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Subject: Make Tea, Not War or Fields of Arle: Tea & Trade Review rss

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Christian van Someren
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Make Tea, Not War or Fields of Arle: Tea & Trade Review
Fields of Arle is my favourite of Uwe Rosenberg’s games. The game offers an enormous variety of choices each turn and many different paths to victory. Every game plays out differently, and each game you get to try out something new or refine one of your previous strategies. And boy are there a lot of strategies! One game you might focus on travelling, while in another you could try collecting as many animals as possible. Meanwhile, your opponent producing more wool coats than he knows what to do with. And at the end of the game you hardly even care what your score is because you’ve managed to accomplish so much regardless.

At least, that’s how I see it. Granted, I mostly play solo or “co-op” with my girlfriend (we each control 2 action pawns and play 1 board together), so bear in mind while you read this review that I am not judging Tea & Trade by its balance or competitiveness, but rather in terms of the new options it offers to the game.

All the tea in China or What does this game have to offer?

In short, Tea & Trade brings 5 new aspects to the game.

1) A 3rd player: This sounds interesting, but I have yet to try it out. Also, I’m not convinced it will fit on my table. Still, it is a nice option to have and you can always use the 3-player rules to play a quicker 1 or 2-player game.

2) The titular Tea: By far the most interesting addition to the game, Tea is a new resource which allows you to perform actions better (you can pretend your tool marker is one space higher on a given tool track for a single action) or even to perform an action twice! The implications here are profound and Tea can become a highly valued resource which must be spent judiciously to achieve maximum effect.

3) The (other) titular Trade: While Tea explodes the number of options you have on a given turn, Trade is perhaps an even more important addition to Fields of Arle. My main complaint about the base game is that you are almost required to get a large wagon or carriage if you want to progress in the game. Trade lets you go a different path by investing in ships. You have small fishing boats which can upgrade 1 to 2 resources, and alternately provide food if left unused. You also have large trading ships which can be used to upgrade goods, but can also be sent on trade missions to gain valuable items such as Wood, Timber or (you’ve guessed it!) Tea. Not only does Trade give you an interesting alternative to vehicles, but it also addresses one of my other complaints about the base game, namely a lack of access to the ever-valuable Wood. But as with all things in Fields of Arle, you can always just ignore Tea and keep raising your sheep.

4) Ditches: Speaking of sheep, don’t you find it annoying that your sheep can only breed in a shed? Or that you can only plow one small field at a time? Or that you need to waste a precious action to drain your marshes? Well my friend, have I got a deal for you! Try out the new & improved Ditch today! Ditches are another great new addition to the game, and as with Trade, Ditches open up a new field of possibilities to explore and give some alternatives to some actions which used to be all but essential, namely ‘colonising’ marshes and building large stables to breed as many sheep as possible. I won’t go into the details here, but trust me when I say that Ditches really give a needed boost to farming and wool strategies.

5) Buildings: Tea & Trade replaces a few of the old buildings and adds a couple of handfuls of new ones. I can sum up this addition in one word: Variety, variety, variety! (Incidentally, this is the mantra used to judge the longevity of a board game’s popularity).

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? or What I dislike about the expansion
While introducing a 3rd player is a nice idea, I’m not sure I will ever use it. 3 is an awkward number of players, especially for a game that requires so much investment to get over the initial learning curve. Still, I’m sure this is a welcome addition for those who will make use of it.

Put the kettle on or What I like about the expansion
In a word, more options! Fields of Arle is already the best euro sandbox game I have played, and Tea & Trade makes that sandbox that much bigger. The sheer amount of content in this expansion is quite impressive and the quality is as good as the base game.

This expansion is a welcome addition if you are a fan of the base game and would like to increase the replayability and the amount of different strategies on offer. In brief, I highly recommend Tea & Trade, it is certainly my cup of tea.
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Richard Dewsbery
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Christianv wrote:

1) A 3rd player: This sounds interesting, but I have yet to try it out. Also, I’m not convinced it will fit on my table. Still, it is a nice option to have and you can always use the 3-player rules to play a quicker 1 or 2-player game.

Don't discount how good the three player game is. No, it won't fit on your table. Unless you are really organised and don't mind siting very, very close to the farm next door. But it is worth that small sacrifice. The third player gives you a bit more tension, someone else to accidentally stumble in the way of your master plan, forcing you to remain a bit more flexible than you can be in a two- or one-player game.

Quote:
2) The titular Tea: By far the most interesting addition to the game, Tea is a new resource which allows you to perform actions better (you can pretend your tool marker is one space higher on a given tool track for a single action) or even to perform an action twice! The implications here are profound and Tea can become a highly valued resource which must be spent judiciously to achieve maximum effect.

