Vlaada’s 2-4 player fantasy, worker placement and auction style game could not have come at better time of the year in 2011. This is because I have had some time off to digest the rules and the actual layout of the game.
My usual mode of doing so is reading the rules, taking the game out of the box and placing it on the table to try out the actual play or some part of the game that is not so obviously to me by the rules alone. This game was no different.
Understand that I did not initially have this game on my “radar”. I wasn’t really looking for another medium-heavy weight game to play with friends and family instead looking for more “gateway” type games.
But I could not escape the following factors applying to this particular game:
• Lovely artwork
• Top notch components including plastic Imps detailed in 4 unique colors
• The Designer and his drive to innovate and fully engage players
• The endearing theme
So I got it as a last minute Christmas present (of sorts) and AM NOT sorry that I did.
Unfortunately I was not able to recruit many other players for my inaugural plays. All my experiences so far are with 2 players only. But the two players are very unique in that the other player is a teenage boy.
He has 2 modes of game play typically.
1. Fully engaged mode – this is a precious rarity with him and he will readily admit to it. This is especially the case with new games in which the rules are not fully understood or digested
2. “That was a fun few minutes and I am out of here” mode – this is the majority of game play with him. When he does find a game that he enjoys it is a mental note that will not be taken lightly
Setup & Explanation
The player boards (mats)
I handed him the red player board and gave him a moment to take in the fantasy world placed before him because every component in this game including the boards are absolutely lovely, dripping theme, and seem to transport the player to another world.
He was trying to focus his attention which was teetering between what I was doing and what was going on in the other room due to the holiday excitement.
When he saw the red board he said, “Wow – cool” and he was instantly engaged. He was hooked. Yes the art in this game has that affect!
I explained to him that this board is where:
• Workers are grouped, with or without gold to add to their value, for later placement on the main board – this happens first in the game and the mat is folded up so that the other players cannot see your groupings until you are finished. When each player has finished all is revealed and the player with the highest value grouping (remember worker and gold) chooses where to place his/her worker. If there is a tie the player with the start token wins
• Food is stored and ages
• The added ability tokens are placed
• The game’s components and turns [detail] are broke down and explained – I treaded very lightly here and only mentioned briefly, but later in the game he had a much better upstanding and actually referred to the card charts to best make decisions
I explained the 3 regions of the main board:
1. The buying region [left] - for purchasing cages, cage add-ons or petz.
2. The Food and special ability area [upper right] – where you can buy veggies, meat, both or special ability tokens
3. The invite relatives (add workers), go to the hospital, exhibition and selling your ptz region [bottom right]
Some further notes
- Region 3 is where the most explanation is necessary especially the exhibition and sale of petz spaces (mechanism). Selling from the platform is the most difficult to understand as rightly noted in the rules.
- For a 2 player game there are 3 dummy player tokens introduced for better balance. The 3 spaces that the dummy player tokens start are simple to identify due to the unique dots on them.
- Both the turn progress board and the main boards are double sided depending upon the number of players
- Every player is dealt 4 cards – one of each color – to begin the game which can be looked at
- The Petz have a brilliant aging and value feature. The component actually rotates during the course of the game. This feature is bound to be copied in games to come…
Turn Progress Board
This board is gravy (very simple) to understand since it shows mostly 3 things: turn number, the auction and pet buyer cards. This is the board that will advance the game and keep you on track.
The exhibition and petz buyer cards are also simple to understand since there are light areas and dark – the old good and bad here – the light areas being the bonuses and the dark being the minus point details.
Note that the 1st turn in the 2 player game does not have an exhibition or a chance to sell your pet (selling in round 3). The first round is for planning and gathering resources that will be later needed in the game.
< As you can imagine this game takes up some space >
Game Cards and Resources
Of course there had to be a place next to the board for the wooden resources.
In addition – and not to be minimized at all as I saved the best for last – the 4 colored decks of cards were placed within reach of the players. There are 4 resource cards that DRIVE the game as you will see. There is also a small deck of light blue cards for potions (a free resource of any type) which are placed on the main board.
Game Play and Turns
The worker grouping was simple and quick. We used gold when we had to making sure that we got the space on the board we have been eyeing. My opponent likes to save his gold in all games and later in the turns loosened up only a bit on this. He should be good at saving money one day – hopefully.
We quickly realized that buying a better cage is s good thing and we looked for the one that offered the most depending upon the petz displayed.
We also understood that selecting the invite relatives (add workers) space on the board meant all workers up to that point on the progress board and NOT just the workers on that particular phase.
Our biggest goof by far was the drawing of cards every turn. While we understood that the 4 initial cards could be viewed we did not understand 2 other important points:
1. You draw a card of every color on your pet each turn – we were only drawing the colors that we did not already have in our hand (or the difference)
2. All cards are to be known to the player – we goofed here believing that the newly drawn cards are to be hidden or face down. This is because we looked too briefly in the rules and saw the face down picture. But the picture is to show that the cards are USED and not hidden – lol
Our Take Away
My opponent said after the first game, “That was not even like playing a game at all”.
I think he said this because there is such joy and fun with bright colored and wonderfully adorned boards and components that the game is truly remarkable and all the pieces work wonderfully as a whole.
Personally, I am smitten with this game and the included variants that are noted in the rules. There is NO DOUBT that this game is both festively inviting and deceptively deep – if you want to be. We will be enjoying this game and I will be introducing many others to it in the days and weeks to come.
I hope and pray for some add-ons as well.
A HUGE BRAVO to the designer Vlaada and the artist David! You have created a new world for us that is funny, quality and endearing.
~ The Muse
CLICK THIS BEAGLE if you're looking for in-depth gameplay video run-throughs! :)
Personally, I am smitten with this game
Perfectly put, exactly how we feel.
Personally, I am smitten with this game
Perfectly put, exactly how we feel.
Thanks Richard. I also cannot wait for 3-4 player game trials.
Happy new year you and yours!
Thanks for the overview! I agree...I've never played Dungeon Lords or this game...yet every time I see the art and design I am awestruck. It's like the lovechild of Mark Ryden and Moebius.
. It's like the lovechild of Mark Ryden and Moebius.
That is DEFINATELY not ironic since the artist David quotes Moebius as an inspiration!
Great catch and you can read it for yourself here >