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Subject: Glen More - Proof theme doesn't matter! rss

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Patrick Brophy
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This post originally appeared on The Crafty Players with pictures and beer recommendations.

Glen More is an older game – it’s not polite to talk about someone’s age, but I bring up it up is to remind us that it belongs to a different time, a time when the “Euro” and “Ameritrash” genres were more clearly defined, with less “hybrids”. As a matter of fact I think it’s a perfect game to demonstrate the difference in opinion Emmet and I have in relation to theme and its importance to a game. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Episode 7 of the podcast.

Glen More is ostensibly about building a small Scottish village, making whisky (interesting aside: it’s spelled with an “e” i.e. whiskey, if it’s country of origin has an “e” in the name. Ireland, America = whiskey, Japan, Scotland = whisky) and promoting chieftains to gain influence and power which is represented by victory points. Obviously. The theme is “evoked” through kilted men and sheep on the box cover, Tam o’shanter caps, highland cattle, whisky production and use of the word ‘chieftain’. It might sounds evocative, but there’s very little to drag you into the theme, to immerse you in it and make you feel like you’re actually in Scotland building a village.

But to me it doesn’t matter because the gameplay is so good!

There’s several things I like about the gameplay in Glen More. I recently wrote about Carcassonne and Glen More has a similar tile laying mechanic as you build out you village. Unlike Carcassonne, where you draw a tile randomly, in Glen More you have a choice. Tiles are laid out in a track, and the last meeple in the track gets to jump forward and take a tile. If they jump really far ahead, the unclaimed tiles behind them can be taken by their opponents. Taking large jumps ahead can mean you have to watch your opponents add to their villages while you stand still but if you don’t jump ahead, you might miss out on that vital tile that you really want. It brings a level of tension and nervousness to each turn, it keeps you engaged as you wait for your turn, looking ahead, seeing what tiles get taken and which ones are revealed to refill the empty spaces.

Once you get the tile, you have to place it in your village. Which sound an easy task, but placement rules mean that it’s not so straightforward. All tiles must be placed adjacent to a clansman (diagonally or orthogonally) but roads must also connect to roads, and rivers must connect to rivers. When you place a tile it activates the tiles around it, including itself. This generates resources to help buy future tiles, sell at the market for victory points, move your clansmen around your village and allows the production of whisky from wheat.

There’s also a clever market mechanic for buying and selling goods which is affected by how much players have been buying and selling, which is an elegant way of simulating supply and demand. The scoring is innovative too, and happens three times throughout the game. Rather than getting points based on the absolute number of whisky and chieftains, you’re rewarded based on the relative amount, with no bonuses for absolutely dominating. There’s no point in producing 10 barrels of whisky when you’ll get the same points if you produced 6 barrels. Finally, in true, German “let’s make everything efficient” fashion, larger villages lose points at the end of the game. I’ve seen this completely change games, with smaller villages pull incredible turn-around victories.

The mechanics of the game, the puzzle of building your own village and the tension (or perhaps rage…) you feel as you watch your friend take the tile you want from under your nose makes this game an engaging, satisfying for me. The fact that once gameplay starts, the Scottish theme, the building of villages, production of whisky, clansmen and chieftains is left behind doesn’t upset me; the mechanics are what make this game engaging, and the theme be damned. The art isn’t great, and neither is the component quality, but I don’t think better art, thicker tiles or beautifully sculpted miniatures would add to the game. Does it matter that my sheep is represented by a white cube? Not at all!

The biggest shame about Glen More is that the English edition, printed by Rio Grande Games, is out of print. The German version, printed by Alea, is still available, both from online game stores in Germany, and several other online retailers in Europe. In a world where €50+ games with thick card and superfluous miniatures are becoming the norm, Glen More is a very good game that comes in at about €30. It’s a shame to think that if it were released today it might very well be overlooked or even ignored due to it’s component quality and unengaging theme. If you’re looking for a deeply immersive, thematic experience, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a solid game, that’s easy to explain, with good mechanics at a low price, you can certainly do much worse.
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Jo Bartok
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Yeah no it does.
Rather a proof that a mediocre game with no good theme-mechanics-integration and not the greatest decision trees can still have very top notch single mechanics, like the exchange market. Never seen a better player vs player market in any game. That alone is worth at least one Glen More play.
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Dennis Ku
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Glen More is good. I enjoy his more recent game Kraftwagen even more. A lot more going on, but you can see a bit of Glen More in it.
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Steve Blackwell
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futhee wrote:
Glen More is good. I enjoy his more recent game Kraftwagen even more. A lot more going on, but you can see a bit of Glen More in it.


I still need to get around to playing my copy (I know, I know!) but absolutely loved my one play of his later game Helvetia, building a village of tiles but that is the only similarity, I think, as marriages, babies and levelling up goods to gain other goods go in a different direction.

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Will Plante
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futhee wrote:
Glen More is good. I enjoy his more recent game Kraftwagen even more. A lot more going on, but you can see a bit of Glen More in it.

Wow, I've had the exact opposite feeling. I much prefer Glen More and thought Kraftwagen was much less interesting to play. A huge part of that is the tile laying in Glen More which doesn't exist in Kraftwagen, the decision to jump ahead when selecting tiles is more compelling in Glen More. There is no penalty for taking every action available in Kraftwagen once someone jumps ahead of you. On top of that selecting your action versus selecting a tile isn't nearly as interesting and there isn't the variety of how games play out because of that. There is also no dummy player in the 2/3 player game of Kraftwagen which is handled so well in Glen More and really adds more tension to the game.
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Patrick Brophy
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ionas wrote:
Yeah no it does.


I know, I know, theme does matter. I chose my title to wind up my blog's co-author because he feels theme is more important than mechanics. Of course, ideally all games would be outstanding on both fronts (War of the Ring springs to mind for me), but we're not quite at that point yet.

I agree wholeheartedly, the market in Glen More is incredible! Can't believe I haven't seen it's like elsewhere.

futhee wrote:
Glen More is good. I enjoy his more recent game Kraftwagen even more. A lot more going on, but you can see a bit of Glen More in it.


I would love to try it, but maybe not buy it. While my group does appreciate mechanically solid games, they lean a bit more toward the thematic end of things than me. I'm not sure Kraftwagen is something that would suit them unfortunately.
 
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