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Subject: A Meeple Pusher Review of: Shipwrights of the North Sea rss

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David McMillan
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Madison
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THOUGHTS

What initially drew me to this game (and the entire trilogy if I’m being honest) is the awesome artwork by Mihajlo Dimitrievski – affectionately known by his fans as The Mico. His illustration style is striking, undeniably unique, and highly polarizing. It’s like the Moxie Cola or Marmite of the board game world – you either love it or your hate it. I am one of the “love it” crowd. Whenever I see The Mico’s name attached to a game, it’s a game that I pay attention to.

As far as the game play goes, I have a real love/hate relationship with it. There’s no denying that this game is challenging in almost every respect. The card draft will often find you holding several cards that you really want to keep for yourself or would rather not pass on to your opponents. Which do you keep and which do you pass on? Or, sometimes you’ll get a card and you know that with just 2 more gold or one more sheep that you could build it and you’re forced to deliberate with yourself whether holding onto it in the hopes that the next handful of cards that get passed to you will provide what you need is worth the risk of being stuck with a useless card during your turn. Making these kinds of tough decisions can be agonizing.

Then there’s the screwage aspect. There are many times during the course of the game where your well laid plans will be foiled by a well-timed “take that” card. Overcoming these setbacks isn’t always easy and can sometimes be downright disheartening (especially when you’re the only valid target), but it’s never such a setback that you’re left in the dust and completely out of the game. Even though it can feel a bit mean-spirited at times, I really enjoy this game. Shipwrights of the North Sea is a very fine-tuned experience. Every single game that I have played has been extremely close and is often only won by 1 or 2 points. So far (knock on wood) there has never been a runaway leader problem. It is obvious that a great deal of development and testing went into it and I really appreciate that as a consumer. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoy myself every time that I play.

For the most part.

Sometimes, the game can feel a little too random. There are many times when all of the players are stuck with useless card draws and very little progression is being made. At times like these, the game tends to drag on for much longer than it should. This issue with randomness becomes particularly problematic when it seems to be only affecting you. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it makes for a lousy gaming experience. Aside from this, the only other negative that I have about Shipwrights is that the Player Aids don’t show the resource costs associated with building the ships and this would be useful knowledge to have at a glance. They give you information regarding every other aspect of the various ship types, so why not this?

Fortunately, every copy of Shipwrights of the North Sea includes the Townsfolk expansion and it resolves all of the game play issues with aplomb.

The Townsfolk Expansion

The Townsfolk expansion consists of a single board with 5 different actions to choose from, a single page rulesheet, and several shield tokens. While there’s not much to it components-wise, it makes up for it in how it affects the game play.

There are five unique actions printed on the board and each of these can only accommodate a single worker at a time. On a player’s turn, they may place one of their workers onto one of these action spaces and perform the associated action. These actions allow the players to substitute craftsmen for other craftsmen when constructing ships, discard cards for gold, reset the market and get a free resource, collect all of the workers that have been placed on the Townsfolk board so far, or acquire a shield.

There will always be as many shields in the game as there are players, but any player may possess any number of shields. These shields, when placed on top of an unconstructed ship or a craftsman, prevent these items from being targeted by other people’s malicious actions. Or, if the player chooses not to collect a shield, they can remove a craftsman or unconstructed ship from their board.

With just the addition of a few actions, the Townsfolk expansion guarantees that no turn will ever be a wasted one. It’s such a good expansion and so easy to incorporate that I never play without it. Without the Townsfolk expansion, Shipwrights of the North Sea is just a decent game. Add the expansion in, though, and it becomes a pretty great one.

FOR THE FULL REVIEW IN WHICH I GO INTO MORE DETAIL ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY AND COMPONENTS, CLICK HERE: http://www.meeplemountain.com/reviews/shipwright-of-the-nort...
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Scott Allen
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Nice, well written review. I agree, very nice game.
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