Thinking about my next move.
So, if my only options are these, then I shall...
1) What is it?
Armorica is a quick card game in which take cards (Romans and Gauls) in order to form, in a row, sets of different coloured cards. At the same time, is necessary to keep everyone fed (to survive the winter starvation) and gather other symbols to help either by allowing to take some Roman cards, or to give extra points at the end of the game, or give more options during play.
Overall, Armorica is simple to teach and even more easy to play, but offers a nice amount of decisions and possibilities with just a small deck of cards, colors and symbols. Yet, it fails to truly engage players and to create tension. Still, is good enough for occasional play.
2) How do you play?
Each player starts with a Gaul card with two wheat symbols. The Gaul deck is set by letter, starting with the Gauls A, then B, and so on. The Roman deck is set by number, starting with Romans I, then II, and so on. The Gauls form a row of 6 cards, and the Romans another. A round has three phases:
a) Take a Gaul card or pass;
b) Take a Roman card or pass;
c) Winter starvation.
A player can take one Gaul card, picking from the rightmost card up to the card equal to the number of wheat symbols she has. Therefore, at the beginning, a player can pick one Gaul from the first two in the row (as everyone starts with 2 wheat). The same is valid for the Romans, as options to pick from, but some Romans demand also that the player have a symbol (grape, olive or sheep) in order to be taken - if the player doesn't have the required symbol, she can't take that Roman card. Gauls and Romans are added to the player row of cards, at the end of it, and can't be moved afterwards. If a player passes (by not taking either a Gaul or Roman), the rightmost card of the proper row is discarded.
Once every player has taken (or passed) a Gaul and a Roman, all players count the number of amphorae symbols they have. If the number of amphorae is the same or more than the number of cards the player has, nothing happens. If the number is less, then the player must discard cards until she has the same number of cards as she can feed. Cards can be discarded from any point in the player's row (which can help in getting a set of different colored cards bigger), just adjusting the row to fill the gap.
The game ends when either the Roman or the Gaul deck is empty. The current round ends, then it happens the final scoring. Players will score their sets of different colors in their rows. Also, will gain 1 point for each coin symbol. Finally, player with the most grapes symbols will gain 4 points, and the same for the sheep and olive symbols.
The player with the most points will be the winner!
3) Which are the decisions made during play?
Which card to take, considering color and symbols it has. That is the main, and possibly, only decision a player will make. There is no way to manipulate the rows (of Gauls, Romans or your own). There can be a secondary decision, during the winter starvation: which card to discard - usually not a hard one to make. Yet, while only having one type of decision, the considerations about color and symbols are very important, as not only you want to build a bigger row of different colored cards, you also need to manage the amount of amphorae, wheat, grapes, sheeps, olives and coins. The sort of game that provides constant and relevant decisions, albeit not difficulty ones.
4) What are the good things in the game?
- Easy to teach and to play;
- Small and portable;
- Good amount of decisions in the short frame of time of playing it;
- Symbols are easy to tell apart, even across the table.
5) Which are the bad news?
- The art and graphic design are amateurish at best;
- Setting up the deck at the start (or separating everything at the end) by type and level, is a hassle;
- Not truly thematic - more an abstract game.
6) How do you feel while playing?
In a very light competition. The fight for majorities tend to be more fierce because is easy to control and doesn't depend on color.
In a 2 player game, control will be greater, but competition won't. With 3 or 4 players, some symbols will become better (like wheat - in order to take better cards sooner) and the battle for colors and symbols will be more intense, however, luck might play a bigger part and the game itself will be less fulfilling, specially in 4, since players will simply play less turns and there will be less to be done.
In the end, the game provides a neat environment in a small set of rules. Decisions matter, even if not exactly hard to be made; there are competition, but without bashing or take that; the artwork is pretty weak, yet the design of the symbols does its job; the theme doesn't truly surface or matters, however, it has some thematic reasoning for the mechanics. Armorica is a flawed game, one that might bore some people, as it lacks excitement, twists and direct conflict; but it does provide enough to entertain every now and then.
Image credit: a_traveler
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