I see tea as much less interesting, but a necessary price to pay in the 3-player game. Tea opens up a few more options, but more importantly it allows for an accelerated start (or an accelerated finish), with extra actions and more one-use tools. Vital to bring the game length down from 9 rounds to 7.
Quote:

3) The (other) titular Trade: While Tea explodes the number of options you have on a given turn, Trade is perhaps an even more important addition to Fields of Arle. My main complaint about the base game is that you are almost required to get a large wagon or carriage if you want to progress in the game. Trade lets you go a different path by investing in ships. You have small fishing boats which can upgrade 1 to 2 resources, and alternately provide food if left unused. You also have large trading ships which can be used to upgrade goods, but can also be sent on trade missions to gain valuable items such as Wood, Timber or (you’ve guessed it!) Tea. Not only does Trade give you an interesting alternative to vehicles, but it also addresses one of my other complaints about the base game, namely a lack of access to the ever-valuable Wood. But as with all things in Fields of Arle, you can always just ignore Tea and keep raising your sheep.

Like tea really, I see trade (with the fishing cutters and trade ships) as being pretty similar to the travel/wagon game in the base game. Still, as with tea the addition of trade opens up a few more paths to explore.

Quote:

4) Ditches: Speaking of sheep, don’t you find it annoying that your sheep can only breed in a shed? Or that you can only plow one small field at a time? Or that you need to waste a precious action to drain your marshes? Well my friend, have I got a deal for you! Try out the new & improved Ditch today! Ditches are another great new addition to the game, and as with Trade, Ditches open up a new field of possibilities to explore and give some alternatives to some actions which used to be all but essential, namely ‘colonising’ marshes and building large stables to breed as many sheep as possible. I won’t go into the details here, but trust me when I say that Ditches really give a needed boost to farming and wool strategies.

Really quite dull. But again important to add options - and balance - to animal farming and especially to ploughing. I think that the drainage of bogs into peat bogs is only necessary to stop a thre-player game descending into a fist fight over the "horse plus flip a bog" action space.
Quote:

5) Buildings: Tea & Trade replaces a few of the old buildings and adds a couple of handfuls of new ones. I can sum up this addition in one word: Variety, variety, variety! (Incidentally, this is the mantra used to judge the longevity of a board game’s popularity).

Ah, this - along with the third player - is what the expansion really adds for me. Extra green/yellow/blue buildings so that every game is a bit different. I'm not bright enough to understand why the orange buildings have to be fixed, but I can live with that knowing that the yellows in particular come from a changing pool that just got a lot bigger.

I have yet to work out whether building a green building is suicide or not. On balance, I'm not building them very often - and would not dream of building two in the same game.
Quote:

While introducing a 3rd player is a nice idea, I’m not sure I will ever use it. 3 is an awkward number of players, especially for a game that requires so much investment to get over the initial learning curve.

You ought to try. I explained the game to six new players in a week or so, and had good games with all of them. Arle is so logical; the way the various rules for animals, or production, or tools work is just so intuitive to most players. The trickiest bit is helping people understand when and how tiles are loaded during the two main seasons.
Quote:

In a word, more options!

Yup, this is my favourite part of Tea and Trade. Combined with the other very important thing to watch for in expansions - rules creep. An expansion is of little interest to me if it adds significant new rules or complexity. Arle avoids that.
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Mike Stevens
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Nice review. I have played 3 games with the Tea & Trade expansion and we absolutely loved it. All 3 games were 2-player and the Tea, Ships, and extra Buildings were awesome. I agree that the Ditches are a little boring but they make logical sense and I did use them to help the breeding of my sheep. I am actually looking forward to giving this a try with 3 players. If you enjoy Fields of Arle, then get this expansion, you will never play without it.
 
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Christian van Someren
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Thanks for the feedback Richard, you've convinced to give 3 players a go. Now I just to find someone to convince to play with me
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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I think that I've played it five times now with three players. That's as many games as I'd played one- and two-player combined.
 
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François Mahieu
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This is so good I bought the game + expansion twice, and extra wooden components in order to try a 4-player game very soon.

 
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Rory McAllister
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RDewsbery wrote:
I think that I've played it five times now with three players. That's as many games as I'd played one- and two-player combined.


Hmm...I never thought Fields of Arle needed a third player since the original game played so well. After reading this, you guys are making me rethink that earlier assessment.
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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I know that I am not alone in rarely playing games just 2-player. I have far more opportunities to play a game if it accomodates 3.
 
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