"A tussock! What on earth is a tussock?" was my 7-year-olds' first question when I started showing him the tiles of this new game and explaining them to him. I'm ashamed to say I had to get out the dictionary, but then I was able to tell him that a "tussock" is a tuft or clump of grass.
Tussocks are one of the more charming features of a very charming game.
We love games at our house. For a long time, I've been hearing good things about this game. So, when the book and toy store where I work got this game in stock I snapped it up right away.
What You Get
~40 tiles (17 stream, 17 land path, 3 bridges, 3 tussocks)
How To Play
This game is for 2 players or teams. Start by mixing all of the tiles and putting them in a loose pile, or a few draw stacks. To determine who goes first, each player takes turns flipping over tiles until one of them turns up a gnome. That player gets to choose to play as either land or stream, and has the privilege of going first. At this point, all tiles are again mixed into a loose pile or a few draw stacks.
Play is exceedingly simple. On his turn, a player simply draws a tile and places it. Except for the first turn of course, the tile must be lined up squarely against another tile. All surfaces must match. Meaning, water must line up with water, etcetera. As you are building, the Landlock map can be built in any direction, but it can only be 6 squares high by 6 squares wide. In the end, you will have a map that takes up 36 tiles, with 4 tiles left over. When the map is complete, it's time to score.
The main goal while you're building your map is to make a continuous path (land or stream) that connects all 4 sides of the map. If you manage this, you get 10 points. If you connect only 3 sides you receive 7 points, and 2 sides earns you 5.
Another way to score is by making ponds (if you are the land player) or islands (if you are the stream player). For every pond or stream still on the board at the end of the map, the appropriate player receives 4 points. Ponds are made by placing four tiles in a square, where each tile has one corner of water. Islands are made in the same fashion, but with land corners instead. Scoring on islands and ponds is not done until the end, as there are bridge tiles that can be used to turn ponds into streams and connect islands to another path.
If a player turns up a tussock tile during the game, he immediately receives 1 point which should be written on the scoring pad immediately (all other scoring is done at the end).
The final way to score is with roaming gnomes. There are stream gnomes and path gnomes. Stream gnomes belong to the stream player and path gnomes belong to the land player. Gnomes are worth nothing without their matching friends. When you place a gnome tile, if it's your gnome you want to place it in such a way that it is facing another gnome. Either on side by side tiles, or tiles that are connected by corners. Gnomes are always at the corner of a given tile. If your tile contains a gnome that belongs to your opponent, you should try to place him in such a way that your opponent will not be able to match him up with another gnome. For every gnome you have facing another gnome at the end of the game, you receive 1 point.
The game is played simply by taking turns drawing and placing tiles, except in the case of using bridges. When you turn a bridge tile over, you must find a tile on the board to remove and replace with the bridge. You cannot remove edge tiles, tussocks, or separate facing roaming gnomes. The major purpose of the bridge is to help you connect paths/streams, or to mess up an island or pond your opponent has created. Once the bridge has been placed, hand the removed tile to your opponent. They must now place this tile rather than drawing a new one.
Kids love this game, and the game play is very simple, with no reading required. An adult should be on hand to read and explain the rules, and help children initially figure out the various strategies. Also, an adult may need to help make sure that the map doesn't extend beyond a 6 x 6 square. Once explained and played through once, most children over the age of 6 should be able to play and enjoy this game. The box says 8 and up, but my 7 year old does just fine with this one. And, as an adult I enjoy it. So, I would place the age range at 6 to 106?
What We Like
The artwork of this game is attractive and engaging. The gnomes and all other creatures are cute and happy. The colors are lovely. Visually, this game is a real joy to play.
The simplicity of the game play is much appreciated. Draw a tile, play a tile. Keep going until you have a 6 x 6 square.
There is a surprising amount of strategy in this simple game. There are lots of different things to think about here, but not so much that players will spend inordinate amounts of time coming up with their next move.
It's Quick. This game is very quick to play. With only 36 tiles to play, there's only so long the game can last. It takes us about 20 minutes from start to finish.
Great for different ages/abilities playing together. I just hate playing a game with my kid where I have to do poorly on purpose in order for him to ever win. This is not such a game. Because there is significant luck involved, and because the strategy is interesting yet still understandable for young people, an adult can do their best and still not count on winning.
What We Don't Like
Tiles are thinner than expected. The tiles in this game are certainly of an acceptable thickness. However, another tile laying game I have from Gamewright is Castle Keep. That game has really thick, very high quality tiles, so I expected these tiles to be of the same quality. But they are not. My copy of that game is older than this one, though, so maybe the quality has changed with time? Either way, it's a small disappointment.
A little too much luck is involved in this game. This is draw a tile, play a tile, so much depends on the luck of the draw. I would like to have a few more choices. But, there are house rules you could employ to fix this I suppose. Down the road, we just might.
Teams my %$#!
It is a pet peeve of mine, the way some games try to make you think they can or should be played by a wider range of players. This is a two player game, and only a two player game. You could conceivably play it in two teams, but it would be pretty dumb that way. There's just not enough thinking required to play in teams. So, count on this being a 2 player game only, not a 2 or 4 player game.
This is a good, fun, and relatively quick game to play for kids and adults. It's an especially good game for adults to play with children. Play is simple, but strategy complex enough to be interesting. And, there are no complaints about artwork here. Definitely an all around good buy.
When I worked at a game store I thought the age recommendation on this one was out of whack. After all, Carcassonne says 8+ and Landlock is nowhere near as complex as Carc. I think as long as there's an adult to read the rules for the kids, it should be considered a 5+ game. I mean CHESS is a 6+ game for crying out loud!
But I agree with your review, and it makes a good gateway game for the little ones, especially if Carc is a favourite with the older family members.