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Subject: Favelas - Tile laying, remastered ? rss

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In Favelas, you’re attempting to beautify the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to appease the city’s council. Favelas is a tile laying game, a mechanic that can be widely hit and miss. Take Cottage Garden for example, it doesn’t feel like a game more like a gentle garden building exercise without the sweat and hardwork. And the only reason I keep cottage garden in my collection? Because it close to a four player ‘patchwork’, now Favelas is not 4 player patchwork, far from it. But it ousts Cottage Garden from my collection.

Like Cottage Garden and Patchwork, Favelas is a tile laying game in which you never extend your play area, your choices are only upwards, and the restraints? As unlike Carcassone in which you create a sprawling tabletop engrossing game area and the restraints are the tiles you draw or your fellow players, Favela presents you with a limited play area, but the main restraint to your success is yourself. There’s still a tile draw area, but choose unwisely and you’ll be restricting ONLY yourself in future turns.

The game itself is simple, it takes places over three rounds or years as the game calls them. In each round you’ll be jousting to have the most of certain colours as the council changes it’s decisions on which colours it favours. At the start of each round 6 dice are rolled to determine the councils favour, which can later be altered by the players. This ‘Beautification Council Guidelines’ will display a die of each colour and the number of points a player may score at the end of the year if they have the most favelas of that colour (in the case of a tie, you’ll both be rewarded). The clear dice, will give every player a bonus if they have at least one of each colour in their favela at the end of the year.

On your turn you’ll be presented with several choices, do you take from the face up tiles, or one of the face down stacks, you can’t pass, you must take something. As your favela only grows vertically, tile placement because mighty important as you can quickly reduce your own play area down to a single option. But combine the ability to influence the council’s decisions with careful tile placement and the decision of tile placement becomes even more important. If you match colours when placing tiles, you’ll be able to alter the face of the dice you just matched by +1 or -1.

By placing purple onto purple for example, you’ll be able to disrupt the scoring of that player who’s got the monopoly on purple, while by placing blue on blue, a colour which you have the majority of, you can increase your end of round scoring. The round continues until the Year End tile is revealed, whereby scoring then takes place, and you suddenly realise how you’ve given yourself problems for the next year ahead, as the tiles you’ve placed this round remain. After three years, the player with the highest score will be the winner!

Favelas, is a beautiful abstract tile laying game, that challenges you to focus on what you are placing and what you are covering up, as you vie for control of the colour majorities. Although it quickly becomes apparent that you won’t be able to win all the colours, you’ll have to manage disrupting the scoring of other players while maximising your own. There’s a push/pull between the two, that remains at each player count.

I personally find the appeal of building up, rather than out appealing, combined with the change of boards from rectangular or square in Cottage Garden and Patchwork, makes the gameplay of Favelas a game of careful tile management as you can’t place tiles unevenly.

However, Favela does have some small niggles. The dice are where most of the issues are, firstly they aren’t the best, the clear dice is very difficult to see, it should have been white! And the rolling of dice at the start of year two and three, can really pull apart your carefully laid favelas if there is a sudden change in the high scoring colours. I’ve seen a variant that uses D6 for the first year and then replaces these with D20 once a player wishes to increase the value above 6, removing the re-roll of the council dice between each year. This is a variant I’m eager to try, as the dice present the only real issue of the game. It should be mentioned that some folks have found the whole idea of ‘beautifying’ the Favelas a little disturbing, although I don’t see this as an issue and there are a lot of bigger things to worry about.
Ultimately Favelas is a tug of war over colours, that is great looking, it’s on Par with Azul for the use of colours and the consideration of colour blind players in the designing of the tiles, is a definite plus.

Favelas is quick to play and easy to explain, but offers enough to keep seasoned gamers entertained at the start of a game night, a solid gateway game for anybody. I find the appeal to be in how tall you manage your favelas and if you can achieve dizzy heights without compromising placement, although there is no bonus for having the tallest favela, this could be an easy addition. I highly recommend trying this game out, and maybe just maybe adding it to your collection!

Overall Score 78/100

You might like:
Easy to learn
Beautiful colour scheme
Unique use of tile laying

You might not like:
The randomness of the council
The slow change of pace players have on the council scoring
The sometimes lack of long term planning

Originally posted on Preston's Gamers Guild -
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