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Curt Carpenter
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It's important to understand that Loyang, designed in 2005, is the predecessor not the sequel to Agricola and Le Havre (all by Uwe Rosenberg, of course). Understanding that makes everything else make sense. I will assume you are familiar with either Agricola or LH. As the owner of the game copy I played observed, this feels like a midway point between Bohnanza (also Rosenberg) and Agricola. Those expecting a furthering or development of the ideas presented in Agricola or Le Havre won't find it here. Whether fans of Agricola or LH will enjoy this at all is indeterminate.

The bare minimum you need to know:
The source of VP is money, but not just straight money like LH. Rather, you can buy VP each turn. More on that later.
You get money by selling veggies to customers, which come in two types: repeat customers (called regular) and one-time customers (called casual). Both types have an amount they are willing to pay for a certain combination of veggies.
You get veggies (6 types) by planting them in fields (1 type per field) and then reaping one veggie per turn until the field runs out. The larger the field, the more restrictive it is in terms of what can be planted (more valuable veggies go in smaller fields). You start with one field and get at least one more every turn from your personal supply of fields, and perhaps more from cards acquired.
You can trade veggies at a market (usually your own) to trade for veggies you don't grow.
Character cards ("helpers") are what add all the non-standard stuff to the game. There are far fewer than in Agricola.
There is no worker placement like Agricola / Le Havre. In fact, there is no "common" play area. Everything is with manipulating the veggies/cards in your personal play area, with an occasional use of veggies/cards in other's play areas, in order to try to make deliveries to customers. The cards, which are played in your personal play area when acquired, consist of the categories mentioned above: fields, regular customers, casual customers, markets, and helpers.

So what stands out?
thumbsup The way players get their first two cards. A nifty drafting system whereby each player will end up with two cards for the turn. Your cards are everything in this game. You can't do anything useful without cards, and your cards determine what you can do, so the card selection mechanism is important.
thumbsdown The way players get 2 more cards. After having gone through the card draft, on your turn you almost always get two more cards, but this time completely at random. It's a total crap-shoot whether they will be useful at all. So it's a just a weird dichotomy of having such a specific system to get two cards, and then get two more randomly. Why not get the two random cards FIRST, and then have a little control over choosing two more than go with them? This also leads to:
thumbsdown You can't plan ahead very well, in stark contrast to Agricola / LH. It's impossible to plan your turn until you see your extra 2 cards, since they can significantly alter what you're going to do. Which leads to:
thumbsdown Down time. It's especially bad because there's nothing useful you can think about on your turn. I found it useful to have my phone handy to do email when it's not my turn.
thumbsdown There are no starting cards dealt to players, no common area with any randomized setup, so there is nothing to frame your strategy around. You just wait and see what you can do with the cards you get. It feels very reactionary.
thumbsdown Extra field cards are extremely valuable. It's the only way to increase your production (free resources on future turns). There aren't that many in the deck compared to the other cards. So it's total luck if you get one, especially early when the boost to the economic engine matters most. Similarly, repeat customers are critical, but it's highly luck dependent whether you can get one, and certainly when it's at a good time for you, i.e. you have a field with at least one of the veggies they want.
thumbsdown The scoring system. I need to explain this. Each player has a VP track with numbered spaces 1-20. On your turn you can buy VP. The first VP you buy is always $1. Each additional VP you buy costs the number on the space in front of your score marker. So if your marker started on 7 at the beginning of your turn, you could go to 10 for 1+9+10=$20. So each adition point gets more and more expensive. 1) It makes scores very very low. A winning score is about 18 points. Getting one more point is a big deal. 2) Every single player will buy the VP that costs $1 every single turn. So why bother with the $1 for your first VP per turn rule at all? Why not just say that you buy ALL your vp at the price shown on each space? I actually know what the designer's answer is, which is that basically you assume that everyone will get the 9 points for $9 (there are 9 turns in the game), and the cost of the other 8 or 9 points depends on when you buy them, the earlier the cheaper. But I guess I just don't feel like there are any important decisions there. Everyone buys the cheap points that they can on the first couple turns, and then churning through the middle/late game buying extra points as money allows. I.e. there's not much of a conscious choice about buying early vs late.
thumbsdown Lack of game arc. Both Agricola and Le Havre have a really nice game arc with a distinct beginning, middle, and late game; defined by the stages in Agricola, and the sorted building order in Le Havre. There is nothing like this in Loyang, so it feels like the same thing every turn, just less of it at the beginning, and more of it as your engine builds up.
thumbsup There are not enough Chinese themed games.

