Bill Corey Jr.
I'm seated at my game table right now looking at A Feast For Odin all set up and ready to be played again. I have a 1p (learning so I can teach) and 4p (teaching the family) under my belt over the last 24 hours, and I definitely have formed some opinions on it. (Spoiler: I like it a LOT, but it has some issues and won't be for everyone.)
First of all, for the first time I can recall, I actually found a game to be intimidating to learn. Actual gameplay mechanics aren't all that complicated (although, like most Rosenberg titles, this one has weird "edge case" rules that can be difficult to remember at times), but figuring out *why* you might want to do things is very opaque. I think this has two causes: the decision tree is VERY wide open right at the start of the game, and the main board where the worker placement happens is visually crowded with lots of irregular shapes, smallish text, and iconography that is helpful but challenging to learn at first. (If you know Fields of Arle and Caverna, you will have a bit of a shortcut in this aspect, as much of the iconography has been lifted from those two games, predictably.)
The key to developing any kind of strategy at all in FfO seems to be the Occupation cards. You start the game with one "starter" card, and you can earn more throughout the game. The key to being effective, at least at first, is to let those cards guide your actions when appropriate. It isn't foolproof (in the 4p I lost despite using a card-heavy strategy), but it's a good guiding star, especially for new players.
Also, there are a few production mishaps in the game that can add confusion when learning the game. I won't dwell on the specifics too much here, as everything is technically functional, but there is one I do think it's important to address: the main worker placement board is WAY too small, especially for new players. There are 59 worker placement spaces (yes, I counted them) on a board about 30% smaller than the one used in Fields of Arle (which has 30 spaces), and 75% of those spaces have to be able to accommodate 2+ full-sized meeples at a time (vs one small cylinder each in Arle). The text and icons on the board are small enough that players were unavoidably standing up, leaning over the board and literally squinting at them trying to figure out what they do. Not only is this very unhelpful when teaching the game, but it induces AP, a LOT of it, if a player hasn't yet formed a cohesive strategy to pursue and is looking for the best button to push at the moment. (This last part will most likely be mitigated somewhat with more experience with the game, but I'm personally not there yet and can't say for sure.) It was the single most commented negative the new players last night mentioned about the game, and I don't blame them one bit.
Now, on to the positives! This game feels very very much like a mashup of three of Uwe's other titles: Agricola, Fields of Arle, and Patchwork. (The last of those is unsurprising, as Patchwork was released as part of the development process behind FfO.) The above mentioned Occupation cards are clearly lifted almost wholesale from Agricola, the worker placement board looks and feels like Arle (though there are significant differences), and there's a puzzle Tetris-like spatial element a la Patchwork. The blend of these three elements is excellent, and it feels like a dynamic series of systems that just *works*.
There's a TON of depth to explore here as the Occupations (three separate decks with differing levels of complexity) guide players to try different strategies through repeated plays. You'd have to play 50+ games of it before I think you'd even *start* getting bored with the cards you're seeing, and there are those 59 action spaces to utilize efficiently, so the game's got legs for sure. There are definitely a few emergent strategies that seem to be pretty strong, but I'm pretty confident that perception comes from a place of inexperience rather than imbalance. Two games in, and I've seen literally 5 different strategies employed... There are a LOT of paths to walk down here, and all of them look like they could be winners if enacted efficiently.
Also, this seems to be to be the strongest solo play experience yet from Mr. Rosenberg. I thoroughly enjoyed my first solo play, and I'm almost certainly gonna try it again today while I do laundry. The solo experience is brilliantly designed and creates the dreaded "dummy player" without creating almost any extra work for the player. This is a BIG deal for me, as I've come to enjoy solo gaming quite a bit but HATE fiddly dummy player mechanics.
My thoughts keep coming back to the Occupation cards, and how much I enjoy their implementation in this game vs Agricola. In that one, you get your hand of cards at the beginning of the game, and they allow you to set up a strategy at the start and plan for the entire game up front. In this one, you acquire them piecemeal over the span of the game, causing you to have to react and adjust, which feels a lot more compelling to me. I disliked Occupations in Agricola; a bad starting hand could spell a loss before the game even started... But the "fix" was to draft them, which in turn created a huge amount of AP right up front. No thanks! In FfO, you get to wrap your brain around how and when to use them in smaller doses, which makes the process infinitely less tedious and slow.
(The entire last paragraph might be personal taste, now that I think about it, but it still rings true.)
So, to sum up: I like it. Nope, scratch that, I LOVE it! I think it might be Uwe's best big box game to date: replayability for *days*, lots of paths to take, and a fun theme. It isn't perfect, mind you, but it's excellent. Now,if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna take a break from typing and play a solo game of Feast For Odin before lunch.
EDIT: If you're interested in seeing how I set up the game for solo play, here's a picture:)
Multiple edits to fix spelling & formatting errors I missed. Sigh.)
- Last edited Thu Nov 3, 2016 9:08 pm (Total Number of Edits: 8)
- Posted Thu Nov 3, 2016 3:53 pm
I'm 11 plays in now,
8x2P, with 2 different partners
1 solo last night
and we have left it out all week.
They're all great.
And those early strategies your group sees are just one of many that are absolutely viable. I've seen people break 90 and 100 going all in on about 7 different major areas to their strategy, maybe more, and each time partially or totally neglecting some to all of the others. I've seen too line scores match the bottom line, or top line scores clear 200, and come back to the low 100s with major negative space.
You missed the other major Uwe influence of resource conversion chains, whether you want to call the Le Havre or Arle or whatever.
It's probably my fave to date. My wife LOVES the spatial part here too.
- Last edited Fri Nov 4, 2016 2:18 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Nov 4, 2016 2:18 pm
I think you'll find that the leaning over the board only happens in the first game, when people are unfamiliar with the icons and placement of the actions. We've had no problems with that in our later games.