Brett Burleigh II
Bless the Maker and His water... Bless the coming and going of Him... May His passage cleanse the world...
This is my first review… Yay!
I plan to do a full-on review in the coming months, but here's a brief introduction to Neanderthal, and some comparison to Greenland… I don't go into a breakdown of the components & mechanics, but it's information that when combined with a read through of the rulebook may be enough to decide if Neanderthal (and/or Greenland) are for you. Enjoy!
Today I got a GM from a familiar face… Uh-oh, did I mess up the dice rolls again? Nope. Different title: "Greenland"
Brett, I've got a gamer friend who is all into Neanderthals; if I point this out to him, it almost assured he will get it. I saw in the comments you playtested it and highly rated it. Sooo, is it that good? How's the replayability? Theme? Do you fell like it's 40K BC? Hey Dave,
First off, Greenland is the predecessor, Neanderthal being the sister game. Your title says Greenland, which is throwing me off.
Disclaimer: I love SMG designs. Eklund games have been criticized as being simulations instead of games, which I've found untrue (except, maybe for the Erosion game I've never played).
Greenland is a "simple" SMG design (the box is like 5x5x2.5), all of the rules fit into a tiny booklet.
It has its nuances, however. There is only really one thing (very late game possibility to wreck someone else's scoring) that is a bit convoluted, but the living rules (and second edition) have cleared it up.
It, like little sister Neanderthal, is a brutal survival game. It is funny as in Greenland, you start off about medium strength, usually taking a few knocks and hitting your rock bottom / or you take off and then you're reined in by the game mechanics. You're never flush for long... elders freeze to death, hunters have feuds and slay each other, prey animals kill off hunters in the struggle for dominance. By the end of Greenland, if the dice are kind, you'll have a respectable Tableau built up with some "tech" and trophies (vp) and a hardy population of cubes. If, like most games I've played, the dice aren't your friends, you're hanging on by your fingernails, over an icy chasm of hunger, despair and utter failure...
In Greenland, you have asymmetric factions based on history and abstracted in ways that make sense within the system. You'll have daughters that give you your boons and make your faction unique.
In Neanderthal, you start off with a tribe of know-nothing, non-vocal human clay. There are 3 factions, again, but the flavoring is minimal. Instead of starting with daughters, you'll be competing for the available daughters...
Think of daughters as the females of ancient tribal society, the division of labor had males hunting away from the tribe, while females generally foraged close by and reared the children. The knowledge passed down this way. Your daughters in Neanderthal will essentially be teaching (providing an active bonus), or producing babies (more hunter cubes!).
What's very different about Neanderthal is that each faction has a brain map. On this map, there are 3 portals. These 3 portals have 2 disc spots. As one of the actions for a primitive culture, you place discs on these slots. As this happens, you can develop Alpha abilities - these are "auto-succeses" on specific biome types (fishing, hunting, big game, etc). Although I think the final version is that the discs start there and then are removed...
In Neanderthal, you start off very weak, very undifferentiated, and you're struggling to advance. It's very much a numbers game. You're piling on hunters, hoping to make the kill, it's a war of attrition, until you develop your culture. The things you take for granted in Greenland, are hard fought and hard won in Neanderthal (daughters, alphas, tools, etc). Usually by the end of the game, you are much better off trying to survive at this point, but the world may be a bit harsher - in Greenland, it is always harsher, and teetering on the brink of collapse (or, just plain collapsed).
That got long, fast.
I like both designs, but I consider the little brother to be the better design. I'd say that the replayability is higher than Greenland, since the asymmetry is being "built" with each game (instead of static, by design), and the events/daughter cards that are in the game will greatly change random chance as well as strategies. There are a lot of different possibilities for endgame scoring, which also keeps it fresh (these same rules dictate how you react to events), there are also differences here that really make it stand out from Greenland as its own beast. (Carnivores trying to steal your kill is probably my favorite Neanderthal mechanic!)
Neanderthal can flow into Greenland. You assign starting tech to represent what you ended with, and you carry over your population and scores. The final tallying at the end of Greenland determines winner!
To directly answer your question, yes, it does feel like 40K BC... starting with nothing, eking out a meager existence, gaining fire and language, developing culture to overcome the wilds.
It's an SMG, read the rules, play a solo game to reinforce your learnings and expect mistakes.
Who am I kidding? You're a war gamer, right?
Does Memoir '44 make you a grognard or a groglite?
Hope it helps. They're pretty cheap. Order direct from Phil/SMG. Shipping from Germany is only 4 or 5$ and is really fast. Esp. Since the dollar is up in the world.
After the first round of exchanges, we both agreed it would be good info to share… so, I hope it helps paint a picture for you!