As a parent, I know that we are hardest on the ones we love and have high expectations for. As a huge fan of Agricola and Le Havre (why LH isn't ranked #1 is baffling to me), I had very high hopes for Loyang. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to them.
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Gerald Rüscher
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Excellent review thumbsup which nicely sums up my own thoughts about this game.

One remark:

Quote:
.. this feels like a midway point between Bohnanza (also Rosenberg) and Agricola

I need to disagree here: Loyang is nowhere near Bohnanza. Bohnanza is a hand management game with a very high level of trading and interaction. Loyang, on the other hand, is multiplayer solitaire with downtime. So IMHO these two games couldn't be more different.
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Curt Carpenter
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Thanks for the kinds words.

I don't disagree with your comment at all. I guess a slightly different way to phase the thought I was trying to express is: you can see the roots of Bohnanza here much more than in either Agricola than Le Havre, both of which also don't have hand management, but here you can see the different types of veggies getting planted, and exchanged.
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Michael Hines
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Very good review. thumbsup

I was wanting some more information about this game you answered all the questions that I had.

curtc wrote:
why LH isn't ranked #1 is baffling to me


I believe it's longer playtime has something to do with it. The first few times my group played it, the games were lasting close to 3 hours. We have trimmed down the time a lot with future plays, but it still is a long game.
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Curt Carpenter
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Thank you.

Yeah, you're probably right about Le Havre's play time. I probably shouldn't have even thrown that little remark in there. I was trying to keep the review as tight as possible (I'm too ADD to read most reviews), but couldn't resist adding that little extra plug for LH at the end. meeple
 
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Tim Seitz
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Great points. I think you're spot on. I think I made some similar observations in my review. Except for the Bohnanza comparisons... WTH?

A couple comments though:
curtc wrote:
But I guess I just don't feel like there are any important decisions there. Everyone buys the cheap points that they can on the first couple turns, and then churning through the middle/late game buying extra points as money allows. I.e. there's not much of a conscious choice about buying early vs late.

I can't speak for Uwe, but I don't think it's intended that there is a tough decision in whether you choose to move up, but rather whether you can move up. And that is the challenge that makes the game fun. You want to make a lot of money, but you also need to keep the pace of progression pretty steady. A difficult balance.

Quote:
Lack of game arc. Both Agricola and Le Havre have a really nice game arc with a distinct beginning, middle, and late game; defined by the stages in Agricola, and the sorted building order in Le Havre. There is nothing like this in Loyang, so it feels like the same thing every turn, just less of it at the beginning, and more of it as your engine builds up.

I really disagree here. I've seen many games where someone gets a huge engine mid-game where they are harvesting 9+ veggies. And then all of a sudden, their fields empty out and they come limping home. Where in other games, someone gets a slow start, and then barrels past everyone filling 3 regular customers a turn.

There's a definite arc in the game as you try to build, profit from, and maintain your engine. Otherwise it will sputter and peter out on you...

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Andy Van Zandt
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i agree with most of the review, out4blood actually already covered the parts where i differ.

i especially agree with the evaluation of the "buy a two-pack" action, as it seems completely tacked on, and runs directly counter to the importance put on the card distribution phase.

it is still a fun game though.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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Thanks for the comments!

Regarding:
out4blood wrote:
I've seen many games where someone gets a huge engine mid-game where they are harvesting 9+ veggies. And then all of a sudden, their fields empty out and they come limping home. Where in other games, someone gets a slow start, and then barrels past everyone filling 3 regular customers a turn.

There's a definite arc in the game as you try to build, profit from, and maintain your engine. Otherwise it will sputter and peter out on you...

Yup, definitely. As I mentioned the amount of what you do on a turn can rise (and maybe fall). Unfortunately, however, it's basically the same stuff every turn. Contrast this with Le Havre: start the game trying to get a few building, pay your food bill, then maybe try to get some ships, then maybe think about getting some good resource conversions, then maybe ship some goods, build valuable ships, or buy valuable end-game buildings. These things have a general flow to the game, almost like a plot. In Loyang there is nothing like that.
 
