Death Mechanic: I had not played a game where you are killing off your players before. The way it was done was very interesting and I am sure that it played a role with Village being selected as the Spiel des Jahres winner. I thought it worked well because it introduced a lot of interesting choices throughout the game. These included which pawn to place in the church, which pawn you should have venture away from the city, and a lot more.
Artwork: I am a sucker for good art and this game has great artwork! I loved how everything worked together to give the feel that you are actually in a village working at a crafting building or partaking in the city council or venturing away to other cities. The art made sure everything felt thematic when some mechanics may otherwise have seemed a little abstract.
Options: I love having multiple choices on any given turn and this game is rich with options. There is a lot of strategy with what order you want to visit the different locations. And you can also keep an eye out for what the other players might do. One favorite move is taking the market action when I can see that no other players will be able to fulfill a customer's order.
WHAT I DISLIKED
Death: What I mean by death is more specifically that it seemed like family members could die too quickly. That is the case early on in the game, at least. When you visit a crafting building and train a worker there you can advance up to 6 time spots. Or if you had to take a plague cube then you might advance 8 spots. While it seemed easy to kill people off in the beginning, it became more difficult later as we were trying to kill them off to trigger the end of the game. But the death mechanic never really drove a decision in the game. It was there and it was interesting, but it seemed like a side-thought.
I thought Village was very interesting and I liked it quite a bit. However, the theme seemed like a lot of other games. Set in some middle age where you are farming and earning prestige. We've seen all of that before. So thematically it seemed "samey" to other games. I thought the use of time and death introduced a lot of strategy that I had not seen before. And I enjoy when games have new mechanics, or at least new takes on old mechanics. Since I would play again and I thought it was good I will rate Village 8 out of 10 stars.