This was mine and my wifes first play of Ora et Labora. We both like Agricola, probably against the grain, but we both love Gates of Loyang too and I've played and enjoyed Le Harve, my wife hasn't.
Well, taking stuff out of the box and setting up our first session took some time. I'd read up on the rules before hand, but it still took a good hour before we were ready to start the short game.
"I have no idea where to start!"
We have moors and farmers, so the board set up was familiar, but with the additional landscapes, wheel and cards, things were a little daunting to begin with. Settlements hung around not knowing how powerful these could become, but helpful arrows and a run through of the icons and actions of example cards stood us in good stead.
The boards are a little flimsy, but do the job nicely. However, we made a mistake in set up. I didn't realise that districts and plots have different values, therefore, we had more expensive landscapes at the top, which did stop us expanding early on. But wasn't a game breaker for a first play.
"Blimey, 5 gold to expand is harsh!"
With a pensive start, it really didn't take long to get into the flow. A couple of turns in and we soon saw how to produce, build and generate new stuff. We were playing the Ireland variant and were both already spotting that stone, beer and whisky needed some work to generate.
We made sure Cloister buildings had space around them to build other Cloister buildings and we were awaiting the first settlement phase to complete our understanding. We were a bit impatient here and sods law, we both spent a lot of food and energy before the settlement phase, don't fall into this trap as we soon found out you need plenty of both to settle!
"Ah, 3 energy and 8 food, maybe I should have saved them sheep, D'oh!"
We now saw the value of settlements, especially if placed well. We also noticed the sneaky minus point buildings lying around to scupper the scoring. By this time we'd spotted the landscape pricing error, so expansion in the right areas was now on our mind.
The first half of the game we were concentrating on our own play areas, but as more powerful buildings came out that start flipping raw materials into actual points, eyes started looking to contracting other monks to the cause.
"Right, so you've got the building that converts clay in to mega points!"
Now Stone was out, settlement phases were coming and going we were now confident in building engines for point generation. I was making nice holes to place later settlements for nice point combo's. Lesley was eyeing the buildings and scooping up some point generators. 2 actions, 3 monks and a shed load of buildings is not enough to do all you want, sound familiar?
One thing that almost caught us out again was not having enough food and energy come the settlements. As the round goes and you build up your supplies, its so tempting to blow them on a nice building instead of saving for later. The hint in the rules of placing build costs on the settlement you want to build next time is a good one, which we'll do next time.
"Pants, I can only just afford this again"
The final stages were upon us and buildings were offering to convert high price goods into wonders, 30VP a pop! This is where the variant exclusives come in and I don't think either of us were creating enough whisky and beer to take full advantage of creating wonders, but we both managed a couple before game end.
At this point it was getting late and the 2 player game end condition doesn't seem to have a definitive end, however, Lesley was on a build fest and soon there's was only one building left triggering the end.
"Mmm, looks like we both want the castle.."
We did the count up and the score phases reflected what we both focused on. Lesleys buildings and goods values were higher than mine, whereas, my settlement score was higher than hers, but not by enough. In fact, she creamed me by 20 or so points!
By the end, the table was full of landscapes, cards, chits. For a two player game it sure does take a lot of space, good job the cards are small otherwise we'd have needed to clear the room and play on the carpet!
"Loser packs up, D'oh!"
The short game was a good introduction, we may look at the longer version next time. I'd say the short game is too easy to get all you monks back throughout the game. There were only a few instances where we were blocked using our own building actions.
Ora et Labora is a great game on first impression and I anticipate it being a great addition to Loyang and Agricola.
Burton on Trent
I'd agree with everything you were saying, if only you were right...
I played this for the first time last night too, and really enjoyed it. We played 4 players long game (Ireland), and I was the only one not to have played before. The similarities between Ora and Le Havre are there for all to see, but my first impression leads me to believe I'll actually prefer this one more (and I love Le Havre).
Needless to say, I came a convincing last place - though only around 10 - 15 points behind 2nd place, which in my book is achievement enough.
Yes, the buildings and resource flipping is all a bit familiar, but the placements and settlement phases are a great addition. I like Le Harve, but didn't fancy it as a 2 player, Ora seems better suited.
Pallet Ranger wrote:
I played this for the first time last night too, and really enjoyed it.
I played my first game (solo) Thursday night too!
Actually, there's a lot of people getting in their first plays right now, since it's the first weekend that most customers in the U.S. have had it.
When I left for work this morning, there were 980 recorded plays. I'm about to go to bed now, and the number is up to 1050! It's pretty cool to think that so many people are playing the same game at the same time. It will be interesting to see how that affects its overall score.