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truekid wrote:
i especially agree with the evaluation of the "buy a two-pack" action, as it seems completely tacked on, and runs directly counter to the importance put on the card distribution phase.

I think the design reasons for the 2-pack action might have been to:

- enable people to better manage the luck aspect (if the cards they want never come up in the Card phase)
- mitigate card hoarding (by requiring a cost)
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curtc wrote:
Yeah, you're probably right about Le Havre's play time.


I'm not adverse to long games, I love Agricola and Antiquity, though Le Havre just feels long to me. So I think it's not just about the raw minutes, though 2+ hour games may have a harder time in the rankings, but in the "oomph" of carrying through the game.
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Curt Carpenter
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out4blood wrote:
I think the design reasons for the 2-pack action might have been to:
- enable people to better manage the luck aspect (if the cards they want never come up in the Card phase)

Huh? The two-pack is the luck aspect. During card draft you have some control over the cards you get, but during the two-pack you have none (well, you choose to no keep some of the cards, yay). I'm not sure how adding something totally random to something highly structured is "managing" luck.
 
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Eric Rampson
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The two-pack, while being "luck-based" in and of itself, helps to limit luck by letting you see EVEN MORE CARDS. In a 2-player game, let's say that you and your opponent went the distance in the card phase. You were going first and turned over a card at the start of every turn prior to laying one down, as did your opponent. That makes 3 cards from your hand, 3 cards from their hand, and 6 cards from the deck in the courtyard when you were forced to pick one and play it and your hand card. So you saw 13 cards from the deck (the 12 in the courtyard plus the one in your hand that you played). Your two-pack is a random draw from the remaining cards and you are trying to draw useful cards from a smaller number of cards AND you know which cards aren't available.

That being said, I don't think that the two-pack action is all that great, especially if you have to pay for it. I wouldn't have taken a single two-pack action in my last 2-player game (which I won, by the way) except that I managed to grab the official a couple of times and figured looking at 2 free cards was worth it whether or not I kept them.
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Adam Slape
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curtc wrote:
(why LH isn't ranked #1 is baffling to me)

Agree 100% - don't listen to these haters.


As for Loyang, my feeling after one play is that it is pretty fun as a solo optimization game (a trait that it shares with Agricola and Le Havre), but as a competition between players it goes too long for the amount of built-in randomness.
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curtc wrote:
out4blood wrote:
I think the design reasons for the 2-pack action might have been to:
- enable people to better manage the luck aspect (if the cards they want never come up in the Card phase)

Huh? The two-pack is the luck aspect. During card draft you have some control over the cards you get, but during the two-pack you have none (well, you choose to no keep some of the cards, yay). I'm not sure how adding something totally random to something highly structured is "managing" luck.

It's like getting an optional free re-roll of the dice.

Here's an example:

Option A: You draw 4 crappy cards, go through the draft and end up with 2 cards. You're stuck with them.

Option B: You draw 4 crappy cards, go through the draft and end up with 2 cards, but you have the option of discarding your 2 cards and drawing two new ones from the deck for free.

Which one helps you manage your luck better?

Now let's look at the real rules:

Option C: You draw 4 crappy cards, go through the draft and end up with 2 cards. You're stuck with them. But you have the option of getting two new cards, paying for them based on how many good cards you already have.

It helps you manage any poor luck you had in the card draw, but it also acts as a subtle catchup mechanism. If I have not gotten any good cards, then my 2-pack will be free. If I have a bunch of good helpers already sitting on my tableau, then I will need to pay extra for my 2-pack. What's great about it is that you have total control over when you take a 2-pack and how much it costs you.
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Curt Carpenter
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I understand how you can say that it smooths out the luck. I'm not sure about allowing you to "manage it" though. If the random cards came first, then the draw, then I would agree that the draw allows you to manage the luck of the two-pack. Management to me implies choice. But there is none when getting two-pack after the draw.

I'm not sure how the two-pack can be a catch up mechanism. Everyone is just as likely to get cards that are good/bad relative to their drafted cards, regardless of whether their drafted cards are good/bad. I've had drafted cards, take a two-pack, and get a field. Rock on, now I can plant what I need for the customer I took in the draft, or vice versa. And I've had terrible drafts and then got worthless card in the two-pack.

