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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.