I agree that given a random two-card draw system as such, the cost of it is reasonable as is, and as there is a cost savings for having fewer markets/helpers, that cost savings could be considered a catch up mechanism.
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Andy Van Zandt
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you're missing the point- you assert that you can have "bad luck" by getting "4 bad cards" (which is hard itself, since what that really means is that you didn't diversify your options to begin with). but what REALLY happens is that you get 4 cards, choose the best one, and then get a selection of roughly 10 additional cards. if you've seen 20% of the deck and STILL came up with "2 bad cards", then you REALLY need to think about your decisions that led to that point.

all the 2 pack does is inject random onto what is a good decision-making draft with more than adequate options. and it doesn't really scale based on "how many good cards you have", because you can use or dump off those cards as needed, easily, before purchasing the 2 pack. I never saw a 2 pack cost more than 2, and usually only 1 or zero. this cost is negligible, and thus does not serve as a catch-up mechanism.
 
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Ciaran wrote:
curtc wrote:
(why LH isn't ranked #1 is baffling to me)

Agree 100% - don't listen to these haters.


As for Loyang, my feeling after one play is that it is pretty fun as a solo optimization game (a trait that it shares with Agricola and Le Havre), but as a competition between players it goes too long for the amount of built-in randomness.
I watched this game being played, and boy was it long. I watched it being played for a bit and couldn't really figure out what was going on either. I still eagerly await my chance to play though. I don't get all the hate against LH being so long of a game (especially considering the level of greatness that it is). I mean who would rather watch the Lord of the Rings cartoon movie over the live action just because the live action "are too long"? It is on the longer side but with experienced players the time goes way down. If the game is taking more than 2 hours there is some serious AP or several new players. I think most of our games clock in at 1.5 hours or less. Unless Adam is playing of course .
 
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Nice review but with a big mistake in my opinion , there is planing in the game and a good one, its just not so obvious at the begining, you must plan and prepare for the Possible future cards and go after these cards.
The game is not as plain as it seems but its not so hard as Agricola.
Its a fantastic game to introduce to new players and casual players so they start learning the economic and resource managment games,
and its fun too.
Also it would be better if you have more plays before making conclusions about the strategy of the game and the depth it has.
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Actually, I think the 2-Pack is a good modifier for moving up the Prosperity Path. Without the 2-Pack, you know at the beginning of your turn exactly how far you'll move up the Prosperity Path that turn. However, with the 2-Pack option, you have to consider do you press your luck, hoping to make more money this turn (either through a lucractive casual customer, a helper that will let you buy one more vegetable for reduced price, or a market stall that let's you trade for something you need) or keep what you've got and wait another turn. Where is the break-even point and how does that tie into how far you can progress along the Prosperity Path. Usually a $1 2-Pack is a no-brainer and a $2 2-Pack is a 50/50 choice. But beyond that, there is a definite press-your-luck mechanic.

Also, as far as the luck element of Luyang goes, it seems this will keep the game more interesting long-term than Le Havre. It's still early, but my gut is long-term Luyang will fall somewhere between Le Havre and Agricola in replayability for me. (Part of that is due to my high number of solo plays versus multiplayer games).
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curtc wrote:

thumbsdown The way players get 2 more cards. After having gone through the card draft, on your turn you almost always get two more cards, but this time completely at random. It's a total crap-shoot whether they will be useful at all. So it's a just a weird dichotomy of having such a specific system to get two cards, and then get two more randomly. Why not get the two random cards FIRST, and then have a little control over choosing two more than go with them?
If you think that the order is important, just look at it this way: You get your random two-pack of every round BEFORE the planned cards of the coming turn phase.
Or better: If you're IN the game, there is no more a question of order, it's a question of situation: Is it worth to pay the money, considering the risk you don't get a useful card? And don't forget: If you keep both cards - especially, when there's one helper included - you have the fine option to decide exactly WHEN the second card comes into play. Very nice for Regular customers! This is not possible with the cards from the cardphase.

If you like to play it with less luck, try the following simple houserule: Draw 3 or 4 cards, but only keep a amximum of 2.

curtc wrote:

thumbsdown There are no starting cards dealt to players, no common area with any randomized setup, so there is nothing to frame your strategy around. You just wait and see what you can do with the cards you get. It feels very reactionary.

... but in the first card phase you GET starting cards!? They ARE the randomized setup that are the basis for the next rounds ...

curtc wrote:

thumbsdown The scoring system. I need to explain this. Each player has a VP track with numbered spaces 1-20. On your turn you can buy VP. The first VP you buy is always $1. Each additional VP you buy costs the number on the space in front of your score marker. So if your marker started on 7 at the beginning of your turn, you could go to 10 for 1+9+10=$20. So each adition point gets more and more expensive. 1) It makes scores very very low. A winning score is about 18 points. Getting one more point is a big deal. 2) Every single player will buy the VP that costs $1 every single turn. So why bother with the $1 for your first VP per turn rule at all? Why not just say that you buy ALL your vp at the price shown on each space? I actually know what the designer's answer is, which is that basically you assume that everyone will get the 9 points for $9 (there are 9 turns in the game), and the cost of the other 8 or 9 points depends on when you buy them, the earlier the cheaper.
No, this is not the answer of the designer. The designer's answer is: If you leave this $1-rule away, there's no reason why anyone should make a single step before the end of the game. Everyone would save his money because there's NO advantage of an early step.
Not a good idea - I hope you agree ...
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Curt Carpenter
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barandur wrote:
curtc wrote:
...basically you assume that everyone will get the 9 points for $9 (there are 9 turns in the game), and the cost of the other 8 or 9 points depends on when you buy them, the earlier the cheaper.
If you [take] this $1-rule away, there's no reason why anyone should make a single step before the end of the game. Everyone would save his money because there's NO advantage of an early step.

We are saying the same thing here.
 
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barandur wrote:
curtc wrote:

thumbsdown The way players get 2 more cards. After having gone through the card draft, on your turn you almost always get two more cards, but this time completely at random. It's a total crap-shoot whether they will be useful at all. So it's a just a weird dichotomy of having such a specific system to get two cards, and then get two more randomly. Why not get the two random cards FIRST, and then have a little control over choosing two more than go with them?
If you think that the order is important, just look at it this way: You get your random two-pack of every round BEFORE the planned cards of the coming turn phase.

This doesn't work. On your turn it's the total combination of cards in play that define what you can and/or should do. You can't consider the two-pack part of the following drafted cards unless you commit to never using two-pack cards the turn you acquire them. Hardly advantageous.
 
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mythos999 wrote:
...there is planing in the game and a good one, its just not so obvious at the begining, you must plan and prepare for the Possible future cards and go after these cards.

You call that planning? We clearly have different definitions of what is, and what isn't planning. Play Le Havre, if you haven't already, and we can compare and contrast.
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I play le havre a lot its a great game , in le havre the planning is a long term one and more difficult one, you choose a pattern and try to follow it and enhance it and make the adjustments you must if something goes wrong(hey move you dirty worker from there i want to enter the buildingwow).
In Loyang mostly you have to micromanage each round there isnt so long term planning but there is a plan you can do to prepare yourself for future cards, anyway in Loyang you dont know the cards that will show up from the start so its a micromanage game with little planning. Anyway its interesting how good you can manage the ,lets say in a way,lucky cards you draw and keep.
In conclusion in le havre you planning with the known cards and the combinations between them and the situations that arise each time.
In Loyang you micromanage each round and plan according to the cards you hope to get, you try to get, and do the best you can with those.

The difference between those games remind me the fog of war in strategy games, some prefer to have it on and plan accoring to that (Le havre),
some have it off (so they prefer to have some some luck and few surprises, Loyang)

Both games have their purpose and are great in my opinion.
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I really liked your review. The reason why I love this game is that it fills a void that Le Havre and Agricola does not. With Le Havre and Agricola we are either in for a long brain-burner or a shorter stressful brain-burner. While I absolutely LOVE the brain-burners, trying to get my wife or some friends to play on any given day will lead to no game. Loyang, to me, doesn't necessarily need you to think five moves ahead, it is a bit lighter, but still has some weight to it. Perfect with the right group that you can't get some heavier games to the table with.
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